It has been a good year for Liverpool’s global law firm, as it has repositioned itself away from insurance work and strengthened in areas including healthcare, real estate and fraud, while continuing to develop 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.
The result is a leaner firm more focused on high-end work. This is reflected in the financials, with Hill Dickinson’s revenue dropping this year by 7% from £96.8 million to £90.4 million but its profit per equity partner (PEP) surging by 26% to £370,000.
The mood within Hill Dickinson is good, with the firm again scoring well in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2019–20. “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 some way off City of London levels. 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 with the Liverpool one having recently closed. The coffee, meanwhile, is “awful” and there is no qualification leave. Not that everyone is that bothered: “Would rather have work-life balance than perks!” comments one anonymous trainee.
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 payday 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”. Some recent 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 going at the firm’s offices in Piraeus, Monaco, Singapore and Hong Kong. There are some good client secondments too — to the NHS and easyJet, among others — with 33% of trainees having done one. What’s more, there are signs that the firm may be preparing to get itself up to date on the tech front, with lawyers’ “ancient laptops” having recently been replaced with new models. Still, insiders tell us there is some 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.