You won’t be taking a risk with Kennedys if insurance law is your thing: this firm’s extensive international network has the global insurance industry covered.
Kennedys training contract review 2022
For most of us, the only times we really think about insurance are when we want to cover our home contents and get our car on the road. But insurance is a global sector with a complex infrastructure behind it. Hence the existence of Kennedys: this firm handles the insurance elements of legal matters occurring in various sectors and situations across the globe. Its remit is huge, spanning 43 offices and 24 countries. The firm’s contentious insurance expertise places it in the second-highest ranking tier in Chambers Global, while in Chambers UK Kennedys’ prowess in this area gains coveted top-tier status. If you linger over the firm’s rankings profile in Chambers UK, you’ll find that Kennedys’ insurance capabilities are recognised in several sectors, including construction, life sciences, transport (including shipping and aviation), finance, legal and technology. As for the type of matters covered, you’re looking at professional negligence, clinical negligence, personal injury and product liability claims among others.
“Kennedys’ reputation really attracted me to the firm: it gives you real work; has an insurance focus; doesn't expect us to work until 3am; and appreciates us having lives.”
Kennedys’ LondonHQ housed the largest group of trainees on our list: 27. Manchestercame in second place with seven, while the Birmingham, Taunton and Cambridge offices each took on a few. We also heard that the Chelmsford and Sheffield offices do welcome newbies. Though the firm is sizeable, it takes on just over 20 trainees nationally each year. When asked ‘Why Kennedys?’, trainees all sang a similar tune: “Kennedys’ reputation really attracted me to the firm: it gives you real work; has an insurance focus; doesn't expect us to work until 3am; and appreciates us having lives.” Kennedys’ appetite for growth was another big tick for our qualified lawyers to be: “It's a global firm that's constantly growing and it has a lot of young leaders – it’s a great place to start your career.”
Our sources weren’t wrong about that appetite for growth: its 2020/21 revenue results revealed a very impressive 11% global increase to £264 million. UK revenue had been bolstered by Kennedys’ acquisition of an insurance team from Leeds-based outfit Langleys in early 2021. This led to the firm opening up a new base in Leeds. In April 2021, Kennedys relocated its Manchester team to new premises in the city following further hires and expansion. A source enthused: “The Manchester teams have been growing quite rapidly – we’ve had a bunch of new hires and it feels like we’re catching up with London.” The firm has also made up 25 partners across its global platform over the past year, further indicating a growth phase that shows no signs of slowing just yet.
Second-years get priority when it comes to seat allocation (a common set-up with training contracts), although “HR is as fair as possible and always makes sure you’re comfortable with your seat.” The firm has four main ‘buckets’ for trainees to dive into: liability, insurance, commercial and healthcare. In the liability category, you’ll find seats in regulatory, travel and liability. Insurance options include aviation; marine; casualty coverage; property/energy/construction; professional liability; product liability and life sciences; and financial and political risk. Kennedys’ commercial seats are corporate, employment, insolvency, property, and international arbitration and commercial litigation. From September 2021, some incoming trainees can exclusively join one of the firm's specific divisions (healthcare, liability, insurance or commercial) through a new SQE training programme. As part of the 30-month programme, trainees will work within that team four days a week, with the remaining day spent studying with the firm's learning provider BPP, to work towards sitting their SQE 1 and SQE 2 exams. Trainees on the traditional training contract route will still do seats across the firm's offering.
However, some trainees outside of London did flag that there are not as many seat options available: “Kennedys advertises specialisms to trainees like aviation and banking, but in Birmingham, for example, your options are more limited. You can’t work in a lot of the practice areas that are available in London.”
“If it was smaller, then I could manage the claim under supervision. I interviewed witnesses and wrote up their statements.”
The liabilityseat is centred on product liabilityclaims, which often involve cross-border litigation and regulatory issues. The kind of products covered include motor vehicles, medical devices, cosmetics and much more. Sources we spoke with had encountered catastrophic and serious injury matters, which could cover physical injuries to the brain or spine, as well as psychiatric injuries. “We would be defending the insured and the insurer in these claims,”an interviewee explained. “The work we do as a trainee would depend on the value of the claim. If it was smaller, then I could manage the claim under supervision. I interviewed witnesses and wrote up their statements. You get more opportunity to draft documents when the claims are smaller.”Major insurance outfits like Chubb, AIG and Hiscox appear on the client list. A recent case saw the team represent DePuy International after its hip replacement products were recalled across several jurisdictions; at the time of writing, over 7,000 claimants had initiated legal action across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Kennedys’ UK team are handling over 2,000 of the claims brought in this jurisdiction.
