Have you met Hodge Jones? This small but mighty firm has “an ethos of social justice and fighting for what's right.”
Hodge Jones & Allen training contract review 2022
“If you’re passionate about human rights and holding the state to account,” then Hodge Jones & Allen ought to be on your list. “Sticking up for the little guy, empowering clients, and getting justice” is all in a day’s work here. Needless to say, trainees were attracted to the firm’s philosophy: “We have an ethos of social justice and fighting for what's right.” HJA has worked on some of the biggest human rights cases in the UK, representing the family of Stephen Lawrence, striking miners in the ’80s and residents of Grenfell Tower. The firm also works heavily with people arrested while protesting, an area that’s been “unsurprisingly busy in the past two years.”
"It’s inspiring for the next generation of solicitors.”
The firm is given top rankings in Chambers UK for its nationwide police law and social housing work, and is also highly noted for its civil liberties, product liability and public law work. In London, it’s ranked for its clinical negligence, crime, financial crime and personal injury work. “There’s so much interesting work that aligns with my morals,” one starry-eyed source shared. “It’s inspiring for the next generation of solicitors.”
All five trainees in the 2021 intake were former paralegals. “It’s normally a mix but because of the pandemic, they thought internals would need less hand-holding than external trainees remotely.” Going forward, the firm will continue recruiting externally too (and paralegals “don’t get a special application route – they’re equally weighted in application”). Trainees rank departments each seat rotation and HR “try to accommodate people, but we usually get one seat we didn’t want.”
Civil liberties was definitely the cool seat judging by our interviewees’ enthusiasm – “I knew off the bat that civil liberties was the seat I couldn’t live without doing!” The team works on actions against police forces for false imprisonment, religious persecution, inquests, assault and battery during imprisonment and miscarriage of justice claims – “we’re getting compensation for people who have served a sentence but have since been acquitted.” A large specialism of the team is protest-related matters, “helping people who are arrested whilst doing direct action. Needless to say it’s getting very busy.” A new policing bill was introduced in 2021 that criminalises people protesting if they make too much noise or obstruct public space – “it’s going to mean there are a lot more people arrested for protesting.” For example, the firm represented 75 people in claims against the police after Extinction Rebellion protests. The team also recently represented the family of a child who died as a result of air pollution, and argued to get this put on the coroner’s report, paving the way for future inquests into air pollution’s harmful effects. Trainees here take instructions from clients, write witness statements and letters of claim and do case management for hearings. At trials, trainees “get great experience. I was able to take notes at the trial, conduct trial preparation and support clients throughout as well.”
“You realise empathy is so important in law."
The criminal defence seat covers “almost exclusively legal aid work,” with a little private work related to financial crime. The team works exclusively on defence on “very serious crimes, like terrorism, sex offences, and gang-related activity.” One of the partners has a specialism “helping clients with autism where they’ve been accused of stalking – it’s very nuanced for a lot of vulnerable clients.” The team also works closely with the civil liberties team on protest matters. The firm recently represented 15 defendants who were charged with terrorism when they locked themselves around a plane chartered by the Home Office to deport people. The team also does a lot of youth work helping trafficking victims. “People assume victims of trafficking are going to be from abroad, but kids here are groomed by gangs into things like smuggling drugs on county lines.” Trainees were “initially apprehensive about the area of work, but it really opened my eyes to the realities and failures of the criminal justice system.” Typical tasks include assisting clients and keeping them up to speed, assisting at trials and drafting court documents. “You realise empathy is so important in law. Representing people accused of murder, rape, abduction – it helps you develop those skills.” NQs in crime focus a lot on advocacy, “getting up on your feet in court. It’s daunting!”
Family exclusively covers private work, mainly divorces and children’s matters. “You help some people in horrible situations, like domestic violence cases,” sources detailed, “but then you have people with million-pound houses who just want to keep their Rolex.” Trainees here “found the cases interesting on a human level and also rewarding in that I am helping people at some of the most difficult times of their lives.” Work in this department can be “very administrative, with little substantive work.” That might mean chasing documents, calling courts, bundling, and taking meeting notes. More interesting responsibilities included drafting letters to clients, drafting court documents, and attending hearings.
When not working, trainees can be found at the firm’s “infamous” basement bar, which is “such good fun. It’s a great place to meet people at the firm, network and remove that barrier of hierarchy.” Though be warned, “try not to drink too much – very senior people go there.” Upstairs, the firm’s office in Fitzrovia isn’t all sunshine and light, as “housing and crime don’t have windows! You can’t see the weather or what time of day it is.” Despite some of the office living in the shadows, we heard there’s “excellent camaraderie amongst juniors,” with the atmosphere described as “not charged or stressful – everyone’s really supportive and encouraging.” This was put down to people being “like-minded and passionate” about HJA’s practice areas.
“Our lanyards are rainbow-coloured,” one trainee told us. “I really like having that. It seems superficial but it shows people we’re the kind of firm that's open to diversity.” Trainees pointed to women in leadership, with HJA one of the top-performing firms in our latest diversity survey for female partners. The firm also performs well in hiring and promoting lawyers of colour, though interviewees felt “more can be done to recruit black employees.” The firm doesn’t sponsor the GDL or LPC, which some considered to be “an inclusion issue in terms of social mobility.” Overall though, HJA was described as “an inclusive place to work,” that “matches up with our external values.”
Interviewees also told us they’d like “an improvement in encouraging employees to be open about their mental health.” Though the firm is in the process of introducing mental health first aiders, one interviewee said: “I don't always feel comfortable talking about my struggles with mental health.” Despite this, we heard that supervisors“communicate really well. During the pandemic, we would speak every day.” Partners were also praised for being “so lovely and understanding that it’s very bizarre to do a training contract remotely.”
"People enjoy staying here.”
Hours in many departments like family and clinical negligence are “steadily 9.30am to 5.30pm.” Busier teams like civil liberties and personal injury can see an extra two hours or so per day on top of that. “Solicitors seem to work all hours of the day, but they don’t expect trainees to.” We heard crime “notoriously hasthe hardest and longest hours” and that each night, lawyers in the group take turns to be on call for the graveyard shift, waiting for calls from police stations “all through the night.” This irked many as “you’re up all night but only paid if you actually do a police interview.” In general, trainees acknowledged there are firms handing out bigger paychecks in the City “ – but that’s not why you come here.”
To qualify, trainees have to apply to each position through a formal process complete with CVs and covering letters. “There’s a lot of prior conversations between trainees and partners though.” Civil liberties is a very popular qualification option, making it “difficult to get in – it’s the reason a lot of people come here and so they end up losing people they’ve invested in.” Retention-wise, those we spoke to wanted to stay at HJA “for a long time. People enjoy staying here.” In 2021, the firm retained six out of ten qualifiers.
Hodge Jones & I
Training principal Agata Usewicz tells us that the firm has “been doing what we’re doing for the last 42 years and we’ve no intention of changing that focus. If you want to be at a law firm that shakes things up and fights for the little person – we’re here.”
How to get into Hodge Jones & Allen
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
180 North Gower Street,
- Partners 49
- Associates 63
- Total trainees 15
- UK offices London NW1
- Graduate recruiter: Alice Simmonds, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0207 874 8579
- Training partner: Agata Usewicz
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 5-9
- Applications pa: 300
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 November 2021
- Closing date for 2023: 29 July 2022
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £26,530
- Second-year salary: £28,611
- 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, 2021
- 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)
- Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant: Industrial Disease (Band 2)
- Police Law: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
- Product Liability: Mainly Claimant (Band 2)
- Protest Law (Band 1)
- Social Housing: Tenants (Band 1)