Major move pays off

October 1, 2019

Tracy Walsh, pensions team partner, board member and board sponsor of diversity and inclusion at Womble Bond Dickinson, describes the evolution of her role within the firm

I was born in South London, the only daughter among five siblings. I was state school-educated and the first in our family to attend university. Initially, I worked at a City law firm so that I could be close to home, but after the London bombings in 2005, for personal reasons, I decided to move away.

The North East was attractive for various reasons, including the biker community (being a keen motorcyclist), but otherwise I had no support network here, so it was a big risk for me.

I secured a job at what was then Dickinson Dees, and – because I never like to have less than a bucketful of challenges at any one time – I changed legal disciplines in the process as well. I was so warmly embraced by everyone at the firm, and everyone I met in the local community, that the move and role change were completely painless. Six years after joining the firm, I applied for partnership.

I was pretty young at the time (33) but I’d worked hard to build a positive reputation for myself, as well as a strong network of male and female “champions” in the partnership. And so there I was, in May 2012, a shiny, new partner.

Before and after becoming a partner I deliberately sought out opportunities to contribute to projects that were important to the firm, such as graduate recruitment and internal financial governance; what each of these roles gave me was an appreciation of the inner-workings of the firm, and the chance to build relationships with people I might not otherwise work with. Despite only having seven years under my belt as a partner, it felt like a natural progression to put myself forward for an elected position on our board earlier this year.

Alongside the standard requirements of any typical board member’s role, I am also board sponsor for diversity and inclusion. People might think that, as a woman, my strategy would focus primarily on gender balance; it doesn’t. Social mobility, LGBTQ+, BAME, disability; these are all issues that the legal profession needs to be better at dealing with. My background informs my general view that if we do not include people who think differently, who see and experience the world differently, we are zoning off a potentially huge area of talent. I’m keen that we use data to make better decisions and assess our progress in all of these areas.

It’s certainly been a busy few months in my new role, with more ahead, but I’m energised. I’m asking people to try some new things. We have so many great people in our business, and so I also want to use my position to help move them forward, and to support them in the way that I was supported to achieve my career goals.

I have to mention my husband. We met shortly after I moved to the North East and married in 2009. I get to do what I love because we share the load at home and with our kids. We share the same simple aspirations and outlook on life: be kind, be grateful.

My dad, a small business owner, has always stressed the importance of being curious, taking calculated risks, and seizing every opportunity. When I moved to the North East, I gave myself two years to make it work and see if the risk that I had taken had paid off. I’d say that it has.

Womble Bond Dickinson

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