There is a buzz around Bird & Bird right now, as the technology-focused firm rides the wave of a boom in the sector. Profit per equity partner (PEP) is up for a fourth consecutive year, increasing by 4% to £575,000, while revenue has risen 7% to £361million. New office openings in Berlin and San Francisco have added to the sense of momentum.
The period of growth has also coincided with the firm’s move in 2016 into a gleaming new London office on 12 New Fetter Lane. Trainees tell us that it is generally “awesome”, with client rooms that are “a sight to behold”. In the main area the optional standing desks particularly impress. The jewel in the crown is a canteen with a “wonderful view” of the City. It 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 bar, which is said by one trainee to be “a piece of daily happiness”.
The nice position that Bird & Bird finds itself in 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.
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. “Our trainee cohort are more a group of friends than colleagues,” we are told, while apparently hierarchies are minimal and the out of work social scene is “pretty good”.
The legendary mini firm World Cup football tournament that Bird & Bird runs 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 nearly 20 different countries, while approximately half have done a client secondment. Large banks, tech companies and global retailers are typical destinations.
Back at base, most of the training is of a very high standard. The quality of the work helps. “Because the work is often from an interesting client or subject area, it’s naturally much more stimulating,” one Bird & Bird trainee tells us. But don’t expect a huge amount of formal instruction. Another comments: “At times there could have been more of a ‘training’ focus, rather than a learning by osmosis outlook.”
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 just after 7pm, and earn MoneyLaw salaries. Still, associate pay rises swiftly through the ranks for those who stick around.