Taylor Wessing lawyers are future-proof but not aloof.
To infinity and beyond
"A firm that's ground breaking. A firm that's game changing. A firm that's smart thinking. A firm that’s trail blazing." Taylor Wessing's graduate recruitment brochure certainly goes the extra mile to promote itself as an innovative, tech-heavy firm geared up for the future. Our job is to tell you how much substance is behind the marketing puffery. “The buzzwords have definitely translated in terms of the type of work we do," one trainee told us encouragingly. "We work with some very forward-thinking clients in the technology, energy and life sciences industries, which differs from other law firms which have the same old corporate offerings.” So far so good. A glance at the firm's Chambers UK rankings should also tell us how cutting edge – and good – Taylor Wessing's practices actually are. Sure enough, it shows excellent rankings for areas like life sciences, venture capital, intellectual property, and IT. In the new category of gaming, social media & interactive content, Chambers honours TW as a 'recognised practitioner'. It's also top or highly-ranked for lots more traditional services including private client, restructuring/insolvency, mid-market corporate/M&A, and litigation. In other words, there is indeed plenty you can talk about at interview if a recruiter here asks you why you think Taylor Wessing is "trail blazing."
Clients such as artificial intelligence start-up Magic Pony, pharma giant Abbott Labs and award-winning game developers Activision Blizzard are all on the firm's books. There's also a tech savvy impetus internally, as “the firm is making real efforts to embrace technology that can better its deliverance of legal services,” according to a source who also remarked that it took a while to be given a second computer monitor. One new IT system uses algorithms to complete disclosures: “In this market you need to be efficient and can't be stuck in archaic law ways.” Similarly, TW's new recruitment process is anything but archaic. Recently, it teamed up with gaming tech outfit Arctic Shores to roll out 'Cosmic Cadet', a new spaced-themed video game which provides innovative new ways to assess candidates' potential. Please let us know how you get on!
"We work with some very forward-thinking clients in the technology, energy and life sciences industries.”
Aware of Taylor Wessing's label as a 'tech firm', trainees acknowledged that there “is probably some more balance needed in how we market ourselves,” pointing to the strength of practices in “areas not immediately related to technology.” Those who join Taylor Wessing purely on the basis of its strengths in IP and tech should beware: “Seats in IP and media are very popular in proportion to the number of seats available.” Only a handful of our interviewees had undertaken a stint in these seats. They didn't mind too much, though, as “being at a full service firm, you soon develop your own interests as you experience other fields of law.” Moreover, TW's push for a more sector-based approach to business means there is plenty of cross-over between departments. A seat in financial services and regulation, for example, often offers work for tech start-ups. Recently the team assisted with the establishment of Cambridge Innovation Capital, a venture fund investing in emerging high tech businesses, set up by Cambridge uni.
When it comes to seat selection, “rather than having a rigid system of preferences, you put down five options into a pool and with each rotation you put forward one less option." While trainees can't “formally state preferences,” insiders did say that “grad recruitment have an informal understanding of your preferences from the regular meetings you have.” Most of our insiders were satisfied with this allocation mechanism as people usually bag at least two of their top three preferences. At least three client secondment spaces are available (with more on an ad hoc basis), providing a great opportunity for trainees to work in-house. Despite having a presence in 30 overseas locations, international secondments are a lot less common, something that insiders were quick to flag as something the firm could improve on: “They haven't be available at every rotation, which is disappointing, but there have been talks about changing how they organize them for the next intake.” The international offices are a mix of small Taylor Wessing outposts and affiliate relationships with local law firms; in the past, trainees have completed stints in Singapore, Dubai and Frankfurt.
No wessing about here
If you're still unsure what kind of lawyer you want to be going into the training contract, TW's disputes and investigations group is a good place to start: “It's an incredibly broad team, and I say that with quite purposeful vagueness,” one source stated. “One minute you could be working on a dispute relating to a complicated multi-million pound mortgage, and the next be working on a big corporate fraud case.” Another trainee talked about a data protection case: “We went to speak to employees and management in order to work out how the breach occurred. Once we worked that out we could then reassure shareholders or report it to the relevant authorities.” The disputes team has also rolled out a handy new fraud app featuring “a step-by-step guide of what to do in the event of a data protection breach or exposure to suspected fraudulent activity.”
If you're not a science nerd you needn't be deterred from a stint in the patents practice, if it interests you. “I don't have a science background,” one source admitted. “It's a well-respected team, welcoming people from across the spectrum of academia.” Concerned with the 'hard' side of IP, lawyers recently acted for drugs-maker Mylan in patent litigation concerning Tadalafil, an erectile dysfunction pill – a drug that enjoys a multibillion-dollar turnover. The Cambridge office – well-positioned to serve high tech clients in 'Silicon Fen' or the 'Cambridge Cluster', as this area is sometimes called – is especially active on the transactional and advisory side of things, dealing mainly with research investment agreements and such like for companies with strong IP assets. Patent trainees in the main London office chiefly work on contentious matters. Usually involving big pharma companies, “the classic task is putting together bundles, but we also do a lot of the case prep work, going through claims forms and conducting research into a supplementary protection certificate.”
