Bird & Bird continues to fly high thanks to the tech boom, with the latest financial results available showing revenues of £380.1 million — a 5.3% increase on the previous year. OK, so profits dipped by 3.4% to an estimated £66 million, but hey, a global pandemic is a pretty good reason for that.
Bird & Bird’s steady run of growth coincided with the firm’s move in 2016 into a sleek London office on 12 New Fetter Lane. Several years on it continues to impress, with trainees telling us that it is generally “awesome”, with a “fancy staircase”, “pretty swish toilets” and great meeting rooms. The jewel in the crown is without a doubt the “well subsidised” canteen on the 11th floor which offers “amazing views” of the City. The balcony found on the same floor also offers secret sightseers “great views” of parliament and the London Eye. “I’m not the only basic bitch up there taking pictures of the sunsets over the Rolls Building,” admits one trainee. The “delicious” canteen is said to serve “excellent munch”, including “excellent cooked or non-cooked breakfasts”, and “a good range of salads and vegetarian food”. There’s also a free espresso and barista coffee bar, which is said by one trainee to be “a piece of daily happiness”.
Eco-minded trainees praise the “triage bins in every kitchen” and the firm’s ban on cardboard coffee cups. And yet, despite the “frequent alerts on waste disposal and the correct way to recycle”, we’re told that there will “always be that one person who puts their leftover lunch in the recycling bin for no apparent reason”. Another nature-loving insider gives the toilets with “dual flush function” and “motion sensitive lights” a big thumbs up.
The rise of Bird & Bird as the cool tech-bro of the legal world is no piece of good fortune. In the early days of the internet, it became one of the first law firms to establish its own website, choosing the quirky domain name twobirds.com way back in 1995. Since then it has built out from its core of telecommunications, media and technology (TMT) work to widen its focus towards more standard corporate and finance instructions — with its top-ranked intellectual property (IP) practice a big draw for clients and aspiring lawyers alike. In 2017, the firm ventured across the pond to launch a new base in tech paradise San Francisco.
Bird & Bird’s IT support team is described as “excellent”, which helped the firm transition to remote working with “very few problems” during the pandemic. One rookie reports: “You can always reach a human on the phone on first try!” But there are a few grumbles. “The document management system we use is outdated and slow,” one spy tells us, but “our disclosure platform is fine.” On WFH support, insiders praise the “generous” £250 allowance for home office equipment — even if it did come “somewhat late into the pandemic”.
Over the years Bird & Bird has taken care to foster a strong internal culture — and this year again scores well for peer support and for partner approachability in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. “All trainees in my intake are good friends and supportive of one another,” we are told, while apparently hierarchies are minimal thanks to the “semi-open-plan office” and the out of work social scene is “pretty good”. One rookie applauds the trainee WhatsApp group where you can “regularly ask questions and get support from each other”, while another says “people are generally willing to lend a hand when one person is slammed”.
The easing of the pandemic will hopefully lead to the return of the legendary mini firm World Cup football tournament which we are told is great for bonding. The competition between teams from the firm’s international offices is held in a different city each year. As you would expect, the footie is optional, with most just enjoying the opportunity to “meet international colleagues over a weekend of partying”.
An area where there has been significant improvement is secondment opportunities. Around a quarter of rookies have spent time abroad with the firm at one of its offices in 20 different countries. Although it goes without saying that the pandemic has limited the opportunities for rookies to spread their wings. Meanwhile, approximately one third of trainees have done a client secondment, with large banks, tech companies, global retailers and The Football Association among the typical destinations.
Back at base, most of the training is of a very high standard. The quality of the work helps. “Great clients in interesting sectors,” one Bird & Bird trainee tells us. “Depends on the department,” another says. Here’s a slightly more detailed take: “Some of the work itself is not intellectually stimulating. But that is to be expected at trainee level. Further, although the work itself may be mundane, the overall project underneath that work is often interesting, and most colleagues try to ensure you have an appreciation for that bigger picture.”
The pay, which is said to be “a little low compared to industry standard”, also elicits the odd grumble, but most trainees understand that you can’t get A-rated work/life balance, clocking off on average around 7pm and earn MoneyLaw salaries. “The firm is keen to encourage your life outside of Fetter Lane,” adds one trainee. Plus, associate pay rises swiftly through the ranks for those who stick around. Birdees also receive pretty “solid” perks — including private health insurance, cycle to work incentives, access to mortgage advisors, corporate gym rates, pop-up ice cream stalls, as well as “Deliveroo budgets after 7pm and taxis home after 9pm”.