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Womble Bond Dickinson came bottom of the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2021 Survey for career development, with a score of 16%.
At trainee level there was Covid-specific frustration that WBD offered second year trainees a six month training contract extension, instead of NQ positions. "The firm has claimed that this is only a delay to the ordinary recruitment process, and that the NQ process will instead take place in March", said a trainee, but "a sceptic might doubt how many roles will be available given the fee earner redundancies".
Wombles will no doubt set that fear to rest in the coming weeks, but other complaints look more difficult to pin on the pandemic.
A WBD trainee said seat choices were "limited and what is best for career progression or chosen qualification area (if known) is ignored".
"There is very little career development", said a junior solicitor, "and no transparency about how to reach the next tier". That might be because WBD "is great at keeping a glut of insecure juniors as juniors", said a trainee. "Good on the firm on that one, most of them are complete asshats and deserve it".
Solidarity was more in evidence in the partnership, according to a senior solicitor. "The term 'chumocracy' was invented at WBD", he claimed. "The partnership is littered with lazy bullshit artists who in turn promote individuals in their own image (predominantly stale, pale and male) with the added crucial ingredients of loyal subservience".
A senior solicitor said she was "Totally ignored", and that "Promises [were] broken after more than achieving targets".
Others referenced the effect of departures. "I'm fairly inexperienced and I've taken over cases from some of the senior lawyers that have left", said a junior solicitor. "I have sleepless nights. You can progress quickly at S&G but only because they pile big work on junior staff because they can't be bothered to recruit decent lawyers (or decent lawyers won't join). Sink or swim".
At least it's the same at the top. “Partners (or as we call them, 'Principals') have no decision making role at all", said one. "We are required only to communicate the details of the latest unpopular clusterfuck dictated from on high. Usually without the benefit of having received any details for us to communicate".
"What career development?" said a Kennedys lawyer. "Defendant insurance litigation is being de-skilled year on year. The clients don't want professionals and won't pay for them".
Partners "treat you like their personal secretaries", said another lawyer, while a third complained that "I haven't had a single discussion about my career plans in 4 years".
Freshfields came bottom of the Magic Circle for career development with 47%. "Billables trump development", said a junior solicitor, while another said that partners "devote their time to their favourites and ignore everyone else".
But "the stuff in the careers marketing material about the wide range of work is actually true, in my experience", said a Freshfields trainee. "The associates are also so continually shafted that they are desperate to give as much responsibility out as soon as they find a half-competent trainee, so you can end up with a fair amount of varied work". It was "Hard to complain about career development when the level of responsibility is increased so dramatically by the amount of work around", agreed a junior solicitor.