From its northern stronghold, Ward Hadaway holds its weight regionally and nationally.
“Cold and damp, that's how the southerners see the North. But without the cold, a man can't appreciate the fire in his hearth. Without the rain, a man can't appreciate the roof over his head. Let the south have its sun, flowers and affectations. We northerners have home.” That's not a quote from anyone at Ward Hadaway – it was Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. But with a bit of a stretch of the imagination it could have been a quote from someone at Ward Hadaway, a firm with three strong northern bases including its home in Newcastle. The firm has numerous clients from its native region including the local footie team (any Magpies fans reading?), Newcastle City Council, local NHS trusts, the Nissan car plant in Sunderland, and Newcastle-headquartered Virgin Money.
“Our Manchester office is growing and is becoming a real hub.”
But it's not all about the Toon at Ward Hadaway. “Our Manchester office is growing and doing very well in a competitive market,” managing partner Martin Hulls tells us. “Leeds equally is doing well and is a huge area of growth.” In 2018 Hulls replaced previous managing partner Jamie Martin after a dedicated double decade in the role. Hulls highlights property and employment as key areas for growth, but trainees pointed out that “our reach is broad given that we’re a northern firm.” Chambers UK gives the firm high regional rankings for everything from real estate, litigation and banking to employment, family law and social housing. And nationwide the firm gains recognition for its clinical negligence, healthcare and medical partnership work.
At the time of our interviews, 16 trainees plied their trade in Newcastle, with five in Leeds and two in Manchester. Offices vary in the number of seat options they offer, with Newcastle usually having around ten options, while Manchester and Leeds have just a handful. Though trainees in Manchester and Leeds sometimes move between offices to complete their seats, Newkie trainees tend to stay put. Rookies discuss their seat preferences in mid-seat reviews. Most were happy with the options, but others felt that the recent splitting of real estate and housing means that “you can come here for a full-service experience and then end up doing half your training contract in property – that would be a bit stifling.”
Smile, you're on CCTV
The corporate team handles M&A, private equity, capital markets, venture capital and restructuring work. It also includes a specialist banking team, since the firm sits on the panels of Barclays, Lloyds, RBS and Santander. The group as a whole acts for “a big range of clients mostly local to the North East: construction companies, IT companies, local tech start-ups... I’ve enjoyed getting to know different industries.” The group recently acted for Yorkshire metal recycling company Kaystan Holdings on its £39 million sale to Australia's Sims Group. It also acted for the shareholders of Mill Garages North East on its sale to car dealership Stoneacre for £5.5 million. Trainees found larger transactions most fun: “It’s fast-paced and you get a lot of client contact when there are documents flying back and forth.” Though trainees will find themselves updating statutory books – “which isn’t the most glamorous or stimulating task” – interviewees were relieved that “corporate work isn’t just churning out one thing over and over.” Trainees also get their hands on managing data rooms, legal research and drafting documents like share purchase agreements, stock transfer forms and service agreements.
“There are documents flying back and forth.”
As in many commercial departments, the topics and issues trainees cover here are broad, but a good portion of their time is spent on contracts, IP, IT and data protection. The group recently advised the owners of the Tyne and Wear Metro on contracts to update its IT and digital infrastructure including the CCTV cameras on the metro. It also advised private cardiologists Heartscan on the terms and privacy notices for its new website, and helped sofa giant ScS introduce electronic proof of delivery software with a central console and app. We also heard that the Leeds office has a niche in education tech. Trainees working on data protection typically review documents to check if they’re GDPR compliant, send out addendums, and communicate directly with clients. Typical IP tasks include “submitting applications, advising on that process, and telling people what IP protection they need.” More general commercial tasks include drafting share transfer forms, reviewing contracts, drafting terms and conditions and taking board minutes.
