Survey Results - Trainee feedback on HFW

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

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘It had a sustainable growth pattern’, ‘each trainee shares an office with a partner or senior associate, which provides a good training experience’, ‘guaranteed international secondments’, ‘excellent shipping department’, ‘specialism in insurance’, ‘litigation focus’, ‘excellent international opportunities and high-level work while still being a friendly and open place’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Close-knit trainee cohorts’, ‘it has several sports teams that play on a regular basis’, ‘seats abroad’, ‘opportunities for client secondments’, ‘community of trainees and associates who are generally all friendly, helpful and sociable’, ‘it encourages work/life balance’, ‘very capable colleagues’, ‘Dan Pope (the firm’s senior court manager)’, ‘the brownies’, ‘early responsibility’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Technology and IT’, ‘limited rewards for good work or hitting targets’, ‘there can be quite a wide gap between the good seats and the bad seats’, ‘a bit old fashioned’, ‘no agile working’, ‘the coffee’, ‘the seat allocation process is opaque’, ‘hierarchical’, ‘the pay is at the lower end for a City firm’, ‘we are not very well known outside of our core sectors’

Best moment? ‘My secondment to Dubai’, ‘being trusted to run a case within my first couple of weeks’, ‘getting my top choice location for international secondment’, ‘working with big clients’, ‘running a High Court trial’, ‘winning a bottle of champagne’, ‘arriving on secondment and immediately being asked by a partner to draft a High Court arbitration application’, ‘working on a large acquisition’

Worst moment? ‘Late-night finance deadlines’, ‘preparing bundles into the early hours of the morning’, ‘missing the Christmas party because of work’, ‘making a calculation error in an insolvency petition’, ‘doc review’, ‘staying late multiple nights in a row to complete business development tasks’, ‘dealing with IT’, ‘struggling to deal with the workload’, ‘late-night PowerPoint presentations’

The Lex 100 verdict on HFW

The firm: HFW is a leading global law firm in the aerospace, commodities, construction, energy, insurance, and shipping sectors. The firm has more than 600 lawyers, including 185 partners, based in offices across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. HFW prides itself on its deep industry expertise and its entrepreneurial, creative and collaborative culture.

The deals: Represented Lomar Shipping and its insurers in relation to the 2017 grounding and actual total loss of a container ship on her maiden voyage on a coral reef off Noumea, New Caledonia; acted for BW LPG in the merger control aspects of its acquisition of Aurora LPG; representing the Republic of Cyprus in high-profile proceedings before the European Court of Justice concerning the potential free trade agreement between Singapore and the EU; representing Evalend Shipping & Trading and its insurers on the seizure of product tanker and her entire crew by the Libyan authorities; advising Artus on multiple sets of proceedings in France and the US brought by more than 200 relatives of victims of a major aviation accident involving an AirAsia aircraft in 2014.

The clients: AEGIS; BP; Chubb; Cruise & Maritime Voyages; Ecom Agroindustrial Corporation; Maersk Group; Meyer Werft; PAO Sovcomflot; Rolls Royce; Singapore Airlines.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see for more details) Asset finance and leasing; Aviation; Commercial contracts; Commercial litigation; Commodities: derivatives; Commodities: physicals; EU and competition; Fraud: civil; Insurance and reinsurance litigation; Insurance litigation: for policyholders; Insurance: corporate and regulatory; International arbitration; M&A: lower mid-market deals, £50m-£250m; Mining and minerals; Oil and gas; Power (including electricity and renewables); Professional negligence; Shipping; Trade finance; Travel: regulatory and commercial.

