Meet Womble Bond Dickinson at the Legal Cheek UK Virtual Law Fair on 4 November 2021
Bond Dickinson and US-based Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice combined to form Womble Bond Dickinson in late 2017. It was the formal cementing of a successful year-long “strategic alliance” that saw the two firms work together increasingly closely.
As is common with many modern mergers, the two legacy firms’ finances will continue to be largely separate, supplemented by a shared pot for integration costs and joint projects. But when taken together the new megafirm has a revenue of roughly £340 million, and more than 420 partners and 1,000 lawyers across eight offices in the UK and 19 in the US.
The duo is proving to be a good fit, with the historic powerbases of legacy firms Bond Dickinson and Womble Carlyle lying in the regions rather than global financial capitals. The former has sizable presences in Aberdeen, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, Newcastle (where it is particularly dominant with two separate offices), Plymouth and Southampton, alongside a base in the City of London. The US firm, meanwhile, is spread across a host of smaller cities including Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Silicon Valley, Washington DC and Winston-Salem.
Over the last two years there has been an emphasis on innovation, with Womble Bond Dickinson in the UK leveraging on Womble’s expertise in technology, biotech, life sciences and healthcare. With the tech revolution spreading out from London to the rest of the country, and Womble Bond Dickinson boasting market-leading infrastructure practices in various regions, this is an interesting opportunity to create something different to your typical NY-LON tie-up.
Other strengths in the UK include transport, energy & natural resources, chemicals & manufacturing, corporate, retail, real estate, financial institutions, insurance, public sector and private wealth. Alongside the range of work, Womble Bond Dickinson’s big twin sells to its employees are decent work/life balance and a friendly culture. The money at the firm might not be at City levels, but not many transatlantic firms can offer an average leave the office time of around 6pm. “In relation to the rest of the commercial legal firms out there… it’s pretty good,” one trainee tells us.
It’s probably no coincidence that the firm’s relatively unfrazzled partners are some of the most approachable in the country. “The door is apparently always open” to partners’ rooms, while another insider tells us that “I feel like I could go to anyone at the firm if needs be”. Certainly if you make it to the top here you can have a very nice life, with a profit per equity partner (PEP) approaching £300,000 going a long way in many of the cities where Womble Bond Dickinson is based.
The training and the work is also highly rated, with the firm’s intake of 25 across so many offices meaning that trainees get access to some decent stuff. “Having a diversity of where you train really knocks the London chip off your shoulder which I think other firms have,” one reports. Another adds: “Regions need more seat options, but the training is first class, hands-on.”
Much of what you do depends on where you are, with the firm’s Aberdeen office known for its links with the oil industry, Newcastle for its market-leading rail practice and Bristol and London recognised for strength in banking work. The latter office is particularly fancy, with gorgeous views across The Thames from its South Bank location, while the Newcastle Quayside office is one of the city’s most swish.
Currently there are limited international secondments, but Legal Cheek understands that business travel for junior solicitors to the US is becoming more common. And one rookie did report spending two weeks in Germany with a partner firm. The big focus on client secondments remains — according to our survey a quarter have done one — at companies including FTSE 100 companies, global retailers and major insurers.
Perk-wise, there is private healthcare, a decent pension, gym discounts and subsidised canteens in some of the offices (be warned that Leeds has no canteen). The social life is reportedly great fun in some locations, with socials taking place every six weeks. Typical nights out include bowling, cricket, crazy golf and pub crawls. “The trainees often meet in their own time”, we’re told, while there’s apparently a ‘pop-up pub’ hosted by different partners in their office one Friday a month which often ends in a night out.
We’re told some teams continued with efforts to socialise amid the coronavirus lockdown, with one rookie reporting “a weekly social event whether that be a quiz or virtual game show to keep in touch”. They tell us the firm also put in place a centralised “employee forum” where lawyers exchanged tips on how to get used to remote-working conditions.
The transatlantic law firm has taken steps in recent years to improve its green credentials. In 2017 it set a target to reduce emissions by 5% annually, and the following year, was awarded The Planet Mark certification in recognition of its efforts to cut carbon emissions. “It is clear that the firm emphasises being eco-friendly, from the cleaning products that we use around the office, to the dedication to reducing our carbon footprint and minimising paper wastage,” one insider reports.