Herbert Smith Freehills secondments soar amid post-merger integration push

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has ramped up its use of international secondments in the wake of last year’s UK-Australia tie-up, as the firm moves to more closely integrate its business around the world.

The firm’s post-merger integration push has seen the number of employees on secondment around the world rise from 155 during 2011 to 283 in 2012 – an increase of more than 80%. 

A total of 70 secondees have moved between the firm’s offices since last October, the month the merger went live – more than double the 26 who moved offices in the equivalent period during 2011-12. Approximately half of the moves since the merger have comprised staff transferring to and from Australia. 

Of the 70 secondees since last October, six are partners, 46 are associates and trainees and 18 are in business services. The majority of the moves were in the corporate practice area (20), with 16 from disputes, 15 in finance, real estate and projects and one in competition, regulation and trade. 

Senior partner Jonathan Scott said: “Moving people around the network is part of the glue that holds the firm together. We often find that a client relationship improves following a lawyer’s return from secondment there – the revenues we can generate are influenced by these relationships. Our view is that if you haven’t done a secondment a legitimate question to ask is whether you have the right approach or mind-set to be a partner? We see awareness and appreciation of different cultures as a huge plus.”

Senior relocations include disputes partner Tony Dymond, who has moved from London to Seoul to co-head the firm’s new Korea base alongside corporate partner Lewis McDonald, who transferred from Singapore. The Seoul office, as well as the firm’s Tokyo base, are primarily staffed by secondees owing to restrictions on practising local law.

Last year’s merger of Herbert Smith and Freehills created a firm with revenues of around £770m, based on their respective 2010-11 revenues. The firm has 24 offices around the world, including eight in both Asia and Europe, four in Australia, three in the Middle East and one in New York.