Firm Profile > Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP > Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP Offices
ST ANN'S WHARF
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP > The Legal 500 Rankings
Agriculture and estates Tier 1
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP specialises in advising private estate owners and other landowning organisations. The ‘breadth of practice areas covered marks it out’ as well as its advice to a number of public authorities and quasi-public bodies. Simon Kirkup leads the practice and his clients include private landowners as well as major landowning charities and PLCs. Also notable in the team is managing associate Charlotte Patterson-Ryan, who ‘combines strong technical knowledge in the areas of landlords and tenants, with excellent professional skills,’ which makes her ‘stand out as a go-to adviser’.
‘Sound, swift advice and service.’
‘The firm has such a wide variety of expertise all under one roof , including legal advice on farming, property management and family trust law.’
‘Very solid breadth of practice and strong professionalism.’
‘Extremely client focused.’
‘Simon Kirkup provides well-reasoned thoughtful advice.’
‘Despite having a heavy work load, Simon Kirkup is always accessible for advic.e’
‘Charlotte Patterson-Ryan is always efficient and speedy.’
‘Charlotte Patterson-Ryan’s capacity to turn around work is phenomenal, and she is extremely straightforward to work with.’
Charities and not-for-profit Tier 1
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP is known for its work for education, healthcare and religious charities, as well as particular expertise in transactional matters. The ‘solicitor par excellence’ Emma Moody leads the practice and is ‘energised and positive’ as well as ‘well networked’ in the area. Her team includes managing associate Samantha Pritchard, who specialises in advising on the complex area where charity law and public law coincide, offering ‘clear and reassuring advice.'
‘Positive, confident engagement and the team takes the time to understand the business.’
‘Very quick to respond and support, providing a full service.’
‘Highly recommended, if clients want a job done well, go to Womble Bond Dickinson.’
‘This is a niche area of law and the firm has a depth of knowledge and experience that seems to outweigh its competitors.’
‘Emma Moody is extraordinarily committed to the client. She is also very accessible and very straightforward to deal with.’
‘Sally Cooper is very professional and client focused.’
‘Samantha Pritchard deals with challenging and difficult situations with ease. She has developed a novel governance model that is practical and reflects instructions exactly.’
Newcastle City Council
British Mountaineering Council
Ampleforth Abbey and St Laurence Education Trust
Charity Commission – Cardiff Sixth Form College (now Cardiff Educational Endowment Fund)
East Durham College
Bauer Radio Cash for Kids Charities
Zedra Trust Company
Durham University Students’ Union
Northumberland County Council
Leeman Road Millenium Green Trust
Wakefield Grammar School Foundation
Percy Hedley Foundation
Mental Health Matters
Newcastle upon Tyne Royal Grammar School
St John of God Hospitaller Services
William Leech Foundation
Church Marketplace for Roman Catholic Dioceses
Drawing on the firm's national and international presence, the team at Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP is able to advise large regional corporates on the spectrum of commercial litigation and dispute resolution. Areas of expertise include disputes relating to the transport and chemicals sectors, as well as pensions, contentious procurement, financial services, retail and energy. Paul Stewart leads the team and focuses on transport and manufacturing sector disputes.
‘The firm has strength of expertise across a number of partners and associates‘
‘Richard Collins is bright and commercial in outlook‘
‘Paul Stewart and his team get to grips with all aspects of the challenge and become welcome additions to the organisation remarkably quickly, which supports immediate progress and assurance‘
‘Paul Stewart, Jonathan Gribben and Michael Wharton provide relentless effort, resilience, agility and diligence‘
Drawing on its status as an international firm, the team at Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP is able to handle flagship real estate deals across the North East, advising national housebuilders, residential landlords, property funds and other corporate clients. The group is led by John Ralph, who is instructed by owners and occupiers of investment, development and operational real estate assets. Managing associate John Booth is noted for expertise in the education and energy sectors.
‘A very joined up and well organised team‘
‘The team builds up good relationships with advisers acting on the other side‘
‘Easy people to work with, who can explain complex issues in an accessible manner‘
Bellway Homes plc
The Vista PRS Fund
Hansteen Holdings plc
Construction Tier 1
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP handles the spectrum of contentious and non-contentious construction work, drawing on the firm's office network to advise local and international clients. In addition to its more traditional practice, the group also has a niche in offshore, decommissioning and subsea work. On the non-contentious side, Simon Rowland is recommended for developments and Ian Atkinson is well-regarded for his 'straight-forward and pragmatic' approach to transactional matters. Simon Lewis focuses on dispute resolution for public and private sector clients alike, while managing associate Andrew Clough is noted for complex construction litigation.
