Womble Bond Dickinson Transatlantic Lawyer Network Fosters Cross-Border Innovation, Collaboration

Womble Bond Dickinson’s Transatlantic Lawyer Network (TLN) brings together small groups of associates from the firm’s US and UK offices for immersive sessions on two continents designed to foster firm unity and tackle practical challenges facing the firm and its clients. TLN is just one innovative approach Womble Bond Dickinson applies to every aspect of firm operations—in this case, professional development.

The following discussion includes several TLN participants, as well as firm partner Sarah Motley Stone, who mentored the TLN Class of 2019, and Lori Patton, the firm’s Chief Recruiting Officer.

How did you get interested in the Transatlantic Lawyer Network, and what made you decide to apply?
Jeff Golimowski, Business Litigation, Northern Virginia Office: “I applied a month after I started at Womble. My previous firm was UK-based, so I was aware of the opportunity to grow transatlantically. Being involved with that from the beginning was exciting, particularly since cross-border disputes are an area I’m interested in.”

Katie Zimmerman, Product Liability Litigation, Raleigh Office: “The year I participated, the theme was innovation in the legal field, and that’s a topic I’m very interested in .”

Jamie Stone, Corporate & Securities, Greensboro Office: “I wanted to visit our offices in the UK to meet our colleagues and build a network on both sides of the Atlantic. I thought it was a good opportunity to improve my leadership skills.”

Sarah: “To become a successful partner, you need to understand the business of the firm. TLN provides associates with that invaluable opportunity.”

We know that associate life is often pretty hectic. What makes the Transatlantic Lawyer Network worth the investment of time?
Katie: “The social part is the most valuable aspect. You get to meet people outside of your practice area and office, and learn what they do. I’ve had several occasions after the program where I’ve reached out to my TLN colleagues to bounce ideas off of them or to help me find the right person in their groups for a question outside my area of practice.  It’s a lot of non-billable time, and it’s great that the firm recognizes the benefits and allows associates to do this.”

Jeff: “That’s the sort of thing you don’t get in a video conference. We got to know each other on the bus, at dinner, etc. I would say do it in a heartbeat. It doesn’t matter what your practice is—it will benefit your practice.”

Jamie: “I do talk with the folks in my group from time to time. I wouldn’t have that connection otherwise. I do feel I could call on them if I needed their help.”

Lori: “We wanted to create an associate-level program with leadership and integration at its core. Our hope is that TLN helps these associates develop meaningful relationships within the firm, which will translate to improved client service outside of Womble and help efforts to retain talent in a competitive marketplace.”

A key component of TLN is bringing US and UK lawyers together for in-person sessions in Womble offices. What was your overseas experience like?
Jeff: “In the UK, we visited the London, Bristol and Newcastle offices. It was very interesting because we learned that our UK colleagues look at things in a different way in dispute resolution. For example, in the UK, dispute resolution attorneys are focused on avoiding court because it’s a different level of need to take something to court.”

Katie: “It was great.  Newcastle reminded me of Winston-Salem—a similar type of town that’s undergoing a revitalization. It was neat to see the UK’s home office and what they do. For example, in the UK, attorneys spend several years as trainees, and they typically share an office with a more senior attorney.  Impressively, the Newcastle office even have a butler!  It was interesting to see how similar our firm culture is on both sides of the pond. 

Jamie: “I love Edinburgh—it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It actually inspired Harry Potter—it’s so beautiful and full of culture.”

Jamie: “Bristol is a city on the water, which is really cool. They have this true city-wide vision of supporting each other.”

What type of work did you do as a transatlantic team? 
Jeff: “My session came right after the combination between the UK and US firms to create the transatlantic firm of Womble Bond Dickinson, and we were charged with making recommendations about establishing a combined firm culture. It was an immensely fruitful exercise in that it forced us to look at strengths and weaknesses of each individual firm and determine how the two sides could complement each other.”

Jeff: “We also talked about how to engrain a culture of transatlantic cooperation. It’s a different way of looking at your clients’ needs. It gives you a view behind the curtain into how the combination works. It’s something you won’t experience in any other way.””

Brendan O’Dea, Intellectual Property/Patent, Atlanta: “I was able to schedule a client visit while in the UK. That worked out beautifully and it is still having benefits. The client, Graphic Packaging International, has a major facility in Bristol. I toured the facility and met with local executives while I was in town. 

Brendan: “Just that face-to-face time was valuable and I think they appreciated why I was over there. It caused them to learn more about the firm—they liked the idea of the Transatlantic Lawyers Network.”

Ultimately, would you recommend TLN and did you find it to be a rewarding experience?
Jamie:  “A key goal of the TLN is to help us understand not only the breadth of the geography and services that we offer, but also the types of people that comprise WBD. As we discovered, the TLN is a diverse group of people in many ways. Participating in the TLN afforded us a meaningful opportunity to engage with our colleagues to help us better understand each other as people, which has had the added benefit of helping us to work better together and ultimately provide better service to our clients.” 

Sarah: “It gives associates an opportunity that doesn’t otherwise exist. They get to work across practice groups and offices, not just other countries. Participating associates building domestic bonds with other attorneys, add the additional layer of working with UK colleagues, and build their referral networks.”

Brendan: “It was a full immersive week, and it exceeded expectations. It was a high water mark.”

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