Case study

Antonia Nelson — Trainee solicitor

Womble Bond Dickinson

After graduating with a degree in English Literature, Antonia successfully completed a law conversion course before securing a place on Womble Bond Dickinson's (WBD) Training Contract Scheme

How has your career progressed at Womble Bond Dickinson?

I joined the firm after finishing my law conversion course. I started working as a paralegal in the firm's Plymouth office working in debt recovery and residential property litigation. I continued to work as a paralegal while I completed my Legal Practice Course (LPC) on a part-time basis.

This was a great introduction to working life and I learned a lot of basic things like how to present myself on the phone and was also introduced to more complex areas like insolvency law.

The Plymouth office was an ideal setting. On one occasion I looked up from drafting a witness statement and saw dolphins through the window swimming in Plymouth Sound.

My supervisors at the firm were extremely supportive of my development and initially supported a lateral move to work as paralegal in the property litigation team in the Bristol office (also great views, but no dolphins so far) and then encouraged me to apply for a training contract.

The process was fantastic - various supervisors went out of their way to support me emotionally and also practically through the application and the recruitment team were always at hand to answer questions and provide feedback. I was lucky enough to secure a training contract and I am now going into my second year as a trainee.

Why did you choose to remain at this firm?

For a number of reasons - the primary one was the people. The firm feels like a community and everyone from the top down is approachable, down to earth, and up for a laugh while still being highly skilled at the work we do.

My favourite example of this is while travelling for a two-day planning enquiry hearing with colleagues and partners from the planning team, after a long day of work - which included working with the client directly as well as a diverse team of experts - the team had a lovely evening getting a curry together and had a winding conversation covering everything from Harry Potter audiobooks to their views on recent changes to planning legislation.

The firm is also making huge strides increasing diversity and inclusion. There are a number of diversity networks doing great work to push forward critical changes such as inclusion of free sanitary products in toilets and amended email signatures which allow for the inclusion of pronouns and phonetic spelling of names.

I am incredibly pleased to be a member of the steering group for WBD Reach - the race, ethnicity and cultural heritage network - which, among other successes, ran a fantastic 'reverse mentoring' scheme that saw partners and legal directors being mentored by people from ethnically diverse backgrounds on their experiences in the legal sector and at the firm.

Trainees are actively encouraged to join the diversity networks along with participating in organising social events and in responsible business activities.

What training have you received?

I have received a mix of formal and informal training. Formal training is run both centrally and within teams.

As well as doing the mandatory professional skills course (PSC) days, which are a great opportunity to interact with trainees from other offices, the learning and development team organises training such as 'Resilience Matters' (learning about building resilience, preventing burnout and having boundaries) to how to write legal articles and how to build your personal brand.

During my first seat in planning, sessions were regularly run on updates on town and country planning as well as on development consent related law.

In the core real estate team, 'Current Awareness' sessions are run regularly as well as more informal training and client updates that junior team members take turns to deliver. The D&I networks also run training and workshops such as 'How to be a good ally'.