We often say that at Womble Bond Dickinson, our greatest resource is our people. That is why we launched the WBD Alumni Network. Through our Alumni Spotlights, we aim to highlight the work and contributions of former employees that have helped make our firm what it is today. Firm alumni and current employees are encouraged to register for the WBD Alumni Network here.

Christopher Bolen doesn’t use the word “retirement.” Instead, the former Intellectual Property Partner says he received the “big promotion,” when he stepped away from private practice after 32 years with Womble Bond Dickinson and its processor firm, Womble Carlyle, in January 2020.

That “big promotion” recently included the trip of a lifetime when earlier this year, Christopher and his wife, Nancy, traveled to Antarctica. There, they “kayaked between the icebergs and danced with the penguins,” he said. 

“When you go to a place like that, you know there is a God,” Christopher said.

Christopher and Nancy Bolen in Antarctica (January 2023)

Nancy Bolen and the penguin tango!

Christopher Bolen in Antarctica

Christopher and Nancy Bolen kayak between icebergs.

At WBD, Bolen not only advised global manufacturers and life sciences companies in IP strategy, he also served in a variety of senior management positions, including on the Firm Management Committee, the Global Board, as IP Practice Group Leader, and as RTP Office Managing Partner. “Bucket list” trips like the one to Antarctica were difficult to fit into such a demanding schedule.

But Christopher said he didn’t want to stop working completely when he retired from the firm. He found the perfect opportunity just two weeks after his final day in the office, when a long-time friend and professor that the University of North Carolina School of Law called to see if Christopher might be interested in teaching.

The answer was a resounding “Yes!” He said, “One thing I’ve have a love for is mentoring. I always wanted to teach in some form. Teaching gives me the opportunity to stay close to the law.”

Christopher then designed a rigorous course for third-year law students on IP strategies and transactions. Leaning in on his 30+ years of private practice, he said he strives to offer practical, real-world guidance to aspiring lawyers.

“They draft real contracts, as they will be asked to do as associates, and I comment on them like a law firm partner would,” he said.

During the fall semester, teaching is pretty close to a full-time job. But he limits his teaching to that semester so he and his wife will have the flexibility to travel in the spring and summer.

But while he enjoys his new-found opportunities, he looks back on his time at WBD with great fondness. 

“I miss working with some of the smartest lawyers in the world,” he said. For example, he said mentors such as Bill Womble Sr. helped him learn the firm’s culture and find success early in his career.

“Mr. Womble personified the caliber and integrity of the firm,” Christopher said.

He also said he is proud to have been a part of the firm’s growth. When he started in 1988, WBD was a firm of three offices and around 140 lawyers. Now, it has grown to 31 offices and more than 1,000 attorneys in the U.S. and UK. He was a key contributor to that growth, and while he is quick to divert credit to his partners and colleagues, he said he always tried to bring a firm-first, positive attitude to his work. 

Christopher said, “During my career with the firm, I was blessed to have many professional and leadership opportunities.  Likewise, while I was serving in various leadership positions within the firm, we as a firm were presented with many new strategic opportunities, including expansion into new geographies, new practice areas, and the like.” 

“I realized early in my career that leaning forward made a tremendous difference in the positivity, energy and, ultimately, the likelihood of our success in each of those opportunities. Whenever we lean into any new venture or opportunity, we allow attitudinal physics to do much of the work for us, including overcoming any fears or hesitations.”