Womble Bond Dickinson
From humble beginnings in Plymouth, Bond Dickinson (formerly Bond Pearce until its merger with Dickinson Dees on 1st May 2013) has grown to become a serious commercial contender.
The Bristol office in particular went from strength to strength since its launch in 1998. Originally set up as a local base for the employment and insurance teams working with the Post Office, the office grew incrementally through a series of small mergers and lateral hires. It took over Eversheds' entire Bristol property team and Cartwright's 11-partner corporate department in 2001, as well as setting up a clinical negligence team in 2004.
Back in March 2012, Bond Pearce threw in the towel after a months-long attempt to merge with Maclay Murray & Spens. But they succeeded with regional peer and Golden Turd recipient Dickinson Dees. Then, in 2017, the firm tied up with US firm Womble Carlyle, and as a result is now the only firm with offices in both Plymouth and Silicon Valley.
Pay wise, there are a few grumbles that the money is "abysmal". In 2020 a senior solicitor said "we like to pitch ourselves work wise against the likes of Burges Salmon, OC and Simmons, but our pay lags well behind those firms and is more on a par with smaller regional outfits."
But whilst salaries may be a little lower than its main rivals, this may reflect the very decent 9:00am-5:30pm working culture. The firm has tried to improve things - at least for partners anyway.
In the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2019 Survey, trainees said pay "has been a traditional gripe for legacy Bond Dickinson and the same is true of WBD, which leads to a number of associates heading out for pastures new. There is still the hope of some kind of pay review now we're Wombles". But "not holding my breath. At least the work/life balance is good to make up for it."
Career development is apparently "fine if you want to get up to being a managing associate", but "partner seems like a step too far for most." Like all law shops, then.
As for work/life balance, "No complaints here", said a junior lawyer. The firm "really seems to care about getting people out of the office at a reasonable time and I've only had to stay late when the situation has really demanded it".
Others attested to a "Really nice working atmosphere and still some genuine leftover excitement as to how the firm might look in 5 -10 years following the Womble combination (Wombination?)".
Prior to the merger, assistants told us there was a "relaxed, friendly atmosphere", although there was a sense that it "wants to be national but can't break its mentality away from regional southwest."
In the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2020 Survey, lawyers said the firm "has ambitions to become an international force but it needs to professionalise it's support staff and the way of thinking of its fee earners. There is still to much of a 9 to 5, parochial mindset." A trainee said "some partners definitely need to go on that world cruise and stay there."
NB stated salaries are for London. In the regions, first year trainees receive £22-28,000, second years £27-30,000, and NQs £37,500-42,000.