From Belfast to Bogota to Basking Ridge, New Jersey, insurance and shipping specialists Kennedys are rapidly taking over the world. This has not been hampered by the pandemic, with the addition of four new offices in the past year – San Francisco, Israel, Leeds and Perth, Australia. But that’s not the half of it: Kennedys has also been busy luring insurance lawyers from the likes of BLM, Mayer Brown and Hill Dickinson. More recently, it has attracted defectors from Clyde & Co and Cooley too. Currently, the firm boasts 43 offices and over 2,300 people across the globe.
Crucially, this expansion has been matched by robust financial growth, with the firm increasing revenues roughly 90% over the last five years. For the financial year 2020-21, Kennedys increased turnover by a steady 11% to £264 million, £151 million of which was generated in the UK. Meanwhile, in the past 12 months, Kennedys has appointed 25 partners globally and strengthened its presence in Canada with a new association with a leading insurance firm.
Our men and women on the inside painted a mixed picture of what it’s really like to work at Kennedys. Most trainees do say that they learn a hell of a lot on their TC, thanks to the “approachable” and “excellent” supervisors. So long as you dig tort and contract law, there is “a lot of responsibility and good quality and varied work”. But that’s not the case with every seat, so do make the most of the good quality work that comes your way. “Opportunities in 3/4 seats were varied and interesting”, one spy tells us. “My final seat was less varied and little was gained.” There’s a decent chance of a client secondment (yes, it’ll be at an insurance company) but apparently only a couple of trainees get a place on the sought-after international secondments to Hong Kong and sun-soaked Bermuda.
Back in Blighty, Kennedys sprawls: trainees can apply to Manchester, Taunton, the London HQ as well as the new Leeds office for a training contract or London, Manchester, Taunton, Cambridge, Birmingham or Sheffield for a 30-month SQE apprenticeship programme in a specified practice area. The core of the firm’s business is defending insurance claims, as well as other major liability matters such as professional indemnity, personal injury and clinical negligence. Big cases in years gone by include the sale of Maxwell House, successful defence of hip replacement manufacturer DePuy against a 300-patient defective product claim and overturning a high-profile personal injury payout by the London Paralympics to one of its volunteers. While the firm does point to non-contentious work and clients in other sectors, getting a training contract at an outfit trying to position itself as the “go-to firm for the insurance sector” without at least a passing interest in the subject is going to be tough.
Every law firm these days tries to sell itself as ‘innovative’, and the insurance law game is no different. This one boasts a Kennedys Toolkit of legal tech, an internal Ideas Lab and various awards for use of technology in its business. But trainees say the case management system is “not fit for purpose” and “adoption [of legal tech] by different teams varies”. After a long history of paper files, the firm has only recently gone “paperless or paper light” across all teams. One rookie notes scepticism about this paperless scheme by stating: “An optimist would say this is environmentally responsible, a cynic would say it reduces costs.”
However, the firm did bolster its technology and innovation credentials in 2020 with the launch of its own technology and services business, Kennedys IQ, which brings together six tools which automate or manage day-to-day claims processes. It operates as a separate business arm for the firm, meaning it is open to external investment to rapidly scale across the globe.
While tech acumen is welcome, more importantly you’re likely meet some good people at Kennedys. “Other members of the team, both junior and senior, are always happy to help”, says one newcomer. “It’s a great group of trainees and we don’t suffer with too much of a competitive or backhanded culture.” In terms of joining the trainee ranks, trying to get a vacation scheme under your belt might be an idea as Kennedys explicitly says that they like to hire people already known through this route. Once in though, the firm offers much more than just interesting work with perks including “a good competitive salary, flexible working, regular gifts/social events/client events throughout the year” and “free breakfast [and] private dental and medical insurance”.
Meanwhile, the firm adapted well to working from home amid the Covid crisis, with one insider telling us, “most members of the firm are able to work competently from home”. Kennedys also offered its staff a £400 allowance on homeworking equipment – an important investment given post-pandemic plans for new starters and trainees to be given the option to work from home up to 20% of the time. When in the office, you won’t be cooped up your colleagues 24 hours a day. The work/life balance here is good, with “very reasonable hours”, though we are told the insurance teams in particular can get quite busy. Overall, one insider reports: “The firm encourages a healthy work/life balance”. Expect to be out the door not long after 6pm on average. Almost as good as the hours at Legal Cheek.