Herbert Smith Freehills

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Herbert Smith Freehills LLP
HeadquartersLondon, United Kingdom
Sydney, Australia
No. of offices26 (2020)[1]
No. of lawyers2,100 (2017)[2]
No. of employees4,700 (2017)[3]
Key peopleJustin D'Agostino (CEO); Rebecca Maslen-Stannage (Senior Partner)
RevenueIncrease £1.04 billion (2020/21)[4]
Profit per equity partnerIncrease £1.1 million (2020/21)[4]
Date founded2012 (by merger)
Company typeLimited liability partnership (Herbert Smith Freehills LLP)
Partnership (Herbert Smith Freehills)

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) is an international law firm with headquarters in London, United Kingdom and Sydney, Australia. HSF has been widely acknowledged as one of the world's most elite and selective law firms,[5][6][7] and, as of 2021, was the 33rd largest by revenue. It was formed on 1 October 2012 by a merger between the United Kingdom-based Herbert Smith, then a member of the "Silver Circle" of leading UK law firms, and Freehills, one of the "Big Six" Australian law firms.[8]

Herbert Smith Freehills regards itself as one of the world's most prestigious law firms, and has achieved particular recognition in dispute resolution.[6][5][7] As of 2015, HSF retains the most FTSE 100 clients of all law firms, representing 39 of the 100 companies.[9] It advises the highest number of FTSE 100 clients in United Kingdom Court of Appeal cases.[10]


Prior to merger[edit]

Herbert Smith[edit]

Herbert Smith was established by Norman Herbert Smith in 1882. Its specialisation in the early 20th century was in company flotations and advice to mining companies. Later its work expanded to litigation, mergers, and equity matters. In 2011, revenues were £465 million and profits-per-equity-partner (PEP) were £900,000.[11]

Herbert Smith had a European partnership with the German firm Gleiss Lutz and the Benelux firm Stibbe until 2011. A plan to merge with those firms did not go ahead.[12]

At the time of its merger with Freehills, Herbert Smith had around 240 partners, 1300 lawyers, with offices in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.[13]


Freehills was an Australia-based commercial law firm that operated in the Asia-Pacific region. In Australia, it was considered one of the Australian Big Six law firms.[14]

The firm traced its history back to the practices of Clarke & Moule in Melbourne (1853), Stephen Henry Parker in Perth (1868), Bernard Austin Freehill in Sydney (1871), and John Nicholson (Perth) 1896.[14] Predecessors of the firm are notable for having adopted "open" employment policies, hiring Catholics and Jews when many other firms would not. They are also notable for becoming the first major Australian law firm to appoint a female partner, and forming the first national law partnership in Australia.[14][15][16]

At the time of its merger with Herbert Smith, Freehills had 190 partners and 800 lawyers. It had four offices in Australia's capital cities, and an office in Singapore. It had associations with various firms across Asia, many of which continue to this day.


Herbert Smith Freehills was born after completing merger in October 2012.[8] The merger involved an immediate financial integration of the firms in a single partnership and profit pool, an unusual structure for these kinds of mergers.[17] The merger was complicated by differing remuneration structures across the firms; with Herbert Smith practicing a lockstep compensation system, while Freehills practised a merit-based compensation system. Freehills also had a greater number of equity partners.[18]

After merging, the firm began practice in Germany.[18] In September 2012 it opened an office in New York City, focused on international dispute resolution work. A South Korean office was opened at Seoul in April 2013.[19] The combined firm also nearly doubled its total number of international secondees in its first year of operations.[20] In November 2015, Herbert Smith Freehills announced the opening of its third office in Germany, Düsseldorf, headed by Clifford Chance's former head of litigation and arbitration practice.[21]


As of September 2020, HSF has 26 offices in Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and the Middle East.[22][23] The Seoul and Tokyo offices are staffed by Commonwealth lawyers and do not practice local law.[20] The Tokyo office relies upon a referral arrangement with Japan's 'Big Four' law firms to avoid competing with them for local legal work, and due to difficulties with hiring Japanese attorneys.[24]

Notable clients[edit]

HSF has assisted numerous notable clients over its years as a firm, some famous, some infamous. Some examples include:

Sergey Podoprigorov[edit]

Herbert Smith Freehills helped Sergey Podoprigorov, a judge in the Russian Federation who sentenced Vladimir Kara-Murza, a prominent journalist, author, filmmaker, human rights activist and political prisoner that received an extremely harsh prison sentence in Russia in 2023 after publicly criticizing the Russian invasion of Ukraine. HSF prepared an appeal asking the U.S. Treasury Department to remove Podoprigorov from the “Magnitsky list” of corrupt Russian officials responsible for persecution of people fighting against corruption and repression in the country. [25]


  1. ^ "Where we work". Herbert Smith Freehills - Global law firm. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  2. ^ "Herbert Smith Sees Financial Growth in Year After Merger - The American Lawyer". The American Lawyer. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  3. ^ "Herbert Smith Freehills - True Picture - Chambers Student Guide". Chambers Student. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b Rigby, Ben (13 July 2021). "Herbert Smith Freehills records 5% revenue hike to hit £1bn turnover landmark". The Global Legal Post.
  5. ^ a b "Chambers Student".
  6. ^ a b "Acritas' Global Elite Law Firm Brand Index 2016" (PDF). Bakermckenzie.com. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  7. ^ a b "The Lawyer". 9 April 2018.
  8. ^ a b "Herbert Smith in tie-up to form new legal giant". The Independent. 1 October 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  9. ^ "HSF overtakes Slaughters to top new FTSE 100 client rankings - The Lawyer - Legal News and Jobs - Advancing the business of law". Thelawyer.com. 18 December 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  10. ^ "Magic circle out of the picture as HSF leads FTSE litigation rankings - The Lawyer - Legal News and Jobs - Advancing the business of law". Thelawyer.com. 12 January 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  11. ^ "UK200 Table 1–25". The Lawyer.
  12. ^ "Germany: All-aktion". The Lawyer. 15 July 2013. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  13. ^ "Locations". Herbert Smith Freehills.
  14. ^ a b c Suzanne Welborn. (2011.) Freehills: A History of Australia's First National Law Firm, UNSW Press.
  15. ^ Malcolm Wilson. (18 December 1979.) "Legal professional branching out", The Sydney Morning Herald.
  16. ^ "The makings of a national firm: Freehills". Lawyers Weekly. 2 June 2011.
  17. ^ "The great Aussie merger mystery". The Lawyer. 3 September 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  18. ^ a b Burton, Lucy (17 July 2013). "First-half turnover at £471.2m for post-merger Herbert Smith Freehills". The Lawyer. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  19. ^ "Herbert Smith Freehills opens in Seoul". Herbert Smith Freehills. 15 April 2013.
  20. ^ a b Reynolds, Anna (21 June 2013). "Herbert Smith Freehills secondments soar amid post-merger integration push". Legal Week. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  21. ^ "Herbert Smith opens Dusseldorf office". Global Legal Week. Archived from the original on 5 July 2018. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  22. ^ "Office details". Herbert Smith Freehills. 5 September 2016.
  23. ^ "Where we work". Herbert Smith Freehills | Global law firm. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  24. ^ Brennan, Tom (15 July 2013). "Foreign Firms Stumble Going Local in Japan". The Asian Lawyer. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  25. ^ "Judge presiding over Kara-Murza case appealed for removal from U.S. Magnitsky list". Meduza. Retrieved 21 April 2023.

External links[edit]