For anyone who prefers their IP a bit softer, the IP and media team is your best bet. Here it's all about 'soft IP' like trademarks, copyright and design in the context of a range of industries, from publishing and advertising to gaming and music. Some of the team's casework includes: advising Rupert Murdoch's News Corp on a $220.3 million recommended cash offer for talkSPORT owner Wireless Group; working with Sky on its $45 million investment in Southeast Asian streaming service iflix; and managing Activison Blizzard's games portfolio, including the end user terms and packaging for various franchises, such as Guitar Hero and Destiny. Like in patents, trainees can get stuck into some contentious matters too: “You get to work on a lot of trade mark infringement trials, which tend to be a lot shorter than in patents, where its a lot more technical and relies on expert evidence and more cross-witnessing. You're also working for well-known brands so it's easier to understand what you're aiming towards.”
There is a perception that “private client is old parchment stuff, but in reality it's very current,” sources stressed. “We do a lot of work with entrepreneurial and new money clients as well as the more traditional, old money ones.” The team offers a 'fully integrated service' to high net worth individuals and families on issues including, but not limited to: personal wealth structures; international tax planning; commercial and real estate investment; reputation management; and immigration. “Some of the work is contentious but most is regulatory.” Trainees often have to deal with “random research questions. You might have someone ringing up and asking about how a school is funded or about how something really specific might affect their child. It's all about dealing with real people and real issues, and it's down to us to make the law fit around them.”
"It's all about dealing with real people.”
For one fairly melodramatic trainee, banking & finance is the seat that “either makes you or breaks you.” Why? The answer won't surprise you: long hours, high responsibility levels, and a “steep learning curve.” The team mainly focuses on real estate finance in collaboration with the real estate and construction teams, where sources get stuck into drafting loan agreements, security documents and board minutes. Trainees can also get exposure to more niche work, depending on their supervisor. Islamic finance crops up, as do private equity deals. Recent work highlights include acting for Secure Income REIT on its refinancing of a £1.158 billion debt to Lloyds Banking Group, and working with construction colleagues on a $215 million receivables purchase facility for Volvo Construction Equipment.
Offering a mix of transactional and contentious work, stints in the real estate and construction teams are a good complement to those in banking and finance. While “full-blown trials are rare,” trainees in construction do get the chance to work on some alternative dispute resolution. One such case involved “acting for a high-net-worth client who experienced severe delays and issues after constructing his home from scratch. We had to go through all the documentation and assess what commitments were made and if they had been matched. In the end it was finalised in mediation.” Over in real estate, a lot of the work similarly concerns private wealth, but trainees also work on larger commercial projects like “interesting fast-paced work on big box industrial units.” Trainees can also "take ownership” of small matters like licences to alter.
Between the City and the Wess End
Taylor Wessing's “approachable, non-hierarchical and collaborative atmosphere” is mainly housed within its ultra-modern crib in old London's New Street Square, a stone's toss from Dr Johnson's house off Fleet Street, sandwiched between the City and West End. Trainees were especially fond of the office's ninth floor restaurant and terrace, called Cloud 9. Complete with “amazing views of Big Ben,” it's a nice place for “trainees to mingle, have lunch and get some fresh air.” What's more, the office's mid-sized dimensions mean “there are no partners that feel beyond reach or who are strangers. Everyone is very friendly and there's hardly anyone who comes in, does their work and leaves.”
Trainees were especially pally with a dedicated trainee solicitor council – masters of organized fun. Made up of four trainees from each year, the TSC organises a host of events including: a trainee-only Christmas party; a pub quiz for upcoming vac schemers “to make things less daunting”; trainee welcome drinks; and a traditional big dinner at every seat rotation. Firm-wide events are much less frequent. TW's last firm-wider was its Regent Street rooftop summer party, featuring a questionable combination of tapas and sushi: “You wouldn't think it would work but I promise you it did,” one culinary connoisseur assured us. Plenty of other socials are arranged within the firm's three business groups – group A, for example, is made up of the firm's real estate, construction, and banking & finance departments – providing ample opportunity for social butterflies to spread their wings.
“There's only been two or three times I've had to work until midnight.”
The words “lucky” and “fortunate” came up frequently enough in chats about trainees' hours for us to realise a pattern was forming – all-nighters aren't a thing at Taylor Wessing. “There have only been two or three times I've had to work until midnight,” one source detailed, while another disclosed that “in my whole two-year training contract, I'd say the number of times I've left after 7.30pm is under ten.” Still, a few 12-hour shifts are inevitable for trainees in banking & finance and disputes, while seats such as construction, patents and real estate maintain more predictable hours.