‘The team is proactive, efficient and pragmatic regarding their approach to achieving contract award on individual schemes.’
‘As a local authority client, you always feel confident instructing the firm in relation to property matters, because everyone in the team is very technically competent.’
‘Simon Rowland provides excellent service and professional advice.’
‘The team are responsive and helpful and give advice that i’s pragmatic and unstuffy. We’ve seen a willingness to roll up sleeves and engage positively with our sometimes unusual approval processes.’
‘A tight-knit team with a great depth and breadth of experience, particularly in relation to PFI disputes.’
‘Simon Lewis is a very experienced construction specialist who gives sound and sensible advice.’
‘Andrew Clough is charming and easy to work with – he will go the extra mile.’
‘Ian Atkinson is straight-forward, pragmatic and responsive, as well as understanding of our particular requirements.’
‘Ian Atkinson provides prompt, helpful responses and is very proactive. He is able to explain things in layman’s terms, which is great for all parties involved. He is also a nice person to work with, which counts for a lot.’
‘We really enjoyed working with Ian Atkinson – he dealt with the construction elements of a large and complex development agreement really efficiently and promptly. All the work was turned around really quickly – he knew what needed to be done, and ensured that happened within a tight time frame.’
Education and Skills Funding Agency
Newcastle City Council
IKEA Properties Investments
University of Durham
The ‘very bright’ Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP practice acts for individuals, trustees, insurance companies and charities across the UK and overseas. The experienced national team is led by Neil Long from London and has three full members of the Association of Contentious Trust And Probate Specialists, as well as being a member of the Association of Corporate Trustees. Notable is managing associate Richard Pike, who is ‘a very canny litigator’ specialising in advising corporate trustees, private individuals and insurers on the full range of contentious trust, estate and tax issues.
‘The team has experience of high value disputes which further lends credibility to its reputation.’
‘Exceptionally knowledgeable but also a pleasure to work with.’
‘Helpful, kind, pragmatic and sensible.’
‘Richard Pike provides measured advice. He remains composed and focused when time is short.’
‘Richard Pike knows the law inside out and will analyse the legal position very carefully. He is clever and able to think up imaginative solutions to complicated issues.’
‘Neil Long is absolutely charming!’
‘Solicitor Rosie Taylor is polite, very pleasant and easy to deal with.’
Zedra (UK) Trusts Limited
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP's Newcastle office is a major hub for the transatlantic firm, ensuring it is well-placed to advise US investors into the North East. Unusually for the region, the office contains dedicated competition, tax and projects lawyers, all of whom support the corporate and commercial teams. The team is led by Ben Butler and includes corporate finance expert Jamie Pass and Stacey Hall, who specialises in corporate transactions. Ian Pritty is noted for corporate aspects of property transactions.
‘The breadth of capability across disciplines is demonstrable‘
‘Jamie Pass and Oliver Rickett deserve special praise for their focus and dedication to ensuring the project is delivered‘
‘A longstanding and deep understanding of business‘
Atom Bank plc
Newcastle City Council
Corporate tax Tier 1
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP's tax team regularly advises the firm's corporate and real estate practice groups, providing advice on tax-related issues arising from banking, restructuring and employment matters. Drawing on the firm's national and international presence, the group is regularly called upon by clients across the UK. Practice head Jeremy Smith is noted for his experience in the tax aspects of corporate and property transactions.
Debt recovery Tier 1
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP's multi-disciplinary team includes lawyers, project managers, technologists, data analysts, knowledge managers and operation professionals, providing creditor clients with a wide range of tools to collect their debts. The team handles asset investigations and reporting, tracing of debtors, drafting and issuing claims and enforcement matters. Team leader and senior debt manager Sue Pattie is instructed by a wide variety of public and private sector clients, including charities.
