The Titanic set sail from Liverpool over a century ago and Hill Dickinson was there to see it all. Today, its maritime work is still the talk of the Northwest.
Hill Dickinson training contract review 2024
Hill Dickinson has had quite the year. Firstly, there’s the brand-new office that’s opened in Newcastle and lawyers in Leeds have relocated to a new base. More recently, the firm announced it’s also leased a new space in Manchester (one of Gary Neville’s developments.) But it’s not just its offices that have been on the up, as business has also been booming. Alex Knight, emerging talent manager, tells us that “we have appointed more than 60 legal partners and directors in the last five years.” Knight adds that “real estate finance and health care have been growing as well as our land, tax and corporate practices.”
Hill Dickinson has come a long way since its beginnings in maritime work – A little trivia for the history buffs out there: HD represented White Star Line following the sinking of the Titanic, and Cunard when the Lusitania sank – Though Knight reassures us that “this is still something that is a part of our culture and identity.” Indeed, Chambers UK gives a big thumbs up to the firm’s transport, commodities and shipping practices. This work has made waves internationally too, as Chambers Global awards HD top marks for shipping finance and litigation across Asia and Europe. Given the international offices in key port locations of Piraeus, Monaco, Hong Kong and Singapore, it is clear to see why the association has stuck. And when you think it couldn’t get much cooler, Chambers High Net Worth hands out top marks for the firm’s yachts & superyachts work too. Talk about keeping a legacy afloat!
“The appeal for me was the reputation with North West clients and having good level deals that are in the media.”
Back on dry land, the firm is full to the brim with rankings in Chambers UK for corporate M&A, family, healthcare, healthcare litigation, employment, real estate litigation and clinical negligence work. For one trainee, the draw to HD was quite simple: “the appeal for me was the reputation with North West clients and having good level deals that are in the media.” Though, what also stood out for many was the ability to choose a focused work stream in either Marine, Business and Healthcare. At HD, there are specific offices for each stream, which can be found in the ‘Firm Facts’ section on the right-hand side, for a full breakdown. Overall, the firm’s UK bases include Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and newbie Newcastle, as well as two homes in London (City and St James.)
Trainee’s first seats are allocated to them based on their chosen stream. After this, they can voice their preferences for the remaining three seats during mid-seat reviews. These reviews take place every six months, where they “have conversations about what we want to do and where we want to go.” Opportunities for secondments are said to be limited, though we did hear that “health trainees sometimes go to the NHS on a client secondment.”
For those opting onto the marine stream, the shipping seat is, naturally, pretty popular. For a little context, shipping matters are typically split between dry shipping (the commercial/contractual side of things) and wet shipping (collisions at sea.) These matters cover both contentious and non-contentious work. With such a broad range on offer, we heard that “no two cases are the same. Even when you think they are similar, they are so different, so you are learning on every case.” For example, the team represented FESCO Service Center in the English High Court and in proceedings in Singapore regarding a collision of the FESCO Voyager had with the Happy Lucky just off the coast of Vietnam. It also represented Smit Salvage in their team’s salvage of Eemslift Hendrika, a ship which was listing heavily in very bad weather off the Norwegian coast. Trainees typically “reach out through emails to counsel, tribunal and opposing for deadlines” as well as “complete research and broaden understanding of the topic. It is technical, so it’s good to know the area of law better.”
“Every aspect has some international element.”
For those with a taste for the finer things, the firm handles yachts too– no, HD doesn’t have a fleet of its own yachts - but it does have a team dedicated to all its private clients who do. This group is centred in the firm’s London St James office, which is apparently “perfectly placed near yacht brokers” and it usually deals with arbitration matters. Trainee work included completing disclosure reviews and witness statements, as well as reviewing documents to find the right things to assist counsel. So, be warned, this seat is “document heavy” and involves a bit of paperwork to keep everything plain sailing. As the team deal with high-net-worth individuals, the client list remains hush-hush, but a source hinted that “they are big time!” A big plus to the seat was the chance to get stuck in with cross-border work, confirmed by one insider who explained that “every aspect has some international element.” For example, there is “transactional and regulation work with the Monaco office.”
