Hill Dickinson LLP

Laura Marginson
Hill Dickinson LLP

Hill Dickinson LLP

University: University of Sheffield
Degree: Law (European and international)
Year of qualification: 2018
Position: Associate
Department: Employment

What attracted you to a career in law?

I have always had a keen interest in law which was sparked during work experience at a solicitors’ firm while in school. I continued to have work experience in the form of mini pupillages and shadowing solicitors. I also had the opportunity to be involved in mooting competitions in sixth form, which cemented my decision to pursue a career in law. 

Why solicitor not barrister?

After shadowing both solicitors and barristers, I found that I wanted to be involved in a case on a day-to-day basis and have direct contact with clients. I enjoy being able to build a relationship with the client and feel invested in the outcome. As an employment lawyer there are also opportunities to use advocacy skills, since you don’t require higher rights of audience to represent a client in the employment tribunal.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

When I first started applying to firms I wasn’t sure which area of law I wanted to practise. Following my LPC I starting working at Hill Dickinson as a legal administration assistant and discovered that I enjoyed working in a full-service law firm, as I was able to experience different types of law. I was also conscious of the size of firm that I wanted to train in, as I wanted to make sure that I would feel valued and not just be a number in a sea of trainees. I also thought it was important while applying for training contracts to consider the retention rate of the firm. I was aware from my time at Hill Dickinson that the firm kept on a high percentage of its trainees on qualification.

How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?

During school and university I had work experience in both solicitors’ firms and barristers’ chambers. I also had experience in-house at a medical indemnity organisation and a vacation scheme at a firm in Manchester, which provided me with an insight into the difference between in-house and private practice. It is important to see how the law works in practice and what a typical day might look like. On joining Hill Dickinson as a legal administration assistant and then being promoted to paralegal, I was able to gain valuable insight into different areas of law and the importance of case management.

What do you think made your application successful?

I was fortunate to already work at Hill Dickinson and was put forward for the internal training contract process, which involved several months of assessments before the external assessment day. I think it helped that I had a good understanding of the firm and had been involved in business development at a junior level. In terms of the assessment day, it is good to practise different skills beforehand – for example, I spent a lot of time practising presentations to become more confident with public speaking. It is important to be aware of the markets in which the firm specialises, as well as the current challenges in the legal market and how they may affect the firm and its clients.

Which departments did you train in?

My first seat was in the professional and financial risks team in the insurance department. My second seat was then split between the marine personal injury and regulatory team and a secondment in-house at one of the firm’s health clients. My third and fourth seats were a mix of employment and corporate work. My training contract enabled me to gain experience in a wide variety of areas as well as an insight into being an in-house lawyer.  

Please discuss a specific deal/case that you were involved with, outlining your role in the matter.

I assisted the corporate team with a reverse takeover acquisition. This was interesting as it was my first time assisting on a corporate deal and was therefore a steep learning curve. I assisted with the verification process, which entails verifying that the statements in the presentation for potential investors are true and accurate. I then had a meeting with the client to outline what amendments were required to the presentation. It was a great experience to work on this type of deal, as I was able to learn more about an industry I hadn’t had exposure to before.

How does the qualification process work at the firm?

In my year of qualification, jobs were advertised at different times and interested trainees would apply for the positions. There would then be an interview process and decisions made on what offers to make.

The retention rate for my year of qualification was 86%.

What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?

As a trainee you have a great support network in the other trainees and when you have a difficult day there’s always someone you can speak to. It can take time to adjust to a new department and you might feel thrown into the deep end, but by the end of the seat you usually feel a lot more confident about what you’re doing.

Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?

I specialise in employment law, advising commercial and health clients. My work involves a mix of employment tribunal claims, corporate support work and advising clients on general employment law matters. It’s hard to outline a typical day, but it could include reviewing a claim and advising the client on the risks of defending the claim, drafting an employment contract or advising on a settlement agreement. Being based in the London office provides me with plenty of opportunities to work with other teams and to attend hearings at the Royal Courts of Justice and employment tribunals.  

Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.

I was recently involved in a high-profile employment tribunal claim which attracted media attention. I assisted with meeting witnesses and drafting witness statements, helped to prepare for the hearing and attended conferences with counsel. I attended the two-and-a-half week hearing which concluded with the claimant withdrawing their claim. It was a great opportunity to build a relationship with a client and to gain a greater understanding of the processes and procedures within the client’s organisation.

What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?

I enjoy the variety of work that is involved in employment law. It is great to be involved in both contentious and non-contentious work, as well as to work with clients in different specialities. The least enjoyable part of my job is constantly thinking about the next deadline!

How involved are you with business development and promoting the firm?

I have been heavily involved in business development since starting at Hill Dickinson. As a firm, Hill Dickinson is great at encouraging junior staff to be involved in organising and attending events, drafting articles and presenting to clients. I have recently taken over as co-chair of a business development initiative in the business group which organises events and seminars for young professionals in the commercial and financial sector. As well as this, I organise with one of my colleagues the annual Carols by Candlelight concert which raises money for local charities.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

I chose to continue my career at Hill Dickinson because of the people in my team and the firm. Practising as a solicitor can be challenging and it is therefore great to know that you have friends at work who will encourage you and provide support when needed.

What skills/strengths do you need to be a successful solicitor?

Communication is an important skill to have as a solicitor. Whether it is negotiating with the solicitor on the other side or advising a client, it is important to be able to modify your communication style to who you are speaking to. It is also essential, especially in litigation, to be organised so that you don’t miss any important deadlines, which may adversely affect your client. 

What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?

I would encourage anyone with an interest in law to do work experience, speak to people in the legal profession and get involved in extracurricular activities, as this will not only show that you are a well-rounded person but could also provide important networking opportunities. Make sure that you research the firms that you are applying to and areas of law that they specialise in, as firms will be impressed that you’ve taken the time to understand their business. Finally, don’t be discouraged by rejections.

What is the work-life balance like at your firm? How often do you have late nights/work at weekends?

The work-life balance at the firm is great, especially compared to other firms in London. There are occasions where I have had to work late or at a weekend, but this isn’t very common.

What is the wider culture like – e.g., are there sports teams/trips out? Is there a LGBT group, women’s group etc?

There is a very sociable culture at Hill Dickinson, with lots of formal and informal socials throughout the year, some of which are organised by the staff and family committee, which I am a part of. Most recently, a book club and netball team have also been set up which have been popular and allow for further interaction between colleagues in different business groups.

Does your department largely work independently, in support of another dept or is it routinely supported by other depts?

The employment department works independently, but also works closely with other teams, in particular the corporate and marine teams.

Describe the firm in three words.

Friendly, innovative and collaborative.

How often as a trainee were you communicating directly with clients (calls, attending meetings)?

I had regular contact with clients and was lucky enough to go on secondment with a client. This provided me with the opportunity to build a relationship with the client, which has continued. I also had regular contact while taking conduct of files both over the phone, in meetings and during hearings.

What’re you reading at the moment?

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (this month’s work book club read).

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