Legal Business

Insurance business sale reduces Hill Dicks revenue 7% as shrinking partnership boosts profit

Insurance business sale reduces Hill Dicks revenue 7% as shrinking partnership boosts profit

Profit and profit per equity partner (PEP) increased at shipping specialists Hill Dickinson last year but revenue dived following the sale of its insurance business to Keoghs.

PEP was up 26% to £370,000 from £294,000 last year, as distributable profits likewise grew 7%, from £15.7m to £16.8m. Turnover, however, saw a contraction of 7% from £96.8m to £90.4m.

The shrink in revenue comes after Hill Dickinson sold its insurance business to fellow LB100 firm Keoghs in a deal completed in February 2018, before the start of the current financial year. A total of 17 partners and 311 staff decamped from the firm as part of the deal, aiding the firm’s latest profit figures.

In the remaining part of the business, revenue grew 10%, while healthcare work has seen 32% year-on-year growth.

Hill Dickinson chief executive Peter Jackson told Legal Business (pictured) the sale of the insurance business had been widely welcomed at the firm: ‘It’s been a joy not to have the insurance business as a driver. We’ve increased budgets and challenged ourselves to continue growing. If Q1 is reflective, we’re going to hit budget and achieve our targets.’

He added: ‘Both NHS and private healthcare work has been a big driver for us. Over the last year, the shipping market has also stabilized after years of recession. The surprising thing is we haven’t on the face of it seen a nervousness in the market; clients are busy and deals are happening.’

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Dechert makes hires from Sidley and Hill Dickinson expands its commodities team

Revolving doors: Dechert makes hires from Sidley and Hill Dickinson expands its commodities team

The lateral hires market has seen significant moves recently with Dechert hiring more partners from Sidley Austin, Crowell & Moring making another hire from Squire Patton Boggs and Hill Dickinson expanding the firm’s commodities team with two partners.

Dechert added to its global finance and litigation practices with the recruitment of Aparna Sehgal and Simon Fawell from Sidley, following structured finance partner John McGrath, who recently joined from the same firm. Furthermore, Dorothy Cory-Wright was appointed last year as head of disputes and is also from Sidley.

Sehgal is the fourth finance partner Dechert has hired in the last nine months and works with clients from financial institutions, alternative capital providers and corporates on issues concerning multi-jurisdictional transactions, intercreditor issues, acquisition and financing of performing and non-performing loan portfolios, insolvency and enforcement strategies.

Co-leader of the global finance practice group Richard Jones commented: ‘Aparna is a strong addition to our global finance team. Her extensive experience in real estate finance complements our existing capability and strengthens our offering to our financial services clients.’

Gus Black, global co-chair of Dechert’s financial services group, added: ‘Her appointment, which closely follows the additions of John McGrath and Simon Fawell, supports Dechert’s strategic growth plans in London to meet growing client demand.’

Crowell & Moring once again hired from Squire Patton Boggs, recruiting litigation partner Laurence Winston to co-head the firm’s international disputes resolution group. His appointment comes amid a turbulent period for Squires’ London arm, which has been depleted by a number of departures since the beginning of the year, most of which have decamped to Crowell & Moring.

Financial litigation partner and former City head Robert Weekes left for Crowell & Morning in January, and was later joined by insolvency partners Cathryn Williams and Paul Muscutt. Energy partner Robin Baillie and finance partner Andrew Knight also left Squires for Crowell & Moring in February.

Elsewhere, Hill Dickinson announced the hire of Mark Aspinall and Paul Sinnott from Eversheds Sutherland into the commodities team. This follows the recent hire of litigation partner Beth Bradley, previously of Clyde & Co, and takes the number of partners in the group to nine.

Aspinal has expertise in dispute resolution, transactional matters covering trade finance as well as physical trading of steel and non-ferrous metals, shipping fraud, asset tracing and seizure actions. Sinnott, a commodities lawyer in both the physical and derivatives markets working mainly for energy and metals industry clients, focuses on transactional and regulatory matters as well as disputes resolution.

