Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Womble Bond Dickinson

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Womble Bond Dickinson

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Trainees receive brilliant training and do high-quality work with great clients whilst maintaining a good work/life balance’; ‘the friendly and welcoming atmosphere’; ‘it’s the biggest firm in the region’; ‘office location’; ‘the broad sector of expertise’; ‘I experienced first-hand how the firm supports employees when I was working here as a paralegal’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The people’; ‘the firm is really invested in our training; ‘I feel valued and am able to get involved with a lot of different work’; ‘interesting social events’; ‘working with a small team gives you the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and have a go’; ‘there is an open-door policy at all levels so it doesn’t feel at all hierarchical’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Arbitrary location-based pay divide’; ‘the really busy periods’; ‘seat rotations are very last minute at times’; ‘there is a lot of bureaucracy and red tape to deal with’

Best moment? ‘Successfully leading a client meeting during my first seat’; ‘completing on a corporate deal we had been working on for some time and subsequent celebrations’; ‘getting good feedback from leading counsel on a piece of work I’d done’; ‘producing first draft of advice to a high-profile client’; ‘going on secondment’; being able to attend a Court of Appeal hearing’

Worst moment? ‘Having to deal with a highly patronising partner at another firm’; ‘having no work come my way for a week’; ‘feeling overwhelmed with work during a particularly busy period in my team’; ‘bundling at 10pm’; ‘the focus on non-billable business development which led to a lack of chargeable work for me to get involved in’

The Lex 100 verdict on Womble Bond Dickinson

The firm: Womble Bond Dickinson is a full-service transatlantic law firm, created on 1 November 2017 through the combination of UK firm Bond Dickinson and US firm Womble Carlyle. In the UK, the firm advises several FTSE 350 companies, large businesses, government organisations and wealthy individuals, and focuses on 11 key sectors.

The deals: Acted for Three Rivers District Council in relation to a mixed-use regeneration project in partnership with Countryside Properties (UK) and Home Group to develop over 500 new homes; acts for TSB as the sole adviser on employment and employment litigation matters; assisted Rittal with the lease acquisition for its new UK headquarters in Canary Wharf; advised Arriva on the new rolling stock aspects of its bid for the Wales and Borders franchise; assisted Serica with its takeover of BP’s interests in the Bruce, Keith and Rhum gas fields in the North Sea.

The clients: AIG; Atom Bank; Crown Commercial Services; Grainger; Homes England; Kingfisher; Piper Private Equity; RES.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see legal500.com for more details) Agriculture and estates; Charities and not-for-profit; Commercial litigation; Commercial property; Construction; Contentious trusts and probate; Corporate tax; Debt recovery; Education; Employment; Environment; Health and safety; IT and telecoms; Licensing; Pensions; Personal, tax, trusts and probate; Planning Professional negligence; Property litigation; Social housing

The verdict

‘The best firm in the north east region’, Womble Bond Dickinson maintains its ‘excellent reputation’ due to the ‘high-quality work without needing to live in London’. Many agreed they have a ‘good work/life balance’ and at the same time ‘are afforded high levels of responsibility from day one’. The culture at WBD also stands out to many recruits; it is a firm that ‘truly lives up to its values’, which is shown by the ‘time spent coaching trainees’. WBD is a double Lex 100 Winner for confidence in being kept on and approachability. ‘The people and culture’ are rated the best things about the firm, as recruits ‘feel valued’ and comfortable working with ‘very approachable partners’ who ‘always take time to answer any questions you may have’. But some trainees feel that ‘the salary has fallen behind the market’. Respondents were also unhappy with the ‘lack of information regarding seat rotation’ which at times is ‘very last minute’. However, many regard their best moments as times where they’ve been ‘actively involved’, ‘managing high-level projects’, and ‘been given the responsibility to draft and comment on documents’. Trainees relished ‘being involved from the beginning of a transaction until post-completion’. Pro bono work is ‘a big part of the firm’ and there are a ‘wide variety of activities to get involved in’. Recruits particularly enjoyed experiencing ‘regional fundraising’ and ‘the Prince’s Trust Million Makers project’, although some found it difficult to manage their fee-earning work at the same time. If a ‘varied workload’ where you ‘never get the same day twice’ appeals to you, apply to WBD.