In the Liverpool and Manchester offices, the business stream proved a common avenue amongst trainees. A typical seat here was in corporate, and this team works on M&A, private equity transactions and capital markets matters. Sources added that “we work with a wide range of clients like healthcare, tech and others like a waste management company.” To give you a bit of an idea of that range, the team have advised Olympic swimming trio Becky Adlington, Steve Parry and Adrian Turner on the sale of their share of Total Swimming group to JD Sports. They have also advised Manchester born and bred I Saw It First fashion brand on its sale to Fraser Group. Common trainee tasks included “completing legal research and doing first drafts a lot” and “encouraging processes along by reaching out for responses and getting documents back.” But because the team deals with smaller to medium enterprises, newbies also got the chance to “get to know owners on a business level and call them directly.” Overall, one interviewee relished their experience in corporate as “you get involved in transactions from beginning to the end, so you get the full picture.” Another commented that “it’s a very close-knit team, so there’s really good communication.”
Another branch of the business stream is real estate. This team can be broadly categorised into three parts: core transactional, litigation and finance and deal with commercial and residential properties. This seat seemed to come with a little more responsibility “I got a lot more hands on experience a lot quicker. In week one I was asked to amend and draft a lease.” Some trainees were also tasked with running some matters from start to finish, helping lead negotiations with closing and keeping things in order, though with a supervisor checking over this before it goes out. The biggest takeaway from this seat was that “you actually are doing the job of a solicitor.” Recently, the team worked with Legacie Towers in Manchester on their loan facilities with EVH for a £40 million development for a new residential tower at Greengate Salford. Other clients include Co-op, Dominos and Ford Motor.
Much in keeping with the practice, the firm’s healthcare stream delivers what's necessary to its clients. In the health litigation team, the work centres around clinical negligence claims which fall anywhere between hundreds of thousands, up to claims worth millions against local GPs and hospital trusts on the defendant side. Case in point, the firm acted for the NHS Business Authority before the Vaccine Damage Tribunal, regarding an allegation that a child claimant developed severe health complications as a result of receiving a nasal flu vaccine. Trainees shared that in this seat, they “drafted letters of instruction, organise with the fee earner to discuss the claim and bringing relevant expert reports into the meeting.” Some sources were lucky enough to get to go to a few clinical negligence trials at the Royal Courts of Justice.
Another seat on offer for healthcare trainees is public law. Specifically, the group does “things like inquest work. We do work with patients without capacity, as well patients' deprivation of liberty work.” Like in healthcare litigation, this team’s client list is filled with NHS England and local trusts. For example, the team acted for Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation trust in an inquest into a two-year-old child who had passed due to prolonged mould exposure at home. Newbies in this seat admitted to having “lots of client contact inside and outside the court,” and found they were typically “attending numerous meetings and writing attendance notes, as well as working with nurses to write witness statements.”
The office spaces received praise across the board from our interviewees. The Liverpool outpost recently had a bit of a renovation and trainees highlighted the “seventh-floor client rooms for training and client meetings.” In London, we heard it similarly had a bit of a spruce up, with a new social space in Broadgate tower. Trainees in the Leeds office are also geared up for a move to a brand-new office space in the city centre. But despite being spread across the country, one interviewee commented that “even though you're in one office, you are Hill Dickinson.” Another added that “despite having a presence in the Northwest, we tend to operate as a national team.”
“Naturally, some things creep up, so you do stay later some days, but my team tells me to get offline if it’s too late.”