‘Very proactive and commercially aware‘
‘Sue Pattie is able to offer a number of solutions, clearly defining the benefits and pitfalls of each‘
‘Our work was handled swiftly and smoothly, and the team’s specialist knowledge is evident‘
Education Tier 1
With a national coverage, Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP provides a comprehensive range of services. The firm handles advice and support to school clients across various legal disciplines, including academy conversions, FE College mergers, governance and SEN tribunals. The ‘professional and principled’ Kevin Robertson leads the practice and ‘his reputation in the field goes before him.’ Also notable in his team is associate Peter Cantwell, who specialises in property work for education sector clients.
‘Womble Bond Dickinson is a superb and professional legal firm that supports schools and academies with education matters in a highly proficient manner.’
‘Swift and pertinent advice enables all actions to be met within agreed time scales and with highly satisfactory conclusions.’
‘The team supported academy conversions to an exceptional level.’
‘Provide outstanding service and attention to ensure all matters are dealt with in a timely fashion that supports superb outcomes.’
‘Kevin Robertson is the consummate professional. His engagement with clients, married with his exception legal knowledge have made all matters of business seamless.’
Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)
Department for Education (DfE)
St Oswald’s Catholic Academy Trust
Trent Academies Group
Zaytouna Education Trust
North View Academy
Whitworth Park School
Tees Valley Education Multi Academy Trust
St Lawrence Education Trust (which operates Ampleforth College))
Carmel Education Trust, Darlington
Waterton Academy Trust, Wakefield
Newcastle City Council
Newcastle upon Tyne Royal Grammar School
Illuminare Multi Academy Trust
Vision Academy Learning Trust
Liverpool City Council
The Constellation Trust
Northumberland County Council
Nicholas Postgate Academy Trust
St Hilda’s Catholic Academy Trust
Our Lady of Light Catholic Academy Trust
Skills for Life Trust, Kent
FocusEducation (Lincolnshire) Limited
Sewell Education York Limited
Sewell Education Hull Limited
Romero Catholic Academy Trust
Trinity Multi Academy Trust
Horizons Specialist Academy Trust
Extol Academy Trust
East Durham College
Durham Students Union
City Of Sunderland College
Employment Tier 1
Employer firm Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP specialises in a range of sectors including technology, retail, healthcare, education and chemicals. The team is led by unfair dismissal and discrimination claims expert James Wilders, who can call on equal pay and gender pay gap specialist Lorraine Heard. Also notable is associate Alan Kennedy, who is experienced in tribunal representation.
‘Strength in depth’
‘Experienced, pragmatic lawyers’
‘James Wilders is very practical and provides commercial solutions’
Cumberland Building Society
IBM United Kingdom
LSL Property Services
Energy Tier 1
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP's team has a varied practice, advising developers of new electricity generation and storage projects, real estate and infrastructure, alongside expertise in a wide range of renewable technologies. The team is co-led by Barbara Painter, who has experience in capacity market auctions, and real estate specialist Michael Brown.
Health and safety Tier 1
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP has experience acting in high profile investigations and potential prosecutions, notably involving fire safety and building safety issues. In addition, the firm provides a range of contentious and non-contentious services, including strategic board level, enforcement and operational advice. Stuart Wardlaw leads the regulatory and environment team and has expertise in advising industrial, commercial and public sector clients on various aspects of environmental, health and safety and related regulatory law.
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP's team leverages the firm's strong national presence, with expertise in restructuring matters, including directors duties, debt and securities restructuring, the sale and purchase of distressed or insolvent businesses, asset recovery for creditors and insolvency practitioners and the disqualification of directors. Julian Gill leads the non-contentious restructuring and insolvency practice and the asset recovery team alongside Peter Maxwell .
IT and telecoms Tier 1
The Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP team is experienced in complex and high-value technology-related matters. Practice head Caroline Churchill specialises in complex technology transactions with a focus on the internet of things, data and cloud solutions. She regularly advises customers and suppliers and has a particular focus on cyber security.
Pensions Tier 1
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP has contentious and non-contentious expertise, with notable experience in the public and voluntary sector pensions field. The team advises trustees and sponsoring employers of UK pension schemes and is led by Martin Poore, who has a particular focus on corporate and scheme restructuring. His team includes the 'excellent' Tracy Walsh, 'who delivers complex advice in a clear and straightforward way', and Suzanne Duff, who works for a wide range of companies and pension scheme trustees, specialising in regulatory matters. Her non-contentious work is primarily based on advising employers on restructuring their organisations, liability management and winding up pension schemes.