A day in the life of … Harry Rouse, Womble Bond Dickinson

Harry Rouse, Womble Bond Dickinson

Departments to date: Energy and natural resources; banking

University: University of Leeds; The University of Law

Degree: Philosophy; Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course MSc

Upon starting my training contract, I immediately valued Womble Bond Dickinson’s supportive approach and outstanding provision of training. Whether I’m helping negotiate a facility agreement, talking with my supervisor over a coffee, or attending a client meeting, I always enjoy my day.

8.50am: I arrive in the newly refurbished office, get a bacon roll from the canteen, and log onto my computer. I review my emails and update my to-do list.

9.05am: I discuss my ongoing matters with my supervisor, Toby. We run through some comments he has on a debenture that I recently drafted as part of the documentation facilitating a multimillion-pound management buyout. In the banking team here at Womble Bond Dickinson, we predominantly act on behalf of lenders.

9.55am: I send a few quick emails and make a phone call to update clients.

10.10am: Next on my to-do list, I speak with one of the banking partners who talks me through a matter that I will be helping him with. The borrower is refinancing its existing debt. We review the conditions precedent (CP) list, before he delegates the drafting of several documents to me. I then start drafting the corporate authorisations.

11.00am: I attend a training session on financial covenants. We have lots of training sessions here at Womble Bond Dickinson, covering various areas. If you have an appetite to learn, there is ample opportunity to do so!

12.15pm: I continue drafting the corporate authorisations.

1.00pm: I head for lunch in the canteen. As trainees, we are always busy, but we are a tight-knit group so we always eat together and talk about whichever TV series is currently hot news.

1.45pm: I head back to my desk. I make some final changes to my draft corporate authorisations, and then send them to the relevant partner for review.

2.15pm: I begin reviewing the paperwork for a security audit that I need to carry out. I check that my planned approach is correct with my supervisor, and then crack on with the audit.

2.45pm: One of the partners has to attend to an urgent conference call, so requests that I go to reception and meet with a client for a signing meeting.

3.15pm: Having walked the client back out of the building and handed the documents to post-room for scanning, I continue with my security audit.

4.45pm: I send a couple of chaser emails to other parties’ solicitors that I have not heard back from yet. A trainee from another firm calls me to ask about my recommended amendments to their draft document. I explain why I have proposed the changes and clarify what affect the changes will have for our clients.

5.15pm: The partner sends me an email thanking me for my help with drafting the corporate authorisations, provides me with some feedback and asks that I make a couple of minor amendments. I make the changes, and then send the revised documents back to him together with a redline.

5.45pm: I head upstairs for our end of the month drinks! We stand on the patio overlooking Bristol, and chat about our plans for the weekend.

About the firm

Managing partner: Jonathan Blair

CEO: Betty Temple

Other offices: Aberdeen, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Newcastle, Plymouth, Southampton, plus 19 overseas offices.

Who we are: Womble Bond Dickinson is a transatlantic law firm, providing high-quality legal capability and outstanding personal service, to a wide range of regional, national and international clients from 27 key locations across the US and the UK.

What we do: With a focus on eleven key sectors (energy and natural resources; financial institutions; healthcare; insurance, manufacturing; real estate; retail and consumer; transport, logistics and infrastructure; life sciences and pharmaceuticals; technology and private wealth) the firm’s experience allows it to build strong relationships and deliver an excellent service to clients.

What we’re looking for: At Womble Bond Dickinson we look for intellectually able, motivated and enthusiastic graduates from any discipline or background. Successful applicants will understand the need to provide practical, commercial advice to clients. You’ll share the firm’s commitment to self-development and teamwork and its desire to provide clients with services that match their highest expectations. We’re looking for people across seven of our UK offices. Our trainees come from varied backgrounds and bring a range of different experience, and that’s very important to us.

What you’ll do: We look at our trainee recruitment as a long-term investment. Trainees at Womble Bond Dickinson will have an opportunity to spend six months in four business groups, gaining a real breadth of experience along the way. You’ll have access to high-quality work and senior client contacts. We regularly second trainees to our most high-profile clients.

Perks: Childcare vouchers, dental, subsidised gym, healthcare, pension, PMI as part of flexible benefits package. Other flexible benefits include travel loan schemes, discounted car parking schemes, carbon offsetting, eye care, employee assistance programme, Cycle to Work scheme, buy and sell holidays, charity giving plus many more.

Sponsorship: Full sponsorship for LPC and GDL plus maintenance grant of £6,000.

