This global firm brings a Ken-do attitude to one of the world’s biggest industries.
Kennedys training contract review 2024
If you’re just starting out on the journey from student to lawyer, it’s worth noting that the insurance industry is probably quite a bit bigger than you think it is. From car insurance and contents insurance to the $195 million insurance David Beckham purchased for his legs for in 2006 (yes, it’s true), it’s possible to insure almost anything against, well, almost anything. So, as you might expect, there’s an awful lot of legal work when things go wrong. Enter Kennedys. “I guess an interest in insurance is a big part of it,” one trainee mused, “you have to have an interest in it, because insurance is the underlayer to all we do at the firm.” Kennedys is known for its litigation and dispute resolution work, particularly in the world of insurance liability claims. In fact, the firm is one of only two to be awarded a top-tier ranking by Chambers UK for its contentious claims work (alongside nods in clinical negligence, personal injury, international personal injury, health & safety, life sciences, product liability and transport logistics).
“…you have to have an interest in it, because insurance is the underlayer to all we do at the firm.”
The name ‘Kennedys’ crops up all over the UK, with offices in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester, Sheffield and Taunton. To make the choice a little easier, only a set number of offices offer training contracts each year – most recently London, Manchester, Taunton and Leeds. Among the firm’s current crop of trainees, London is the most popular destination by some way, followed by Manchester. “A big part of the draw for me was the way they presented themselves on social media,” one source told us. “I watched a video where the managing partner at the time spoke about ultimately wanting insurer clients to rely on lawyers less. I though that was a really interesting client-focused take on this kind of work.”
A training contract at Kennedys is split into four six-month seats. Trainees in London are likely to have a broader spread of seat options to choose from, which fall under the firm’s three core practice areas: insurance & reinsurance, liability, and commercial. “Initially, it’s a formal discussion where HR try to see where you are thinking of going. Then after that initial discussion they send out a list of available options,” one trainee explained. Client secondments are available to trainees, although these are all to insurer clients, which trainees told us involved “more claims handling than substantive legal work.”
First up, Kennedys’ serious & catastrophic injury team (recently rebranded from personal injury). As you might expect from a firm that specialises in insurance claims disputes, the department is one that most trainees will spend some time in. “It revolves around defendant work,” one source told us; “a lot of the cases are quite nitty-gritty and lower value, which means a lot of trainees will get it for their first or second seat, because it’s a great seat for learning the ropes.” At Kennedys, the department works with insurer clients when claims are brought against them, from injuries sustained during road traffic accidents to accidents abroad. In fact, the firm’s client list includes the likes of Aviva, Chubb and World Rugby. For newbies in the seat, it offers the opportunity to see how these cases work, from combing through medical reports to draw out inconsistencies, to drafting witness statements and reports. Trainees also spoke about the opportunity to attend remote hearings, though it’s subject to being in the right place at the right time.
“…everything we do is highly transferable”
One department that falls within the broader commercial team at Kennedys is commercial disputes. Trainees in the seat described it as “a growing team”: “It’s a very valuable subset of the commercial department, because almost every big firm in the country will have a commercial litigation team, so everything we do is highly transferable,” one trainee told us. For trainees, this means getting involved with claimant work as well as defendant work in the insurance world, “helping to draft court documents, or pre-action documents like letters of claim, and emailing clients.” Trainees also spoke about sitting in on client calls to get the gist of how these kinds of cases are handled.
Another team to fall under the broad commercial umbrella at Kennedys is employment. “Employment is quite a small department, but a lot of the time instructions will come from the RSA or large-scale insurer clients,” trainees were quick to highlight. The firm handles the contentious and regulatory aspects of employment matters for employers in the insurance, transport and commercial sectors, and the firm’s client list includes names such as Liberty, AIG and the Stagecoach group. As one trainee put it: “Because it’s quite a small team, a lot of a trainee’s work revolves around admin. So, bundling, formatting, not quite as much super in-depth legal work, which is probably the drawback.”