The professional liabilityseat involves “defending the insured, who can come from various professions – like accounting and law – and are facing claims of professional negligence.”On this type of work, trainees told us that they were helping to prepare for hearings, drafting correspondence and conducting research. The team recently represented a regional law firm in the UK as the insured in a £13 million negligence claim over an expired option agreement. Another matter involved representing insurers Allianz and Barbican and their insured (an accountancy firm) during group proceedings tied to advice given about tax-efficient investments in media-based finance schemes. The team also receives instructions from insurer clients to provide them with coverage advice: “We advise on whether or not an insurance policy covers the claims being made and make sure the policy conditions haven’t been breached.” Those outside of London said they could benefit from doing work on both sides: “In London, the seat is split into different teams, so you either do the defence or coverage work.” A trainee commented that “the professional liability seat was by far the best: the team was absolutely lovely, and they gave me heaps of responsibility while guiding me through the work.”
In healthcare, the team advises on both public and private matters, in areas like child protection, death inquests, mental health and medical malpractice claims. Most of the trainees we spoke with had sat on the contentious side, which generally meant defending clinical negligence claims. These claims run the gamut from “longstanding birth injury claims that have progressed for years” to “misdiagnosis claims related to conditions like cancer.” A trainee gave us more context for the misdiagnosis claims: “They typically involve an underlying condition that a doctor or medical professional hasn’t necessarily picked up on. In a situation where a patient dies, the patient's family may sue the doctor and as a result we then investigate to see if there is fault and if so look at having the family receive compensation.” Trainees on these cases consult medical experts in the area to discern what the standard procedure is and to determine if that has been strayed from. They also help to instruct counsel and prepare defences. The analytical nature of the seat appealed to some of interviewees, who also highlighted the fact that they could run some of their own smaller clinical negligence claims. Clients here include NHS Resolution, Barts Health NHS Trust and Allied World.
“I attended hearings online and in person."
Commercial seats are mostly found in the London and Manchesteroffices. The employmentdepartment covers contentious and non-contentious matters: discrimination and unfair dismissal disputes are handled, but there’s also advisory work on the likes of redundancy rounds and data privacy regulations. Many clients come from the insurance and transport sectors, and include Liberty, RSA, Abellio Group and Virgin Trains Group. Lawyers here recently advised Stagecoach Group on how to implement the government’s furlough scheme during the pandemic in 2020. “I attended hearings online and in person,” one trainee recalled. “I was reviewing HR policies, giving general advice on data protection and running tribunal claims.”In real estate, the firm’s client base extends beyond insurers and includes local authorities and developers. Regeneration and investment deals are focused on here, as well as matters occurring in the healthcare sector. The group recently advised the Borough Council of Bolton on transactions related to a £1.3 billion regeneration project. Trainees found themselves reviewing leases, drafting reports on title and “working on sales of residential blocks of luxury apartments.”
Kennedys’ trainees mostly worked from 9am to 6pm on average, with many raving about the good work/life balance. “If you’ve finished your work and billed your seven hours, you're more than welcome to log off,” one told us. The kinder hours were partly attributed to the firm’s litigation tilt: deadlines for court filings generally close at 4pm and schedules are generally more predictable in this area of law. Still, since the pandemic and the advent of remote working, some trainees reported putting in longer stints from their laptops, as “it’s easier to work late when you’re in the comfort of your own home.” However, late nights are by no means a frequent occurrence, and one assured us that “they are very rare – it's not the Kennedys way of doing things.”
“Late nights are very rare – it's not the Kennedys way of doing things.”
The Londonoffice is centrally located with “great spots for a bit of grub” after a day's work. The open-plan layout was said to foster a “friendly and approachable environment.” The large percentage of junior lawyers in the Cambridge office adds to its easy-going air: “Everyone is so keen to chat and catch up throughout the week.” The Birminghamoffice, meanwhile, was said to have a less corporate feel than the London HQ. Manchester was felt to be similar, with one source enthusing that “people are super down to earth, so you never feel on edge.” Trainees here also gave their brand spanking new office space a big thumbs-up: “The new space is super modern with a lot more client rooms, more desks and two big kitchens. Plus, it’s right in the centre of town!”
