Following swift expansion, Kennedys is taking time to consolidate and offer “a more well-rounded training contract” in an “approachable and friendly” atmosphere.
Consolidation for the nation
“The 2017/18 financial year was about growth, acquiring and merging to form new offices in new countries,” professional practice partner Andrew Coates recalls. He’s not exaggerating – Kennedys fused with US insurance outfit Carroll McNulty & Kull in 2017 and finalised a merger with Manchester firm Berg just a few months later. Pac Man would be proud of this rapid gobbling – so what was next for Kennedys world domination plan? “2018/19 is about the firm consolidating” according to Coates. “It doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but it’s the difference between unwrapping our Christmas present and then getting to play with it!”
“Once I did an insurance module on the LPC, I realised Kennedys was where I wanted to be.”
Speaking to Manchester-based trainees after the merger, it sounded like Christmas had come early: “There are lots more commercial opportunities available now. The merger gave us a more well-rounded training contract that wasn’t available before.” Coates confirms that “now we’re really seeing the benefits of the growth after spending a year consolidating.” The firm already fares well in the ranking tables of Chambers UK, earning accolades in seven different regions of the UK and top marks for clinical negligence, product liability, personal injury, health and safety and transport on a nationwide scale. As you might pick up from that spread, insurance is the firm’s trademark practice area. “Once I did an insurance module on the LPC, I realised Kennedys was where I wanted to be,” a trainee recalled.
Aside from insurance prowess, one of the firm’s biggest strengths is its geographic footprint – Kennedys has ten UK offices and offers training contracts in London, Manchester, Chelmsford, Cambridge and Birmingham. “It’s not everyone’s cup of tea to be in London,” Coates points out. “It’s important a firm of our size and geographical reach can offer training contracts in most places that we are, otherwise it restricts the talent pool.” Then there are the 27overseas offices – the firm runs trainee secondments to Hong Kong and Bermuda.
The breast is yet to come
At the time of our research, 27 trainees could be found in London, more than in any other office. There were between one and four trainees in each of the Birmingham, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Manchester and Sheffield offices. Trainee seat options fall into one of Kennedys’ four main departments: insurance, commercial, healthcare, and liability. London has the most options available but all trainees usually do an insurance and a liability seat. Each rotation, they submit three preferences in order of priority. “The firm really tries to give you the seats you want” according to sources. “If you can have a conversation with a partner and express an interest that will probably help and have an impact.” Each rotation, a trainee from the Cambridge office will second to the London office.
The firm's insurance department breaks down into general insurance and reinsurance, professional indemnity, product liability, marine and construction. Already the firm’s biggest team, headcount grew in 2019 when a team of ten insurance and marine disputes lawyers jumped aboard from Norton Rose Fulbright. Product liability lawyers work on faulty medical product claims: “There’s exposure to a broad spectrum of interesting medical work like vaginal mesh claims, hip replacements, blood transfusions, hernia mesh and breast implant claims.” Not one for the squeamish, then. Another niche is aviation claims – Kennedys represented Tatarstan Airlines and XL-Catlin as lead reinsurer on liability claims after a flight crashed at Kazan International Airport and killed 50 people on board. The team have taken on extensive cladding-related work following the Grenfell disaster, including advising contractor Prater following Portsmouth City Council’s decision to issue High Court proceedings against the contractor responsible for installing cladding in public house blocks. Trainees in this area research “all different kinds of topics from medical, to chemical, to engineering. I learn a whole new industry every case!” They can also expect to draft smaller documents and be “very heavily involved with client contact, liaising with solicitors in other countries and panel work.”
"The work is very good quality, not just filing things away.”
