Based on the banks of the Tyne, this Northern bobby dazzler is on a mission to grow its Leeds and Manc branches.
What is Hadaway?
Just like its Geordie rival Muckle, Ward Hadaway's name derives from North Eastern dialect. (It's got nothing to do with Haddaway, the German singer who performed 1993's classic hit What Is Love). Trusted local sources inform us that 'hadaway and s***e!' is another way of saying 'you're talking rubbish.' According to the more decorous pages of the dictionary, 'hadaway' is an exclamation 'urging the hearer to refrain from delay in the execution of a task.' Which is pretty fitting for this firm, whose 200 lawyers have lots to do. In addition to its Newcastle HQ, WH has flourishing branches in Leeds and Manchester, which were established in 2008 and 2012 respectively. Looking ahead, managing partner Jamie Martin confirms that WH's lawyers will be kept on their toes: “Our strategy is built around being a Northern law firm for national businesses with offices in the three significant commercial centres of the North. We continue to grow in Newcastle but our development focus is on Leeds and Manchester – we've already got a significant market share in the North East.”
It certainly has, as a look at the firm's Chambers UK rankings in the North East reveals: WH picks up top accolades for its banking and finance, construction, employment, IT, litigation, planning and real estate practices. While much of the firm's work is commercial in nature it also picks up high praise for its expertise in areas like private client, family and social housing, pointing to WH's long-held strength in the public sector, as well as the important role its private client department plays. Martin cites education, infrastructure and transport as growth areas, indicating that the firm's in good shape after posting another revenue increase in June 2016: turnover rose by 7.2% to a record £35.8 million, with the corporate, commercial and property departments performing particularly well. And while the firm pitches itself as a Northern-based firm for national business – and does have some big names on its books, as you'll see – it remains committed to its home turf. It's taken the government's 'Northern Powerhouse' initiative (to rebalance the UK economy) by the horns: WH lawyers recently helped the Finance for Business North East fund secure a £17 million top-up to pour into local enterprises, and sent a delegation of lawyers to an investment and trade conference in China in order to cement links with Northern companies.
“I handled 99 files on one case!”
The Newcastle HQ housed 16 trainees at the time of our calls, while Leeds had five and Manchester four. Trainees in Newcastle have 16 seat options and get to put forward preferences for each seat before rotating, including their first. The system is the same in Leeds, where there are only five seat options. Those in Manchester, meanwhile, help out across departments throughout the duration of their training contract. Most liked the flexibility of the system here, with one first-year explaining: “Now I get to sit in employment, litigation and family all together and during my second year I'll focus on more non-contentious stuff.” However, we hear that a more formal seat rotation system will be instated in Manchester going forward.
WH has one of the top litigation practices in the North East, courting clients like Virgin Money, Nissan UK and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Here shareholder spats and IT claims jostle for position with insurance disputes, private client quarrels, professional negligence wrangles and fraud cases (both commercial and public sector). "You get to assist on matters for individuals right through to cases on behalf of huge corporations. It could be a dispute about patents or one over an inheritance," trainees reported. The Geordie team recently defended NHS Greenwich Clinical Commissioning Group against a £13.8 million claim brought by a disappointed bidder for a health service provision contract; in Manchester, the group represented the managing director of a local commercial cleaning business, who was engaged in a dispute with its former director. "It's definitely document and bundling-heavy,” felt a trainee in Newcastle. “I handled 99 files on one case!” In Manchester, however, sources had a rosier take on everything: “One of my matters has just entered the case management stage, so I've done most of the work; I've written the case summary, prepared the bundle and corresponded with the other side.” Others across the offices had attended “a number of trials and mediations,” and still found time to draft witness statements, application notices and notes after sitting in client meetings.
The corporate practice covers three main areas – banking, M&A and corporate finance – and clients range from regional names like Northstar Ventures to more nationally known entities like Santander and Barclays. On the M&A side, WH recently acted for port operators PD Ports as they bought Groveport, an inland port complex on the River Trent. Banking lawyers, meanwhile, advised the management team of a Yorkshire-based manufacturer, Process Combustion, as it bought the company from an international outfit, Roberts Gordon. One Newcastle trainee raved about their time here: “One of the highlights for me was working across the offices. On one occasion I went to Leeds to assist with a completion – the deal was for a large national client and it was worth a large amount of money. You really get a buzz from that!” Inevitably, the seat has an administrative aspect: “As a trainee you're not going to be leading the completion. But even when you're dealing with lots of documents, you're still in earshot of the negotiations and discussions. It feels exciting to be involved. I also got to draft the ancillary documents.”
