Survey Results - Trainee feedback on HFW

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on HFW

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Sector focused, best for shipping’, ‘international secondment opportunities’, ‘it has an interesting sector focus in international trade’, ‘the sector focus; international opportunities; litigation focus; smaller trainee intake; friendly reputation’, ‘I was interested in working in maritime law’, ‘disputes focus, industry focus’, ‘international network of offices and expertise in shipping’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The people – everyone is genuinely nice and approachable and it doesn’t suffer from the arrogant and cut-throat cultures found at some other firms’, ‘reputation/rankings and sector-focused expertise’, ‘you can learn a lot about the industry you work with and become an expert that clients seek out. Also, the atmosphere is generally really friendly’, ‘it has a decent work/life balance (usually)’, ‘the international nature of the work’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Some internal matters can be disorganised, which can be frustrating’, ‘enforced international secondments, frustrating HR department, failure to secure visas for secondments in good time, resulting in trainees commencing international seats from London’, ‘lack of diversity and some nepotism, which people higher up the chain don’t seem to see the problem with’, ‘it is trying to be too corporate’, ‘qualification interviews and decisions are left too late’, ‘there are no bonuses for trainees’

Best moment? ‘My international secondment’, ‘joining different teams and working with experienced well-qualified individuals’, ‘managing my own case, defending a small claim on behalf of insurers – I saw it through from filing the defence to settlement just after exchange of questionnaires’, ‘drafting submissions for variation claims in an international construction arbitration worth £2bn’, ‘working on a major P&I club merger’

Worst moment? ‘As a first seater, being put in a department with just one partner who ignored me for the entire six months’, ‘my supervisor making me cry’, ‘working very late a couple of times’, ‘bundling’, ‘not feeling supported as a first-seat trainee dealing with a difficult supervisor’

The Legal 500 Future Lawyers verdict on HFW

A ‘specialism in maritime law’, ‘focus on litigation’ and ‘international opportunities (both in terms of work and secondments)’ drew trainees to HFW. The renowned shipping law firm is a Future Lawyers Winner for its (guaranteed) overseas seats, with trainees singling out ‘my Singapore secondment’ and ‘getting a seat abroad in Geneva’ as favourite experiences of their training contracts so far. Recruits liked the idea of ‘high-quality work and training’ whilst ‘still being able to maintain a good work/life balance’. The lawyers at HFW are ‘not pretentious’, supervisors are ‘approachable’ and ‘our teams tend to be smaller and rely on trainees more so we get given good work’. HFW boasts an ‘extensive training programme and a wealth of knowledge resources’, and this is ‘topped up by the experience of the other fee earners and their willingness to share their knowledge’. Trainees were slightly concerned that ‘there is not much diversity, at any level’ and that there does not seem to be ‘much being done to fix this’. The salary beyond trainee level was also criticised; it ‘doesn’t seek to reward staff’ said one respondent. One or two recruits felt frustrated at ‘being told we have to do a seat abroad (it was advertised as guaranteed, not mandatory, in our training contract applications)’. Nevertheless, trainees loved ‘being involved in matters which have made the news’ and ‘managing my own case, defending a small claim on behalf of insurers; I saw it through from filing the defence to settlement just after exchange of questionnaires’. Less exciting moments were ‘working on a due diligence project at 2am when I had Covid’ and helping to close a deal over the Christmas period – I barely slept for a week’. For a ‘great firm if you are interested in disputes and/or shipping’ where ‘everyone is so friendly’, research HFW.

A day in the life of... Joshua Henry, trainee, HFW

Joshua Henry, HFW

University: University of Liverpool

Degree: LLB, 1st Class Honours

9.10am: I arrive at our brand-new office at 8 Bishopsgate and head straight to the canteen hub for a coffee and pastry. I get to my desk and check for any urgent emails that might have come in overnight. Thankfully there are no immediate actions this morning. I review my to-do list from the day before and update it for the day ahead. I also have a quick scan of the business headlines to top up my commercial awareness.

10.00am: I have a meeting with one of the construction partners who has been asked for some advice from a client regarding a recent port expansion in the Bahamas. The partner informs me that he is also seeking advice from a master mariner within HFW’s shipping team. I’m asked to conduct research on a possible cause of action for the client, focusing on the tort of public nuisance. This is a great example of the breadth of interesting work you can get involved in as a trainee and the cross-over between the firm’s key sector offerings.

11.45am: Turning to another ongoing matter, my supervisor has returned his comments on my plan for a first draft of a response letter to the other side. This matter concerns defective works within the cabling of an offshore windfarm. We discuss his comments and I take a note of any other issues that are raised in this discussion. I reflect on his comments and begin the first draft of the letter.

1.00pm: I go for lunch with some of the other trainees and paralegals in my intake who are in the office today. We return to a firm lunchtime favourite: the Greek souvlaki food stall at Fenchurch Street Station. I’ve also found that this has been a key (and tasty) component in preparing me for my upcoming secondment to HFW’s Piraeus office in September.

