Hill Dickinson LLP - True Picture

Want to live law in HD? Then try marine, business and health expert Hill Dickinson. 

Hill Dickinson training contract review 2022

The Firm

Shipping and all things maritime-related once sat at the heart of Liverpool’s economy. It’s not a surprise, therefore, to find the legacy of this port city entwined with the history of one of its most well-known legal exports: Hill Dickinson once advised on the legal fallout from the sinking of the Titanic, which was registered at Liverpool’s port. Both the city and the firm remain active in the shipping space today. HD’s reputation has now travelled across many seas: Chambers Global rates the firm as a global market leader for its shipping litigation expertise in particular. Its offices in maritime hotspots like Piraeus, Monaco, Hong Kong and Singaporeposition the firm for many a shipping accolade across Europe and Asia.

“We’ve been around for 210 years and we should be around for another 210 years!”

The tides of change have seen HD develop into a firm that offers much more than shipping work, however. Its practice is now divided into three areas: business services; health; and marine, trade and energy. “We’re now more of a general commercial firm,” one source commented. From its bases in Liverpooland Manchester, HD has earned high praise from Chambers UK for its employment, litigation, real estate litigation, pensions and mid-market corporate work across the North West. It is worth noting that while regionally headquartered firms tend to mostly be recognised for their local capabilities, HD has more UK-wide rankings than regional ones. In this context, its clinical negligence, healthcare, logistics, physical commodities and travel-oriented regulatory expertise comes to the fore. 

At the time of our research, the firm’s Liverpool, London and Manchester offices took on a fairly equal number of trainees each (between 11 and 13). The Leeds office housed only one at the time of our calls, but will be taking on more trainees in the future. Across our interviews, HD’s sector specialisms appealed, with sources citing backgrounds in shipping and healthcare as motivations for initially joining the firm. Some were more interested in the broader commercial offering and felt that the business services group would provide enough options for them to explore their interests. What's more, trainees should have a secure home for the foreseeable future, as training principal Richard Capper tells us that HD has navigated the choppy waters of the pandemic well: “The firm has been busier than ever across the board. Productivity and profitability are up, and we continue to grow.”Restructuring, corporate and health were areas Capper earmarked for further growth, but with a cautious approach in mind: “We’re not first-movers or cavalier... We’ve been around for 210 years and we should be around for another 210 years.”

The Seats 

Once at the firm, trainees join one of the designated business, health or marine streams to complete all their seats within. “There’s still a wide array of seats as each arm is full-service, but sector-specific,”one source pointed out. See the 'Firm Facts' in the sidebar for a full list of seat options by location. Sources explained that while there are no compulsory seats, the first one is automatically assigned in all sector streams. Trainees tend to fare better with seat preferences in their second year, with the majority getting their first choices. Client secondments do come up in the health stream, while overseas seats are a potential option but not at the moment due to the pandemic.

“...we see collisions, ships getting into difficulty with fires, cargo loss – that kind of thing.”

HD’s sector expertise in shipping is evident in the presence of eight ‘master mariners’ at the firm – people with extensive practical experience at sea (as well as qualifications to command commercial vessels) who can help advise on matters. Sources said that “you don’t have to have a marine background, though it helps with the practical application of law and the terms.”The firm does both wet and dry work, and its yachts and superyachts work is top-ranked globally in Chambers High Net Worth. N2 Tankers, BP Shipping, SwiftBulk and SwiftTankers are on the client books, along with a host of protection and indemnity (P&I) insurance companies. Over in shipping litigation, trainees said a lot of the department’s work dealt with “casualty response issues: we see collisions, ships getting into difficulty with fires, cargo loss – that kind of thing.”We heard the group tends to act for “ship owners or insurers of the owners,” with sources adding that conducting liability assessments was standard trainee fare in this area. The firm recently acted for N2 Tankers and North of England P&I Club on a circa $15 million collision matter involving the vessel Nord Independence in Russia. In the yacht seat, trainees said clients were a mix of “high net worth individuals and boat builders.” There’s plenty of contract work available on yacht construction and re-fitting matters. A trainee here told us they’d been “advising buyers and sellers, drafting contracts and managing all the key documents.”