WH's real estate group has four strands: property development, property services, planning and public sector property. Clients include Aldi, Darlington-based Bannatyne Group (the health club chain owned by Dragons' Den's Duncan Bannatyne) and property developer Story Homes; solicitors recently acted for the latter and another developer as they purchased land for 240 detached homes in a prestigious location in County Durham. A source who'd focused on property development told us: "I did a mixture of commercial development work for house builders and some agricultural work. Four months into the seat I attended a meeting with a large agricultural client along with the head of the department. I was able to lead the meeting and I'd done all of the preparation for it.” Another was just as pleased with their seat: “I've been given responsibility for several of my own files, especially those involving housing association clients.” Typical tasks include drafting leases, exclusivity reports and options agreements, as well as submitting applications to the Land Registry and examining the title register.
No one said it would be EEasy
Ward Hadaway is home to one of the largest healthcare teams in the North, counting more than 60 NHS organisations on its client roster like the NHS Litigation Authority and the North East Ambulance Service. Much of the work here involves defending these bodies against costly clinical negligence claims. For example, lawyers recently defended a £5.7 million liability claim in which the claimant alleged that brain damage had been caused by the failure to perform a caesarean section. “These large birth injury cases run on for years,” one Leeds-based source told us: “So you won't be running matters like that, but you have responsibility for liaising with the experts involved and overseeing the day-to-day duties. There are smaller cases against trusts that you can run, where you receive instructions, look through medical records, gather expert evidence and draft letters of claim.”
Newcastle United, EE and razor purveyors Wilkinson Sword are among the commercial clients the employment team services, while on the public sector side there are a whole bunch of NHS organisations. Both disputes and non-contentious matters are handled here. Of late, solicitors have helped Specialist Recruitment Partners obtain a High Court injunction to prevent departing employees from competing, and advised Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust as it took over some community services from another NHS trust. In Leeds, sources had assisted “on tribunal matters by drafting witness statements and defences, as well as liaising with the other side for disclosure purposes. There are only two employment partners in Leeds, so you get a good amount of responsibility.” Elsewhere, interviewees had been drafting advice letters and conducting research for non-contentious matters: “Our work for both employers and employees gives you a good sense of perspective.”
Over in the family team, trainees handle Children Act matters as well as divorces. “You get really involved,” said one source in Newcastle: “You meet the child involved or the child's representative; visit schools to attend reviews; issue applications to instruct expert psychiatrists, psychologists or paediatricians; and deal with any required alcohol and drugs testing.” Another added: “These cases can be very emotional. It requires empathy but you have to retain professionalism. Having shadowed my supervisor in meetings with clients and barristers I've now seen how he conducts himself and learned a lot from that.”
“You need a genuine commitment to the North.”
When it comes to hours, trainees insisted that “the firm encourages us to have a life away from work.” Most estimated that a very average day in the office would begin around 8.30am and finish by 6.30pm. However, “it's the nature of the beast that you have to work longer hours when there's a deadline or a completion.” Across offices, trainees described the WH culture as “genuinely open and nurturing. The firm looks after its staff and it's also very client-focused: they really stress the importance of forming and maintaining relationships with clients.” As such, “networking is a big thing” and trainees are encouraged to get stuck in. A rookie mentioned that “we often go to Junior Lawyers Division events. It's great – you get free booze!”
When they're not out schmoozing professionally, trainees tend to meet up “on a Friday night for drinks after work. The social side is fantastic – we've gelled very well as a group and often spend lunchtime together.” There's a social committee in each office that organises an annual Christmas bash and a summer barbecue. What's more, interaction between the three branches is encouraged: each year, new trainees gather in the HQ for two days as part of their induction programme, and the entire cohort comes together a few times a year for training seminars.
The Newcastle office's Quayside location drew a lot of praise from sources. “We look out over the Tyne bridge. You couldn't get a more picturesque view! It's a lovely area to work in – there are lots of nice restaurants and bars nearby and you can get some air at lunch by walking along the river. It's not ultra-modern inside but it's still impressive for clients.” The office is fitted with “modern kitchens and an espresso machine on every floor.” Everything is “pretty much on point” interviewees reckoned, flagging the parking facilities as a “massive perk,” although one did mention that “the bathrooms can be a bit dodgy – the ceiling fell through in the men's – but that's not the case day to day!” Over in Leeds, sources were fairly phlegmatic about their office situation: “It's all right I suppose. In Leeds there are a lot of fancy new buildings and ours looks a bit tired, but it's a five-minute walk from the station. Also, there is talk of moving offices...” Meanwhile in Manchester, “we're in a really modern building called The Observatory, which is right in the centre of the city; it's a very vibrant place to be.”
