Womble Bond Dickinson has deferred the start date of its upcoming trainee intake.

The trainees will start in March 2021 as opposed to August 2020. The decision comes after a review that considered whether it was worth reducing spots. In the end, the firm opted to defer the start date out of fairness.

In addition, the firm extended its training contract by six months, with current second-year trainees qualifying in March 2021 as opposed to September, when the next trainee intake was due to start.

Sam Lee, head of recruitment at the firm, said: “Like other firms, we are reacting to the unique situation the Covid-19 pandemic has presented.

“In response to the current circumstances and surrounding uncertainty, we have given very careful consideration to our resourcing requirements – and our newly qualified solicitors and trainees have been an integral part of that review. As a result, we have taken the difficult decision to defer qualification for our current cohort of second year trainees by six months, until March 2021, at the latest. With some of our trainees on furlough leave, we felt this was the fairest approach to create a level playing field for all of those applying for NQ roles.”

She added: “Given the cyclical nature of our graduate scheme, any decision that we make about one year group has a knock on effect with future intakes. Therefore, in order to protect the integrity of our training and development programme, we also had to defer the start of training contracts by six months to March 2021 and the firm will be compensating everyone impacted.”

The situation will remain under review.

The delay adds itself to previous measures taken by the firm in response to the pandemic. The firm placed some of its non-fee-earners on furlough in response to the coronavirus pandemic, while it has also deferred partner distributions. The Lawyer understands that one-third of UK staff were placed on furlough leave, however, their salaries will be topped up to 100 per cent, the firm said.