Bird & Bird (London)
Bird & Bird was the UK's first TMT specialist, and hence its fortunes were inevitably tied to the performance of the technology market. Back in the dot com boom it was the fastest growing major law firm in the country. The tech crash put heavy pressure on the firm's profits, but rather than withdrawing, Bird & Bird embarked on a dramatic period of expansion. The recovery of the tech market - and the firm's growth into more mainstream corporate and finance work - has resulted in a very strong performance recently.
Unlike many of its peers, turnover has steadily grown, breaking the £200m revenue barrier in 2009/10, and most recently hitting £235m. That put PEP - after a couple of rather more lean years (lean in the traditional City partner sense of not really lean at all) - at £513,000. All very impressive.
The firm's reputation was forged by its stellar IP practice and it continues to operate at the cutting edge of the field, fighting it out with likes of Bristows and Taylor Wessing for the best cases. It’s also amongst the market leaders for telecoms, IT and life sciences deals. Bird & Bird tends to focus more on the technology and telecoms aspects of the TMT market, but it does have a flourishing sports practice and a smaller but well-respected sponsorship and film finance department. Developing other practices as well as its core strengths in TMT has seen significant growth in its corporate group, and the firm is now 60% transactional based and 40% contentious.
The most noticeable feature of the firm's progress over the last few years has been its international expansion. It now has more than 20 offices across Europe and Asia and over 1,000 fee earners, with over two-thirds of them based outside the UK. In 2008 alone the firm merged with Fennica Attorneys in Helsinki, launched Indian and Central European practices and merged with aviation, construction and utilities specialists Lane & Partners in London. In 2009 it spread its wings again and launched an alliance with Beijing boutique Xiang Kung Law Firm - to increase its dispute resolution muscle in China.
The firm is a traditional high-scorer in RollOnFriday’s Firm of the Year survey (winning in 2008), receiving effusive praise from lawyers and staff at all levels. The social life at 2Birds is seen as pretty terrific, with "lots of opportunities to legitimately get away from the desk
" and a "work life balance as great as the social life
". Often, the lawyers will be seen making merry around the table football tables in the kitchens - although reports reach RollOnFriday that those beaten ten nil have refused the traditional punishment of removing trousers and dancing round the table to cement their shame.
Everyone seems to get on pretty well, too (even if "some partners are less friendly than others
"). Comments included “great partner-associate relationship: your views and opinions are truly welcome and considered.
” “An inclusive and truly non-hierarchical firm
”. “Almost Magic Circle pay, with an extra two hours a day out of the office to enjoy it
”. Hmm, maybe for trainees – but pay for most lawyers doesn’t even come close to Magic Circle rates. A three year qualified lawyer would make an extra 15 grand a year at Allen & Overy. Still, pay scales have improved, and the possibility of pulling in a bonus of up to 30% of salary helps to bridge the gap.
If you're after a good general firm with an IP leaning and a more civilised view to hours we reckon that you'd do well here. As one trainee says, “people are friendly, hours are good, work is interesting and trendy, the canteen is called the Bird Table, what more do you want?
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