The dispute resolution team handles all sorts of commercial litigation, but has particular expertise tackling professional negligence, defamation, director and shareholder disputes, and litigation related to finance and insurance. Interviewees had also worked with industries such as energy, sports and advertising. The firm recently represented three high net worth individuals defending a breach of warranty claim concerning the sale of their former business, including an animal feed factory, for £5.1 million. The group also defended Contract Natural Gas against a £2 million claim brought by a contract negotiating company relating to several thousand underpaid commissions. Trainees here have to do a lot of bundling and disclosure. “I’ll be spending five hours on bundling tasks,” one said, “getting disclosure docs, chronologising them and indexing.” Sound boring? Think again: “Bundling for disclosure is a good task because even though it can be samey, you get a really good overview of each case.” Other tasks include corresponding with courts, dealing with court forms and witness statements, and attending client meetings – “supervisors try and take you to meetings when they can so you can observe.”
Spats, splats and pats on the back
The employment team works on both contentious and non-contentious matters. Contentious work involves unfair dismissal, discrimination and other tribunal claims. The non-contentious side consists of “ad hoc advice to clients emailing with HR-related questions on things like how to conduct a grievance procedure, and deal with underperforming employees and dismissals.” The Leeds office also handles immigration work. The team has advised Newcastle United on employment law issues for many years, including when player Yasin Ben El-Mhanni raised a grievance against a coach. Other local work includes the team representing Newcastle College on a union dispute relating to staff strikes over the removal of incremental pay scales. On the contentious side, employment trainees tend to do bundling, draft witness statements, communicate with the other side and attend hearings and tribunals. On the non-contentious side, they draft advice, letters and HR conversation scripts as well as reviewing contracts and employee handbooks.
“Really supportive and very approachable – I feel they care about me.”
Ward Hadaway's healthcare team (named so because “it sounds friendlier that clinical negligence”) acts for over 60 NHS organisations across the UK, representing them in clinical negligence claims and inquests, but also handling non-contentious work. One of the Leeds partners also works with prisons. The bulk of the team is based in Newcastle, with a smaller team in Leeds, though we heard that “out of all the teams I’ve worked with so far, healthcare works cross-office most.” The firm's clin neg work is all confidential but we can tell you that on the non-contentious side lawyers recently helped the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust establish a trading company for its ambulances and other vehicles. On clin neg cases, trainees start off with “simple tasks like reviewing medical records and investigations prior to the claim.” They then move to more “hands-on” work such as drafting directions questionnaires, communicating with experts, and preparing witness statements, consent orders, court filings and instructions to counsel.
Though interviewees came across “a few bits of crossover work,” we heard that most departments’ “work tends to be local and separate.” The main time trainees cross paths is during a two-week induction when all newcomers flock to Newcastle to cover the basics of trainee life. Aside from that, cross-office working is “one thing we could do better on – I’d like to make better friends with trainees in other offices.” Departmental days such as real estate’s away day in York “help redeem that a bit.” Many trainees in Newcastle sit two to an office with their supervisor, though some departments (and both Leeds and Manchester) are now open plan. Overall, trainees and their supervisors “clicked really well,” and interviewees rated the partners “really supportive and very approachable – I feel they care about me.” Mid-seat reviews carried out by the training principal and recruitment manager are also “really helpful – they get feedback from our direct supervisors and have an informal chat to see how we’re getting on.” End-of-seat reviews are carried out by supervisors who discuss feedback forms filled out by everyone trainees have worked for in that seat.
Have your cake and eat it
Trainees told us that the firm is “quite open about business strategy – as soon as decisions have been made, they give us lunchtime seminars on them.” Many interviewees talked about the growth of Leeds – not only the office, but the city in general. “It’s an exciting place to be right now. There’s a buzz!” one exclaimed. 2019 marks the ten-year anniversary of the firm's Yorkshire base, and trainees were excited the firm’s “making a bigger name for ourselves in a crowded legal market.” The office has also been pushing corporate social responsibility events, putting on tombolas, pop-up cafés, henna workshops and a Great Legal Bake Off judged by Bake Off’s own Sandy Docherty.