‘The team is easy to deal with, has the necessary range of experience and skills and is accessible’
‘Very professional and very reactive. Always available’
‘Suzanne Duff has created an excellent team who work together seamlessly to provide a superb service’
‘The firm has depth of knowledge, pensions, housing sector and market trends awareness’
‘The team is excellent and effectively advises on complex issues in a straightforward way’
‘Suzanne Duff stands out in the quality of her advice, her commitment to find an innovative solution and her loyalty to and mentoring of her team’
‘Tracy Walsh is an excellent pensions lawyer who delivers complex advice in a clear and straightforward way. She understands our commercial needs and does not sit on the fence. I would not hesitate in recommending Tracey to other clients.’
Naomi Jacques is a very knowledgeable associate who consistently delivers high quality legal advice, often against challenging deadlines.’
‘Tracy Walsh and Naomi Jacques provide a first-class advisory service, cutting through complexity and working well both with my in-house team, board and other advisers, particularly actuaries’
Procter & Gamble
Go-Ahead Group plc
Taylor Wimpey plc
Newcastle Building Society
Northern Powergrid plc
Sabic UK Petrochemicals Limited
Research Machines plc Pension Scheme
David Dale and Helen Tavroges lead the Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP team. The range of expertise and strength in depth includes private wealth and capital tax planning specialist George Lyall; court of protection and inheritance tax expert Deborah Jude; and managing associate Emily Pike, who has particular experience in advising on succession planning for business owners and shareholders. Also notable are the ‘client focused and dynamic’ associates Fiona McLaughlin and Katie Gosling.
‘The level of expertise and availability of specialist individuals within the team is second to none.’
‘A go-to private client team with a great mixture of expertise, they are efficient and work collaboratively.’
‘George Lyall has proven to strike the perfect balance between professional advice and personal support.’
‘What makes this team stand-out is the calm competent way in which they manage family wealth and landed assets in complex situations, and instil trust in clients.’
‘The team is committed, invested in getting the right outcome, and comes across as mature in its approach.’
‘Emily Pike is highly efficient and fast becoming a trusted practitioner in this area.’
Property litigation Tier 1
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP's property litigation team benefits from an international office network, allowing it to represent both domestic and US clients. Areas of expertise include rent recovery, landlord-tenant disputes and contentious matters arising out of developments, landed estates and property portfolios. Jen Smurthwaite heads the national team and is based across Newcastle and Leeds.
‘They are knowledgeable and are able to act as a one stop shop for all legal matters‘
‘Good knowledgeable practice, right price point with strength in depth and they really understand their clients’ business‘
‘Paul Joyce has a good eye for the detail, calm and unflappable‘
Standard Life Trustee Company
Social housing Tier 1
Social housing is a real area of expertise for Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP, which advises a wide variety of stakeholders, including large-scale voluntary transfer housing associations, councils and arms-length management organisations on the spectrum of contentious and non-contentious matters. The team is also on the panel for Homes England. Residential property specialist Nigel Emmerson leads the team.
Transport and shipping Tier 1
The ‘highly professional’ Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP is best known for its rail practice, which covers rail franchising, rolling stock and projects and infrastructure. The firm has ‘extensive knowledge of rail industry, rail franchising and procurement’ as well as ‘a sensible, practicable approach to complex commercial discussions’. The ‘veritable fountain of knowledge’ David Rewcastle leads the practice and offers ‘towering expertise with real industry knowledge’. His team includes the ‘outstanding’ Paul Coleman, who specialises in rolling stock and infrastructure deals; Kevin Bell, who has expertise in rail franchise bids and rail franchising; and experienced associate Joseph Causer.
