2 min read February 2020 — Womble Bond Dickinson is now enjoying the benefits of its merger with a British law firm, in the form of a more mature focus and the expansion of several practice areas across its large footprint, according to Charlotte Office Managing Partner Clark Goodman in an interview with Invest: Charlotte.
What has been the firm’s focus over the last year and how has the pandemic affected your strategy?
We’ve been continuing a process that started a couple of years ago. We’ve had some transformational changes, combining with the UK firm Bond Dickinson, adding capacity in Southern California, Boston and Houston. There’s been a maturation of those changes as we integrated those offices and expanded the practices they bring, such as Southern California with a patent and financial services practice, Houston with their relationships to the energy sector, Boston and their relationships with the life sciences sector, and so on. Domestically and with our transatlantic footprint, it’s been a continuation of that process.
Locally, the market is growing and changing so fast, and a lot of that change is driven by the marketplace. We’re continuing to grow, even amid COVID-19. On top of the usual successes that we’d have in any other year, we’ve really expanded our intellectual property capabilities here with some strategic hires, and we’ve continued to expand our immigration solution. We have a full suite of immigration-related services for our corporate clients. We’ve seen a lot of growth there as well. Besides that, there are the practices that drive our Charlotte office, the financial services, real estate, litigation and corporate securities transactions, which are part of the landscape of the city.
Which of your practices or services have seen the most growth over the past year?
What’s really changed in terms of the demand for our practices and services has been driven by the changing circumstances of our clients. Initially, when the world went into a remote work mode, there was some slowdown in some areas, as everyone waited to see what the world was going to look like. We saw a shift in terms of the demand in certain areas. For example, where real estate development attorneys may have been focused on specific construction projects or financing, suddenly those projects were put on the back burner, while they turned their attention to working with commercial landlords, who were dealing with requests from tenants to negotiate modifications to leases and planning for potential defaults.
There was a similar case with our labor and employment attorneys. Their focus shifted to COVID-related initiatives. Training employers, providing labor employment advice regarding COVID-related employment issues. Our financial services attorneys, who might have been focused on deal-related loans, suddenly were looking at PPP issues, and at risk of defaulting on projects. There were also some upticks in markets such as bankruptcies. Our healthcare attorneys and corporate and securities attorneys who work regularly with healthcare institutions also shifted from some of the transactional and compliance areas to how to respond to the new environment.
In litigation, we had to develop an entirely new approach. There have been scheduling challenges with courthouses changing the way they operate, and some counties restricting access, so we’re seeing the rise of virtual hearings, virtual mediations. There’s a team in our firm that actually participated in one of the first federal Zoom trials.
In view of these changes, how is the firm deploying technology to adapt to the new environment?
We’ve become so conditioned to these video conferences that even some communications that would’ve taken place over the phone before are now done via video. We’ve increased our face to face interaction, in a virtual sense. We’ve found ways to convene meetings with other parties and to proceed with litigation or meditations or scheduling conflicts.
There are also some benefits on the efficiency side. There are cost savings, obviously, if you don’t have to travel and spend the time and the cost of being in other locations. I think there’ll be some long-term benefits as well, in that there could be an adjustment in the marketplace in terms of the need for physical space and staffing across offices.
We now know that we can work across geographic boundaries to be more efficient, and there’ll probably be some adjustments regarding the use of space, with flexible arrangements that could make us more accessible to our clients. There’s a cost to it but there’s also a benefit in terms of availability to our clients.
We also employ some artificial intelligence. If we have a project with a large number of documents, like a contract review, rather than hire someone to review those manually, we have AI that can do that at a fraction of the cost. That’s another piece of technology that we’ve been using for the last couple of years.
For More information, visit: