Herbert Smith Freehills

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Herbert Smith Freehills
Herbert Smith Freehills logo.svg
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Sydney, Australia
No. of offices 26[1]
No. of attorneys 2,100[2]
No. of employees 4,700[3]
Key people Mark Rigotti (CEO)
Revenue Increase £815 million (2014/15)[4] (US$ 1.34 billion)
Profit per equity partner Increase £801,000 (2014/15) (US$ 1.31 million)
Date founded 2012 (by merger)
Company type Limited liability partnership (Herbert Smith Freehills LLP)
Partnership (Herbert Smith Freehills)

Herbert Smith Freehills is an international law firm co-headquartered in London, United Kingdom and Sydney, Australia. It was formed on 1 October 2012 by a merger between the United Kingdom-based Herbert Smith, a member of the "Silver Circle" of leading UK law firms, and Freehills, one of the "Big Six" law firms in Australia.[5][6]

Globally pre-eminent in litigation and an international leader in corporate and finance, Herbert Smith Freehills consistently ranks as one of the most prestigious law firms in the world.[7] In the 2016 Global Elite Brand Index for law firms, Herbert Smith Freehills was named equal 12th.[8] In 2013-2015, BRW named the firm as Australia's best professional services firm with revenue over $200 million.[9][10][11]

In 2015, Herbert Smith Freehills overtook Slaughter and May to become the law firm with the most FTSE 100 clients, representing 39 of the 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange with the highest market capitalization.[12] According to a report by The Lawyer in 2016, the firm is the most popular adviser to FTSE 100 companies on High Court or Court of Appeal cases in the United Kingdom.[13]


Herbert Smith[edit]

Herbert Smith was established by Norman Herbert Smith in 1882. Edward Walker-Arnott took over as senior partner in 1992. After initial specialisation in the early part of the 20th century in company flotations and advising mining companies, the firm's more recent work focused on a combination of litigation and corporate work (M&A and equity capital markets in particular). Other practices included finance, real estate, energy, and competition.[14] In 2011, revenues were £465 million and profits-per-equity-partner (PEP) were £900,000.[15]

Between 2004 and 2009, Herbert Smith gained more new FTSE 100/250 clients than did any other law firm in the UK.[16]

Herbert Smith had a European partnership with the German firm Gleiss Lutz and the Benelux firm Stibbe until 2011. Herbert Smith's intention was to merge with the two European firms, but the deal did not go ahead.[17]

At the time of its merger with Freehills, Herbert Smith had around 240 partners and 1,300 fee-earners and had offices in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.[18]


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.[19]

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.[19] The Sydney firm became Freehill Hollingdale & Page in 1947 and began to grow under the direction of partner Brian Page, who took the firm into corporate and commercial practice within Australia and internationally.[19] Page is notable for his "open" employment policy, hiring Catholics and Jews when many other firms would not.[20] In 1978, Freehill Hollingdale & Page became the first major Australian law firm to appoint a female partner.[21] In 1979, Muir Williams Nicholson & Co, Perth signed an agreement with Freehill Hollingdale & Page, Sydney, to create Australia’s first national law partnership.[19][22]

In 2000, the state-based offices of Freehill Hollingdale & Page officially changed their name to Freehills and became a single national legal partnership.[23]

Freehills had a pro bono program which, under the leadership of the late Keith Steele, saw the establishment of the Shopfront Youth Legal Centre in Kings Cross. The firm seconded solicitors to a number of community legal centres and services including the Public Interest Law Clearing House in Victoria, the Kingsford Legal Centre.[24][25]

As of 2012, prior to its merger with Herbert Smith, the firm had over 800 lawyers and over 190 partners.[26] It had offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane in Australia.[19] It also had an office in Singapore.[6] In Indonesia, Freehills had an association with local firm Soemadipradja & Taher; and, in Vietnam, Freehills had an association with Frasers Law Company in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. In 2009, Freehills entered into an alliance with TransAsia Lawyers in China, giving it associated offices in Beijing and Shanghai.

2012 to present[edit]

Herbert Smith and Freehills announced that they were in merger talks in February 2012,[27] and the partners of Herbert Smith and Freehills voted to approve a merger of the two firms in June 2012.[28] The merger was completed on 1 October 2012.[5]

The Herbert Smith Freehills merger involved immediate financial integration of the firms in a single partnership and profit pool, whereas other contemporaneous law firm mergers, such as the Norton Rose Fulbright merger, utilized a Swiss Verein or loose alliance structure that maintained part of the pre-merger divisions between national entities. This was particularly a challenge because Herbert Smith practised a "lockstep" compensation system and over half of its partners had no actual equity, while Freehills practised a merit-based compensation system and had considerably more equity partners.[29] As part of the financial integration, equity partners in Herbert Smith were required to pay in new capital of up to £20 million. A number of London-based litigation partners left the firm in late 2012 and early 2013.[30]

Following the merger, the firm began to practice in Germany, where it hired a partner from former Herbert Smith alliance firm Gleiss Lutz.[30] In September 2012, Herbert Smith opened an office in New York City focusing on international dispute resolution work, hiring a team of lawyers from Chadbourne & Parke.[31] Herbert Smith Freehills opened an office in Seoul, South Korea in April 2013.[32] The combined firm also nearly doubled its total number of international secondees in its first year of operations.[33] 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.[34] Soon after establishing this office, the Dusseldorf practice became known for working on headline cases for the civil engineering industry.[35]

In 2015, Herbert Smith Freehills overtook Slaughter and May to become the law firm with the most FTSE 100 clients, representing 39 of the 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange with the highest market capitalization.[36] According to a report by The Lawyer in 2016, the firm is the most popular adviser to FTSE 100 companies on High Court or Court of Appeal cases in the United Kingdom.[37]


As of June 2013, Herbert Smith Freehills has 24 offices in New York City, Asia, Australia, Europe and Middle East.[38] The Seoul and Tokyo offices are staffed by Commonwealth lawyers and do not practice local law.[33] In the case of the Tokyo office, Herbert Smith elected to rely on referrals to and from the local Big Four law firms in order to avoid the perception of competing with them in local legal work, and due to difficulties hiring Japanese attorneys at the time.[39]


  1. ^ http://www.herbertsmithfreehills.com/where-we-work
  2. ^ http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202661674357/Herbert-Smith-Sees-Financial-Growth-in-Year-After-Merger%3Fmcode=1202661691835
  3. ^ http://www.chambersstudent.co.uk/true-picture?organisationid=189&organisationType=1
  4. ^ http://www.thelawyer.com/analysis/the-lawyer-business-leadership/financial-news/herbert-smith-freehills-pep-passes-800k-with-turnover-inching-up-2-per-cent-to-815m/3036819.article
  5. ^ a b "Herbert Smith in tie-up to form new legal giant". The Independent. 1 October 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Swift, James (3 October 2012). "Herbert Smith Freehills to eliminate Singapore duplication". The Lawyer. 
  7. ^ http://www.chambersandpartners.com/global/firm/9248/herbert-smith-freehills
  8. ^ "Acritas' Global Elite Law Firm Brand Index 2016" (PDF). 
  9. ^ Thomson, James (14 March 2013). "Revealed: Winners of the 2013 Client Choice Awards". BRW. 
  10. ^ "2014 Client Choice Awards Finalists and Winners - Client Choice Awards". Client Choice Awards. Retrieved 2016-11-28. 
  11. ^ "2015 Client Choice Awards Finalists and Winners - Client Choice Awards". Client Choice Awards. Retrieved 2016-11-28. 
  12. ^ http://www.thelawyer.com/herbert-smith-freehills-overtakes-slaughters-to-top-new-ftse-100-client-rankings/
  13. ^ http://www.thelawyer.com/magic-circle-out-of-the-picture-as-hsf-leads-ftse-litigation-rankings/
  14. ^ "Client services". Herbert Smith Freehills. 
  15. ^ "UK200 Table 1–25". The Lawyer. 
  16. ^ "Freehills". Chambers Student. 
  17. ^ "Germany: All-aktion". The Lawyer. 15 July 2013. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  18. ^ "Locations". Herbert Smith Freehills. 
  19. ^ a b c d e Suzanne Welborn. (2011.) Freehills: A History of Australia's First National Law Firm, UNSW Press.
  20. ^ "The makings of a national firm: Freehills". Lawyers Weekly. 2 June 2011. 
  21. ^ Merritt, Chris (8 July 2011). "Women take third of new partnerships in legal profession". The Australian. 
  22. ^ Malcolm Wilson. (18 December 1979.) "Legal professional branching out", The Sydney Morning Herald.
  23. ^ "Vale Keith Steele (6 April 1951–7 June 2009)". Freehills. 11 June 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2011. 
  24. ^ James Eyers, "Man of steel and compassion", Australian Financial Review, 19 June 2009, p 46, via Media Monitors Australia Pty Ltd and factiva.com accessed 14 November 2011.
  25. ^ "Vale Keith Steele (6 April 1951–7 June 2009)". Freehills. Freehills Pty Limited. 11 June 2009. Retrieved 14 November 2011. Keith played a leading role in the establishment of Freehills’ pro bono program in Sydney. In 1992 he was instrumental in establishing the Shopfront Youth Legal Centre to serve homeless young people in Kings Cross. Keith also successfully established a permanent solicitor secondment arrangement with the Kingsford Legal Centre and orchestrated Freehills becoming a founding member of the Public Interest Law Clearing House. Keith served as a director of that body for nearly 10 years from its inception. 
  26. ^ "Herbert Smith Freehills". Chambers and Partners. 
  27. ^ "Herbert Smith Confirms Merger Talks with Freehills". The AmLaw Daily. 3 February 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  28. ^ "Herbert Smith green lights October merger with Australia's Freehills". The Lawyer. 28 June 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  29. ^ "The great Aussie merger mystery". The Lawyer. 3 September 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 
  30. ^ 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. 
  31. ^ "Herbert Smith's empire state of mind". The Lawyer. 2 August 2012. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  32. ^ "Herbert Smith Freehills opens in Seoul". Herbert Smith Freehills. 15 April 2013. 
  33. ^ a b Reynolds, Anna (21 June 2013). "Herbert Smith Freehills secondments soar amid post-merger integration push". Legal Week. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 
  34. ^ "Herbert Smith opens Dusseldorf office". Global Legal Week. Retrieved 11 December 2015. 
  35. ^ "http://juve.de/nachrichten/verfahren/2016/11/kraftwerk-walsum-schiedsstreit-geht-mit-baker-und-herbert-smith-in-die-naechste-runde/-". JUVE.  External link in |title= (help);
  36. ^ http://www.thelawyer.com/herbert-smith-freehills-overtakes-slaughters-to-top-new-ftse-100-client-rankings/
  37. ^ http://www.thelawyer.com/magic-circle-out-of-the-picture-as-hsf-leads-ftse-litigation-rankings/
  38. ^ "Office details". Herbert Smith Freehills. 
  39. ^ Brennan, Tom (15 July 2013). "Foreign Firms Stumble Going Local in Japan". The Asian Lawyer. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 

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