The verdict

For trainee hopefuls with an interest in shipping and aviation, ‘global leader’ HFW is an obvious choice. The international firm’s ‘specialist sector focus’ offers recruits the ‘opportunity to work with the biggest clients in the industry’ on ‘genuinely interesting matters’. Guaranteed international secondments for all trainees is the other big draw and has earned the firm a Lex 100 Winner medal in this category. Placements to far-flung destinations, from Melbourne to Dubai to Piraeus, attracted unmitigated praise for their ‘smooth organisation’ and for the ‘high-level work’ on offer. Indeed, ‘plenty of trainees love it so much they decide to qualify abroad’! Back in the London office, where there is a ‘nice vibe’, some departments ‘take a real interest in training and put a lot of effort into making sure trainees get client exposure, ship visits and a wide variety of work’. Recruits feel that the office ‘could do with a refurb’ and that the ‘remuneration could be higher considering the hours worked’. Moreover, those interested in non-contentious work should note that there are ‘fewer transactional options available’ at HFW. Work highlights included ‘visiting a tug with a master mariner’, ‘preparing for and attending a summary judgment hearing involving two FTSE-100 listed companies’ and ‘attending closing meetings alone’. At the other end of the spectrum were ‘missing lots of Christmas events due to long hours’, a ‘hefty e-disclosure exercise’ and ‘forgetting to include a schedule of loss in a hearing bundle and having to taxi it across London to court with ten minutes to spare’. For a ‘steep and challenging learning curve’ at a firm which has ‘plans to deepen and enhance its sector presence in emerging markets’, look at HFW.

A day in the life of… Gian Marco Zuccarelli, first seat trainee, HFW

Gian Marco Zuccarelli, HFW

Departments to date: Shipping (finance)

University: University of Bologna University of Paris Nanterre

Degree: French and Italian Law, 2(1)

9.15am: I arrive at the office and start reading my emails to get a rough idea of the work I will be carrying out during the day. I draw up a to-do list and start responding.

9.30am: Today we are transferring title to a yacht from the shipyard to the buyer (our client). The transfer of ownership will take place in Naples, Italy before the notary. We will not be attending the meeting, so I need to make sure that our Italian local representative has all the necessary documents. I check the file and send our instructions.

10.00am: Quick update on the refinancing of a vessel: the borrower wants a subordinate mortgage. This request is slightly unusual, so we will need to discuss solutions with our client, the bank.

10.15am: My colleague and I join a conference call with the Russian lawyers of a buyer who wants to novate (transfer its rights and obligations to a third party) its shipbuilding contract.

10.45am: I receive a call from the shipyard’s Italian lawyer in Naples who informs me that the bank is not issuing the new refund guarantee because the buyer’s Maltese representative failed to return the original copies of the existing refund guarantees. This is preventing us from transferring title and making the payment for the fifth instalment.

11.00am: I speak to the Maltese representative, prepare an affidavit and a declaration stating that the original copies of the guarantees have been lost and ask him to have the documents signed, legalised and forwarded to the bank in Italy.

11.30am: My supervisor and I go down to the reception to meet with a client who is buying a 65-metre superyacht from an Italian shipyard. We welcome the lawyers from the other side and start the contract negotiations.

1.00pm: We have lunch with the client in the meeting room.

1.30pm: I exit the meeting and quickly go back to my desk to check how matters are progressing with the transfer of title in Naples. The Italian lawyer informs me that they are awaiting the bank’s confirmation that it will issue the refund guarantee for the fifth instalment upon receipt of the affidavit and declaration.

2.00pm: I draft an email for the Cayman Islands Shipping Registry asking them to preclear some security documents we prepared in relation to a deal. This is essential as we need to ensure that the security for the loan is enforceable in the relevant jurisdiction.

2.30pm: I liaise with the borrower’s lawyers in connection to the same finance deal and ask them to provide some of the necessary conditions precedent for the loan. I check our condition precedent report and make sure that the file is in good order.

3.00pm: I speak to one of the senior associates and start preparing a legal opinion on some of the security documents for the loan facility. I check our precedent and make sure that all the necessary documents for the transactions are duly covered.

6.00pm: I receive confirmation from our Italian local representative that the transfer of title was successfully completed. I draft an email for the client and instruct the Maltese local representative to release the funds for the payment of the fifth instalment.

7.15pm: I send an update to my supervisor on the work carried out during the day, enter my time and leave the office to go to my boxing class on Old Street.

About the firm

Senior partner: Richard Crump

Managing partner: Jeremy Shebson

Other offices: 19 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 seats and one transactional seat, with at least one seat spent outside of London in an international office.

Perks: Generous contributory pension; subsidised gym membership; season ticket loan; life assurance; non-contributory medical insurance; cycle to work scheme; dental insurance; free GP service.

Sponsorship: GDL/LPC fees paid and a maintenance grant of £7,000 (£5,500 outside London) is available for each year of study.