The claims department based in Taunton is another seat that trainees saw as a favourable first-year option. “The claims group essentially revolves around viewing the claims work that we do through the perspective of the insurer, mainly legal expenses insurers,” one source explained. The claims department divides its teams by clients, where trainees can observe the handling of high-value, complex litigation to aid their learning and development: “I wouldn’t be doing much heavy drafting in the day-to-day, it was more about taking a look at what other people were drafting, and how they were liaising with clients,” one trainee recalled. The learning environment offered in claims was the big draw for those just starting out: “It’s early days, but it gives you a much better understanding of how these companies work,” one explained; “for one legal expenses insurer, we act like an agent for the company. It’s mainly to do with the work surrounding landlord and tenant legal expenses cover – liaising with the parties regarding repayment of any possible loss.”
Alongside the contentious aspects of the firm’s work, Kennedys’ regulatory team advises on financial regulation and compliance matters relevant to clients in the insurance industry, whether that’s starting a new insurance business or integrating new technology into a company. There will also be some corporate governance & ESG matters thrown into the mix. Interestingly, a big part of the work in the regulatory team is also focused on inquests and court hearings stemming from health and safety issues. “It covers a lot of what we call corporate manslaughter, where companies have had workers who didn’t have proper protection falling off a piece of equipment or a high-rise building,” one trainee recalled. Put simply, the name of the game in regulatory is variety: “You can come across almost anything, including occasional pieces regarding intricate details of the Animals Act, where people working with horses were injured by them.”
With as many as 64 trainees spread across the UK at the time of research, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that there has been a particular emphasis on the training environment at Kennedys in recent years. The firm’s online learning portal offers online classes tailored towards specific areas such as drafting, which trainees can dip into as and when they need them, “but I would say the biggest emphasis is on the practical side,” one trainee remarked; “when we had a project coming up, they sat us down, and showed us how to do it step by step. We then set about sifting through hundreds of claims, which really helped to set it in.”
As chief risk officer Andrew Coates explains, a big part of the environment that the firm has created for trainees revolves around face time with clients in the insurance industry: “At its most basic level, it’s about access. As a trainee, you’ll have access to a client, you’ll attend meetings, and you will be invited for a drink afterwards! You won’t be hidden away.” This, Coates is quick to emphasise, is with a specific goal in mind: “Insurance is a people business. Just like law firms do, they employ people straight out of university. So, when you look at our partners and senior figures in the insurance sector, they grew up together in the industry, and that’s why we give our juniors access early on.”
“We’ve created our own culture where we are all have each other’s backs."
“Because we are working with predominantly insurer clients, your standard 9–5 hours are a bit more common,” one source told us. In fact, the trainees we spoke to worked between 9am and 6pm on average: “In litigation, you’ll finish at around 8pm on a bad week,” one second-year added, “but generally the late nights are few and far between. The attitude is, if you get your work done within your contractual time, you’re more than free to go.” Office working varies from team to team, but as a general rule trainees will be in the office from Tuesday to Thursday: “There are set days when the whole team will come in, which for us is the last Tuesday of every month.” Part of the draw for trainees coming into the London office was the firm’s new offices in the Walkie Talkie building, which was among the offices that trainees were particularly positive about, along with Leeds and Manchester: “As a cohort, we’ve formed quite a close bond,” one source confirmed, “we’ve created our own culture where we are all have each other’s backs. I would love to stay here for that reason.”
Come qualification time, the firm sends out a form for trainees to indicate where they hope to qualify, along with information about their achievements in the relevant seats and CSR involvements, prior to an interview. One sticking point among the firm’s trainees was a lack of clarity around which departments would be offering NQ positions: “It would have been helpful to get a better idea, especially where particular departments wouldn’t be offering any positions,” one remarked. Another added: “There could definitely be some improvements, especially when it comes to transparency around NQ positions.” Where salary was previously a sticking point, the firm increased NQ salaries around springtime last year: “It might be a bit lower than some of the big firms, but they are definitely working more hours and working against higher expectations that come with a higher base salary.” In 2023, the firm did not disclose their retention statistics.