On the professional indemnity side, trainees tend to be working “predominantly for insurance companies on defending solicitors, accountants and brokers. There are subgroups that deal with construction professionals and cyber work.” Clients here include insurance big-hitters AIG, AXA, Allianz and RSA. In one case, the firm represented a regional accountancy practice in a case brought by a high net worth individual who alleged negligence after matrimonial court proceedings resulted in him paying out £6.5 million to his ex-wife six years after their divorce. Cladding work has drifted into this practice too. Trainees liked the fact that “you don’t get pigeonholed and can pick up work from lots of different people.” They got to stretch their legs attending mediations, settlement hearings and trials, and concluded that “the work is very good quality. You’re not just filing things away.” It’s also common to do first drafts of research reports, instructions, letters and advices – there are however some “slightly boring file reviews and disclosure” to do too.
Break the cycle
Under the liability label, Kennedys’ personal injury group primarily defends insurers and their clients against public liability claims including road traffic injuries, child abuse cases and brain injuries. Travel claims drive much of the work in London, whereas the Manchester office specialises in “anything involving cyclists” and trip ’n’ slip matters. Kennedys stepped in for a major insurer client on a £20 million case brought by a claimant against contractors and the government department responsible for repairs on the section of M40 he’d suffered an accident on. Trainees here can expect to draft applications, instructions to counsel, witness statements and letters as well as bag direct client contact on a regular basis; they also get to handle smaller files of their own. The requirement to handle the humdrum disclosure process is offset by opportunities for on-site visits, which one interviewee told us is a “good way to get out of the office, break the day up and talk to some interesting non-lawyer characters!” The team also sometimes works with the product liability subgroup on medical cases.
"Even though you’re assisting on a file, you feel like it’s yours.”
There’s an element of detective work to the fraud side of the practice, involving “cases that are essentially PI but are more in-depth as we suspect they’ve made up the claim. Our clients’ internal teams refer a case when they think it looks dodgy.” Examples include travel sickness claims where “people feign food poisoning to get a free holiday,” and road traffic accidents where “they have pre-existing injuries, but claim those were caused by an accident they were involved in.” The team recently advised pub and inn chain Marston’s when a chef slipped on ice in the workplace and claimed to be unable to drive as a result – but was then caught driving on CCTV. Trainees told us that the group “digs really deep, looks at inconsistencies and decides whether to apply for a finding of fundamental dishonesty.” One interviewee told us they “love getting in-depth and seeing the outcome of applications. You get to really know the files through and through – even though you’re assisting on a file, you feel like it’s yours.” The trainee role in the practice involves drafting witness statements and court applications, preparing bundles and corresponding with the opposing side.
Commercial is one of Kennedys’ smaller teams and is only available as a seat in London and Manchester, but the litigious practice offers “really interesting and varied work.” Banking and finance, insolvency disputes, Financial Conduct Authority compliance and employment work can all be found here; the small employment sub-team covers unfair dismissal, discrimination and whistle-blowing work. Pure commercial litigation revolves around shareholder and contractual disputes plus debt recovery work. Sports clients are a common theme in the Manchester office: Wasps Rugby Club called on Kennedys for a judicial review brought by the owners of Coventry City Football Club over alleged unlawful state aid. The team also acted for the former director of Cardiff City FC when the club claimed breach of director’s duties under the Companies Act 2006. Trainees here can expect to conduct research, write research notes and draft documents including settlement, varying and compromise agreements.
When possible, our interviewees were out of the door at 6.30pm each day, though “commercial teams like construction often have a later finish time.” London trainees tend to work longer than their colleagues in other offices, “which is silly as we do the same quality work,” according to one. Trainees in Manchester found that “the team is still trying to find their feet after the merger, so work isn’t as steady. We’re either super busy with no time to have lunch or doing business development and writing articles to pass the time.” Working from home was a big bonus for trainees: “Kennedys really supports having a healthy work/life balance. It gives you a more flexible lifestyle.” Most that we spoke to thought their salary was “really fair, and we get other benefits like a subsidised gym membership,” though some Londoners considered their pay “a little low” compared to the market.
