A mentorship scheme helping University of Greenwich students get the skills they need to build awareness of commercial law by partnering with international law firm Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) has celebrated its first full cycle.

The firm has worked with the London-based university over the last six months to expand its mentorship initiative, focusing on fostering connections, providing insights into the legal sector, and giving opportunities to students which might not have previously been possible.

Initially a pilot scheme in early 2023, students took part in sessions focusing on commercial awareness skills and application preparation skills, with the programme expanding for a new cohort of students from late 2023.

Students had access to three sessions from lawyers in the firm's intellectual property (IP) team, led by IP Strategist Alison Orr, Solicitor Razvan Popa and Trainee Solicitor Danny Rand, and six sessions on commercial aspects, headed up by Trainee Solicitor Matt Wright.

IP topics included insights and interactive case studies into how intellectual property is commercialised and some current contentious issues within the practice area, as well as an overview of IP law, wider IP careers and how interested students can get into the profession.

In addition, the commercial scheme sessions introduced students to commercial law firms, their structure and their clients, alongside skills development for students to use in applications for training contracts or on a daily basis in legal practice.

These sessions included a Q&A with WBD's Graduate Recruitment team, negotiation exercises, commercial analysis, mock presentations to a client and legal drafting activities, with every session aiming to include mentees and mentor interaction allowing for questions and long-term networks to form.

Alison Orr, IP Strategist at WBD, said: 

"It was a pleasure being able to help develop the futures of so many passionate and dedicated students looking to make their mark in the IP sector through these sessions.

It is a privilege to support initiatives like this which fosters diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal sector. This includes being a member of 'ADAPT', a community of IP professionals coming together to increase DEI within the IP industry through mentorship, data and resources.'

The team was thrilled to be able to take part in the sessions and it was great hearing the first-hand feedback and benefits these students have gained from the programme, I can only hope we can continue to support those taking their first steps in the industry."

Carol Withey, Associate Head of Student Success at the University of Greenwich, said: 

"The student feedback from these sessions have been fantastic, with students being able to apply their commercial and IP law knowledge through real-world, practical problems devised by the WBD team.

Being able to provide a platform for students to not only get the real view into how the industry operates, but facilitate discussions and build confidence in this area of law is incredibly valuable, and we are grateful to WBD for partnering with our Law School to run these sessions and build this innovative and diverse scheme."

The firm has worked closely with the university over previous years and will continue to support students coming through the university's programmes, with two students due to take part in a work experience placement in the Private Capital and Financial Services teams at the firm's London office in June.

Charlotte von Sicard, Senior Responsible Business Manager at WBD, said: 

"One of our core tenets as a responsible business is ensuring we are doing all we can to foster the next generation of talent within the legal industry, and it is a pleasure to work with the University of Greenwich on a programme like this which achieves those aims.

Mentoring schemes can be a powerful catalyst, as by connecting the lawyers of tomorrow with our experienced mentors, we can not only build a culture of knowledge-sharing, ethical leadership, and professional development, but help cultivate a more inclusive and diverse legal community, which will only benefit clients through fresh perspectives and new ideas coming to the table."