There was also a good consistency amongst our interviewees around hours. “Work-life balance is something Hill Dickinson does right!” beamed one source. The firm is hot on eight-hour days and most interviewees said they worked 9am to 5.30pm. Though, trainees felt that they were happy to stay a bit longer if needed: “naturally, some things creep up, so you do stay later some days, but my team tells me to get offline if it’s too late.” This year, the firm’s hybrid work policy has changed, and trainees are expected to be in the office four days a week. Whilst a surprise for some, others admitted that “the new policy allows more exposure to supervisors and ensures people are a part of the culture.” With this in mind, interviewees found the compensation to be fair, so long as “the trade-off is better hours and work-life balance.” Otherwise, there were some concerns raised in the London office, as one trainee noted that “things are going up in London, so it is more expensive. Looking at the turnover, juniors should be getting paid more.” Though the salary up north was praised for being “on the higher end of the market average.”
For those setting sail into the NQ sunset, the qualification process begins at the end of the third seat. The firm decides on what NQ positions will be available, then they are revealed to the cohort. Depending on the department and number of applicants for the position, trainees are expected to complete an interview after sending their CV across and may also be asked to complete a written task or presentation. But fret not, as “most people go into their fourth seat knowing where they are going!” In 2023, HD retained all of its qualifying cohort.
HD is part of the 10,000 Interns Foundation programme, with the aim to “diversify the workplace, it is a really big push.”
How to get a Hill Dickinson training contract
- Insight scheme deadline (2024): 31 January 2024
- Training contract deadline (2026/2027): 31 January 2024
- Open Day deadline (2023): 31 October 2023
Applications and assessments
Hill Dickinson has (up to) 25 training contracts available for 2026. If you want to bag yourself a place on the insight scheme or get a training contract, then in addition to a written application, you'll have to go through what training partner Richard Capper describes as an "extended selfie." He's referring to the online assessment which is followed by answering questions via a video interview.
Successful candidates are then invited to an insight scheme or assessment day, which involves group activities, a written exercise, a presentation, and a partner interview. The written test could involve drafting a document or a letter to a client and aims to test analytical skills as well as spelling and grammar.
When it comes to the interview it seems the firm is mostly concerned with ensuring candidates really want to work for Hill Dickinson: “It’s important for them to be able to present a convincing case, with evidence, as to why exactly they’re applying here,” Capper stresses. Other questions revolve around situational judgement, business development and commercial awareness.
The firm offers insight schemes across its UK offices to give students the opportunity to see what life is really like at Hill Dickinson. The scheme also gives students the opportunity to be considered for a training contract, and learn more about the sector that they are interested in. Students get to hear first-hand accounts of the trainee experience, in addition to information from the trainee committee and wider business, and how this contributes to the firm's culture.
The ideal candidate
Instead of having minimum academic requirements, the firm uses Rare Recruitment’s Contextual Recruitment System, to allow it to consider candidates achievements in the context in which they were gained. The team read each application in full and consider any relevant extenuating circumstances that the CRS may not allow for.
“We usually recruit slightly more law grads than non-law (about 60/40),” Capper adds, “though you don’t need a law degree and experience in a commercial firm to work here. Any work experience is useful provided it’s informed your decision to apply, and this allows us to recruit an interesting and diverse mix of individuals.”
This firm has no profile.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
Liverpool and surrounds
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance (Band 4)
- Construction (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: £5 million and above (Band 1)
- Employment (Band 2)
- Litigation (Band 2)
- Pensions (Band 2)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
- Real Estate: £10 million and above (Band 3)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
- Administrative & Public Law: Mainly Public Sector & Charities (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: AIM (Band 3)
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 2)
- Commodities: Physicals (Band 2)
- Court of Protection: Health & Welfare (Public Sector Clients) (Band 1)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Mining: International (Band 4)
- Health & Safety (Band 5)
- Healthcare (Band 1)
- Mental Health: Providers (Band 1)
- Shipping (Band 3)
- Transport: Logistics (Band 1)
- Travel: International Personal Injury (Defendant) (Band 3)
- Travel: Regulatory & Commercial (Band 3)