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Womble Bond Dickinson extends training contracts by six months in response to coronavirus

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Exclusive: Firm also pushes back autumn TC start dates

Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) has extended its training contracts by six months in response to the “current circumstances and surrounding uncertainty” presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure applies to its current cohort of second year trainees that would have been qualifying this September but will now do so in March 2021, at the latest.

Sam Lee, head of recruitment at WBD, said in a statement: “Like other firms, we are reacting to the unique situation the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. In response to the current circumstances and surrounding uncertainty, we have given very careful consideration to our resourcing requirements — and our newly qualified solicitors and trainees have been an integral part of that review.”

Lee continued:

“As a result, we have taken the difficult decision to defer qualification for our current cohort of second year trainees by six months, until March 2021, at the latest. With some of our trainees on furlough leave, we felt this was the fairest approach to create a level playing field for all of those applying for NQ roles.”

Second year trainees will be able to take up a role externally providing they have met the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s requirements, according to an email seen by this website.

The firm declined to comment on the level of pay second year trainees will be remunerated from September onwards.

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WBD has also pushed back the training contract start dates of its autumn trainee cohort by six months. The September 2020 intake of trainees has been deferred to March 2021. The statement continued:

“Given the cyclical nature of our graduate scheme, any decision that we make about one year group has a knock on effect with future intakes. Therefore, in order to protect the integrity of our training and development programme, we also had to defer the start of training contracts by six months to March 2021 and the firm will be compensating everyone impacted.”

“We remain committed, as we always have been, to training and developing our future junior lawyers to the highest standards. We are monitoring the situation carefully and our position remains under review.”

“We recognise this is an unsettling time for everyone, particularly for our junior lawyers and trainee solicitors.”

WBD joins a growing number of firms that have suspended their TC start dates.

Herbert Smith Freehills has offered future trainees £8,000 to push back their start dates by six months, while incoming rookies at DLA Piper are being offered up to £10,000 to do the same but for a year.

Elsewhere, DWF and Irwin Mitchell have both delayed the start dates of their next trainee cohorts by six months.

Squire Patton Boggs, however, is pushing ahead with its autumn trainee intake, as we exclusively reported last month.

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