Following an increase in client demand for its planning expertise, law firm Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) has grown its planning and infrastructure practice with a number of new appointments in the firm’s Newcastle office. Three new recruits have joined the team in the past month.
Umi Filby joins as an associate from Gateshead Council. Having trained and qualified in local government, Umi has 14 years’ experience working in local government legal departments advising on planning, highways, rights of way and traffic orders. She has a strong track record working on a range of public sector projects and recently provided planning and highways advice on the Newcastle Gateshead Quays Arena and also acted for the North East Combined Authority on the Tyne Tunnel barrierless charging scheme.
Josh Fraser has also been appointed as a newly qualified solicitor. Previously a paralegal at WBD, Josh re-joins the firm from BHP Law where he completed his training contract. He has experience in infrastructure agreement work as well as advising house builder clients on planning matters.
Also joining the planning team is apprentice Alice Bartley who recently completed her A-levels in Durham. She joins WBD’s national solicitor apprenticeship programme which takes six years to complete and consists of four years studying towards a law degree. Whilst being employed on a full time basis, Alice will also complete distance learning, with study days spent at university. For the final two years she will join the graduate rotation and newly qualified solicitor process.
WBD launched its solicitor apprenticeship programme in 2017 and was amongst the first in the legal profession to make wider legal apprenticeships available in 2014. The firm currently employs 23 apprentices across the UK including solicitor apprentices, paralegal apprentices and apprentices working in HR, facilities and IT.
Stephen Dagg, who manages Newcastle’s planning team, was also promoted to legal director last July. Stephen is a planning lawyer acting for commercial and public sector clients in relation to planning, highways and compulsory purchase order issues. He has particular expertise in the transportation sector, including highways and railways, and his practice areas include infrastructure projects including Development Consent Orders and Transport and Works Act Orders.
Stephen comments: “Our planning team is one of the leading planning practices in the country and our Newcastle team advises national and local government, as well as commercial developers in the energy, residential, transport, waste, manufacturing and retail sectors. As ‘the transatlantic law firm close to home’, we’re proud to play our part in the delivery of key projects in the North East and improving places where communities live and work. I am absolutely delighted to welcome these three talented recruits into our team. They have effectively doubled the size of our offering in Newcastle, providing an excellent mix of youth and experience, and reaffirming our commitment to the North East region.
“Hiring apprentices is absolutely the right thing to do in our sector and so we’re thrilled to have Alice join our team. We take great pride in developing and retaining home grown talent. Our apprenticeship schemes have created alternative routes into the legal profession and opened up opportunities for young people who believe that university isn’t the best path for them.”
Earlier this year WBD was ranked in the UK’s top ten planning law firms by leading industry magazine Planning Resource. In the Planning Law Survey, which profiles the best law firms, council legal departments and solicitors, WBD ranked 9th in the Highest Rated Planning Law Firms in the UK and 5th for the firm employing the most planning lawyers.