Move On Up: Hill Dickinson
30 January 2012
Liverpool wins out on internal promotions, Manchester for laterals, but churn means the partnership size has stayed static
North West firm Hill Dickinson has made a lot of lateral hires and internal promotions in the past few years at all levels of its partnership - but equally it has lost a significant number to other firms, or to life and career choices.
There is a noticeable bifurcation in the firm’s hiring and promotion patterns. The bulk of the partners who have been made up since 2007 (the firm was unable to provide promotion figures for 2006-07) have been based in Hill Dickinson’s Liverpool office, with a handful in London and Chester.
The firm’s Manchester base has benefitted most from lateral hiring, with a few hires in each of Hill Dickinson’s other offices.
Only one promotion has been made in any of Hill Dickinson’s overseas offices, with Maria Moisidou being made up in Piraeus in 2009. There have been no overseas laterals in the period under scrutiny.
Between 2007 and 2011 Hill Dickinson promoted 31 people into its LLP. Just over two-thirds of these were men. The firm’s insurance, marine and health teams attracted the most new partners.
The picture is somewhat distorted by a change in partnership structure during the 2009-10 financial year. Previously Hill Dickinson promoted associates to salaried partner, and salaried partners could then be promoted to join the LLP as members. Members were either fixed-share equity or full equity partners.
In 2009 the firm announced that it was ditching the salaried partner role, replacing it with salaried membership of the LLP. Salaried members have voting rights and can put capital into the business.
Hill Dickinson also introduced the role of legal director, promoting two salaried partners and one associate to this position in 2009-10, and a further two lawyers to legal director in the 2010-11 financial year.
However, most of the firm’s expansion in recent years has come through lateral hiring, as well as some merger activity. Between 2006 and 2011 Hill Dickinson hired 43 partners (including, prior to the restructure, salaried partners). While the firm has chosen to build its insurance and related teams primarily through promotions, many of the lateral hires have been in its business services group. This includes corporate, property, finance and similar areas of law.
Targets for recruitment are generally other national and regional firms with North West presences. Over the five-year period Hill Dickinson recruited three partners from Hammonds: corporate partner Ian Gillis, insolvency partner Jeremy Reilly and employment partner Andrew Ashley-Taylor.
Before its collapse Halliwells was another regular source of partners, with four former Halliwells lawyers joining Hill Dickinson, including in 2010 commercial litigator Julian Diaz-Rainey and insurance partner Anne Eady.
Other partners have joined from firms such as Berrymans Lace Mawer (BLM), Cobbetts and Holman Fenwick & Willan.
The partnership gains have been offset by partnership losses. Several partners in each of the past five years have retired, while others have left for rival firms. 2007-08 and 2010-11 were the years with the most departures, with 13 and 14 partner exits respectively. In total, 48 partners left the firm between 2006 and 2011, 36 men and 12 women. Most of the losses came from the firm’s Manchester, Liverpool and London offices.
Some of those leaving Hill Dickinson stayed at the firm only briefly. The 2009-10 financial year was notable, as 2006 hire Denise Dowen left for BLM and 2008 hires William Tsang and Nish Kanwar moved to Clyde & Co and Plexus Law respectively.
Meanwhile, James Preece, promoted in the 2008-09 financial year, moved to Barlow Lyde & Gilbert. Paula Hanlon, made up alongside Preece in the smallest of Hill Dickinson’s recent promotion rounds, went in-house the following year. Losses have meant that the firm’s partnership has not grown at the same pace as its promotions and hiring.
Hill Dickinson’s HR strategy has undergone some changes in the past year. It relaunched its learning and development curriculum through a training programme called the ’Hill Dickinson Business School’ and the firm is busy developing career routes for non-lawyers.
Promotionsand senior hires
Julian Diaz-Rainey, commercial litigation partner
Diaz-Rainey is one of several partners to have joined from Halliwells
Clare Walker, insurance partner
Insurance specialist Walker joined in 2009
Maria Moisidou, shipping partner
Piraeus-based Moisidou is the only partner promoted outside the UK in recent years