Liverpool’s global law firm has had a tough time of late, but Hill Dickinson remains a huge player in the North West legal market with particular strengths in litigation, insurance and shipping work. The firm has been hit by turbulence in these practices, as it tries to strengthen in areas like healthcare, real estate and fraud, with revenues falling over the last three years and the most recently released profit per equity partner figure down 9% to £274,000.
The big theme of the last year has been Hill Dickinson’s efforts to reduce its low-end insurance business. In March 2017 the firm said farewell to a 24-strong casualty claims team to Kennedys. The move saw Hill Dickinson close its Sheffield office. The firm is in talks with other firms to offload more of this type of work as it bids to focus its energies on higher value instructions. However, no sooner was Hill Dickinson out of Sheffield than it was opening in Leeds following the hire of a team of specialist healthcare lawyers from Capsticks – signalling the new direction that it is heading in.
At the same time, chatter about a big merger with a rival persists. Indeed, Hill Dickinson held unsuccessful talks about a tie-up with Ince & Co earlier this year.
Despite all the uncertainty, the mood within Hill Dickinson is holding up remarkably well, with the firm recording some of the highest scores for peer support and partner approachability in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18. “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”.
The firm’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 7pm.
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 some firms’ remuneration does in London.
Perks are another relative weak point. There is no canteen in some offices (Liverpool does have one though), the coffee 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 3 or 4 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 generally deemed pretty impressive, but Manchester and Leeds less so, while Hill Dicks’ presence in London is fairly small.
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 24% 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 19% of trainees having done one.
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.