Bird & Bird continues to ride high on the waves of the tech boom, increasing revenue again this year, by 5.3% to £380.1 million. OK, so profits fell by 3.4% to an estimated £66 million, but hey, COVID-19 is a pretty good reason for that.
Bird & Bird’s impressive run of growth 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 a “fancy staircase” and 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 “well subsidised canteen” with a “wonderful view” 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”.
We hear that Bird & Bird’s best-kept secret, however, is the “great” office loos. “I’m not going to mention the loos because there’s always one weirdo at the firm who writes a poem about how great they are for these sorts of surveys. I do worry about who they are though and, even worse, if I know them,” reveals one insider.
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!” Meanwhile, the use of lawtech has reportedly “increased”, with document automation, AI due diligence software and IP portfolio tools now at lawyers’ disposal. But when it comes to providing basic tech, the firm could do better. Respondents complain that “the lack of laptops is annoying” and apparently remote workers weren’t kitted out with free office gadgets – as seen in other City firms.
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 thanks to the “semi-open plan office” and the out of work social scene is “pretty good”.
Outside of COVID-19, 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 20 different countries, while approximately half have done a client secondment. Large banks, tech companies, global retailers and The Football Association 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. “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”.