Hodge Jones & Allen is continuing its fight for justice, which means trainees here can get plenty of experience on human rights, criminal, social housing and personal injury cases.
If what motivated you to study law was the prospect of helping to secure justice for clients, then HJA might have the training contract for you. This has been at the heart of what HJA does since its inception in 1977 on Camden High Street: to help individuals in need to bring cases against an opponent no matter how big and powerful. Over time, and as Legal Aid budgets fell, HJA evolved to strike a balance between publicly funded work and matters brought in by paying clients. Our interviewees found that balance to be an attractive component to training at the firm. Raj Chada (HJA’s head of criminal defence, financial crime and regulatory) tells us “every citizen should be entitled to the best recourse to the law. The only way to achieve that is by having lawyers working on top-end cases teaching juniors to do the work. This way the knowledge filters through and everyone gets the service they need.”
Alongside this commitment to training up the next generation is ongoing dedication to the firm’s founding principles, as Chada explains: “We will be developing our work on more high-profile cases, more cases that aren’t just publicly funded, while maintaining our ethos in the midst of that: the David versus Goliath approach. We always want to be on the side of the underdog and to attract the best lawyers.”
On a UK-wide basis, Chambers UKranks HJA in the top tiers for its police law; civil liberties & human rights; social housing; product liability; and administrative & public law expertise. Claimant and tenant-oriented work is the name of the game in these areas. In London, HJA picks up nods for its claimant personal injury and clinical negligence work, as well as for its general crime and financial crime practices. In total, HJA covers 14 areas of law, including strands not mentioned above, like industrial disease and employment. Everything is broken down into ten departments and trainees rank all of these in order of preference when it comes to each seat rotation. There’s “a box where you write comments”next to each option, and once you’ve made your choices “HR will try to allocate seats to people as fairly as they can. If your first seat is low down on your preference list, your next will generally be higher.”
The civil libertiesdepartment is “probably the most competitive and popular”option on the list due to its focus on human rights. HJA’s lawyers bring cases against bodies including the Crown Prosecution Service, the Ministry of Defence, immigration detention centres, the prison service, police forces – basically any centre of authority. The department has been working on a range of matters arising from recent protests and actions including “Extinction Rebellion cases tied to the Section 14 notice– there was a judicial review and all the arrests were classed as assaults. There are about 500 people in compensation claims.”The team has also worked on cases relatingto the Grenfell Tower inquiry, as well as a case concerning the UK government and its responsibility to protect life in relation to air pollution, following public outrage at the death of a child suffering from asthma. The seat offers a fair amount of “freedom and leeway,” with sources reporting “a lot of responsibility when making decisions and taking things forward. It was fantastic and the team’s brilliant!”
“There’s definitely a sense of camaraderie and that we’re here to fight the fight.”
The crimeseat is well known among trainees for being “really exciting, really chaotic and really busy.” With matters mainly funded through Legal Aid, trainees gain experience in “criminal defence work, so we act for clients who have been accused. There’s a lot of going to court and prisons: I had a number of clients in prison who I would go to see to pass on advice.”Trainees again saw work coming in from protest matters, which included the defence of activists who protested at Stansted airport (the ‘Stansted 15’) and the acquittal of activists protesting at the Defence & Security Equipment International Trade Fair (the largest arms fair in Western Europe) in London. The department also handles cases relating to terrorism, sexual offences, fraud and organised crime; working alongside colleagues in the civil liberties department is common. One source told us that “whoever you work for will have a specialism, but you will get an opportunity to try everything. You can also become a police station rep and the firm will sponsor you to do that course and get the accreditation.” An interviewee highlighted that “there’s definitely a sense of camaraderie and that we’re here to fight the fight. There have been lots of actions against the police and it really feels like you’re fighting for justice, as clichéd as it sounds.”
Sources told us that the clinical negligenceseat is “heavily intensive on the medical knowledge front. On top of being in tune with the legal aspects, you have to go to a lot of medical seminars. If you’re interested in biology, it’s a very interesting area of law.”The team includes several former medical and healthcare professionals, who deal with matters against prisons, care homes and other institutions. The department has also recently worked on a number of cases related to birth injuries. Other cases concern surgical errors, GP negligence, neurological issues, orthopaedics and more. The department provides services for both lower and higher value claims and operates mostly on conditional fee arrangements alongside some Legal Aid funding. Pleased to gain experience in “civil procedure rules and client care,” trainees gave a big thumbs up to responsibility levels: “I was assisting a partner and he would regularly give me his cases to look after– off my own volition I would take on work that needed to be done.”
Sources agreed that HJA is “a wonderful and fascinating place to work.”Among the reasons for this is the firm’s “great work/life culture,”which for some was “formed and maintained" in the office's basement bar. "That’s where you get a real sense of our identity.”Word has it that the bar is the central hub where “you end up mingling with people all across the firm, so you end up chatting with different teams you hardly come across.”HJA also puts on the usual “Christmas party and summer social. It’s nice to get to know your team outside of work.”In addition,in-house events for junior lawyers are held “just for us to build connections and work on networking skills.” Even more skills can be learnt via the fundraising work that the firm gets involved in. We heard that several teams fundraise for different charities and that “juniors are involved in the marketing side of things.”
