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Published on September 22, 2020 by Holly Porter

We spoke to a trainee at Bird & Bird to find out what life was like working at the firm. Read on to find out!

Photo of a trainee at B&B

Name:  Sophie Stoneham
Degree: Psychology

What seats have you done so far during your training contract?

My first seat was in aviation (where we do a mixture of finance and leasing, which means that our clients range from banks to airlines so we have expertise in both sides of the transaction). I am currently in my second seat in the commercial team, but more specifically I sit within the franchising, licensing and multi-channel strategy team. More broadly, I sit in the retail and consumer sector group.

What is the first thing you do when you log onto your computer in the morning?

I check into my emails to see if there is anything important that I need to respond to. After that, I like to review my calendar to see what my schedule is like for that day and the upcoming week. I also subscribe to several retail and consumer newsletters which are usually circulated around 9 am, so I like to take 20 minutes to read those with my morning coffee.

What type of work or projects are you exposed to as a trainee? What are some of the tasks you complete day to day?

I am lucky at Bird & Bird in that we are exposed to a diverse and exciting array of clients, matters and international projects. For example, I have drafted franchise agreements, reviewed and incorporated comments from mandatory local law reviews, taken minutes during complicated negotiations over franchising arrangements, collated advice from various international contacts on franchising filing and disclosure requirements, assisted with corporate due diligence and led some client calls.

We cover the lifecycle of the product, and so we do a fair amount of supply chain work and distribution agreements as well.
Other tasks include legal research (e.g. what licences are required to set-up certain retail businesses in the UK), article writing and general business development tasks. There is a fair amount of proofreading, but this is essential if you are aiming to improve your own drafting. It is also quite rewarding when you spot critical mistakes that do not make commercial sense but others have missed.

Our retail clients come from a variety of interesting areas, such as food & beverage, e-commerce, fashion, beauty & wellness and education.

How did you manage the transition to working from home? How did you ensure you still got the most out of your seat, how have you kept in touch with your supervisor/team?

I was proactive in my approach and arranged various informal catch-ups and meetings with colleagues. My supervisor and I have a weekly meeting where I run through any particular questions from the previous week (these can range from high-level sector-focused questions to technical tips on drafting and negotiation skills). I also like to arrange casual Zoom coffees which my team and other colleagues in the Commercial practice so I can get to know them a bit more. My team also has a weekly Zoom call which means we can catch up on the various projects that the team is working on.

What has been the most memorable experience in your training contract?

One of the most memorable experiences has been the responsibility of drafting a franchise agreement for a really exciting plant-based food client. It’s great to work with such innovative and dedicated brands and also to be tasked with the first draft.

What do you feel sets the traineeship with Bird & Bird apart from others?

The combination of forward-thinking and innovative clients who embrace the digital age, and a genuinely kind and respectful culture. My trainee group are a close-knit bunch!

How do you handle the life-work balance when working at an international law firm? – firm culture, sporting teams, networks, events etc.

The work from home lifestyle has been challenging for many lawyers in general, but a down-to-earth culture and array of extra-curricular activities at Bird & Bird certainly helps. Before the lockdown, I was regularly playing in the netball and football teams. Now, our international football tournament has been reincarnated as a rocket league tournament, which was pretty fun!

What are some of the things you know now about training contracts that you wish you’d known before applying?

Not to worry so much! Hard work, a pleasant attitude and being proactive can go a long way on a training contract and being worried about the outcomes can detract from your overall performance.

What advice would you give to people currently applying for training contracts at international law firms?

Research into where the firm operates and understand why the firm has chosen to expand into that jurisdiction. Every decision to open a new office is a strategic one, based on careful planning and consideration of work available in that region, the political climate and whether it matches the firm’s vision.

Read more about Bird & Bird’s recruitment schemes below: 

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