Hill Dickinson head of commodities Jeff Isaacs told Legal Business: ‘We’ve seen a marked uptick in commodities work, particularly on the soft agricultural commodities front where we have a particular specialism. We have plenty to do and we have a strong influx of work and we’re confident about the future.’

Stewarts hired David Savage to its financial crime department from SG Kleinwort Hambros Bank, where he was group senior sanctions officer. Savage follows Richard Kovalevsky QC, who established the firm’s financial crime department in July 2018, and brings experience working in the financial crime within a bank.

Savage told Legal Business: ‘Financial crime compliance is becoming more and more costly. Regulators have cottoned on to the fact that this is a big ticket business that they can extract large sums of money, by way of fines, from various companies. It’s going to be, in the near-term, a huge cost for anyone involved in international business to combat financial crime.’

Finally, DLA Piper also announced a hire in the form of Marine Lallemand, who will join the litigation and regulatory practice in Paris from Orrick Rambaud Martel.

Legal Business

LB100 case study: Hill Dickinson

LB100 case study: Hill Dickinson

Things have gone from bad to worse at insurance and shipping specialist Hill Dickinson, as the firm recorded a second consecutive drop in turnover.

Hill Dickinson would have hoped to improve on 2016/17’s less-than-stellar 1% fall in revenue, but this was off the cards when a 5% drop to £96.8m was announced. The impact was softened by a more robust showing in profitability with profit per equity partner rising 22% from £274,000 to £334,000. However, this is largely attributable to the firm cutting its equity partner count from 57 to 47.

Legal Business

Hill Dickinson cites focus on growth areas as it ships off insurance business to Keoghs

Hill Dickinson cites focus on growth areas as it ships off insurance business to Keoghs

National insurance and shipping specialist Hill Dickinson has completed the sale of part of its insurance business group to fellow LB100 firm Keoghs.

The sale involves the transfer of 17 partners and 311 staff, giving Keoghs a new presence in Liverpool, where it will sublet premises from Hill Dickinson, as well as adding staff to its offices in London and Manchester. No sale price was disclosed for the deal, which excludes Hill Dickinson’s marine insurance and clinical negligence work.

Both North West-based firms confirmed they had held ‘high-level preliminary discussions’ in August last year, on what was said to be the potential transfer of £23m worth of business. Yesterday’s (12 February) completion of the deal was the third and final phase of the sale process.

In a statement, Hill Dickinson said the sale allowed the firm to focus on strategic areas of growth in its core business areas of health, marine and commercial. Chief operating officer Iain Johnston told Legal Business in August it had become clear the firm needed to find a new home for some of its insurance business as a number of other parts grew very quickly.

The sale follows a challenging few financial years for Hill Dickinson, and the loss of a 24-strong casualty claims team to Kennedys last March. Turnover at the Liverpool-based firm fell 1% to £101.7m in the year to 30 April 2017, continuing a trend which has seen revenue drop 8% since 2011/12.

The firm’s most recent LLP accounts, released to Companies House earlier this month, show the highest-paid member received £367,000, up from £350,000, as member numbers fell from 143 to 138. Key management personnel were paid £3.8m, down from £4.2m.

A business review in the accounts said strong growth in the business services and health business groups was offset by falls in turnover in legal services to the insurance industry and challenging market conditions for legal services in the global shipping markets.

Legal Business

Troubled water: Hill Dickinson in talks to sell insurance business to Keoghs as revenue and profit dip again

Troubled water: Hill Dickinson in talks to sell insurance business to Keoghs as revenue and profit dip again

Insurance and shipping specialist Hill Dickinson is in talks with fellow LB100 firm Keoghs to sell off part of its insurance business group.

Both firms – each based in the North West – confirmed they had held ‘high-level, preliminary discussions’ on the potential transfer of £23m worth of business, including 16 partners and more than 400 other staff but excluding Hill Dickinson’s marine and clinical negligence work.

Hill Dickinson chief operating officer Iain Johnston told Legal Business that the firm would now involve clients and staff over the next few weeks to get their views, with a vote from the partnership expected this month.