Back on dry land, and the firm is proud of its growing business services expertise. In corporate, the Liverpool and Manchester offices worked on deals worth over £1.5 billion combined in 2020. Chambers UKnotes the department’s work in the retail, transport and aviation sectors, and highlights the number of private equity and AIM-listed clients on the books. In the North West, LDC Private Equity, Fishawack Health and UK Flooring Direct call upon the firm’s services, while in London energy clients like Block Energy and BB Energy Trading are catered for. The group recently advised AIM-listed Arc Minerals on the $50 million disposal of one of its subsidiaries. For trainees, the corporate group had been “busy and a bit chaotic,”but had given them “great exposure.”Sources explained that you “could be dealing with the other side, which sometimes could be in the US, so the hours are a bit longer.” As with most corporate departments, sources acknowledged that “there’s a fair bit of project management” to do, but alongside that they could “take board minutes and attend the likes of signing and disclosure meetings.”One highlighted how “the lead partner was really keen on getting us into meetings.”

“...review the initial information we receive, draft letters and claim forms, handle disclosure and attend hearings.”

Commercial litigation also falls under the business services banner. You name it, and HD’s litigators have probably handled it: the likes of tax, fraud, pensions, shareholder, defamation, professional negligence and sports disputes are covered, among many more areas. Transport for Greater Manchester, NHS England and US manufacturer Agilent Technologies are all clients here. A recent case arose from the pandemic and saw the team represent medicine research organisation MDC during a dispute over the procurement of software for the Covid-19 testing programme in the UK. HD is also representing the University of Salford during the public inquiry into the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing (the perpetrator was a student at the university). Interviewees said that they got “exposure to the whole litigation process,” which enabled them to “review the initial information we receive, draft letters and claim forms, handle disclosure and attend hearings.”In the space of just one seat, we heard of a range of matters encountered, including debt recovery, breach of contract, defamation and IP work.

HD’s healthcare arm handles the full array of transactional, regulatory and contentious matters that crop up in the sector. NHS trusts make up a large section of the client base, but there are also companies like AI health tools provider Abtrace and regulatory bodies like the Care Quality Commission. HD was instructed by three NHS trusts to assist in the establishment of several of the Nightingale Hospitals, which were set up as part of the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our salubrious sources said that in their health litigation seat they were given their own small caseload to manage with supervision. Much of this was described as “pre-litigation” assessment work, which was subsequently “handed over once it went to litigation.”At this stage, sources could “prepare court documents and attend hearings and joint settlement meetings. You get given a good level of autonomy.”

Trainee Life

If you have eyes on the Hill, you’ll be pleased to read that feedback on trainee life was generally positive, and in some instances, positively glowing: “I’ve worked at a few places,” pontificated one, “and this is the best culture yet!” For our happy sources, the firm’s “work-life balance and the attitude towards creating a friendly place to work”were big pros. “If I was to stay late, I would be told to log off.” Our survey respondents on average reported working 43.5 hours in the last week: we did note that the trainees in HD’s London office recorded higher hours (47) than their Northern counterparts (closer to 40 hours a week). Leadership’s “down-to-earth” attitude was also a big plus for our trainees. “You talk to them normally!” gushed one. “You wouldn’t have to call the training principal Mr Capper!” Overall, the feeling was that upper management “want to help if they can. There’s a nice atmosphere.”This helped to create a place of “friendly instruction,”one interviewee suggested. Around a third of our survey respondents reported being stressed, but, overwhelmingly, the survey consensus revealed a happy group of trainees.

Outside of work, Liverpudlians said “when you’re a trainee there’s always something going on. It’s really sociable.”And post-trainee life, “teams are reasonably sociable,” an NQ told us. “You can always ask someone, ‘Do you fancy a drink after work?’” Mancunian interviewees, meanwhile, said: “Trainees get on very well. Especially the Manchester cohort. We’re friends outside of work too.”Sources liked that there were opportunities to meet colleagues from other offices, often at events held in Liverpool (pandemic permitting). Trainees also liked that the social life was “very inclusive,” with one explaining that “if you don’t drink, you wouldn’t feel like it would stop you from doing things.”

