From Vac Schemer to Head of London: Nick Perry's Bird & Bird Experience
I cannot believe that I have just passed my 25th anniversary at Bird & Bird. My first contact with the firm was two years before joining when, as a science undergraduate, I attended a 2 week vacation scheme. It was a great introduction to the firm, although not as well or imaginatively run as it is now. Our vacation scheme programme is specifically designed to give our candidates a wide ranging overview of the firm, its strategy, core services and approach to the market. Our vac schemes are aimed at giving students a sense of what it’s like to work at Bird & Bird, the collegiate culture we are very proud of and an opportunity to contribute to current projects their team is working on.
Being one of 11 trainees (36 today), I received great training and had a very enjoyable time during my training contract. Bird & Bird lead the way among City Firms in offering their trainees real experience and responsibility, with minimal menial tasks. It helps us gain experience from being thrown in at the deep end, sometimes with a life belt and sometimes, it has to be said, without. My worst day was having the rule book actually thrown at me by a judge at a hearing that I attended on my own, up against a senior solicitor, not having been prepared properly for it. Looking back on it, I can see the valuable experience gained even if it was humiliating at the time.
Since then, I worked several years as an Associate before becoming a Partner in the Commercial Group, working on technology contracts and issues of all kinds. I have served as Head of Department for Commercial and I am now the Head of London, having overall responsibility for the UK office of what has now become a fully international firm, with more than 1200 lawyers in 28 offices in 19 countries. We are due to open our first US office in early 2018 in San Francisco.
That gives a clue to one of the major changes that we have seen over my time at the firm. The majority of our clients are operating worldwide and our challenge is to provide them with a consistent quality of service, industry knowledge, expert advice and relationship management across the different business cultures in which we are all operating. It adds a really fun (and challenging) dimension to practising law.
The use of technology by us and our clients has of course rapidly increased since I started at firm. Noting that when I joined as a trainee the mobile phone was the size of a brief case and we had to submit a request to take the phone to meetings. This fast-paced, technological environment requires us as lawyers to constantly be updating our knowledge and skills in using it. Today’s generation of lawyers need to be more open to new ways of working and have a keen interest in our clients’ businesses and organisations, most of which have been changed by technology and digital media. Overall, I think it adds up to a more interesting environment requiring a greater range of skills than when I started. For those with the right attitude and the ability to be flexible, now is a very exciting time to be embarking on a career at Bird & Bird.