Interviewees cited “a genuine commitment to the North” as a key factor in bagging a training contract here. “They don't want to spend two years training someone up who then moves to London!” Many of our sources studied in Newcastle or were originally from the North. Besides this, trainees reckoned that “there's no common denominator apart from the fact that everyone is personable. They look for people who are people! You don't have to have a plum in your mouth or family connections. You're not hired to be stuck in a room with papers. In order to succeed as a lawyer you have to be able to have a conversation with everyone. So they don't want shrinking violets or corporate drone characters.” When qualification time rolls around, a jobs list is sent out and trainees apply formally with a CV and cover letter. In 2016, WH made five NQ job offers to its nine trainees, and four accepted.
“Supervision varies between departments,” trainees highlighted. “In family, for example, you sit close to your supervisor and mostly do their work, but in healthcare you take on work from everyone.”
How to get a Ward Hadaway training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2017): 28 February 2017
Training contract deadline (2019): 31 July 2017
Applications and vacation scheme
Most trainees at Ward Hadaway come from the North, often via unis in Leeds, Manchester, York and Newcastle. The firm has a particularly close relationship with Northumbria and Newcastle Universities, offering bursaries of £2,000 plus four weeks' work experience for two law students at each university each year.
Applications for both the vacation scheme and the ten or so training contracts on offer each year begin with a form that asks for details on a candidate's extracurricular activities, work experience and university exam results broken down by year of study.
The firm receives around 250 applications each year for its vac scheme, and picks between ten and 20 whose applications impress to attend the week-long placement. This sees attendees visit two different departments, one in each week of the scheme. “Everyone was very approachable compared with the other vac schemes I did. I don't think there was anyone I couldn't ask a question of,” testified one of the firm's current trainees.
Assessments and interview
Direct training contract and vacation scheme applicants who impress on paper are asked to attend one of up to four assessment days. Here they're set a group exercise, a drafting test, a critical skills test (sent out prior to the assessment day), and an interview with solicitor/associate/partner members of the graduate recruitment team. Applicants have the opportunity to meet various levels of lawyers at lunch, and they also attend a trainee-led presentation where they can ask any questions about life at Ward Hadaway.
The firm invites ten to 20 candidates from the assessment centres and vacation scheme back to a final interview, this time with a senior partner, the training principal and a member of human resources. The conversation revolves around scenario-based questions, and candidates are asked to deliver a presentation. “At this stage it's mainly about learning who they are as individuals and what motivates them,” director of HR Lisa Davies says. One trainee found that “in comparison to interviews at other firms, I remember feeling much more at ease here. They want to get the best out of you, so they try to establish a friendly, supportive tone.”
According to Lisa Davies, “there's no one-size-fits-all here; different practice areas require different kinds of individuals. Still, it's really important that people invest the time to research us – they need to be able to back up what they're saying with evidence and have the composure to present themselves well.”
Our trainee sources added: “The firm looks for people who are normal and down to earth; but I'd say a sense of humour is important. You are asked to do a presentation at the final interview and that's what got me my job.” As one highlighted: “We're a commercial firm, so make sure you show your commercial awareness and understanding the business world. That's as important as demonstrating good communication and teamwork skills.” One final piece of advice? Having a genuine desire to stay in the region – whether that's Newcastle, Manchester or Leeds – is also very important.
The Newcastle and Manchester legal markets
Newcastle upon Tyne,
- Partners 80+
- Total trainees 24
- Contact Graduate recruitment team
- Method of application Firm’s application form
- Selection procedure Assessment Centre and interview
- Closing date for 2019 31 July 2017
- Training contracts pa 10-15
- Applications pa 600+
- % interviewed pa 10%
- Prefered degree grade 2:1 or above
- Training salary (2016/17)
- First year: £24,000
- Second year: £26,000
- Holiday entitlement 25 days
- % of trainees with a non-law degree pa Varies
- Post-qualification salary (2016/17) £36,000
Main areas of work