Newcastle lawyers are housed in two buildings “20 steps away from each other – we needed more space so we bought next door!” The buildings sit right on the waterfront, making for “nice evening views.” And these quayside queens also know how to party – “we all go out and socialise about once a week, going for drinks or dinner or whatever.” Interviewees also noted the excellent Christmas party and summer barbecue festivities. The Manchester office is completely open-plan, with about 40 people; interviewees told us it has “a small-firm vibe to it – if you’ve got a problem, you’re encouraged to shout it out, and we’re always chatting in the kitchen.”
“From day one they’ve been open with us about how the qualification process works."
Trainees were positive about gender diversity at the firm but said: “Our racial diversity is poor – though I know Newcastle lacks diversity anyway.” When it comes to mental health issues, the firm is “open and inclusive – we do sessions on general wellbeing but I’ve not been to any, as I’m too busy” – the irony. There’s also a 24/7 mental health helpline employees can ring. Ward Hadaway recently set up an Health and Wellbeing task force, though its activities are minimal as it's “still in its infancy.”
Our interviews revealed that it was common for trainees to leave the office between 6pm and 6.30pm, having clocked in at around 8.30am. Housing can see a few hours a week less than that, while commercial and employment can see hours a bit longer. However, interviewees counted 9pm as a late finish and even those are “very rare.” Interviewees felt unanimously that the salary (£24,000 for first-years) is “competitive for the region.”
When it came to qualification in 2019 only eight NQ jobs were released for the ten qualifiers nationwide. Interviewees found this “a bit of a worry” though one added sagely: “You’ve got to expect whatever may come.” This old soul wisdom reflects the firm’s levelheadedness about the process: “From day one they’ve been open with us about how the qualification process works. They listened to the year above’s feedback and took it on by releasing the jobs list earlier.” Though not everyone will get an NQ position at the firm, people felt secure thanks to the firm’s efforts to hook them up with contacts elsewhere if need be. Overall, those who wanted to stay felt there’s a “a good pathway you can see ahead of yourself if you put the work in and stick around – there are a lot of partners who trained at the firm.” In the end six out of ten qualifiers were retained in 2019.
All three offices have a running club that gets heavily involved in charity fund-raising – Hadawayers ran in both the London and Manchester marathons in 2019.
How to get a Ward Hadaway training contract
Training contract deadline (2022): 28 February 2020 (open 1 November 2019)
Applications and vacation scheme
Most trainees at Ward Hadaway have connections with the North, often via unis in Leeds, Manchester, York and Newcastle. The firm has a particularly close relationship with Northumbria and Newcastle Universities, offering bursaries for two law students at each university each year.
Applications for both the vacation scheme and the ten to 15 training contracts on offer each year begin with a form that asks for details on a candidate's extracurricular activities, work experience and university exam results broken down by year of study.
The firm receives around 250 applications each year for its vac scheme, and picks between ten and 20 whose applications impress to attend the week-long placement. This sees attendees visit various departments across the week. “Everyone was very approachable compared with the other vac schemes I did. I don't think there was anyone I couldn't ask a question of,” testified one of the firm's current trainees.
Assessments and interview
Direct training contract and vacation scheme applicants who impress on paper are asked to attend one of up to four assessment days. Here they're set a group exercise, a drafting test, a critical skills test (sent out prior to the assessment day), and an interview with solicitor/associate/partner members of the graduate recruitment team. Applicants have the opportunity to meet various levels of lawyers at lunch, and they also get the opportunity to spend time with trainees and ask any questions about life at Ward Hadaway.
The firm invites up to 25 candidates from the assessment centres and vacation scheme back to a final interview, this time with a senior partner, the training principal and a member of human resources. The conversation revolves around informal questions, and candidates are asked to deliver a presentation. “This is an opportunity to learn more about who they are as individuals and what motivates them,” director of HR Joanna Cairns says. One trainee found that “in comparison to interviews at other firms, I remember feeling much more at ease here. They want to get the best out of you, so they try to establish a friendly, supportive tone.”
