This is the Womble Bond Dickinson profile for those considering solicitor apprenticeships. Students looking to apply for training contracts should check out Legal Cheek‘s main Womble Bond Dickinson profile.
Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) is a seasoned veteran in the apprenticeship field with strong cross-Atlantic ties. With offices across the UK, new recruits can expect to make a home in either the Bristol, Southampton or Newcastle hubs. As for the work, WBD covers a broad range of services and sectors, including transport, energy & natural resources, chemicals & manufacturing, corporate, retail, real estate, financial institutions, insurance, public sector and private wealth, as well as technology, biotech, life sciences and healthcare. This is in addition to the flagship practices in IP litigation, banking, finance and transactions.
“Whilst my school was keen for me to pursue the traditional university route, that wasn’t really what I wanted,” one fifth year apprentice at the firm tells us. “The thought of moving away from home to uni just didn’t appeal to me, and I wasn’t set on any of the places near where I lived. I also wanted to go and do something, rather than carry on studying for another four or five years before getting to do anything in practice.”
Another big draw for another apprentice we spoke to was the cost and uncertainty of the traditional route. “The thought of paying for university, and then the SQE and qualifying was daunting enough,” they explain. “But when you add on that there’s no guarantee of a TC at the end, it wasn’t a risk I was prepared to take.”
As for why they chose WBD, one insider raves about the firm’s culture! “It really breaks down the stereotypes of what you think a big international firm would be like,” she says. Speaking further about the strong values of the firm and warm culture that’s “always there”, it’s clear that those who’ve joined this outfit are a happy bunch.
“Even from the first day I walked through the door”, our interviewee continues, everyone is “just so welcoming”. We’re told that the firm’s ‘dress for the day policy’ and open plan office arrangement add to this ambience, with any idea of hierarchy thrown out of the window. “My nerves didn’t last long at all,” one insider reveals, “everyone treats each other in the same way and with the same respect.” What’s more, for those concerned about entering a large international firm straight from school, as one recruit we spoke to did, fear not. “People are very aware of the level that you’re at and will ease you in gradually to begin with, so you’re not overwhelmed.”
This process of easing in translates to an introductory first year, where recruits are given the time to develop their core skills and get settled within the firm, before taking on too much responsibility. Whilst one recruit says that this can equate to “a lot of admin work in the first few months”, she confirms that this was entirely necessary and useful, providing a launchpad into more complex work. Complementing this practical experience come a range of opportunities to observe and learn from more senior lawyers in their element. One insider tells us that they attended several client meetings during their first year, gaining greater exposure to the work they would be leading post-qualification.
Having spent the first four years in the same seat building trust and expertise, apprentices then join the training contract rotation for their final two years. Undertaking an additional four seats during this time, rookies get the chance to experience a wider range of the firm’s many practice areas, helping them to decide which team to qualify into at the end of the programme. During these final years, we’re told, apprentices are assimilated into the trainee cohort, and complete at least the same level of work, if not higher.
It’s not all work at WBD, however. Whilst taking the apprenticeship route over university does mean, according to one insider, that “you do miss out on the lifestyle a little”, this is more than made up for by the “different experience” that you get at the firm. “Lawyers love social events,” one rookie spills. “There’s so much going on all the time that the social side isn’t missing at all, it’s just different.” On the roster recently have been bingo, quizzes, a scavenger hunt, and the regular favorite of pay day drinks.
To make it even better, an insider tells us, “I have a lot more money than any of my uni friends to be able to actually go and do the things I want to do”. Emphasising the lack of student debt and consistent salary rises as your progress along the programme, one jolly apprentice notes how the world really is your oyster for Womble newbies.
As for other opportunities, secondments are up for grabs at some of the outfits high profile clientele when apprentices reach the final two years. There are also apprentice networks within the firm, containing not just budding solicitors from across the country, but also other apprentices within the firm, for example in IT. Rookies can also benefit from additional training on developing confidence, presentation skills, and more, transforming new recruits from school leavers to solicitors. The firm also assists its new starters with finding suitable accommodation, and connecting with local apprentice networks.
“For me the biggest pull factor was the range of local work within the community that was on offer,” one rookie spills whilst discussing the biggest draws of the firm. Also on this apprentices list are the significant, and growing, US presence of the outfit, the friendly and welcoming culture, and the support on offer at the firm. Notable in the latter department is Thrive, the firm’s group for women in the workplace, and the firm’s growing BAME network.
As for advice, one insider has a simple recipe: “authenticity. Be yourself throughout the process, that will give you the best shot of getting a role, and making sure you end up at the right firm for you.”
This is Womble Bond Dickinson’s Solicitor Apprenticeship profile. Read Womble Bond Dickinson’s full Legal Cheek profile here.