Making the next step:
While trainees felt Kennedys set them up well for the future, they were quick to point out that as many as 36 of the firm’s partners trained at the firm: “I think it has the potential to be a career springboard, but I would say it has an internal springboard of opportunities too.”
How to get a Kennedys training contract
Training contract deadline: December 2023
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.”
In September 2021, the firm also introduced 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 25 training contracts in its 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,” senior HR manager Hannah 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 100 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.
- 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)
- Scotland (insurance and liability)
SQE Training Programme
- Birmingham (professional liability)
- London (casualty coverage and property, energy and construction)
20 Fenchurch St,
Kennedys is a global law firm with expertise in dispute resolution and advisory services. With over 2,500 people worldwide across 44 offices in the UK, Europe, Middle East, Asia Pacific and America we have some of the most respected legal minds in their field.
Our lawyers handle both contentious and non-contentious matters, and provide a range of specialist legal services, for many industry sectors but we have particular expertise in litigation and dispute resolution, especially in defending insurance and liability claims.
We're a fresh-thinking firm, and we're not afraid to bring challenging new perspectives to the table way beyond the traditional realm of legal services. We empower our clients with a diverse range of ideas, tools and technology to make their lives easier, as well as delivering exceptional results, every time.
Our culture and values form a big part of who we are and we take them seriously. We make a difference by being approachable, straightforward, supportive and distinctive. Our values are at the core of who we are and what make us a great firm to work with and for.
We are proud that Kennedys is made up of individuals who come from all over the world and bring with them their own cultures, languages, backgrounds and experiences. We embrace, value and celebrate difference because we understand that diverse perspectives and experiences help us solve the toughest challenges and make us a better law firm.
Main areas of work
Our lawyers handle both contentious and non-contentious matters, and provide a range of specialist legal services, for many industry sectors including insurance and reinsurance, aviation, banking and finance, construction and engineering, healthcare, life sciences, marine, public sector, rail, real estate, retail, shipping and international trade, sport and leisure, transport and logistics and travel and tourism. But we have particular expertise in litigation and dispute resolution, especially in defending insurance and liability claims.
We offer a vibrant and supportive working environment where our trainees are equipped with the skills to understand the legal world.
The firm’s ability to consistently offer the majority of its trainees positions on qualification is attributable to producing newly qualified lawyers who are competent, confident and commercially driven. Each trainee has a dedicated supervisor to offer support when needed. The open plan offices allow trainees to work with a variety of experienced partners and solicitors every day. We realise how important it is for our trainees to develop an understanding of our clients from an early stage, and the significance of building long lasting client relationships. Trainees often attend court, trials and mediations, and are regularly invited to client meetings and events. 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.
SQE Training Programme
Kennedys SQE Programme is an innovative training programme for graduates. The programme will prepare Trainees for the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), that came into effect from Autumn 2021. Our SQE programme takes the form of a Graduate Solicitor Apprenticeship and allows you to start working and earning at Kennedys immediately after university, while gaining qualifying legal work experience in one of our teams before sitting the SQE1 and SQE2 exams to qualify as a solicitor. You will also be awarded a Postgraduate Certificate from BPP.
Prospective trainees looking to start the SQE training programme must have completed a law degree or a non-law degree and a law conversion prior to starting with Kennedys. Kennedys will fully your training during the SQE training programme.
The 30 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, 2023
- Construction: Contentious (Band 5)
- Professional Negligence (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence (Band 1)
- Clinical Negligence (Band 3)
- Personal Injury: Mainly Defendant (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence (Band 1)
- Personal Injury: Mainly Defendant (Band 3)
- Professional Negligence (Band 3)
- 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 Spotlight
- 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)