He added: ‘It has become increasingly apparent over the last one or two years that firms have to invest in technology, IT and workflow automation and leave the lawyers able to focus on the high-value bit of the [insurance] work. We have been investing significantly in IT, but we have had a good look at what is required over the next three-five years to take IT to the next level – we are talking about a multimillion-pound investment over a number of years.

‘A number of parts of our firms are growing very quickly and it has become clear that it would be better for our clients and people involved if we found a future for the insurance part of our business in a new home that is dedicated to just doing that.’

Hill Dickinson chief executive Peter Jackson (pictured) added that the sale would allow the firm ‘to focus our resource and efforts on areas of future strategic growth, including marine, commercial and health work’. Hill Dickinson would maintain ‘close relationships with Keoghs’ to service retained clients who require insurance related advice.

Keoghs chief executive John Whittle said talks were still at an early stage, adding: ‘Any deal would be fully in-tune with our vision of creating the pre-eminent legal services provider for the UK insurance industry, however it would be premature to comment further on the progression of such discussions until we have fully consulted with our clients and our people.’

The news comes after a challenging few years for Hill Dickinson financially, one of only two top 50 LB100 firms active in the insurance and shipping sector to experience negative revenue growth over the last five years, along with Ince & Co. But while Ince returned to growth in 2016/17, turnover at Liverpool-based Hill Dickinson was down 1% again to £101.7m and profit per equity partner (PEP) fell 9% to £274,000. Since 2011/12, revenue has fallen 8% and PEP 12%.

The sale of the insurance business would further reduce headcount at 150-partner Hill Dickinson, which lost a 24-strong casualty claims team to Kennedys in March after the loss of a panel position in Sheffield spelled the closure of its Yorkshire office.

Speaking with Legal Business about recent financial performance, Johnston said the economic outlook had significantly challenged the shipping sector.

‘The Baltic index has been at a record low for many years and there are many players in this market. The effect on shipping is not just less trade, but also a significant surge of building on cargo capacity over the past ten years. It means the market is overloaded with supply. One of the reasons why profits were down was because of our investment, particularly in hiring people and investing in particular areas. The return on that investment takes time to come through, but we expect a return this year.’

He added: ‘I would not say that the firm is struggling: part of the reduction in revenue is due to us withdrawing from part of business we saw not fitting, for example claimant work.’

He said the firm was working to a ‘pretty cautious budget’ for 2017/18, but as of July it was performing ‘slightly ahead of budget and ahead of last year’.

Legal Business

Hill Dickinson closes Sheffield office as claims team jumps ship to Kennedys

Hill Dickinson closes Sheffield office as claims team jumps ship to Kennedys

Kennedys has hired a 24-strong casualty claims team from Hill Dickinson’s Sheffield office, resulting in the closure of the latter’s operations in the region.

The team, which will bolster Kennedy’s own Sheffield office, consists of three partners and 21 support staff. The partners leading the group are Alan Dury, Suzanne Wilkinson and Paul Bedford, who all joined Hill Dickinson from DLA Piper in 2013. Collectively, they specialise in defending casualty claims related to disease and catastrophic injury matters.

The team’s transfer to Kennedys is expected to be completed on 3 April 2017.

Hill Dickinson chief operating officer Iain Johnston told Legal Business: ‘We’re trying to make sure, whatever we do, the client gets the right level of service for as long as possible and that our people and staff get as smooth a transition as possible to the next stage of their careers.

‘As a firm we’re committed to continuing our growth strategy and our regional presence is really important, but in this particular case it was the right decision on balance.’

Kennedys senior partner Nick Thomas (pictured) said: ‘Alan is thrilled to be bringing the entire Sheffield casualty team with him. Not only do we share the same clients, which makes this a fantastic fit, Kennedys’ international network is a distinct advantage for the team.’

The firm’s Sheffield office head Suzanne Liversidge added: ‘Following our recent global expansion, we’re continuing that growth strategy with a focus on both domestic and international expansion from Europe to further afield.’

Thomas’s firm has embarked upon an expansive start to 2017, opening new offices in both Italy and Mexico since the start of the year. Mexican-born partner Michael Hennessy is heading up the new Mexico office, with Egidio Rinaldi leading a team of nine partners across offices in Milan, Rome and Bologna.

