Hill Dickinson's history stretches back to 1810, when it was established in Liverpool by a Mr Edward Morall. It chose the surnames of partners John Hill and John Dickinson to appear above the door, in the latter half of that century.
The firm made waves in the maritime and insurance world - it advised the shipowner White Star Line following the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Hill Dickinson was also instructed on another notable sinking case, the RMS Lusitania - the British ocean liner torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915.
Outside of the shipping world, Hill Dickinson was somewhat of a pioneer: in the 1930s murder trial of William Herbert Wallace, the firm brought the first successful appeal in legal history that was allowed after re-examination of evidence. The firm also advised the first medical cannabis company listed in the UK. And in 1927 it recruited Edith Berthen, one of the first women in Britain to qualify as a solicitor.
While shipping has remained a mainstay for the Liverpool-headquartered firm, it has developed a wide offering of legal services over the years; although it scaled back its insurance team recently. The firm now splits its work between three main groups: the marine group; the health business group (which includes life sciences); and the business services group (which covers a broad range of areas from banking, corporate, property, IP, private client, employment etc.)
The health sector has been a key area of growth. Top clients include the NHS Litigation Authority, Northern Care Alliance and MPS Ltd.
And some of the firm's biggest cases in the last year or so have been for its corporate team. Recent matters include advising Johnson Service Group plc on its £85 million placing; advising Stobart Group on the sale of various group brands for £10 million; and advising businessman and philanthropist Jim Mellon on his investment in the £3 million funding round raised by a psychedelic medicine company.
Outside of its Liverpool HQ, the firm has three other offices in the UK: London (opened in 1929), Manchester (1997) and Leeds (2017). And four offices overseas: Piraeus (2006), Monaco (2013), Singapore (2009) and Hong Kong (2013). Singapore and Hong Kong have a strong focus on maritime work, with its Singapore office being one of the largest and busiest admiralty teams in South East Asia. Greece is also key for shipping, while the Monaco team serves the very finest, with its yacht and superyacht client base. I say!
Size-wise, Hill Dickinson is mid-range for an international firm, with about 130 partners, 390 other lawyers, 23 trainees and 295 business services staff.
In this year's RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey, comments were generally positive, albeit with the occasional grumble:
The firm fared well for career development. "There is a clear track and no artificial obstacles," commented a junior lawyer. A number of lawyers praised the firm for its collaborative approach. "The partners in our team are supportive," said one, "they know they are good at their jobs so don't feel threatened by other good lawyers and want to develop the team as a whole. They are also good at letting people develop in their own way."
It does help to get on with the right people: "You have to be well versed in politics," said one lawyer, adding "I guess that is the way everywhere." Another lawyer said, "if you do your time, are on your best behaviour and have friends in the right places you can make it all the way to the top. Easily."
The majority of respondents highlighted the firm's "friendly" atmosphere, "even though there is the odd 'odd' one," said one lawyer. The firm was also commended for its "massive focus" on flexible working.
Another lawyer felt the firm's culture was split between the North and London, with the latter being "desperate to be and to function like an international law firm."
Lawyers were generally happy with the management of their departments.
"Head of department is excellent and partners are genuinely open and helpful," said a lawyer. "Don't see much of the board level lot other than during the quarterly presentations, but then I prefer to just get on with the job anyway!"
Another concurred: "The management in my department is very good", but knew "nothing at all about the partners in the wider firm."
There was a mixed response for salary. "Decent pay for the North West market," said one senior lawyer. Another agreed that pay was "fine bearing in mind it's the North."
One lawyer complained the firm had "increased the bonus targets" but felt the pay rises "barely meet the inflation rate." Although a junior lawyer was satisfied with a "surprisingly good" salary along with a "stonking bonus this year!"
A female solicitor said that pay was "reasonable" but requested more transparency, as she believed the firm's "gender gap information was about as clear as mud."
"This is probably the best thing in the firm, together with the people, and one of the reasons I am still here," said one lawyer, adding "though the low salary is tipping the balance towards looking for something better in the new year."
"Lots of the senior team work part-time, so agile working is actually a thing and not just a piece of paper," said a senior lawyer. "I probably work on weekends 1-2 times a month, but that reflects the particular nature of my role".
Another said that the firm had "high quality work without much compromise on hours - late finishes are quite rare in most departments."
It would take "winning big on the lottery" for one lawyer to leave. "I really like working here and right now, I would prefer to work here than at any other law firm."
NB the stated salaries in the table are the max available in London.
In London the NQ salary is within a range up to £59,500 dependent on the discipline
In the North West the salaries are:
First year trainee: £26,000
Second year trainee: £28,000
NQ: Within a range, up to £41,000 a year dependent on discipline