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‘Training contract seekers need to sell themselves, prepare well and persist’

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By Sophie Dillon on

Hill Dickinson partner Richard Capper discusses life in the firm’s banking and finance team and offers advice for the next generation of lawyers

“No two days are ever the same,” says Richard Capper, head of banking and finance at Hill Dickinson. “I manage transactions on behalf of the firm’s clients, and alongside this I coach younger members of the team to make them better lawyers. I also win work. I’m essentially living the dream!” he adds laughing. Heading up a team of four partners and around eleven other associates across the firm’s offices in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and London, Capper is clearly passionate about his work.

“It’s really nice seeing your former trainees progress through the firm. We’ve got some very good young lawyers at Hill Dickinson, and we’ve got some great partners who used to be trainees.” Finding the progression of junior members of the firm a big attraction of his job, he tells us that “seeing them going from the trainees we induct to becoming partners is very rewarding”.

But what does it take to be a trainee in Capper’s banking and finance team? The experienced lawyer is quick to emphasise that in this area of the law, you’ll rarely be stuck twiddling your thumbs. “Anyone that relishes the challenge of having a fairly active workload” is likely to thrive banking and finance. “I’ve never had a quiet day in my entire career,” he says. “We’re always operating at a level that is well-occupied, and I think that’s challenging for some but comforting for others. You’re not worrying about being quiet or being pigeon-holed into an area that’s too niche.”

It’s clear Capper and his team’s busyness is thanks in part to its transactional nature, meaning it thrives in good times and is resilient against “choppy” market conditions. “Because it’s diverse, we can ride out market conditions that aren’t so kind to other practices,” Capper explains. “If corporate transactions are quiet, we can do property. If both are quiet, we can work on general corporate lending. There’s always something to be done.”

The application deadline for Hill Dickinson’s Training Contract is 31 January 2024

Ahead of tomorrow’s event on the future of the global economy with Hill Dickinson, we ask Capper whether the current market conditions are affecting businesses in his practice. “Interest rates are still quite low,” he assures. “When I started my career in 1990, interest rates were much higher. I don’t believe they’re prohibitively high currently, and it hasn’t had much impact on business levels.” But, regardless, Hill Dickinson seems to be making the most of the changing rates. “Companies are taking advice on how they can mitigate the risk of further rises, which is sensible. Interest-rate mitigation — sometimes referred to as hedging — is another area which we have been able to take advantage of. Giving advice on hedging documents and mitigating exposures to the changing market has been good to us.”

Opportunism seems a clear theme to Capper’s approach to a fluctuating economy. “We’re very resilient as a firm. Choppy waters aren’t bad because entities might look to move their banking to take advantage of lower rates, so there’s always opportunity for deals,” he reveals. “Economic conditions always create opportunity,” he notes.

And what drives these economic conditions? “You’ve got obvious upcoming events like elections in both the UK and the US, which will weigh on the minds of those that do business generally because it’s an unknown. Ongoing wars in the Middle East and eastern Europe will also inevitably affect the markets,” Capper notes.

The application deadline for Hill Dickinson’s Summer Insight Scheme is 31 January 2024

While on the topic of economic change, I was curious to hear from Capper how he helps his clients navigate these unknowns and prepare for the future. “Lawyers need to be wearing a positive hat and not talking everybody into negative territories,” he emphasises. “I support the ‘So What?’ view; none of this stops businesses operating as usual.” Regardless of what’s happening in the outside world, “we need to carry on promoting activity in the markets we operate in”.

A clear example of this resilient attitude to change comes from the firm’s approach during the pandemic – a “record year” for Hill Dickinson, Capper notes. “We saw throughout the pandemic that clients need to be able to change very rapidly. We moved from giving transactional advice to advising clients on what protections they needed such as how to deal with staff and sickness. All of these changes came about very quickly, not just in banking but firm-wide.” Adaptation and resilience are clear themes to Hill Dickinson’s approach to this unprecedented era; “the lessons that we took from the pandemic are that we can adapt very quickly if we need to,” Capper notes. Summing up his approach to navigating the unknown, he says: “just crack on”.

Approaching the end of our conversation, I ask Capper about his experience at the firm, being a Hill Dickinson veteran going on 14 years, and his advice for those seeking training contracts at the firm. “I have a formula here that works; I love my team, I like my clients, and I love my office,” he says. “It’s a really great place to work, and we all enjoy being here.” While recognising the need for flexibility, Capper trumpets the benefits of being in the office, particularly for those just starting out in their careers. “Training is better done face-to-face,” he explains. “There’s no learning environment quite like being in-person in the office.”

For TC hopefuls at Hill Dickinson, Capper advises that, “you need to sell yourself and you need to prepare well.” He says to, “avoid the obvious pitfalls of making mistakes on your application and never underestimate your experiences; working in retail or working in hospitality are always great to see on an application.” Emphasising the importance of grit and strength of character, he advises, “if you’ve applied previously and you were rejected – apply again. Persistence pays.” Finally, he says, “enthusiasm for the firm you’ve applied for is critical. Know what we do and why you want to be here.”

Richard Capper will be speaking alongside other Hill Dickinson lawyers at ‘The future of the global economy — with Hill Dickinson’, a virtual student event taking place tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday 16 January). Apply to attend.

The application deadline for Hill Dickinson’s Training Contract is 31 January 2024

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