Read more: ‘Is Kennedys keeping up? Insurance player claims innovation and expansion provide the right cover’


Legal Business

Revolving doors: Global 100 firms expand in Europe as Hill Dickinson hires a captain


Last week saw Global 100 firms building their presence in Europe, with White & Case bolstering its private equity (PE) practice and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton expanding its competition offering in Brussels. Meanwhile Hill Dickinson hired two partners for its Asia offering including Captain Joe Quain and K&L Gates benefitted from Dentons’ Singapore office closure.

Having hired nine partners into its PE practice since the start of 2014, White & Case expanded its footprint in Europe with the addition of partner Johan Steen in Stockholm. Steen joins from Nordic firm Vinge, where he advised both Nordic and international sponsors on M&A, fund raising and financial restructuring. He has also worked as associate general counsel at Altor Equity Partners – a Scandinavian private equity firm.

White & Case partner Richard Youle, co-head of the firm’s EMEA PE group said: ‘Johan is an entrepreneurial lawyer with a rounded practice as a proven advisor to private equity clients and to clients on restructurings, distressed investment situations and complex investment structures. His arrival is another important strategic step in the ongoing growth of the firm’s EMEA private equity practice.’

Also in Europe, Cleary recruited Bernd Langeheine, former deputy director-general for mergers at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition to its Brussels and Cologne offices. Joining as a senior consultant, Langeheine will help bolster the firm’s European competition practice having long served at the commission, first in its legal service then as head of trade in Washington and director for telecoms policy between 2002 and 2011.

Meanwhile Hill Dickinson made two appointments in Asia with Bryan O’Hare joining as a disputes partner in the Hong Kong office, having been senior counsel with Hogan Lovells in the city, and solicitor and master mariner Quain who joins in Singapore.

Quain’s arrival brings the total number of master mariners at Hill Dickinson to six. Tony Goldsmith, partner and master mariner who heads the Singapore office, commented: ‘As a solicitor and master mariner of 20 years experience, Joe’s expertise in all aspects of admiralty work can only strengthen our existing commitment to provide our clients with the highest standard of legal advice.’

K&L Gates also added to its ranks in Singapore by hiring banking and asset finance partner Markus Blenntoft from Dentons. Blenntoft joins from the Dentons UKMEA member of the Verein firm and brings experience covering Islamic finance and outbound work for Indian banks.

The move comes as Dentons closes down its legacy Singapore offering ahead of its merger with Dacheng which will see the Singapore market be serviced by the Dacheng Wong Alliance – a joint venture between Dacheng and Singapore firm Wong Alliance.

Legal Business

Insurance sector woes hit Hill Dickinson as revenue falls by £8m and PEP slides 4%


After having carried out two redundancy rounds over the year, Hill Dickinson has seen its revenues for 2014/15 fall 6% from £112m to £104m while profit per equity partner (PEP) is down 4% from £271,000 last financial year to £261,000.

The numbers mark a static period for the top 40 firm, which covers sectors including aviation, banking and financial services and insurance, with last years numbers showing a 1% fall in revenue and small rise in PEP of 3%. Nevertheless, revenues are up 20% on 2010.

In a statment the firm put the 6% drop down to a decision to exit the claimant law market, changes in the UK insurance fraud sector and the sale of its Chester office to Knights.

Hill Dickinson’s managing partner, Peter Jackson, said: ‘Despite the difficulties within a certain number of our core markets, we are confident of making progress to towards our target of becoming a £150m law firm by 2017, focusing on our core sector strengths and working with our clients to deliver that growth, alongside our planned acquisition strategy.’

It has been a tough year for the Liverpool-headquartered firm, which has carried out a number of redundancy consultations over the last year. The most recent consultation was launched in May, and put around 30 jobs at risk in Hill Dickinson’s offices in London, Liverpool and Manchester. The firm put the move down to ‘a period of considerable market change’ due to an ‘operational restructure.’