There is “a hierarchy in the firm”but the experience of it “varies from department to department.”At the same time sources felt that “we’re transitioning away from the conventional hierarchy through the employee committee we’ve set up.” In addition, “we felt like the appraisal system could be better, so we’re now in the process of drafting one,”one interviewee commented. “We feel it could be more tailored to the trainees and could provide a deeper level of feedback.” Another source added: “We want it to be more discussion-based.” The firm tells us the updated system is still in the works. Outside of appraisals, “some lawyers are supervising you all the time because you’re working side by side with them, so you’re always in contact.”
“We’re not a corporate firm so I can accept we’re not getting ridiculous amounts of money,”a trainee stated, representing the opinion of many others in the cohort. Fortunately, HJA trainees don’t have to experience the gruelling hours that those at the big City corporate firms do. “I think a good day is 9.30 to 5.30,”an interviewee suggested. “That’s not really unheard of. No one would bat an eye if you left then.”The latest you’re looking at is a 9.30pm finish, though we’re told that’s rare. Sources also mentioned that it’s not uncommon for a colleague to give you a friendly nudge in the direction of home when you’re pulling a late one: “There’s never been pressure for you to stay, in fact there’s been the opposite!”
“I really believe in fighting for people’s rights. I’ve really bought into the ethos and think we’re the best at what we do.”
Every trainee we spoke to was keen to stay after their contract ended, largely because of the principles at HJA’s core. One trainee put it like this: “I really believe in fighting for people’s rights. I’ve really bought into the ethos and think we’re the best at what we do.”We’re told by sources “there’s an interview for NQ positions. It definitely is a formalised process.”So, if you want to take a shot at a department and “you’re in your fourth seat and you know there’s a job available, you approach the head of department.” From then on, you’ll be assessed on the same terms as external candidates. In 2020, five of seven qualifiers were retained, with one fixed-term contract.
How to lodge at Hodge
It goes without saying that academic success and legal experience will set you in good stead at interview. But it’s passion, dedication and an ability to argue and challenge in a well-reasoned way that will get your foot in the door at HJA.
How to get into HJA
Training contract deadline: 30 July 2021 (opens 1 November 2020)
Application and interviews
HJA currently recruits around half of its trainees from its support staff (including a number of paralegals, see below) but both internal and external applicants follow the same process. Candidates apply directly to the firm by submitting an application form by email or post. “It's a simple, open format, which makes it easy to express what you'd like to say about yourself without being restricted by lots of questions,” thought one trainee.
Around 350 applicants are whittled down to a shortlist of 30, who are invited to attend an hour-long interview with two partners, or one partner and a senior associate. Candidates are given half an hour beforehand to peruse a list of legal scenarios and consider one to discuss. “We're not expecting interviewees to be able to answer the question in-depth, but we are keen to see how they demonstrate their thought process and come to an answer,” a HR source tells us. The rest of the interview involves discussions based on the candidate's CV, “the choices they've made in terms of degree subjects and what area of law they might be interested in,” says HR. One trainee recalled: “It felt informal and the interviewers were very kind. It's a simple process, without any stupid questions.” Demonstrating a thorough understanding of the firm's work and what it stands for is essential to making a good impression. Candidates fare less well if they “can't coherently explain a point or are unprepared to answer the questions put to them,” our source adds.
The candidate pool is halved for the second round of assessments. Applicants complete a half-hour written exercise, and then meet with a current trainee for a tour and chat about life at HJA from a junior perspective. This is followed by a final interview with two partners and separate interviews with the Operations Director, who gauges motivation and fit with the firm. Offers are made shortly afterwards.
Paralegal vacancies tend to crop up around every two months, so check HJA's website frequently and submit a CV and cover letter when they appear. Each position typically attracts between 60 and 100 applications. Shortlisted candidates are interviewed by a lawyer within the team they're applying to. Interviewers vary in their style: some ask competency questions or discuss a case study, while others follow a more straightforward CV-questions format.
Achievements and experiences
HJA expects candidates to attain a 2:1 in their degree. Recruiters are also keen to see previous work experience in either a legal or non-legal capacity. “We take on a number of people who have volunteered at the Citizens Advice Bureau; any work experience, whether it's paid or unpaid, can help your application,” a HR source tells us. “We accept people from all backgrounds, whether they're straight out of university or are changing careers.” The source adds: “We've employed people who are doctors, psychotherapists, even a car mechanic. It's particularly helpful when applicants who are in the process of changing careers are able to identify with our clients."
