Katie's vacation scheme experience at Bird & Bird

My background

I studied Medicine at the University of Leeds and spent two years working as a doctor in London prior to deciding to pursue a career in law. Law interested me due to the academically challenging but varied career being a corporate solicitor provides. In addition, I felt so many of the skills I had already developed as a doctor were transferable to being a successful solicitor, such as critical analysis, problem solving, organisation skills and in particular communication skills with both colleagues and clients.

Why Bird & Bird?

As a novice to the field, I was completely overwhelmed by the vast number of law firms and deciding which ones to apply to. From the beginning, Bird & Bird kept cropping up as an international firm with an excellent reputation in several different fields, but also as a supportive place to train. As I started to investigate further, I discovered that Bird & Bird is not only a leading firm for Intellectual Property, but renowned for paving the way when working with innovative technologies and companies. With my background in science and my interest in technology, Bird & Bird was a perfect fit for me. The more I researched the general ethos of the firm, the more apparent this fit became, and I felt confident that my past experiences would not only be appreciated at Bird & Bird, but it would be the perfect place to leverage my skills and experiences as a career changer towards the next stage of my professional life.

The application process

As I had no experience in the legal sector, I felt the Vac Scheme would be the most beneficial way for me to gain insight into the day to day life of being a solicitor. Immediately after pressing send on my application, Bird & Bird were excellent at keeping in touch and keeping me informed about the application process. After a video interview, I was asked to come to an assessment day at the head office. Throughout the day, everyone I met was incredibly friendly and supportive, and made me feel at ease in an otherwise stressful environment. We were give a range of individual and group tasks followed by an interview with one of the partners which felt more like a conversation over the dinner table! I was thrilled when I was offered a Vac Scheme for summer 2017.

The Vac Scheme

The Vac Scheme consisted of two weeks in which I sat with a partner in the Intellectual Property department. From the get-go I was given personal work and included in various ongoing projects. This ranged from academic research on areas of law, to proof reading, to researching the use of Blockchain Contracts as a teaching tool for other lawyers. The work was not only interesting but academically challenging and fun, and I was able to work with several different colleagues throughout the two weeks which gave me an insight into just how varied working within the same department can be! The team where supportive of my goal to get as much exposure to different aspects of the career as possible, and I was given varied work as well as encouraged to attend trial at the Court of Appeal. During the two weeks I was urged to ask questions and I never felt I had been left in the lurch or I could not ask for help when needed.

Throughout the Vac Scheme I was not only supported by my department but I was also assigned a Trainee buddy who helped me to settle in in the first few days. The two weeks were full of networking events, allowing the the Vac Scheme students to meet associates, partners and other trainees. Having the opportunity to meet with various partners and hear about their backgrounds and why they had pursed a career in law was interesting and inspiring.

We were also encouraged to participate in the many social events and clubs Bird & Bird has to offer. Although my team was particularly successful in the Office Olympics and Scavenger Hunt, I managed to let myself down by scoring one of the worst bowling scores in Bird & Bird (and probably All Star Lanes) history, endorsed by the fact that one of the partners who hadn’t been at the event approached me to “congratulate” me the next day.

Overall the Vac Scheme was invaluable experience for me as a career changer, and gave me a comprehensive insight into the firm and the career as a whole. Bird & Bird not only provides excellent experience and training, but a supportive environment in which its employees can grow on a personal and a professional level to attain their career goals.

My advice to those applying is to be yourself – not only is this an opportunity for you to get to know Bird & Bird, but they also want to get to know YOU!

Katie Herlinger, Future Trainee