'How Bird & Bird are you?' - showing you meet Bird & Bird's key competencies

Remember Bird & Bird's sector-specific focus. Think beyond academics.

You’ll see that the same five questions keep cropping up in Bird & Bird’s graduate recruitment material, all related to the question, 'How Bird & Bird are you?' This question is featured in the online application form for both training contracts and vacation schemes. The information below should help you to construct your answer.

Think of the questions below as a list of desired competencies that Bird & Bird are seeking in trainees. It might also be worth keeping these competencies in mind when dealing with questions in interviews – you can refer to the criteria and demonstrate that you meet a specific competency in your answers.

Competency one

‘Are you inquisitive, with an interest in the wider world?’

How to approach: Inquisitiveness is simply expected of trainees. Lynne Walters, head of graduate recruitment and trainee development, has said that it is annoying when students have no questions: candidates who are well prepared should be armed with several questions – and if those questions are answered during the course of an interview, they should have extra questions up their sleeve.

Think about what the ‘wider world’ might mean in the context of working for a law firm – ie the world of business and commerce. This question is flagging up the importance of having commercial awareness coupled with an international perspective – after all, following the firm’s expansion in recent years, two thirds of Bird & Bird’s staff are based overseas. Could you refer to some of their international work or show awareness of the different overseas markets they operate in? If you have not done much travelling and don’t speak any foreign languages, think about other ways you can show your interest in ‘the wider world’. For example, did you choose to study a module at university that required you to think about your subject in a global context, or which led you to learn about a different culture?

Competency two

'Are you good at building constructive relationships?'

How to approach: What does ‘constructive’ mean to you? For TARGETjobs, it indicates progress. Find examples of how you have successfully built relationships in the past, whether it was through involvement with student societies, volunteer work, or perhaps working with children and young people. How did the relationship-building process differ each time? Think about the actual work you’d be doing for clients. How does the nature of the work, whether transactional, regulatory or contentious, affect your approach to building relationships with colleagues and clients?

Bird & Bird’s Christian Bartsch has said that the firm takes a ‘holistic’ view of client relationships. The dictionary definition of holistic is ‘the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole’ – what ideas does this give you about what Bird & Bird consider to be ‘constructive’ relationships?

Competency three

'Are you eager to work on high-profile projects for leading clients?'

How to approach: Beware the term ‘eager’: try not to come across as too idealistic, fanciful or sycophantic. Think about the firm’s key divisions. In light of this, what do Bird & Bird consider to be their ‘high-profile’ projects and who are their ‘leading’ clients? Namecheck those which particularly interest you – are there any that dovetail with your background? You could also consider the underside of this question: high-profile projects and clients are important, but you might also be interested in less established practice areas which have recently seen growth – such as aerospace, defence and security or social media (a key practice area of the Hamburg office).

Competency four

'Do you have an excellent academic record?'

How to approach: Not much to say on this one – a strong academic record is taken as a given. But in your applications and interviews, it might be worth thinking about Bird & Bird’s sector-specific focus. Think beyond academics – how else can your background indicate that you are a perfect fit for this firm? Christian Bartsch has said that they are interested in candidates with:

  • Industry experience
  • A background in science or those who have worked in intellectual property-related areas
  • Experience in commerce
  • Foreign language skills

Competency five

'Are you ready to take responsibility from day one?'

How to approach: What positions of accountability have you held in the past and how have they prepared you for the tasks you’ll be taking on as a graduate trainee? Also bear in mind that being in a position of answerability is not always something grandiose or glamorous, and not always to do with leadership. Keeping track of vital paperwork or budgeting is work that involves significant responsibility. Past Bird & Bird trainees have noted the amount of administrative work they are asked to do, so a crucial part of the job is about being efficient in the little things – carrying out and keeping track of jobs that feel humdrum, but which require competence, organisation and attention to detail. Do you have any extracurricular or professional activities that have required you to take on this sort of pressure?

Our 'How to get hired' articles are written by TARGETjobs editors and writers with job candidates in mind, helping you research and understand employers. Copyright of all material written by TARGETjobs lies solely with GTI Media.