Bird & Bird
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 - resulted in a strong performance.
Turnover broke the £200m revenue barrier in 2009/10, hitting £235m in 2011/12, £249m in 2012/13 and £259m in 2013/14, although remained flat in £259m in 2014/15.
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 now has 28 offices across Europe, Asia and Australia, over 1,000 fee earners, and over 280 partners. Potted history of 2birds growth: in 2008 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. It then merged with Denmark's Bender von Haller Dragsted and signed co-operation agreements with Swiss firm BCCC Advocats and Australian firm Truman Hoyle. Other co-operation agreements followed: in China again (with Beijing-based Lawjay Partners), in Korea (Seoul-based Hwang Mok & Park), Turkey (IT and telecoms boutique BTS & Partners) and Malaysia (Tay & Partners). Then, in 2013/14 it merged with Truman Hoyle. And in 2016 it launched in Luxembourg. Phew.
The firm is a traditional high-scorer in RollOnFriday’s Firm of the Year survey. It last won back in 2008, but always places well: most recently, it came 2nd in the 2014 survey and 3rd in 2015 with an impressive overall score of 82%. In the 2016 survey, the firm slid a bit, but still gains kudos for coming in joint 5th place with a score of 79%. 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. Other staff have praised the annual football weekend, which was likened by one beaming lawyer to a "stag do". One staffer gushed "I wouldn't give up working at Bird & Bird if I won the lottery". A yacht in the Caribbean can involve much more daily admin than most people appreciate anyway.
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.” Although a possible building design flaw was highlighted with one lawyer stating that there is "such a great open door policy that some departments don't even have doors".
The work-life balance was described as "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."
There were some minor grumbles about the dated London office, with one lawyer saying "you will often see mice running around under your feet and moths eating the carpet". But another lawyer looked towards a future without infestation commented "the new building is nearly ready and looks great". Whilst most staff seemed to be positive about the firm's branding, one lawyer is going to crack soon: "the canteen is the Bird Table, the newsletter is Bird Talk, or NestNews, the lawyers are Birds" adding that they were fed up with "the endless sniggering from Estate Agents when you give them your email address (@twobirds.com really isn't that funny Mr Foxtons)." The toilets came in for a bit of stick, with one lawyer reporting that the firm has the "worst loos around". Although another seemed undeterred: "Friday naps in the loos seem to go completely unnoticed".
The biggest complaint involved salary, which many pointed out is lower than other firms. However most were willing to acknowledge that this was part of the trade-off for not getting "slavishly beasted" with one lawyer noting "it's worth it for the nicer environment and better work/life balance."
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.