This is the Hill Dickinson profile for those considering solicitor apprenticeships. Students looking to apply for training contracts should check out Legal Cheek‘s main Hill Dickinson profile.
Liverpudlian yet global, Hill Dickinson is a veteran in the field of solicitor apprenticeships with its first cohort having qualified as solicitors earlier this year. With the firm taking on recruits in Liverpool, Manchester, London and Leeds, hopefuls have a wide spread of choices across the nation. Having four international offices across Asia and Europe, rookies can also expect a touch of the international. Famous for representing shipping company White Star Line in connection with the sinking of the Titanic, it comes as no surprise that Hill Dickinson is a big name in the shipping game with shipping, cargo & transport, and superyachts among its specialisms. Although, for this full-service firm, its shipping-related services are just a drop in the ocean. Would-be apprentices can deep-dive into much exciting work across its many practice areas, including corporate, employment, healthcare, family, and real estate.
On why the apprenticeship route drew her in, one Hill Dickinson (HD) recruit stated that she “wanted the opportunity to get legal work experience under [her] belt”. Was she more practically inclined than her uni counterparts? “Not really! I was always very good at reading books and sitting exams,” she notes, “but, I’ve found having done the apprenticeship, I can see the benefits of doing it backwards – getting stuck into the practical side of the law and learning the academics alongside means that everything has slotted together really neatly.” Another HD rookie tells us, “I was never massively keen on the idea of going to university, and after experiencing the Hill Dickinson open day where I had a chat with an apprentice at the firm, I knew that this was the route for me.”
But, why this outfit? “For me, it was when I visited the offices that I thought ‘I want to work here’,” one newbie reveals. Throughout the seven-year stint, she says, “my teams have always been incredibly supportive, and they have always been very flexible. If I’ve needed to leave at 5.30 on-the-dot I’ve been able to — a lot of other law firms couldn’t probably say the same.” Another spy emphasises the firm’s culture: “from day one, I haven’t been treated like an apprentice, I’ve been treated like an equal.”
Drilling into the details, apprentices at HD will begin their journey on the firm’s paralegal apprenticeship programme for the first two years, focusing on building their core legal skills within the firm. After completing their two-year paralegal stint, budding solicitors will begin the solicitor apprenticeship for years three, four and five before being given the option to move onto the training contract rotation. “For me, I really love my practice area, so even though I had the option to begin rotating seats, I didn’t really want to,” reveals one happily settled insider.
So, apprentices will remain in their first practice area for at least the first five years of the programme. Not only do these recruits emerge veritable specialists within their teams, with one graduate “undertaking associate level tasks by years three and four”, it’s clear that recruits also end up feeling very much at home. The optional training contract rotation in years six and seven of HD’s programme allows apprentices the option to test the waters, and rotate through four different seats over their final two-years.
Spending the majority of her apprenticeship in real estate, one newly qualified apprentice tells us that this practice area “suits her down to the ground”. The “work is very interesting; it’s not very same-y and you’re always dealing with something different”. She tells us that “the clients are great to work for and the team is fabulous and very supportive”. For another seasoned apprentice in the Liverpool office, the clinical negligence department has provided her with a formidable training ground. “I had my own caseload within the first three months,” she reveals, “so I’ve never been stuck with run-of-the-mill admin work”. Now in the final few years of the programme, she has “a case load of around forty files” – so at HD, it’s all hands on deck when it comes to the real legal work!
On the studying side, recruits will focus one day a week on their legal education. Apprentices will emerge on the other side of their seven-year programme with a paralegal apprenticeship qualification, a law degree, and the Solicitors Qualifying Exams (SQE) qualification. Is it manageable studying towards these in just one day each week? One insider reveals that “at the start of the apprenticeship, it definitely fit into the one study day, but slowly increased over the course of the apprenticeship.” As the programme progresses, studying hours do tend to leak into the rest of the week. “In years three and four, you definitely start spending time studying on evenings and weekends.” Nevertheless, teams at the firm are said to be “very supportive and flexible” when it comes to studying, with one apprentice summing up the firm’s approach: “your work can be done by someone else but you’re the only one who can do your studying.”
When it comes to socials, apprentices need not fear that they’ve missed the boat by not going to uni. Luckily for apprentices, earning while learning does provide a little more freedom than studying full-time. “I never really felt like I’d missed out on the ‘uni experience’,” one apprentice emphasises. “This is mainly because I was able to go and visit my uni friends and have those experiences that way. It helps that as an apprentice, you have the financial resources to be able to go out and have a good time.” At HD, there’s clearly plenty of opportunity to do fun stuff with the people at work too. “In the office, there’s loads of socials going on, from pub quizzes to the swanky summer and Christmas parties,” we’re told. With trips to Bongos Bingo and team drinks on the cards, “if you’re a social person, there’s so much you can get involved with” at this firm.
One HD spy sums up the best bits of the firm’s apprenticeship offering: “the work life balance is great on the apprenticeship, as is the supportiveness of the teams. The fact that the firm is a veteran in the field is a huge attraction, given its wealth of experience in supporting apprentices all the way through to qualification.” Her advice to hopefuls? “Definitely apply – just go for it. As long as you’re determined, you’ll do really well.”
This is Hill Dickinson’s Solicitor Apprenticeship profile. Read Hill Dickinson’s full Legal Cheek profile here.