Liverpool’s global law firm is going through a period of upheaval as it looks to reposition itself away from low end insurance work and strengthen in areas like healthcare, real estate and fraud, while continue to develop its highly rated shipping practice.
The latest instalment in this journey has been Hill Dickinson’s sale of its non-marine insurance business to Keogh’s, which saw 17 partners leave the firm. This follows the recent departure of a 24-strong casualty claims team to Kennedys – a move which saw Hill Dickinson close its Sheffield office. The result is that the firm’s revenue this year has dropped below the £100 million mark, falling nearly 5% per cent from £102 million to £97 million. It’s the latest in four years of consecutive top line declines. However, the silver lining to the partner departures is that this year profit per equity partner (PEP) has risen over 7%, from £274,000 to £294,000, recovering most of the losses from last year when PEP fell 9%. Another encouraging sign is Hill Dickinson’s expanding Leeds office, which launched in autumn 2017 following the hire of a team of specialist healthcare lawyers from Capsticks – a signal of the new direction that it is heading in.
Despite the uncertainty, the mood within Hill Dickinson is holding up remarkably well, with the firm recording mostly strong scores in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19. “Everyone I work with is lovely and supportive – from partners to paralegals,” one insider tells us. Another adds that fellow trainees are “so supportive and we get on so well that I have to keep reminding myself that I’m in direct competition with some of them”.
Alongside its culture, Hill Dickinson’s other strong points are quality of work and work/life balance. There aren’t too many other firms that offer high levels of responsibility “that can be intimidating at times” doing “80% challenging and interesting work” while clocking off before 6:30pm. Even at busy times late nights in the office are rare. “Nearly two years in and have never stayed past 9pm!” one trainee tells us.
The trade-off is regional salaries that are a long way off City of London levels. Having said that, Hill Dickinson’s regional newly qualified solicitor rate of £38-40,000 is competitive relative to other comparable firms and probably affords a better standard of living in Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds that many firms’ remuneration does in London.
Perks are another relative weak point. There is no canteen in most offices and Legal Cheek understands that the Liverpool one is set to close as part of a cost-cutting drive. The coffee, meanwhile, is “awful” (“for an extra few pence they could buy the ‘gold’ version of the brand but they don’t,” reports one insider) and there is no qualification leave. The social life, meanwhile, varies between offices and elicits mixed reviews. “Everyone is friendly so it’s easy to go for drinks whenever you want. The firm organises three or four firm wide events a year and there are pay day drinks monthly / every other month,” one rookie reports, while another suggests that “it could be better”. Similarly there is a high degree of variation between office buildings, with Liverpool deemed “great”, London “swanky”, Leeds “good” and Manchester “like it hasn’t been touched since the 1960s”.
On the upside, there are some decent international secondments going at the firm’s offices in Piraeus, Singapore, Monaco and Hong Kong. And according to our figures a respectable 19% of rookies had done one or spent time abroad while on the job. There are some good client secondments too – to the NHS and easyJet, among others – with 31% of trainees having done one. What’s more, the are signs that the firm may be preparing to get itself up to date on the tech front, with lawyers’ “ancient laptops” set to be replaced soon. Still, insiders tells us there is a long way to go to bring the IT up to date.
To conclude with some trivia: Corbynista politician Rebecca Long-Bailey used to work as a solicitor for Hill Dickinson, where she specialised in NHS contracts, NHS estates and commercial property, before becoming Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in February 2017. So who knows where training here might take you.