‘The team is dynamic and well supported’
‘Partners are easily accessible and are known not just for far reaching legal knowledge but commercial acumen as well’
‘Experience and knowledge of a wide range of subjects make this practice a one stop shop’
‘The team is very responsive and provides intelligent, precise and relevant advice’
‘The rail team has considerable experience of working with clients on rail franchising deals and easily matches the strength and depth of London based law firms’
‘David Rewcastle is not just known for his towering stature but his towering intellect and wisdom when it comes to the railway industry’
‘Paul Coleman is a powerhouse of a partner and is the individual one turns to for the intricacies of rolling stock and depot contracts’
‘Joseph Causer provides counsel on a wide range of subjects and is fast becoming the first stop for advice’
‘Kevin Bell is a brilliant, incredible lawyer. His knowledge of the railway system there is without limits’
Go-Ahead Group plc/Govia
Govia Thameslink Railway
Banking and finance Tier 2
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP handles work for a variety of regional private equity and banking clients (as borrowers, lenders, investors and investees), with expertise spanning the manufacturing, consumer debt, real estate and education sectors. John Ralph specialises in property finance and co-heads the team alongside secured lending expert John Connor.
Santander UK plc
HSBC Bank plc
Department for Education
Environment & planning Tier 2
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP's planning department handles major infrastructure projects, redevelopment schemes, judicial review and planning litigation, energy and waste development. The group advise a range of clients including landowners, developers and public sector organisations. The regulatory and environment team is led by Stuart Wardlaw, while managing associate Stephen Dagg leads on planning matters.
GRIP REIT plc
Vauxhall Motors (Groupe PSA)
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP > Firm Profile
Womble Bond Dickinson is a full-service transatlantic law firm, created on 1 November 2017, from the combination of UK law firm Bond Dickinson and US firm Womble Carlyle. The new combined firm is now amongst the Top 100 law firms globally and a Top 20 UK law firm.
In the UK, WBD has more than 120 partners and 500 lawyers based in eight major cities across the country including in London, Bristol, Plymouth, Southampton, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. The firm’s reach also extends to Europe where it has strategic partnerships with law firms in Germany and France.
Through the Lex Mundi network, Womble Bond Dickinson can offer clients access to counsel in more than 120 countries.
WBD advises in excess of 40 FTSE 350 companies, including many of the largest businesses in the country, government organisations and wealthy individuals. The firm advises clients across eleven key sectors including: energy and natural resources; financial institutions; healthcare; insurance; manufacturing; real estate; retail and consumer; transport, logistics and infrastructure; pharmaceuticals and life sciences; technology; and private wealth.
WBD also works closely with UK Local and Central Government authorities, as well as other organisations in the wider public and third sector. The firm advises the UK Government’s Crown Commercial Service, providing a full-service of legal expertise across a range of disciplines, including general commercial, litigation and employment advice. WBD was appointed as a Tier 1 firm advising Central Government Departments, Agencies and Arms’ Length Bodies.
In addition, WBD is a member of The Whitehall & Industry Group (WIG), an independent charity that brings business, government and the not-for-profit sector closer together, to learn from each other and co-create solutions. As a law firm advising public, private and not for profit organisations, WBD understands the importance for further cross-sector collaborations and WIG provides the perfect platform to build dialogue and enhance learning and understanding.
The firm has a wealth of expertise and a strong track record in all these sectors, enabling it to build strong relationships and deliver an excellent service to clients. This thorough understanding of its clients and of the sectors they operate in, means that WBD can anticipate and deliver the right expertise through innovative solutions.
WBD has a strong focus on innovation, the firm was ranked 14th in the FT’s Europe Top 50 Innovative Law Firms report. It also has a dedicated Innovation Group that works with lawyers and clients to help identify new opportunities of delivering the best value and coordinate initiatives and projects across the firm that will help drive the business – and its clients – forward.
With this ambition in mind, the firm recently launched the WBD Advance platform, a flexible solution that pulls together all of the firm’s key technology and business services that are becoming increasingly essential to clients alongside traditional legal advice. These services include support for high-volume projects such as due diligence; document review; project and risk management of legal work; automation and process design; managing knowledge and information; and flexible resourcing including flexible lawyering options for in-house counsel.
WBD is heavily involved in a comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility programme and recognises the importance of supporting projects in its local communities. The firm also has an effective environmental policy as a founding member of the UK’s Legal Sector Alliance and provides its employees with an excellent place to work. The firm featured as a top graduate employer in the UK in the Guardian UK 300.
