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Herbert Smith Freehills

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Leah Allen

Ultimately I decided to settle in the Insolvency Disputes team because I liked the mix of advisory and litigious work.

In March 2018 I completed the graduate program at HSF and settled in my current team, Insolvency Litigation. The Insolvency team at HSF makes up part of the cross-disciplinary practice group Restructuring, Turnaround and Insolvency (RTI), a one stop shop of corporate, finance and disputes lawyers where companies in distress can, depending on their needs, be restructured, enter into formal or informal insolvency procedures, or simply receive advice as to their legal obligations and liabilities. In addition to Insolvency Litigation, I also completed rotations in the firm’s Employment, Industrial Relations and Safety practice group, and in the Finance side of RTI.

Ultimately I decided to settle in the Insolvency Disputes team because I liked the mix of advisory and litigious work, and appreciated the opportunity to be involved in large restructuring transactions involving a number of different areas of law in a range of jurisdictions. There are also a number of interesting law reforms coming in in this area which seek to make it more attractive for a distressed company to restructure (rather than go into liquidation), which makes it a really exciting time to join the industry.

Can you describe a typical work day?

My areas of responsibility vary considerably depending on the type of matter we are involved in at any given time. We may be working on one large restructuring, which may occupy most of my time for six to nine months, or a number of smaller matters.

In a recent creditors’ scheme of arrangement (which is a tool used to restructure a group’s capital organization), my role included preparing court books and liaising with lawyers advising other parties to the restructure to prepare the documents necessary to file in court in order for the court to approve the scheme.

Where we are preparing an advice (typically for a company, or its directors in their personal capacity) my responsibilities will include legal research on specific factual scenarios relevant to our clients.

Where the firm is involved in significant proceedings requiring a number of lawyers to assist (such as the Banking Royal Commission) a junior solicitor will be given the opportunity to be involved, despite the matter not being run by their specific team. This will typically involve document review, for example in response to notices to produce. This is a great opportunity to work with other teams in the firm. It also is a chance to read documents that have been prepared for very senior executives within our client companies, and gives a lawyer an appreciation for the commercial context our legal advice is produced for.

Where there are smaller court matters such as winding up proceedings, I will be tasked with drafting affidavits and supporting documents for those hearings. This can be a great way to have direct contact with clients.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned, either about law, yourself or Herbert Smith Freehills during your clerkship/graduate program?

The most interesting thing I have learned at HSF is that it is not even half of the answer to be able to tell our clients what the law is, or even how to apply the law to their situation. The legal adviser’s role is to work with the client to create strategies to further their objectives in a way that complies with the law.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student? They don’t necessarily have to be related to your role, or even be career-focused.

  1. Come into any graduate program with an open mind – you never know which area of law you will like, or which will be useful experience even if you don’t end up staying in that area.
  2. Take every opportunity you can to talk to different people in the firm – attend drinks, trivia nights, chat to people in the line for coffee, chat to you fellow grads in other areas of the firm. It’s the easiest way to understand what lawyers in different practice groups do, and how the firm works as a whole.
  3. Ask as many questions as you possibly can, about everything – the tasks you’re given, the clients you work for, the law and legal procedure. It’s the quickest way to get better at anything.