Though trainees were happy that Kennedys supervisors “leave you to get on with your work because they know you’re capable,” some pointed out that a downside is “you’ve got to be vocal with asking for feedback. They aren’t just giving you a task and leaving you to it, though, they really care about making sure you understand why they changed something and how you can learn from it.” Help doesn’t only come from supervisors: “Everyone’s very approachable and friendly. They always have time for you, I never feel uncomfortable asking for help.” We heard that the Kennedys bunch are “really down to earth and chatty, if you walk into the kitchen everyone will be speaking to each other. It’s a nice, open place to be.” Given this personable feel, some trainees felt that “one shortcoming is you don’t tend to come across people from other offices very often.” The firm is “trying to get us mingling a little bit more” in future.
Social life is sporty at Kennedys, with teams including netball, football and – in a nod to the firm’s US links – softball available to join. Regional trainees told us that socialising as a cohort is a bit more difficult and that there’s “definitely a social divide between London and the smaller offices.” One interviewee suggested that “it would be nice if there was more of a drive to organise events that encourage integration between the different teams.” There were no such concerns about the firm’s charity initiatives – Kennedys has recently organised 10K runs, Three Peaks challenges, bake sales and a “sponsored walk across all the famous bridges of London.” Interviewees had more positive feedback to give on “lots of diversity and inclusion initiatives.” One of those drives is to encourage diversity in the insurance industry through an Apprentice-style competition. “There are people of all cultures and religions here, I’d say the firm is inclusive,” a source concluded.
“It’s not ginormous, so you can get to know each other.”
The firm’s 25 Fenchurch Avenue London office building is in the same part of town as the Gherkin, Walkie-Talkie and Cheese Grater, but sadly lacks its own fun nickname. Insiders bragged about the “delicious fruit available every day, tea and coffee and monthly drinks.” Not to be outdone, trainees in Manchester hailed the “brilliant atmosphere. It’s not ginormous, so you can get to know each other without it feeling overwhelming.” They also described their city as “really great and fun, plus you can have a car!” Any lingering “unrest” after the Berg merger “has settled now; some people were unhappy but they’ve left so it’s calmed down now.” The Birmingham office is nestled by Snow Hill railway station, near St Philip’s Cathedral; Kennedians in Chelmsford enjoyed the more suburban feel and opportunity to trot along the riverside to the city’s Central Park (not as famous as New York’s, but still well worth a visit).
When qualification comes around, trainees receive a jobs list and a timeline of the process “which the firm really sticks to!” From there, trainees fill in a CV-like profile based on a firm template and submit it to the head partners of the teams they want to apply to. Recent qualifiers agreed that it’s “not a stressful process overall, but I wish it could have started a little earlier to reduce anxiety!” In 2019 the firm kept on 20 of 23 qualifiers.
Kennedys has launched ‘virtual lawyer’ software called KLAiM that handles insurance clients’ smaller claims automatically – very Kool!
Training contract deadline (2021): 31 December 2019
Kennedys generally offers 13 training contracts in London and nine in the firm's regional offices each year. Applicants need at least 120 UCAS points and a 2:1 degree to pass the initial screening.
Your best bet for landing a training contract in London is completing the firm's winter vacation scheme. “It's a great opportunity for you to see what life is like at Kennedys and to really experience the firm from a trainee’s perspective,” HR Manager Hannah Worsfold tells us. “We tend to offer a high percentage of our vacation scheme students training contracts, as they have gone through our rigorous recruitment process, understand the firm and have experienced what life as a trainee will be like.” The firm now runs a one-week scheme in January, taking on 12 vac schemers in total. They work within one of the legal divisions during their placement “to experience life as a trainee by becoming involved in interesting work, as well as getting to know our people and culture,” Worsfold says. Alongside their trainee work, vac schemers attend various sessions to learn more about the firm, as well as social events – last year featured a pizza making class.
Applications and assessments
The vacation scheme application process is the same as the one for straight-to-training contract applicants.
