What is the first thing you do when you get into the office in the morning?
The first thing I do every morning is head up to eleven and grab a coffee. Eleven is an event space on the 11th floor in the Bird & Bird London office for both employees and clients to use for meetings and events. Whether it’s to grab some lunch from the canteen, get a hot drink from the barista coffee bar, or have informal meetings in one of the private booths, eleven serves as both a social and professional work space, which I think speaks to the firm’s culture.
What type of work or projects are you exposed to as a trainee?
As a trainee at Bird & Bird, you’re exposed to a bit of everything and anything! My work has ranged from small discrete tasks such as amending contracts and agreements, to larger projects such as preparing for a trial or reviewing a client’s entire trademark portfolio. You’re also given a lot of autonomy, in that you can put yourself forward for projects that you’re interested in or ask to work with a particular client that works in an industry you’re familiar with. This level of independence means you can almost design your own bespoke training contract.
What seats did you do during your training contract?
I have completed seats in the firm’s dispute resolution, employment and intellectual property departments, and I’m now on secondment with one of our retail & consumer clients. Bird & Bird is truly unique in its sector-focused approach that crosses all departments; in each of my seats, I’ve worked in almost all of our sector groups, including retail & consumer, energy & utilities, media, entertainment and sports and financial services. The firm’s sector-focused approach attracts trainees from a wide range of backgrounds; in my intake we have a scientist, a musician, a professional sportswoman and a pilot! I was also able to tailor my training contract with support from the graduate-recruitment team; we had discussions about my interests and which seats would give me the most valuable experience. The graduate-recruitment team listened to what I was interested in learning about through the training contract and supported me at every stage of the process.
What has been the most memorable experience in your training contract?
Working with my favourite luxury fashion brand on a potential trademark infringement. I have a passion for fashion, and working in the retail & consumer sector has always been my goal. It was at this point I realised I had successfully managed to turn my interests into a career, which I don’t think I could have done at another law firm.
Is there one aspect or part of your training that you feel was particularly beneficial, or anything that you feel sets the traineeship with Bird & Bird apart from others?
The trainee scheme at Bird & Bird is truly unique. There are only 18 of us, which means every single trainee in each department is given a great deal of responsibility with a lot of client exposure. On a daily basis, I communicate with our clients directly and liaise with our international offices. which means I can make a real contribution to the firm. As a result, I’ve developed a varied skill set and gathered a huge amount of industry knowledge in the space of two years.
How do you handle the life-work balance when working at an international law firm?
At Bird & Bird, you get the best of both worlds; you can work on interesting projects with high-profile clients, but you aren’t expected to be in the office at all hours of the day. My training supervisors would actively encourage me to take a full lunch break and leave the office at the end of the day if I didn’t have any urgent deadlines. This gave me the confidence to manage my own workload and handle my work-life balance in a way that suited me. As well as a fast-paced and exciting legal career at Bird & Bird, I’ve also got involved with the firm’s social and volunteering activities; as part of the women’s football team and through volunteering in schools and legal-advice centres, I’ve been able to develop a completely different skill set and pursue my personal interests. I am also the co-chair of our BAME Network, Embrace, which was founded by a fellow trainee in 2017, and together we’ve been given the freedom to pursue a cause that we’re passionate about with the firm’s support and guidance.
What are some of the things you know now about training contracts that you wish you’d known before applying?
I wish I had known about the internal support available at the firm outside of the training contract. I’m not sure about other law firms, but at Bird & Bird, I feel like I have a network of people who have not only helped me with my professional career, but also my personal development. I was offered and attended training sessions on how to build confidence and resilience, how to network, and even how to draft a coherent email! I studied a law degree so I knew about the law, but not about softer business skills. When I initially joined the firm, I was quite concerned that I would need to pick up these skills quickly and independently. In actual fact, I didn’t need to pick up the skills on my own; I was supported and guided by the firm, which in turn helped me to be a better trainee from the start.
What advice would you give to people currently applying for training contracts at international law firms?
Make sure you stand out as much as you possibly can. It’s already clear that you’re determined, hard-working, passionate and driven, because everyone who’s applying for training contracts already ticks those boxes. Think about what makes you different and what you can bring to the table that no one else can, whether that’s professionally or personally.
To find out more about opportunities at Bird & Bird, visit the firm's profile.