UK offices: Aberdeen, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Newcastle, Plymouth, Southampton.
|Managing partner||Jonathan Blair|
|UK Chairman||Simon Richardson|
|Agriculture, farms and estates||Simon Kirkup|
|Banking and financial services||Julian Kinsey|
|Chemicals and manufacturing||Peter Snaith|
|Commercial disputes||Paul Stewart|
|Construction and engineering||Simon Rowland|
|Corporate and commercial||Stephen Pierce|
|Corporate (inc company secretarial)||Stephen Pierce|
|Developers and investors||Mark Owen|
|Dispute resolution||Tom Beezer|
|Energy and natural resources||Simon Hughes|
|Finance and investment||John Ralph|
|Financial institutions||Simon Richardson|
|Insurance claims||Sushma MacGeoch|
|Investment and pensions||David Dale|
|Oil and gas||Richard Cockburn|
|Operational property (and retail)||Katherine Douglas|
|Planning and infrastructure||Jonathan Bower|
|Private capital||Helen Tavroges|
|Private wealth||David Dale|
|Projects and procurement||Kevin Robertson|
|Property litigation||Jen Smurthwaite|
|Real estate||Claire Brook|
|Regulatory and environment||Stuart Wardlaw|
|Restructuring and insolvency||Andy Stirk|
|Tax/trust and accounting||Jeremy Smith|
|Technology, media and communications (TMC)||Alastair Mitton|
|Transport and infrastructure||David Rewcastle|
|Ian Atkinson||View Profile|
|Kevin Bell||View Profile|
|John Booth||View Profile|
|Michael Brown||View Profile|
|Ben Butler||View Profile|
|Caroline Churchill||View Profile|
|Paul Coleman||View Profile|
|Richard Collins||View Profile|
|Sally Dallow||View Profile|
|Suzanne Duff||View Profile|
|Nigel Emmerson||View Profile|
|Julian Gill||View Profile|
|Iain Greenshields||View Profile|
|Chris Ledgerwood||View Profile|
|Simon Lewis||View Profile|
|Peter Maxwell||View Profile|
|Emma Moody||View Profile|
|Barbara Painter||View Profile|
|Jamie Pass||View Profile|
|Robert Phillips||View Profile|
|Martin Poore||View Profile|
|John Ralph||View Profile|
|David Rewcastle||View Profile|
|Simon Rowland||View Profile|
|Jeremy Smith||View Profile|
|Jen Smurthwaite||View Profile|
|Peter Snaith||View Profile|
|Paul Stewart||View Profile|
|Tracy Walsh||View Profile|
|Ian Ward||View Profile|
|Stuart Wardlaw||View Profile|
|Simon Watts||View Profile|
|James Wilders||View Profile|
|Tom Willows||View Profile|
Staff FiguresNumber of UK partners : 131 Number of other UK fee-earners : 583
Diversity and Inclusion: stepping up a gear
Increasingly, clients are asking their law firms what they are doing promote diversity and to create a more inclusive place to work. Quite rightly, our clients want to know that we are able to offer up teams that have excellent cognitive diversity, and that reflect the client’s own people profile and values. This client dimension overlaps with our own people and business imperative; the right thing to do is to challenge ourselves to try new initiatives, to continue to put ourselves in the shoes of others, to discuss the issues and change our behaviours and mind-sets, and constructively challenge non-inclusive behaviour, in order to ensure that no one feels like an outsider. In theory, with more diversity, (whether gender, physical, cognitive, social, generational, cultural, ethnic or sexual), we create the chance to learn something from someone different, or with a different perspective to our own, and it creates a fertile breeding ground for new ways of working and operating. That makes us more resilient and sustainable as a business. Diversity, however, is ornamental without inclusivity; we have to make sure different people are in the rooms where decisions are made and not only make sure that they feel safe sharing what is on their minds, but actively encourage them to contribute.
The process of crafting a more diverse and inclusive environment gives us the opportunity to engage with clients on this subject, and find out what they are doing, what works, what hasn’t worked, and how their challenges are different or similar to ours. We can use it to deepen our relationships with them, and at the same time learn from each other.
In addition to continuing with our #BeYourself initiative, this year, we are focussing on making more progress on our gender balance at senior levels, and on LGBTQ+ and BAME inclusion. We were one of only nine firms in the UK to be awarded the new Women in Law Empowerment Forum Gold Standard in June 2019, but we recognise that the criteria currently are not necessarily stretching enough; it is a line in the sand for us, a minimum threshold, if you will. Creating our first LGBTQ+ network (WBD Pride) and our first BAME network (BAME@WBD) has been a huge step forward and one we hope will help us take an intersectional approach to diversity and inclusion for the first time.
