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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Sh*t’s about to hit the fan..


Kirkland NQ



Showround @ Bakers

I know we collectively like to banter CMS for being shite but this is what an actual glorified high street firm looks like.



Do you need to be an arse, people’s real lives are affected by this. Unless you have something positive to say keep you stupid trap shut.


Chad Chadington

WBD HR on full damage control here. There isn’t anything positive to say here – this firm has shafted its trainees either out of greed or necessity. Either way the trainees should leave ASAP


Showround @ Bakers

Shut up you low IQ simp.



Basically you’re a heartless prick. However, I’ve see the number of comments you post here, so you clearly have no life and so your opinion doesn’t matter.


Showround @ Bakers

Shut up you low IQ simp


Imagine having some bad news today. Then imagine this arsehole, who probably never had a good job in his life, spending his days taking out his frustration for his manifold failures in life by putting derogatory comments on this site about this news. Would that be a nice feeling? No. So please shut the fuck up.

Showround @ Bakers

This Anon simp just won’t learn. Nobody gives a cares about your opinion. We get it, you’re hoping you’ll secure a vac scheme at this place. Unfortunately with your low double digit IQ that just isn’t possible. Sorry x


People like you are the scum of the earth. Not only that, you are stupid, but love projecting that. Think about it idiot, I’m anonymous, how can I Be using this to get a vacs Scheme.

Kindly fuck off.

Archibald Pomp O'City

If you keep feeding the trolls they will keep trolling you back. You have made your point and reasonable readers are likely to agree with you. Now shut up and reclaim what dignity you have left.



With great power comes great responsibility. Let fly web!



Those NQs should take an NQ role elsewhere. Ridiculous Womble.


City Firm Recruiter

It may not be a good option but I assure you that there will be very few NQ jobs anywhere! Lots of top tier firms will be letting a lot of their trainees go. WBD are offering a salary for a further 6 months. Take it!



I wish LC could write clearer. In one paragraph it says the trainees won’t qualify until March 2021, but in the next paragraph it says they could take NQ jobs at other firms, presumably in September.

Saying they are “delaying qualification” is just WBD spinning that they cut NQ salaries by 5 figures for 6 months, which is a significantly larger cut than what other firms are doing



NQ market is non existent this round… so the real choice they’re being given is between unemployment and staying on



So basically they’ll be doing NQ work on trainee pay. That is awful.



Would you rather be lining up for Universal Credit? As bad as the offer WBD are giving its trainees, they’d be nuts to refuse it given there’s close to zero NQ roles in the market ahead of the September qualification round.



Who said anything about NQ work? Lol



This article reads like HR spin for a hefty pay cut.

Either 1) WBD is not confirming NQ roles at the moment because of a lack of work in teams and a resourcing mismatch, or 2) there is work to do in teams and the WBD management are too greedy to pay their NQs a reasonable rate.

Looks like mismanagement in both scenarios.



Remember you’re a Womble…then leave to CMS


WBD 4th Seat Trainee

Honest question guys: I’m one of the September 2020 qualifiers at WBD and really want to do big corporate work. I’ve two corporate seats under my belt, a secondment and a seat in litigation. What do you think are my chances for bagging a NQ role at a top US firm doing PE, or perhaps even a Funds role (I’ve dabbled in a bit of funds work during my corporate seats)? I dream of earning big dollars at K&E…



You have a better chance of winning the lottery


WBD 4th Seat Trainee

Why? Facts over ad hominems


Chad Chadington

For a number of reasons. Firstly, Kirkland isn’t immune to the current market issues. They had a lot of work for their PE clients rescuing/restructuring their portfolios when the pandemic hit, but the big deals just aren’t going ahead at the moment. There’s hope that the market for secondaries will pick up strongly in Q4 2020, which will see a small trickledown boost to recruitment if it happens, but their approach to recruitment will be cautious and measured, particularly in the light of any second waves shutting down the economy again.

Secondly, the NQ legal market is swamped with fourth seaters looking for roles. I’m sorry to say but Kirkland is more likely to take a trainee who has missed out from a magic circle/US firm because of the statistical likelihood that they’ve been exposed to lots of pressure and big deals. It’s not to say it’s impossible for you, but training at WMB doesn’t open the same doors that having Latham or FBD on your CV would.

Thirdly, you’ve got to look at the work you’ve done so far. If your two seats in Corporate were general M&A, it’s not going to be as easy to get a job in PE than if you had a long list of PE specific deals you’d worked on. On the subject of Funds, it’s hard to convince them in an interview that you’re keen and going to stick around (why else would they take a shot with you) if you’ve only done a little bit of it.

Fourthly, motivation is key for applying to US firms. Money alone isn’t enough to keep you going at that intensity. You need to want to do the high level work or want to be in that environment, because if you’re just in it for money, they won’t see you as an asset for their team (they want people to work hard because they want to, not just for the money).

Speak to recruiters if you’re keen to move, but I’m afraid you’re going to find it tough. But keep your head up and remember it’s a marathon not a sprint – it’s not move on quali or bust. I know that this is going to be difficult to read but it’s up to you how you use this.



You won’t get a better answer than the above … it’s not even to do with the fact you trained at WBD, there’s just no corporate NQ positions going at US firms this cycle. If you were applying for R&I or litigation I would say there was a slight chance but for corporate you will have to wait till the market picks up and then still face the other challenges highlighted above.


I know who you are based on how you abbreviate the firm name. You ain’t qualified.


At my MC firm there are some very good associates who were recruited as lateral hires from regional or national firms. No reason not to be ambitious about where you apply.


MP at US Shop

Clearys, Kirklands and Lathams have all hired from WBD and similar regional shops. You could definitely make the move if the market was in a better state.



I have seen some negativity around this. Speaking as a 4th seat trainee who is currently unsure of what lies ahead, I would be glad of the firm taking some initiative to look at ways to increase my chances of a position. Whether this is the answer I can’t say.



So are they not going to sign off to the SRA that training has been completed for all trainees, or will they be qualified solicitors but on trainee pay for 6 months?



As someone who is qualifying this autumn but with no jobs available at my (city) firm, I’m somewhat jealous.


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