Firm Profile > Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP > Aberdeen, Scotland

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP
The Silver Fin Building
AB10 1YP

Commercial property: Edinburgh and Glasgow Tier 4

The Scotland real estate team at Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP works as part of the larger national group. It is active in the energy, residential development, finance, retail, office and build-to-rent sectors. Edinburgh-based Michael Spence, who is the head of the team, specialises in development work.

Practice head(s):

Michael Spence

Other key lawyers:

Philip Knight; Paul Kenneth; Paul Mason

Key clients

Renewable Energy Systems Limited

Ashfield Land (Glasgow) Limited

Edison Oakapple Limited

ESB Asset Development UK Limited

Statkraft Ireland Limited (formerly Element Power Ireland Limited)

Bridon International Limited

Airwave Solutions Limited

Lloyds Banking Group (Scottish panel)

Ministry of Justice (Scottish real estate)

Brent Infrastructure IBV

Post Office Limited (Scottish real estate)

Smartsheet UK Limited

Carpetright plc

Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) 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 around 450 lawyers based in eight major cities across the country including in London, Bristol, Plymouth, Southampton, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. In the US the firm has over 540 lawyers working across 19 offices including Houston, Boston, Washington DC, Atlanta and Los Angeles to name a few. The firm’s reach also extends to Europe where it has strategic partnerships with law firms in Germany and France, and through the Lex Mundi network, WBD can offer clients access to counsel in more than 120 countries.

WBD’s Scottish presence is delivered from its Edinburgh and Aberdeen offices which focus on delivering legal services to clients in its key sectors, and in particular energy and power renewables, real estate and financial institutions. The Scottish team has significant experience in oil and gas exploration and production as well as in supporting the oil and gas service sector. Its experience in the oil and gas sector is complemented by its wider offering in areas such as corporate, projects and infrastructure, real estate, commercial, competition, employment, environment, health and safety, insolvency, intellectual property and tax.

WBD celebrated last year its move to larger offices in Edinburgh following a period of significant growth as well as a series of senior hires including financial services partner and UK head Jonny Williams.

WBD advises over 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 33rd in the FT’s Europe Top 50 Most Innovative Law Firms. 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 responsible business 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. As a gold status member of the Law Society Diversity & Inclusion Charter and holders of the Investors in People Silver standard, the firm is actively engaged in the promotion of a more diverse legal profession and has also been featured in The Lawyer’s Top 200 as a ‘Diversity Pioneer’.

In a profession not typically known for its diversity or accessibility, WBD is committed to supporting social mobility and creating new routes into the legal profession. The firm is considered a pioneer in the introduction of legal apprenticeships and was amongst the first to launch a solicitor apprenticeship programme. WBD currently employs a total of 37 apprentices including 12 solicitor apprentices, paralegal apprentices and apprentices working in support teams including HR, facilities and IT. WBD also featured as a top graduate employer in the UK in the Guardian UK 300.

Offices: Aberdeen, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Newcastle, Plymouth, Southampton.

Department Name Email Telephone
Managing partner Jonathan Blair
UK Chairman Simon Richardson
Agriculture, farms and estates Simon Kirkup
Banking and financial services Julian Kinsey
Charities Emma Moody
Chemicals and manufacturing Peter Snaith
Commercial Paula Bartlett
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
Employment Jon Hales
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
Onshore Andy Layton
Operational property (and retail) Katherine Douglas
Pensions Martin Poore
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
Residential Nigel Emmerson
Restructuring and insolvency Andy Stirk
Retail Gavin Matthews
Scotland Richard Cockburn
Tax/trust and accounting Jeremy Smith
Technology, media and communications (TMC) Alastair Mitton
Transport and infrastructure David Rewcastle
Number 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
  • 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.


The Lex 100 Verdict

Womble Bond Dickinson is able to offer 'wide-ranging work' whilst 'staying in touch with the local market' from its offices across England and Scotland. The firm strikes a good balance in that it offers trainees a 'significant degree of autonomy in comparison with some larger firms and better formal training than that of smaller firms'. Trainees are 'thrown in at the deep end' and receive 'lots of responsibility'. WBD has picked up Lex 100 Winner awards for inclusiveness, work/life balance and social life. Speaking of the latter, there is a 'very large social side to being a trainee' in the Newcastle, Bristol and London offices in particular. Southampton trainees 'wish we had that here too!'. The 'warm and friendly atmosphere' is one of the best things about the firm – 'everyone gets on with everyone and I can go to any senior colleague for advice at a moment's notice'. Staff are 'not only willing to support you in your career development but also genuinely care about who you are as a person'. Trainees mostly complained about the salary and the seat rotation process, the finalisation of which is 'often last minute'. A 'seat with a high amount of admin-related tasks', 'covering fee earners' work while they are on leave without much briefing' and 'bibling at 8pm' were begrudged. On the plus side, recruits were thrilled to 'attend a Court of Appeal hearing', 'go to a meeting in France where I was actively involved in the discussions' and 'the induction week in Newcastle'. If an 'exciting, growing international firm but with grounded people who prioritise work/life balance' appeals to you, research Womble Bond Dickinson.