Newbies kickstart their training contract with a two-day trainingextravaganza to get them up to speed; it’s typically hosted in a swanky London hotel (although the latest induction was done remotely due to the pandemic). The first day includes standard introductory talks, lunches and a drinks reception. The second day is more geared towards professional skills. Some newcomers felt more could’ve been done in terms of support during the lockdown period: “Going into a new team then was hard and the supervision I had was quite hands-off.” However, opinions on supervision varied and other sources felt truly looked out for. One enthused: “I feel super supported by my supervisor, and I can go to them about anything.” All trainees also receive a buddy from a different office to help ease them in and make connections at the firm: “I was matched with an associate in the London office. We catch up every now and then and talk about the qualification process.”
“The application process is more about your time in the team and your interview.”
On that note: the qualification process usually starts with HR consulting each department to discuss available NQ vacancies. HR then sends out an email to trainees outlining which teams are hiring. Each department tends to have its own process. One mused: “The application process is more about your time in the team and your interview. It’s not typically very onerous. You need to make it clear you want to qualify there.” Another added: “We have been offered the opportunity to join the London office, but the situation really isn't ideal,”one commented. In 2021, Kennedys retained 22 of its 24 qualifiers.
How to get a Kennedys training contract
Training contract deadline (2022): 31 December 2021
SQE Training Programme deadline (2022): 31 December 2021
Training contract and SQE training programme
“We offer a two-year training contract that allows you to develop relevant experience and skills that will set you up in your career as an excellent solicitor,” the firm tells us. “You will be given a good level of responsibility early on, dealing with varied areas of work and will be a valued member of the team from the start, working alongside experienced solicitors and partners in a relaxed and open plan environment .
From September 2021, the firm will be introducing a new SQE Training Programme that allows candidates to start working and earning at Kennedys immediately after university, before sitting the SQE1 and SQE2 exams to qualify.
Kennedys generally offers around 20 training contracts in our UK offices each year. Applicants need at least 120 UCAS points and a 2:1 degree to pass the initial screening.
Applications and assessments
Both types of application kick off with an online form. The firm typically receives around 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 a timed situational strengths assessment online.
The firm then selects applicants to take an automated video interview, focusing on their application form and reasons for applying to Kennedys as well as commercial awareness questions timed situational strengths assessment online. Around 50 candidates are then invited to attend an assessment day. The day includes some micro exercises that involve a video response, plus a written task and a short interview with a senior associate.
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, 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.
List of roles available
- Leeds (example seats include disease, public sector, casualty, claims services, motor)
- London (insurance and reinsurance, liability, commercial)
- Manchester (insurance and reinsurance, liability, commercial)
- Taunton (insurance and reinsurance, liability)
SQE Training Programme
- Birmingham (healthcare)
- Cambridge (healthcare)
- London (marine, regulatory, product liability and life sciences, professional liability, cyber)
- Manchester (cyber,professional liability)
- Sheffield (healthcare)
- Taunton (professional liability and claims handling)
25 Fenchurch Avenue,
- Partners 263
- Associates 323 UK
- Total trainees 22 1st years and 22 2nd years
- UK offices Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Taunton
- Overseas offices 28
- Contacts HR Admin: firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 7667 9667
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 20
- Applications pa: 1000
- 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, 2023 start: 31 December 2021
- SQE Training Programme applications open: Currently open
- SQE Training Programme deadline, 2022 start: 31 December 2021
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £38,500 (London), £27,500 (elsewhere)
- Second-year salary: £41,000 (London), £30,000 (elsewhere)
- Post-qualification salary: Competitive
- 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
Prospective trainees looking to start the SQE training programme must have completed a law degree or the GDL/PGDL prior to starting with Kennedys.
The two year six-month training programme will involve working at Kennedys four days a week and having one day off a week to study at BBP. In addition to a dedicated supervisor at Kennedys, you will have a tutor and skills coach at BPP, to ensure that you have all the support you need at work and with your studies.
Open days and first-year opportunities
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
Glasgow, Edinburgh and surrounds
- Personal Injury: Mainly Defendant (Band 3)
- Construction: Contentious (Band 5)
- Professional Negligence: Financial (Band 4)
- Professional Negligence: Insurance (Band 3)
- 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 2)
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
- Health & Safety (Band 1)
- Insurance: Contentious Claims & Reinsurance (Band 1)
- 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)