Joanne Cairns tells us: “Our different practice areas require different kinds of individuals. It’s really important that people invest the time to research who we are. We aren’t a one size fits all firm, and we’re looking for people who have the composure to present themselves well and are confident in evidencing why they are right for us.”
Our trainee sources added: “The firm looks for people who are normal and down to earth – having a sense of humour is important. You are asked to do a presentation at the final interview and that's what got me my job.” One interviewee highlighted: “We're a commercial firm, so make sure you show your commercial awareness and understanding of the business world. That's as important as demonstrating good communication and teamwork skills.” One final piece of advice? Having a genuine desire to stay in the region – whether that's Newcastle, Manchester or Leeds – is also very important.
Newcastle upon Tyne,
- Partners 87
- Associates 87
- Total trainees 24
- UK offices Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester
- Aaron Palmer, Recruitment Manager [email protected] 0330 137 3000
- Training principal: Julie Huntingdon
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 12-15
- Applications pa: 500+
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum A levels: AAB or equivalent
- Vacation scheme places pa: 26
- Dates and deadlines
- 2021/2022 Training contract applications open: 1st November 2019 Training contract deadline, 2022 start: 28th February 2020 2020 Vacation scheme applications open: 1st November 2019 Vacation scheme 2019 deadline: 28th February 2020
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £24,000
- Second-year salary: £26,000
- Post-qualification salary: £36,500
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: Yes
Ward Hadaway is a Northern-based, client-focussed legal firm that believes in the strength of its people and its business. With three offices in Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester, the firm has a substantial client base of regional, national and international clients from both the private and public sectors.
Founded in 1988, Ward Hadaway has grown rapidly, investing in and supporting the development of its teams as well as recruiting and maintaining the best talent across all areas of its business.
Main areas of work
As a full-service commercial firm, there’s plenty of opportunity to get involved in different areas of the business. The firm is divided into eight key delivery channels; commercial, commercial dispute resolution, corporate, employment, health & regulatory, housebuilding, private client and real estate, with a number of cross-departmental teams. Clients vary from international plcs to local, private clients. We work for well-known companies including Virgin Money, The Bannatyne Group, Northern Powergrid and Newcastle Airport as well as many of the major high street banks and leading national housebuilders such as Barratt Developments. In the public sector, we are one of a handful of firms on the NHS Resolutions panel and we advise more than 60 NHS Trusts and a raft of local authorities across the country.
Ward Hadaway recognises that exceptional service can only be provided by exceptional people, so although the usual qualifications are sought, the firm recognises that this is only one of many indicators of good lawyers. Ward Hadaway welcomes diversity and looks for a range of other skills and attributes, including strong interpersonal and communication skills, commercial awareness and business focus.
Trainees are given a comprehensive one-week induction to help them get to grips with the technical side of working at the firm. It’s an intense but enjoyable week, broken up with informal social activities.
During the 24 month training contract, trainees get experience of four seats, spending six months in each. The firm encourage trainees to share their seat preferences so that, where possible, their training contract can be tailored towards areas they’re interested in. The firm’s training contract aims to provide every trainee with a range of contentious and non-contentious areas to achieve a well-rounded legal experience. Secondment opportunities are also available with some of the firm’s key commercial clients. During each seat trainees are supervised by a Partner or Associate and are given a full end-of-seat appraisal, a mid-seat review, and regular formal and informal feedback.
Trainees are taken on in each of the firm’s three offices.
Vacation placements run spring/summer between May, June and July and are of 1 week’s duration. Successful candidates will experience a range of departments and be supervised by a member of the graduate recruitment team.
• 25 days holiday (with an option to buy additional holidays)
• Group personal pension plan with employer contributions
• Flexible benefits including health/dental cover, childcare etc.
• Life Assurance
• Interest-free season ticket loans for travel
• Membership to the JLD or equivalent
University law careers fairs 2019
Newcastle, Northumbria, York, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
Newcastle and surrounds
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 2)
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 1)
- Information Technology (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 2)
- Litigation (Band 1)
- Planning (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
North East & Yorkshire
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
- Social Housing (Band 1)
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- Employment (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 5)