Hodge Jones & Allen is one of the UK's leading human rights and criminal law firms.
Sharing is caring
London-based Hodge Jones & Allen is a law firm with social justice at the forefront of its ethos. As one trainee put it: “Access to justice is absolutely fundamental to the working of our justice system, and in the face of legal aid cuts and austerity it’s never been more important to be able to represent people from all income brackets.” One result of the legal aid cuts has been HJA’s increasing move towards privately paid work. Nevertheless, it's still areas like social housing, police law, human rights and crime which pick up the highest rankings in Chambers UK, both nationally and in London.
“It’s never been more important to be able to represent people from all income brackets.”
The latest chapter in the firm’s endeavours to balance its public interest work with generating a profit was its conversion to an employee ownership trust structure in December 2018. This means, among other things, that employees all take a share in the firm’s profits. Despite trainees describing the firm as being “in a state of flux” as a result, they were reassured by its efforts to keep people in the loop by holding employee forums and releasing minutes from board meetings to the firm as a whole. Go online for more on this from managing partner Vidisha Joshi.
Before starting their contract, and then as they progress, trainees rank their seat preferences from one to nine in order of preference. Some pointed out that allocation is revealed “quite last-minute, so sometimes you need to do some last-minute swotting up.” Sources told us they were “struck by how much the firm listens to what everyone wants and bases seat allocation on the needs of the departments but also of trainees.” In 2019 the firm retained all of its six qualifiers.
What's yours cures swine
The personal injury department acts for claimants in a range of cases: road traffic accidents, slips and trips, employer/public liability matters, serious injuries, child abuse cases and brain injury claims are all taken on. Trainees described the work as “fascinating” with “a huge amount of client contact.” Lawyers have recently been representing 80 people who suffer from narcolepsy allegedly caused by a swine flu vaccine in a claim against GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactured the vaccine – the total value of the claims is £100 million. “Each case is being settled individually," we heard, "so we work very intensively on one case for a couple of months at a time.” The firm is also acting for three sisters from the Middle East who were attacked by an intruder in their London hotel in a High Court claim against the hotel. Trainees draft witness statements and particulars of claim, attend settlement meetings and prepare for trials. Some told us they’d “attended quite a few hearings and done some advocacy for application hearings.” As well as more traditional personal injury work, trainees had also sampled “clinical and professional negligence matters, plus product liability, which includes judicial reviews against public health bodies.” The firm has recently worked on cases related to defective hip replacements, breast implants and intraocular lenses.
HJA's social housing lawyers work on a mix of homelessness, disrepair and possession claims, as well as judicial reviews. The team acts mostly for tenants and so most of the clients are individuals. Lawyers have been representing a large number of survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, as well as local residents, assisting them on rehousing matters, investigating breaches of housing rights, and representing 42 core participants in the public inquiry. Lawyers also helped a tenant who had lived in Soho since 1970 with negotiations over plans to redevelop their home and represented a homeless person who'd been put in housing with stairs they couldn't climb in a claim against Westminster Council. “I'm responsible for my own caseload and targets," a trainee reported, "as well as contacting clients, carrying out instructions and doing advocacy in court.” Sources added that as well as representing claimants, the firm also assists landlords in private landlord/tenant work.
“You really can’t wing it because the results could be catastrophic for the individual.”
The crime team covers serious crimes including “burglaries, robberies, thefts, assault, drugs matters and knife crime.” The firm recently defended against terrorism charges the 15 people who prevented a plane at Stansted from taking off because it was carrying passengers who were being deported. Trainees can become police station accredited courtesy of the firm, which means they can attend police stations to represent people who've been arrested. Due to the fast-paced nature of the work, trainees described “a lot of court hearings and case preparation consisting of going through evidence and taking statements from clients, as well as liaising with courts to make sure cases are progressing as they should and timetables are being kept to.” Rookies find themselves in high-stakes situations regularly, and one observed: “You really can’t wing it because the results could be catastrophic for the individual, but the fact that it’s an academic challenge helps you deal with the pressure. You just want to find the right answer to help the client as much as you can.”
Trainees who had done a stint in HJA’s dispute resolution practice described a varied experience covering “general litigation as well as debt recovery for the firm.” They explained that as well as recovering money for cases the firm had worked on, they’d sampled “property disputes, contentious probate, breach of contract work… basically anything that doesn’t fit into the firm’s other areas of work.” Sources described an “autonomous experience” when it came to smaller matters – e.g. "leading a debt case myself, which involved an hour-long hearing" – and on larger cases told us they were “involved in drafting witness statements." In addition, "there are options for advocacy if you’re lucky.” Finally, we heard that “you can see a case from when a claim is issued to an order being made and enforced, which gives you a well-rounded knowledge of how litigation works.”
No name badge required
In keeping with the firm’s ethos, trainees reported working with various charitable organisations including bereavement centres in London, Age UK and homelessness charity Porchlight. HJA also works closely with Citizens Advice, with its lawyers regularly providing advice on things like family and housing matters. Some interviewees had been able to establish and maintain their own cases for the organisation, telling us they’d been “actively encouraged to do my own advocacy.”
“The people who work here are committed to the same principles.”
“The culture is what’s kept me here,” one source revealed. “Because there are only 250 people you know everyone at least by name, and the benefit of that is knowing the go-to people.” Others described the firm as having “the perfect balance between being friendly and getting your head down and getting work done.” Because of the firm’s ethos, others noted how important it is that “the people who work here are committed to the same principles.” We also heard that under the guidance of managing partner Vidisha Joshi the firm has “made real strides when it comes to diversity: 45% of our workforce is BAME.” When it comes to socialising, we heard about the firm’s infamous bar in the basement, “which is great fun because you can mix with people from departments all across the firm.” Trainees also reported winter and summer socials in certain departments, and internal speed-networking events.
As in previous years, several sources pointed out the firm’s relatively low pay rates. In addition, some felt “it’s a shame there’s no bursary to help pay for law school given the firm's commitment to social mobility.” Others encouraged potential applicants to consider their dedication to the field, explaining: “If you really enjoy the work and find it fulfilling you can deal with the pay, but the reality is that it’s complex, gritty work that can be stressful for a smaller salary than you’d get at a big commercial firm.” In addition, we'd ask you to consider the firm's salary in the context of government legal aid cuts and the limited public funds available these days for public interest legal work. Apart from the warm glow you'll feel at HJA knowing you're working on the side of justice, another plus point is that the firm runs largely on a 9am to 6pm schedule. “You’re encouraged to be efficient and get your work done within those hours," trainees shared. "If you’re here after 6pm people will ask why!”
If you want to work for Hodge Jones & Allen think about how you can show your commitment to human rights and social justice through work experience or volunteering.
How to get a Hodge Jones & Allen training contract
Training contract deadline (2022): 31 July 2020 (opens 1 November 2019)
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."
Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors Limited
180 North Gower Street,
- Partners 50
- Associates 61
- Total trainees 17
- UK offices London NW1
- Graduate recruiter: Diana White, [email protected], 0207 874 8447
- Training partner: Peter Todd
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 5-9
- Applications pa: 350
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 November 2019
- Closing date for 2021: 31 July 2020
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £25,500
- Second-year salary: £27,500
- 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
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
• Additional discretionary holiday
• Birthday leave
• Volunteer Day
• Interest free travel loan in second year
• Piano lessons
• Sports and social committee
• Cycle to work scheme
• Onsite subsidised bar
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
- 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 Recognised Practitioner
- Police Law: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
- Product Liability: Mainly Claimant (Band 2)
- Social Housing: Tenants (Band 1)