A Board member is directly responsible and accountable for working with our D&I Group (comprised of a cross-section of engaged people from all around the business) and a newly created D&I Steering Group (comprised of partners who are ambassadors and “change agents”). Their remit is to evolve our strategy and to “mainstream” the infrastructural changes necessary or potentially useful to achieve the clear and measurable goals we set ourselves. A significant amount of work will be done this year in connection with our infrastructural audit, designed to remove unconscious bias in various systems, from our recruitment processes to our written communications with clients.
CSR and pro bono
We take our Responsible Business commitments as seriously as the quality of our legal advice. Our focus is about building sustainable relationships with our stakeholders. We aim to be a trusted employer and business supporting our clients, people and communities.
We have a Responsible Business programme which covers a number of areas:
- Community support – partnering with charity partners and supporting community projects. We make financial donations via our Charitable Trust.
- Volunteering – each member of staff is entitled to 2 days volunteering.
- Workplace – we are committed to creating and maintaining a safe and inclusive workplace where our people can achieve their work potential, and supporting access into the legal profession. We strive to create a diverse and inclusive culture to attract and retain the very best people.
- Environmental – we are ever mindful of the environmental impacts of our business. Our Responsible Business activity forms a central part of our commitment to being a sustainable business that has a positive impact on the UK and wider world.
- Responsible business practices – we apply the highest standards of professionalism business ethics and risk management, building sustainable practices for the benefit of our clients.
- Pro bono – we support organisations whose objectives are about promoting access to justice and economies by supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs.
In terms of community support and pro bono one area of focus is on social inclusion and mobility via our 3E’s strategy. We focus on empowering young people and adults to unlock potential in the areas of Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship – the 3Es. As lawyers and business professionals these are one of the areas where we can maximise our core business skill set and make the most significant impact.
We support charities through fund raising, volunteering to support mentoring and reading schemes. Our offices support a range of charities and projects local to their communities.
We support a wide range of charities and projects whose mission fits squarely with our 3E’s strategy. We have also pioneered a number of routes into the legal profession; our Early Careers programme was set up for students who don’t have any work experience or access to a network of connections. We also have an award winning apprenticeship scheme that aims to bring diversity in the workplace.
We recognise that there are other barriers to individuals accessing the 3Es, from homelessness and food poverty, to mental health and caring commitments. For these reasons we also support a range of charities helping these causes. The following examples are collaborations of us working in partnership to maximise social impact, and working in the spirt of SDG 17 “Partnership for the Goals”:
- Since 2017 we have supported a number of foodbanks and “Food Poverty” projects in communities close to our office, thus far we have donated circa 6 Tonnes of Food. Our Foodbank Campaign and our apprenticeship scheme was referenced in the UK’s first Voluntary Local Review of city level progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Report was presented at the United Nations in July 2019 https://www.womblebonddickinson.com/uk/insights/news/wbd-takes-part-first-ever-uk-local-bristol-review-un-sdgs
- We are a Founder Funder of Southwark a place-based giving scheme working with local charities, and partners.
We have concentrated our pro bono offering on supporting Access to Justice partners, local economies within our communities through legal support to young entrepreneurs and small businesses, student law clinics and small charities with no legal budget. We have partnered with Greenwich University Small Business Clinic to support small businesses to access high quality commercial advice. The partnership has also widened access to the legal profession. Students at Greenwich come from a diverse demographic, they are often the first in their families to undertake ‘A’ levels, and often have no connections in the law particularly in commercial law firms. Building on existing pro bono activity, in 2019 our Bristol office has partnered with Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Service providing support and raising awareness.
Top Tier Firm Rankings
- Agriculture and estates
- Charities and not-for-profit
- Commercial litigation: Newcastle
- Commercial property: Newcastle
- Contentious trusts and probate
- Corporate and commercial: Newcastle
- Corporate tax
- Debt recovery
- Health and safety
- Insolvency and corporate recovery
- IT and telecoms
- Personal tax, trusts and probate
- Property litigation
- Social housing
- Transport and shipping