Liverpool’s global law firm has shifted away from insurance work in recent years, developing stronger footholds in areas including healthcare, real estate and banking, as well as continuing to grow its highly rated shipping practice.
A key milestone on this journey was Hill Dickinson’s sale of its non-marine insurance business to Keogh’s in 2018, which saw 17 partners leave the firm. 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.
Hill Dickinson’s revenue sits just below the £100 million mark, according to the most recent set of financial results available, while profit per equity partner (PEP) comes in at around £370,000.
The mood within Hill Dickinson is pretty good, with the firm again scoring well in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2021-22. “A great group of peers who are friends too”, one trainee gushes, “everyone just gets on well”. Another, echoing this view, explains how rookies “will frequently turn to each other for help and support”.
The solid support continues up the ranks. “Partners are extremely approachable” and adhere to the firm’s open-door policy “at all times”, our sources tell us. “No hierarchy here”, another proclaims. “Every member of staff is as approachable as the other — a real down to earth and collaborative culture”. However, one rookie added that “some are very focused on protecting themselves and will place blame on juniors to deflect from their own time management issues”.
The firm’s home-working support also gets a thumbs up. “No issues at all and we have really been able to adapt to it,” an insider explains, “so much so that a lot of people are enjoying it and want it to continue”. Trainees were all given laptops and £200 to spend on office equipment and felt that the IT support had been “generally good”.
Alongside its support for juniors, Hill Dickinson’s other strong points are quality of work and work/life balance.
On the former, one spy tells us this: “The firm works for a huge variety of clients across a number of sectors and so we get exposure to everything from small matters for local businesses to huge matters for listed companies who are household names”. Another explains that there’s a “huge variety of work, ranging from standard trainee tasks which familiarise me with the ins and outs of the law as well as more significant drafting exercises and interactions with clients and Counsel”.
On the latter, one rookie felt the work/life balance was “perfect”, adding “I’ll happily work late where needed but there’s no ‘last coat on the chair’ vibe”. Even at busy times late nights in the office are rare. “Nearly two years in and have never stayed past 9pm!” one insider tells us.
The trade-off is regional salaries that are some way off City of London levels with trainees starting on £26,000 in northern offices and £37,000 in London. Having said that, Hill Dickinson’s regional newly qualified solicitor rate is competitive relative to other comparable firms and probably affords a better standard of living in Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds than many firms’ remuneration does in London.
Perks are another relative weak point. There is no canteen in most offices and the coffee is described as “awful”. Not that everyone is that bothered: “Would rather have work/life balance than perks!” comments one anonymous trainee. You do, however, get an extra day off on your birthday which is widely appreciated.
There is a high degree of variation between office buildings, with Liverpool deemed “great”, London “swanky”, Leeds “good”, whilst the Manchester office feels “like working in a 70’s police station”. Some renovation works to the Manchester office have been appreciated, amid rumours that a move to fancier premises in the city could be on the cards.
On the upside, there are some decent international secondments up for grabs. Destinations include Singapore, Hong Kong, Greece and Monaco. There are some good client secondments too — to the NHS and easyJet, among others — with almost a third of trainees having done one. The firm’s tech, meanwhile, is said to be “getting better” thanks in part to some efficiency boosting IT upgrades. “Some software is fairly rudimentary, but change has been consistently implemented while I have been here which is encouraging. Lots to do, but lots being done”, explains one insider.