Vacation scheme insider

Curtis Fox
University: Durham University

Degree: Law

Departments sat in: Real estate and corporate

Why I applied for the vacation scheme

I applied for a vacation scheme as part of the training contract application process for Bond Dickinson (as the firm was known pre-2017). The firm was a relative newcomer on the scene in Leeds, having been open for only five years, but what attracted me most was the firm’s ambition for growth. Since my vacation scheme, the firm combined with an American firm and has become international. With that being said, clients range from multimillion-pound publicly listed companies to high-net-worth individuals so I figured that the work would be diverse and appealing.

Type of work undertaken

I really got stuck in with the firm’s work during my vacation scheme.

My time in real estate consisted of me drafting Land Registry forms for the lease of a building in Leeds for a very high-profile client, who had just acquired new offices within the city centre. I also helped the team prepare for the completion of the legal aspects of a large development in North Yorkshire. This involved preparing completion accounts (to make sure we got paid) and also ensuring the documents were in the right order for signing. I did research for an article which was posted in the legal press on the use of BIM (Building Information Modelling) in the construction industry.

My time in corporate was equally as busy and exciting. I helped prepare a number of indexes for upcoming completions; these indexes listed every document involved in the transaction as well as who was signing it. This helped to facilitate the smooth running of the transaction. I also did research on PSC registers which, at the time of my vacation scheme, was a relatively new development in the law. My research formed part of a training manual that was rolled out to the rest of the team.

All in all, the work that I completed was varied and went beyond menial tasks; I truly felt that the work that I was completing was of value and help to the fee-earners.

Highlights of the vacation scheme

The vacation scheme may only be a week and genuinely flies by once you begin, but the work that I received was of the same standard as the work I receive now as a trainee. I honestly felt that the tasks I was being set were actually helping the people who sent me the work and were of value to the firm.

The people are great – everyone was so welcoming from the off which meant that the transition from vacation scheme to training contract was so much easier!

Impressions of the culture of the firm

I honestly cannot stress enough how good the culture of the office in Leeds is at Womble Bond Dickinson. The firm as a whole has a very active diversity and inclusion agenda which everyone buys into and which makes it a fantastic place to work.

Everyone from partners to paralegals is approachable; there is no closed door policy in the Leeds office. I have had conversations with everyone in the office and have made some amazing friends. People remembered me from the vacation scheme so it felt less daunting walking in on my first day – which goes to show how welcoming people are.

Social events

During the vacation scheme, the (then) trainees took us out for lunch to help us settle in and sort out those first-day nerves. The week concluded with a similar event in the office, where everyone was invited for drinks to see us off into the future. I felt that this was a great touch and shows how much the people at Womble Bond Dickinson are invested in the future of the firm by making potential trainees feel so welcome even before an offer is made.

Diversity and inclusion

We strive to create a diverse and inclusive culture to attract and retain the very best people.

Whether with clients, employees or suppliers, building relationships is a part of our culture, in which we nurture a spirit of equality, fairness and respect for all. These qualities make us a better business and are integral to a successful workplace.

To ensure that diversity and inclusion is at the foundation of our business, we collaborate on a variety of activities, campaigns and initiatives both internally and externally.

Our initiatives include:

  • Publishing our gender pay gap reports: 2017 and 2018
  • An established diversity and inclusion group, led by Tracy Walsh and made up of our people from across our UK locations who drive forward and celebrate diversity and inclusion
  • Both BAME and LGBTQ+ networks to for staff members
  • An embedded #BeYourself campaign which actively encourages our people to be their real selves and endorses our culture of valuing our people by celebrating our differences. Visit our website to view our campaign videos
  • An annual diversity and inclusion staff survey: our last survey had 81% respond rate from our people
  • Developing training programmes to key leaders to positively influence others within the business and understand the impact of unconscious bias
  • A mental health awareness campaign. We have the same amount of dedicated mental health first aiders across all our offices as we have traditional first aiders.

As a gold status member of the Law Society Diversity & Inclusion Charter and holders of the Investors in People Silver standard, we are actively engaged in the promotion of a more diverse legal profession and have also been featured in The Lawyer‘s Top 200 as a ‘Diversity Pioneer’.

We have an established apprenticeship scheme, which won the Newcomer Large Employer of the Year award at the National Apprenticeship Awards in 2016, an early careers programme and mentoring programmes all aimed at broadening both access to the legal profession and the diversity of our workforce. Our expanded transatlantic resources offer many opportunities for learning and development, and we are proud to have pioneered different pathways into law in the UK.

Diversity and inclusion is a priority for Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP. We want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential, and to be themselves while encouraging one another to achieve our goals with courage, determination and enthusiasm.