In September last year, Hill Dickinson concluded another consultation process over restructuring its counter fraud group. This resulted in the loss of 40 jobs, all of which were voluntary and consisted of 25 fee earners and 15 secretaries. At the time the firm also put the process down to investment in better technology and systems.ll

Other firms around the top 40 of the Legal Business 100 have posted better results with both Shoosmiths and Bond Dickinson surpassing the £100m mark, posting 10% and 7% growth respectively. Bond Dickinson saw revenues rise to £106m, with profits up around 20%, while Shoosmiths returned to a pre-financial crisis high, with turnover at £103m, and PEP soaring 44% to £416,000.

Legal Business

Revolving Doors: Hill Dickinson makes a double hire to its real estate team while Hogan Lovells makes a key lateral in New York


The past seven days have seen Hogan Lovells make a key arbitration hire in New York, Jones Day make a play for Latin American disputes with a double hire in Miami while Hill Dickinson undertook a double hire of its own to bulk up its real estate team.

In the same week as it made a significant German hire from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, taking senior corporate partner Matthias Jaletzke in Germany, Hogan Lovells brought in New York arbitration partner Samaa Haridi from Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

Haridi, a board member of the Arab Bankers Association of North America, counsels corporations and financial institutions from across the globe in arbitral proceedings. He reunites at Hogan Lovells with former arbitration colleagues at Thacher Proffitt & Wood: Ollie Armas, Luis Enrique Graham, Thomas Pieper and Carlos Martinez.

‘As the demand for international arbitration continues to grow, clients expect us not only to have a deep bench, but also the best lawyers with the unique set of skills, experiences, and know-how needed in different regions of the world and different industries,’ said Daniel González, global head of Hogan Lovells’ international arbitration practice. ‘Samaa, as a recognized international arbitrator and advocate, is exactly the kind of partner we want and clients expect.’

Jones Day found Miami fertile ground for expansion of its arbitration and litigation team. The firm hired Latin American disputes duo Carlos Concepción and Ricardo Puente from boutique law practice Concepción Martinez & Puente as it targets further growth of its Miami office, which, since opening in March 2013, has grown to 12 partners and 23 lawyers.

Back in the UK, Hill Dickinson has taken steps to grow its real estate team with senior appointments in London and Manchester. Jim Garton joined Hill Dickinson’s London team from Gateley, where he led the real estate and real estate finance teams in London while Jim Purves joined from Pinsent Masons in Manchester.

Garton is known for his work advising West Ham football club on its successful bid to take over the Olympic Stadium in Stratford following the London Olympic Games in 2012 and Purves counts delivery group DHL, High Street retailer John Lewis and engineering group Balfour Beatty among his client roster. Garton said that he joined Hill Dickinson ‘on account of its strong property offering nationally and its client list which includes Lloyds TSB Group, RBS, HSBC, Santander, Metro Bank, The Co-operative Group, Iceland and National Express Group to name but a few.’

Meanwhile, there was also movement in the in-house market, with airline Monarch promoting Alison Wilds to the newly created role of group head of legal. Wilds joined Monarch in February last year to advise on the purchase of thirty new Boeing aircraft. Before moving in-house, Wilds was a partner and head of the aviation and finance group at London law firm of Harbottle and Lewis.

Legal Business

Redundancy watch: Hill Dickinson starts consultation regarding 30 insurance jobs


The insurance legal market continues to be hard pressed with Hill Dickinson confirming it is set to start a 30-day consultation tomorrow (14 May) which places around 30 jobs at risk.

The affected jobs are all in the firm’s insurance team and spread across its offices in London, Liverpool and Manchester. The firm put the move down to ‘a period of considerable market change’ and was part of an ‘operational restructure’.

In a statement the firm said: ‘We have a strong reputation for insurance and will continue to innovate to meet client and market requirements. We appreciate this is difficult time for our colleagues and are providing support and assistance to those affected.’

Last year Hill Dickinson carried out a review of its counter fraud group that resulted in the loss of 40 jobs consisting of 25 fee earners and 15 secretaries. At the time the firm said the restructure was needed ‘to ensure we remain aligned to our client’s evolving requirements.’ 

The firm also ran a review of its business in 2013, which looked at the range of services it was providing and its geographical reach, in an effort to maintain ‘appropriate’ profit levels.