We often say that at Womble Bond Dickinson, our greatest resource is our people. That is why we launched the WBD Alumni Network. This is the first of our Alumni Spotlights, through which 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.
Between an internet boom, a transatlantic expansion and a global pandemic, Terry Wiley has truly seen it all when it comes to the growth of Womble Bond Dickinson. For our inaugural alumni spotlight, the retired Chief Operating Officer sat down to discuss his time with the firm and what he’s been up to since.
Tell us a bit about your time with WBD? What led you to the firm in the first place?
I was a consultant to Womble Carlyle beginning in 1986 while working with Price Waterhouse before transitioning to Womble full time as the Director of Finance and Systems in 1988. I worked in this position at the Winston-Salem office for 12 years before becoming the Executive Director (later renamed Chief Operating Officer) in 2000 until my retirement in April 2020. I worked at this firm for 34 years total and when I started, we had three offices and 180 lawyers. This gave me the chance to really see the firm grow. I was there to see the very early introduction of technology in a professional office environment. The firm made big investments in technology and our professional staff and used this as one way to distinguish ourselves from other big firms.
What stuck out to you about WBD? What did you enjoy most about your time with the firm?
Short answer is working with our lawyers and staff. Further, I loved my roles, first in finance and technology, and later COO, because I could combine multiple disciplines (technology, finance, ancillary businesses, management, leadership) as we looked for ways to bring efficiencies to the firm and value to our clients. The Firm’s partners were very supportive of making these investments and building out a professional staff to lead and implement these opportunities.
How are you spending your time in post-firm life?
After a few months of Mr. Fix-It projects around our house, I enrolled in the welding program at Forsyth Tech. I now have five of their welding courses completed and am taking two more currently. It’s funny being the old guy in class surrounded by a bunch of 19-year olds, but I love the challenges and my welding skills are not bad. Even though, a thoughtful former Womble partner (T.S.) describes my welding as like getting your hair cut at a barber school. After each class, I acquired the equipment for that form of welding and have set up a shop in a spare building on Mark and Jodi Wiley’s horse farm. So, most days include either a visit to the YMCA or the driving range and then some time in my welding shop. I document my welding projects on Instagram @terrywileyNC.
What do you miss about WBD? What are you happy about when you look back on your career?
I am proudest of the professional staff that I was able to assemble at Womble. I had a hand in selecting every chief and director with WBD today. During my thirty plus years in the industry, I had the opportunity to work with many other law firm staffs, and I would rank our staff as some of the best you would find in any firm in the country. The other thing that I appreciate about my time at Womble was the latitude I was given to manage firm administration. It tied in very nicely to a basic tenet I had picked up in my 23 years in the Army and National Guard, and that is if your decisions are based on doing what it takes to 1) accomplish the mission and 2) looking out for the welfare of your personnel (and clients), then it is probably the right decision. The firm supported me in that way, and I hope, more often than not, I supported my direct reports the same way.