“Since I’ve been here there’s been a huge push in terms of gender diversity.”

On the inclusivity front, sources highlighted the “six diversity pillars at the firm” related to gender; race and ethnicity; LGBTQ+ lawyers; social mobility; age; and accessibility, health and wellbeing. “There are networking groups for each of these areas,”trainees explained, with one citing how the firm frequently asks “how do we go about recruiting better?” Female trainees said that while “there are a lot of male partners at the moment, when we have internal comms about promotions, women are on the list, including those who have come back from maternity leave.”Overall, female survey respondents reported higher levels of happiness than their male counterparts, with one reflecting: “Since I’ve been here there’s been a huge push in terms of gender diversity.” On the social mobility front, sources mentioned that HD has “opened up our recruitment system to include less stringent A-Level result requirements for certain reasons.”

Towards the end of their penultimate seat, trainees are asked about where they are thinking of qualifying. In May/Juneeach year, HD lets trainees know which departments will be hiring NQs and how many positions are available. “Depending on where we want to qualify, they’ll try to make an NQ position available if possible,” a hopeful source attested. Those in Liverpool were especially pleased: “We were all offered a job in the area that we wanted.”Qualifiers can apply for positions across the firm's network of offices. In 2021, ten of twelve qualifiers were retained, although HD did offer positions to all candidates.

The Hill is alive with client secondments

Sources said that in-house secondments are a possibility “depending on business need." Those that got them said they "provided an invaluable experience.”

How to get a Hill Dickinson training contract


Insight scheme deadline (2022): 31 January 2022

Training contract deadline (2024): 31 January 2022

Applications and assessments

Hill Dicks has up to 20 training contracts available for 2024. 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 process of answering questions via an online interview, a requirement which is becoming increasingly popular among graduate recruiters.

Candidates who stand out at this stage are invited to complete a written exercise and successful candidates are then invited to a partner interview and presentation. For the presentation applicants are given a brief in advance of the day. The written test could involve drafting a document or 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 Dicks: “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.

Insight schemes

Hill Dickinson offers around 65 insight scheme places a year, 25 of which are in London, with the rest up North.

The insight schemes give you an opportunity to see what life is really life at Hill Dickinson, with the chance to immerse yourself in the culture and get to know their people. There are also social events with existing trainees, to ask them about their experience.

The ideal candidate

The firm requests that candidates have no less than an ABB at A level and 2:1 at degree, however they do read each application in full and consider any relevant extenuating circumstances for those who may now have met this requirement. They also use Rare Recruitment’s Contextual Recruitment System, to allow them to consider your achievements in the context in which they were gained. “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.”

Hill Dickinson LLP

No. 1 St Paul’s Square,
L3 9SJ
Website www.hilldickinson.com

  • Partners and legal directors 185
  • Senior associates 65
  • Associates 160
  • Total trainees 30
  • UK offices Liverpool, Manchester, London, Leeds
  • Overseas offices 4
  • Contacts 
  • Graduate recruiter: Carolyn Morgan, Alex Knight in the Talent & Development team – recruitment@hilldickinson.co.uk
  • Training partner: Richard Capper
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: Up to 20
  • Applications pa: Approx. 1000
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
  • Minimum A levels: ABB or equivalent
  • Vacation scheme places pa: Please visit our website for further details
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Training contract applications open: 1st November 2021
  • Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 31st January 2022
  • Vacation scheme applications open: 1st November 2021
  • Vacation scheme 2022 deadline: 31st January 2022
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £26,000
  • Second-year salary: £28,000
  • First-year salary: (London) £37,000
  • Second-year salary: (London) £39,000
  • Post-qualification salary: Within a range, up to £41,000 (Northern) or £59,000 (London), dependent on discipline
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship 
  • LPC fees: N/A
  • GDL fees: No
  • Maintenance grant pa: N/A 
  • International and regional  
  • Offices with training contracts: Liverpool, London, Manchester, Leeds

Firm profile

At Hill Dickinson, we understand that our people, our clients and our communities are at the heart of everything we do. We are an internationally recognised law firm that delivers advice and strategic guidance spanning the full legal spectrum across the UK, Europe and Asia. With more than 850 people, including 185 partners and legal directors, our trainees gain direct exposure to clients from the start, working alongside experienced lawyers and partners as an integral part of the team.

