Peter Jackson, managing partner of Hill Dickinson
What have been the key achievements for the firm over the past 12 months?
The past 12 months have seen significant changes for Hill Dickinson. In the early part of the year we restructured and refinanced the business. Without doubt, halving our debt has been a major achievement, as has maintaining turnover with considerably fewer people. We opened offices in Hong Kong and Monaco in line with our ambitious international growth strategy. The London teams moved into much larger and more appropriate premises and we made a number of important lateral hires across our key business groups.
Can you tell us a bit about the firm's growth strategy & focus?
Yes, our plan is to continue to focus on the sectors in which we have most prominence – marine, insurance and health – ensuring that by investing in our people and technology we continue to provide outstanding advice and service to our clients. We will also continue to build on and enhance our presence in other rapidly developing sectors. Our Business Services Group has seen strong performance in the past 12 months and we will ensure that our specialist teams are positioned to provide the legal support our clients need to thrive and grow in an improved economy.
The legal landscape has changed hugely over the past five years. What’s your view on the rise of ABSs?
ABSs seem to have worked in some very obvious parts of the legal market place, mainly in volume businesses such as Keoghs and Parabis, firms which focus on one sector and have foreseeable and identifiable pipelines of business. Whether they have worked in commercial multi-disciplinary practices so well, I am not sure, although Knights is definitely making this work for them. I think the first test for firms with private equity interests will come when we see how investors manage an exit strategy.
How do you think they will impact on Hill Dickinson over the medium to long-term?
An ABS structure would not be right for Hill Dickinson at the moment. The international implications for firms with such structures are not clear and the diversity of what we do does not lend itself to outside investment. That said, certain parts of our business do fit the model and it is certainly something we will keep on the agenda.
What are the main aims & ambitions for the firm over the next couple of years?
We aim to significantly grow our three main sectors – marine, insurance and health and to continue to develop those areas where we have seen real traction in other sectors.
Improving profitability is important so that we may continue to re-invest profits into the business – into our existing staff, new individual and team hires, and operational processes - to allow us to deliver the highest levels of professional and IT support to help support clients’ growth post-recession.
There is an appetite to make further acquisitions to support our own expansion plans. We are always keen to attract key individuals and teams both within the UK and overseas.
Do you have any plans to further increase your presence in the Far East?
Yes - very much so. The Far East is crucial to our future plans. We see Singapore and Hong Kong as a very exciting marketplace in relation to both marine and trading businesses and we want to support our clients in this arena. We went into the Far East on the back of encouragement from clients and I can only see businesses trading more in that part of the world.
Where would you like the firm to be in 10 years’ time?
It’s impossible to say, given the pace of change in the marketplace. Any crystal ball-gazing 10 years hence would be futile. Gone are the days when you could write a 10 year plan and resolutely stick to it. We want to continue to grow and to remain competitive in the short to medium term and to have the capability to continually adapt to market forces, sector advancements and rapidly diversifying client requirements.
In your opinion, what makes a Hill Dickinson lawyer?
Technically excellent, approachable, commercially aware, personable, don’t take themselves too seriously, team players, knowledgeable about the sectors in which they practice and they really care about clients’ business needs.
Finally, have you got any career goals that you still want to achieve?
Like many legal firms, and businesses generally, it’s been a challenging two to three years. We’ve restructured, strengthened and expanded the business and I am looking forward to helping a more refined firm thrive alongside our clients in a much healthier market, and be a leading player in our specialist sectors. I think we need to take Hill Dickinson to the next level. And when that job’s done, I want to be chief executive of Liverpool Football Club.