Personal injury work at HJA
Trainees who spent a stint in personal injury were thrown right into the action. “Straight off the bat my supervisor told me: ‘I want you to take this case forward,’” one interviewee recalled. Fortunately, the hefty workload was also said to be supported by structured guidance from superiors: “My supervisor was really looking out for me. She had a checklist that had all the different parts of the case on it to make sure I did them all.” The department consists of “an industrial disease team, a road traffic collisions team and a smaller team that does mainstream PI, but mainly product liability.” A recent case the team worked on was for “nearly 100 clients, all in one action. This particular group was claiming against a drug company for a vaccine that had really negative side effects. I spoke to them for hours and hours, preparing witness statements.”
Diversity and Inclusion at HJA
One aspect that trainees are especially proud of is HJA’s commitment to inclusivity: “It’s very diverse here: we’re over 70% female and also have a good representation of the BAME and LGBTQ+ communities.” When it comes to mental health awareness, Raj Chada tells us “the first issue before any initiatives is the working environment. It’s about how you encourage the team to take on the work in a sustainable way.” He adds that “the HR department are very proactive in making sure we are looked after, and there are programmes and day-to-day support provided to tackle issues around burnout and workloads.” In terms of political leanings, we’re informed the firm has left-wing leanings, but trainees also assured us there are people with differing political viewpoints working at HJA. “They're not afraid to say what they think,” perhaps because “people are really friendly.”
Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors Limited
180 North Gower Street,
- Partners 50
- Associates 61
- Total trainees 15
- UK offices London NW1
- Graduate recruiter: Leah Gill, [email protected], 0207 874 8512
- Training partner: Peter Todd
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 5-9
- Applications pa: 400
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 November 2020
- Closing date for 2022: 30 July 2021
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £26,010 pa
- Second-year salary: £28,050 pa
- Holiday entitlement: 22 days
- LPC fees: No
- GDL fees: No
- Maintenance grant pa: No
Our philosophy has always been to enable individuals to have access to justice where otherwise they might be denied it and this ethos remains as strong today as it did back then. We strive to right wrongs, achieve justice for all and get the very best results for our clients. People have always been at the heart of our firm.
‘We have been on the forefront of the legal sector - changing lives, making headlines and advancing the law, since our inception and hope to continue this for many years to come’ - Patrick Allen, Senior Partner.
Main areas of work
Civil Liberties and Human Rights, Criminal Defence, Employment Law, Family Law, Wills & Probate, Medical Negligence, Personal Injury, Dispute Resolution, Housing and Property, Financial Crime and Regulatory, Asbestos and Mesothelioma, Mental Capacity & Deputyship.
The firm is looking for people who:
• Communicate clearly and effectively
• Have an excellent academic record
• Can demonstrate they are interested and committed to the work the firm does
• Are hard-working and dedicated
• Understand and share the ethos of the firm
• Have a record of achievement in extracurricular activities
A two year training programme across four seats. You will be regarded as a fee earning member of staff during this time, and you will be expected to provide a high quality legal service to all our clients, under the supervision and training of a qualified solicitor. The firm will also support you through your Professional Skills Course.
• Life Assurance
• Permanent Health Insurance
• Birthday leave
• Volunteer Day
• Interest free travel loan in second year
• Piano lessons
• Sports and social committee
• Cycle to work scheme
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing
At Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors we actively promote equality and diversity in the workplace. We ensure that employment opportunities are open and accessible to all, based on individual qualities and personal merit. Equal opportunities feature in all stages of the recruitment process. We use blind recruitment for our Trainee Solicitor programme, removing reference to personal details, which includes school and university applicants attended. This further entrenches our efforts for a fair selection process. We are a signatory to the ‘Race at Work Charter’ and have a ‘Diversity Champion’ who aligns into the firm’s Board members to make reference to quarterly reports. Our employees come from multi-cultural backgrounds and this enables us to better meet the needs of the culturally and socially diverse community that we provide legal services for.
We have a LGBT+ network, which serves as an inclusive and visible forum for staff at HJA, creating a safe space, contributing to business development and providing a collective voice for LGBT+ employees.
We also promote flexible working and a number of our staff enjoy different working patterns.
To enhance the wellbeing of our employees we have an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme), whereby staff, or immediate members of their family can contact a counsellor, in complete confidence to help with the everyday challenges of work and home. We also have access to ‘LawCare’, which is an Employee Assistance programme run by and for the legal profession, which supports and promotes good mental health and wellbeing.
Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors also has an Employee Committee led and run by employees from across the firm, with direct access to the Senior Management Team and Board.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 3)
- Crime (Band 2)
- Financial Crime: Individuals (Band 4)
- Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant (Band 3)
- Administrative & Public Law: Traditional Claimant (Band 2)
- Civil Liberties & Human Rights (Band 2)
- Court of Protection: Property & Affairs (Band 3)
- Police Law: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
- Product Liability: Mainly Claimant (Band 2)
- Social Housing: Tenants (Band 1)