Main areas of work

As a full-service law firm, we offer the full range of commercial legal services, from employment, property and construction, to corporate, commercial and dispute resolution. We have notable strength, experience and presence in a number of market sectors, including, marine, transportation and logistics, retail, public and private health (including life sciences), international trade, education, and banking and financial services. For ease, we arrange all sectors under three broad business groups: marine, health and business services. Our client base includes multinational companies, major corporations and public sector organisations, as well as private individuals.

Training opportunities

An award-winning mentor– Winner of Best Training Principal 2019 (LawCareers.Net Training and Recruitment Awards), our training principal, Richard Capper, is responsible for your overall training and will ensure that you have a valuable and worthwhile experience with us.
A specialist approach– Our training contracts offer tailored, focused routes, which puts you in control of your career from day one. You have the choice to train in the area of law that you want to progress in, allowing you to become a specialised lawyer from the outset.
•Recruit to retain–Our small intake of up to 20 ensures that each trainee has our full attention and means that we have the resources to give you as much support as you need at the beginning of your career.
Stimulating work– You will be given immediate responsibilities and challenging tasks as you become a valued and important member of our team. We involve and positively acknowledge the role of trainees working with experienced colleagues in large corporate deals and cases.
Giving back– Whether it’s volunteering at a charity you wish to support personally, working with our community partner charities or getting involved with some of our firm-wide environmental, diversity and inclusion initiatives, we’ve got something for you.
Wellbeing– We have a dedicated programme offering a variety of activities and benefits to support you. We want our people to have a good work life balance and encourage an agile and flexible approach to working.
If you want to find out more, please visit our website at hilldickinson.com/graduate-recruitment where you will find all the latest updates on our programme in line with the introduction of the SQE. 

If you want to find out more, please visit our website at hilldickinson.com/graduate-recruitment where you will find all the latest updates on our programme in line with the introduction of the SQE.

Vacation scheme

Our insight schemes are designed with you in mind to give you the opportunity to see what life is really like at Hill Dickinson. Over the course of the scheme, you will have the chance to immerse yourself in Hill Dickinson’s culture and experience first-hand the welcoming and approachable working environment we have built. Please visit our website for further details.

Other benefits

We have a dedicated programme offering a variety of activities and benefits to support you and we also offer some great perks, including pension, travel insurance, buying and selling holiday entitlement, permanent health insurance and life assurance, bike to work, season ticket loans, BUPA cover and we’ll even give you your birthday off (paid). We want our people to have a good work-life balance, encouraging an agile and flexible approach to working.

University law careers fairs 2021
Please visit our website for further details.

Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing
At Hill Dickinson we understand that our power as a firm comes from empowering our people. And that by encouraging and enabling individuals to be themselves at work can we benefit from their rich and varied strengths.
We have developed a diversity framework, which covers six pillars, to help us break down any assumed barriers to recruitment, progression and retention, and offer equal opportunities to all: gender; multicultural; accessibility; health and wellbeing; LGBTQ+; social mobility; age.
This framework guides our activity and each pillar has its own networking group – colleagues meet regularly to ensure we’re acknowledging, celebrating and supporting all of our people.
In addition, we partner with a number of organisations to help guide our diversity and inclusion strategy.

Social media

Twitter @HD_Graduates
Instagram @HillDickinsonGraduates

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 3)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: AIM (Band 4)
    • Clinical Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 2)
    • Commodities: Physicals (Band 2)
    • Court of Protection: Health & Welfare (Public Sector Clients) (Band 1)
    • Health & Safety (Band 5)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Healthcare: Mental Health: Providers (Band 1)
    • Shipping (Band 3)
    • Transport: Logistics (Band 1)
    • Travel: International Personal Injury (Defendant) (Band 3)
    • Travel: Regulatory & Commercial (Band 2)