1.30pm: I return to my desk and continue with my first draft of the letter regarding defective works. This is quite a complex dispute, so I make sure to constantly revisit the comments made by my supervisor and the documentary evidence provided by the client. One thing I have really enjoyed at HFW is that under the appropriate supervision you are given lots of responsibility to take forward substantive pieces of work and feel incorporated in a matter.

3.30pm: This afternoon we have a training session being delivered by HFW and other external speakers on Cryptocurrency: Disputes, Fraud and Insolvency. This is a great opportunity to hear about how HFW is on the cutting edge of cryptocurrency disputes in the commodities space.

4.30pm: After the training session, I review the draft of my response letter and send it to my supervisor for comment. I then return to the research task the construction partner had instructed me to undertake earlier today. I feel like I have a strong grasp of my findings and how they apply to the issues highlighted, so I outline these to the partner in an email. It is satisfying to know that the work I have produced will form the basis of his advice to the client and move their matter forward.

6.00pm: After completing these tasks, I can focus on smaller pieces of work that were on my to-do list from yesterday. This includes updating our foreign law advice tracker and filing the advice that came in this week for a different construction dispute.

6.30pm: Tonight, I am heading to a networking event hosted by Legal Voices for the Future, a new networking group designed to organise and deliver monthly knowledge sessions on pressing global issues such as climate change and environmental social governance. This evening’s event is on Contract Clauses for the Climate.

8.30pm: After the networking event, I have a quick check of my emails to see if any other tasks need to be completed this evening. Nothing else has come in, so I log off and head home for the evening.

About the firm

The clients: ABN AMRO Bank, Alpha Petroleum Resources Limited, BP plc, Excelerate Energy, Gategroup, HSBC Bank plc, ING Bank, Klaipėdos Nafta, Maersk Group, Markerstudy Holdings Limited, Northern Offshore Services, Qatargas, Swedbank, Trafigura, Tsakos Energy Navigation, Tullow Oil plc, Turkish Airlines Inc, Victoria Group AD and existing shareholders.

The deals: Acted for the financiers on the amendment of loan facilities pursuant to the Hermes cruise debt holiday programme in respect of the Saga cruise ships ‘SPIRIT OF DISCOVERY’ and the ‘SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE’ whereby repayments of principal were deferred as a result of the Covid-19-related effects on the cruise market; acting for BW Epic Kosan Ltd. (previously Epic Gas) in connection with the refinancing of 17 LPG ships owned and operated by Lauritzen Kosan; acted for Northern Offshore Services in respect of (1) their purchase of two transfer vessels from SureWind and (2) the lease financing of those vessels provided by Flexam Invest; advised Trafigura Nala Matter on the formation of Nala Renewables – a new joint venture company with IFM Investors; advised Victoria Group on the disposal of its edible oil business, Victoriaoil, to Sun Valley and its co-owner Vaja Jhashi; advised Markerstudy on its acquisition of the Co-operative Group Ltd’s carrier, CIS General Insurance Ltd; advised Lithuanian LNG terminals operator Klaipėdos Nafta on its acquisition of a floating, storage and regasification unit (FSRU) following a public tender involving nine other leading international law firms; advising Qatargas, the world’s largest supplier of LNG, which is partly owned by Qatar Petroleum, on its vessel acquisition project, which forms a key element of the expansion of its North gas field; advising a leading commodities trader on a bid to purchase mining interests in Greece, including on international merger control aspects; advised a leading brand owner on its licensing and distribution arrangements in Europe, with particular reference to competition law.

Senior partner: Giles Kavanagh

Managing partner: Jeremy Shebson

Other offices: 20 global offices across the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific.

Who we are: We are a sector-focused, entrepreneurial law firm. But there’s more to us than that. We have a passion for the sectors we work in – whether we are solving complex issues across construction, aviation and shipping, or providing advice across insurance, commodities and energy. We’re people
who like to get things done. Our clients say, ‘less traditional’ – ‘progressive’, even. We say we’re specialist lawyers here to add value to our clients.

What we do: Aviation, commodities, construction, energy, financial institutions, insurance and reinsurance, logistics, mining, ports and terminals, shipping, space, yachts, travel, cruise and leisure.

What we’re looking for: We look for trainees who are bright, commercially focused and hard working. Strong communication skills and team working skills are a must. In addition, as our training contract is truly international, we look for individuals who have a global perspective and an interest in completing international work.

What you’ll do: Every year we recruit only a small number of trainees – 15 per year split across a September and a March intake. This enables us to give every trainee our full attention and means that your individual contribution makes a real difference. A training contract at HFW consists of four six-month seats – typically three contentious and one transactional, with at least one seat spent abroad gaining a global perspective of our work and clients.

Perks: Contributory pension; season ticket loan; group life cover, personal accident insurance and income protection; non-contributory medical insurance; private GP scheme; other voluntary benefits including gym membership, cycle to work scheme, dental insurance, dining card, home insurance, travel insurance, Give as You Earn. Music lessons and onsite massage.

Sponsorship: Law school fees paid, depending on the point of offer, and a maintenance grant of £12,000 is available for each year of study

Diversity and inclusion

Percentage of female associates: 45.5%

Percentage of female partners: 18.3%

Percentage of BAME associates: 11.1%

Percentage of BAME partners: 4.2%