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, hitting £235m in 2011/12 and swelling to £249m in 2012/13. 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 £515,000. 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. Clients include BskyB, HSBC, Yahoo!, Nokia and Associated Newspapers. 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's added a humongous 36 partners in the last year 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. And last year it merged with Denmark's Bender von Haller Dragsted, and signed co-operation agreements with Swiss firm BCCC Advocats and Australian firm Truman Hoyle.
The firm is a traditional high-scorer in RollOnFriday’s Firm of the Year survey. It won in 2008 and came 2nd place in the most recent with an impressive overall score of 86%. It received 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.
The biannual parties continue to be popular, as do Fish & Chip Fridays.
Everyone seems to get on pretty well, too: "the people are genuinely nice, from partners to support staff, and there is no hierarchy rubbish meaning all partners are approachable
". Positive comments included “open door policy, good hours, great client base, good client contact.
” "Work life balance is superior to all others that I have heard of through other trainees at other law firms"
. One trainee summed up "Excellent work, clients and training in a fantastic atmosphere; hard to find fault."
Respondents struggled to fill in the negative comment box: "the worst thing I can think of is that the offices are spread across 3 buildings across the road. It's that good.
" There's "really bad 80s-style buildings for some departments"
and a couple of grumblings about the bathroom facilities, "unisex toilets lead to some unpleasant experiences."
Our verdict: if you're after a good general firm with an IP leaning and a more civilized 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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