Both types of application kick off with an online form. The firm typically receives around 800 vac scheme and 1000 training contract applications. “We want to understand why you are applying to Kennedys specifically, what interests you about the firm and the work we do, as well as why you should be selected for a training contract above other applicants,” Worsfold says. She advises applicants to “showcase the knowledge they have about the firm throughout all stages of the application process.” Shortlisted candidates are then invited to undertake an automated video interview, focusing on their application form and reasons for applying to Kennedys as well as commercial awareness questions.
The firm then selects around 100 applicants to take a timed critical thinking test online, and around 50 candidates are then invited to attend an assessment day. The day includes some group exercises that test communication skills, plus a written task and a short interview with a senior associate. “One of my group exercises was a debate and the other two were games with cards and a murder mystery,” a trainee source reported. “It was all about seeing how we interacted.” Meanwhile, the written task is scenario-based. “Mine involved a client who'd been in a car incident – I had to write to the garage saying what the client wanted,” our source said. “They're looking at how you approach the situation, not your legal knowledge.”
Worsfold tells us that “the candidates who stand out at the assessment day are those who have done their research, as well as those who are enthusiastic and put every effort into the assessment day. We want to get to know you too, so those who engage with us on the day and ask lots of questions are going to stand out.” Beyond this, “we're looking for people who match our values,” she says. These include being approachable, straightforward, supportive and distinctive.
From here, vac schemers and trainees are chosen. For those aiming to crack offices outside of London, a further follow-up interview in their chosen office is held before the final decision is made.
25 Fenchurch Avenue,
- Partners 249
- Associates 1055
- Total trainees 61
- UK offices Belfast, Birmingham, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Manchester, Sheffield, Taunton
- Overseas offices Auckland, Austin, Bangkok, Basking Ridge, Bermuda, Bogota, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Copenhagen, Dubai, Dublin, Hong Kong, Lima, Lisbon, Madrid, Melbourne, Mexico City, Miami, Moscow, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Santiago, São Paulo, Singapore, Sydney
- Contacts HR admin: [email protected], 020 7667 9667
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 20
- Applications pa: 900
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: 120 UCAS points or equivalent
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: currently open
- Training contract deadline, 2022 start: 31 December 2020
- SQE Training Programme applications open: Currently open
- SQE Training Programme deadline, 2021 start: 31 December 2020
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £38,500 (London), £27,500 (elsewhere)
- Second-year salary: £41,000 (London), £30,000 (elsewhere)
- Post-qualification salary: Up to £65,000 (London)
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: Yes
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: Hong Kong, Mexico, Singapore
- Overseas seats: Hong Kong
- Client secondments: Varied across UK locations
Main areas of work
Kennedys ensures that their trainee solicitors are given sound training in the core disciplines. All supervisors are approachable and ready to offer support when needed. Our training contracts are two years in length and you will undertake four six month seats within areas such as insurance and reinsurance, liability, corporate and commercial and healthcare.
We develop careers in an innovative and collaborative global environment, with a variety of training opportunities available. This includes secondment opportunities to clients and our global offices. We believe that supporting individual growth and development puts us in the best position to attract and retain talented individuals.
SQE Training Programme
Open days and first-year opportunities
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
Glasgow, Edinburgh and surrounds
- Personal Injury: Mainly Defendant Recognised Practitioner
- Construction: Supplier (Band 4)
- Professional Negligence: Financial (Band 4)
- Professional Negligence: Insurance (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence: Legal (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 3)
- Professional Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence (Band 1)
- Clinical Negligence (Band 3)
- Personal Injury: Mainly Defendant (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 3)
- Aviation (Band 3)
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
- Health & Safety (Band 1)
- Insurance: Contentious Claims (Band 1)
- Insurance: Reinsurance (Band 3)
- Insurance: Volume Claims (Band 2)
- Life Sciences: Product Liability (Band 1)
- Personal Injury: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
- Product Liability: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
- Shipping (Band 3)
- Transport: Logistics (Band 1)
- Travel: International Personal Injury (Defendant) (Band 1)
- Construction (Band 4)