Qualification ran “relatively smoothly” for this year's cohort. “In terms of process we get told the number of jobs available in April time, and we are then invited to express our preferences – which can be more than just one – with HR. Each department then interviews all the applicants, which can range from being official, formal interviews to more of a chat.” In 2017, 21 out of 26 trainees applied for NQ jobs and 16 stayed on.
Trainees heaped on the praise for the firm's "brilliant" two week vac scheme.
How to get a Taylor Wessing training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2018): 30 January 2018 (open 1 October 2017)
Training contract deadline (2020): 30 April 2018 (open 1 October 2017)
The firm hosts a handful of open days throughout the year. Some are for first-years only; others are targeted solely at law students or non-law students. There are also a few focused on specific practice areas.
The firm generally receives 500 applications for its 35 to 40 vacation scheme places each year. The number of applications it gets from those gunning directly for a training contract – the firm looks for around 20 trainees each year is around 600.
According to graduate talent advisor Sarah Harte, a vac scheme is “the most straightforward way to secure a training contract here.” Indeed, around 70% of TW’s trainee intake each year comes via the vac scheme.
The application process is the same for both vac scheme and training contract applicants, and begins with an online form. Candidates need a minimum ABB at A level and a 2:1 degree. There’s space to list prior work experience, though Harte tells us: “We appreciate that not everybody will have been able to take advantage of such opportunities.” The form contains a few questions designed to gauge a candidate’s motivations and general commercial awareness.
“We’re looking for the whole package,” says Harte. “We look at applicants' academic achievements and commercial awareness, but also for evidence that they can think innovatively and work well in a team: I recommend that candidates isolate key differentiators about themselves that clearly exhibit their skills, and then show how they could use these at Taylor Wessing.”
At present, if you pass the first round of screening you will be invited to complete an online game-based assessment called 'cosmic cadet'. This is a game-based psychometric test, which looks at your behaviour and approach to each task to highlights certain personality traits, such as your ability to innovate. After completion of the assessment you receive a personalised feedback report that details your strengths. While you may be tempted to spend a few days playing World of Warcraft to practice for this test, we're told that no prior experience of online gaming is required.
Applicants who impress on paper – Up to 80 vac scheme candidates and 25 direct-to-training-contract candidates – are invited to attend one of six half-day assessment centres. Each kicks off with a group exercise in which candidates are given a commercial scenario they could potentially encounter as a trainee, and then asked to come up with a solution and present it to a member of the graduate recruitment team, plus an associate or partner.
“We review both their leadership skills and their team-working abilities,” Harte tells us. “They need to balance these, and show that they can build strong, collaborative relationships.” A candidate’s focus and ability to prioritise is also assessed. Next is an interview with a partner and a member of the 'talent' team. This involves commercial awareness tasks, plus a competency-based discussion on the candidate’s application form and prior experiences.
The firm makes its vac scheme and training contract offers straight off the back of the assessment day.
TW runs two two-week vac schemes over June and July. There are up to 20 spots on each.
Participants spend each week in a different practice area and are assigned a supervisor, usually an associate, as well as a trainee buddy. Both delegate live work. Alongside lunches with their trainee buddies, vac schemers attend several ‘lunch and learn’ sessions that provide insight into various practice areas and the trainee role within them.
Vac schemers work on a group project throughout their placement and present the results to a panel on the penultimate day. “The management team usually gives you an article on a high-profile commercial issue or sets a question to kick-start the project,” a current trainee told us, mentioning that “ours was ‘What country would you invest in and why?’” On the social front there are drinks events, comedy nights, bowling excursions and karaoke contests. “Make sure you demonstrate that you have the ability to network well and connect with others,” our sources advised. Indeed, TW’s trainees regularly participate in business development initiatives, so recruiters will be keeping an eye out for those with stellar mingling skills.
Each vac schemer is reviewed at the end of the process, and those who impress are offered a training contract.
How to wow
As for trainee backgrounds, you might wonder if the firm's tech/start-up edge attracts individuals with a certain type of degree background – eg science. But this isn't the case: of the 45 trainees with the firm at the time of our calls, just four had science degrees. Just under half had studied law at undergrad (20) and the next most common degree was history (nine graduates).
That doesn't mean you should be disengaged from the firm's focus on tech and the 'industries of tomorrow'. Graduate recruitment and development partner Amar Ali advises: "Being curious about the world in which we operate and being curious about your chosen path and industries will stand you in good stead."
Trends in the technology sector
Taylor Wessing LLP
5 New Street Square,
- Partners 400
- Associates 500
- Total trainees 45
- UK offices London, London Tech City and Cambridge
- Overseas offices 30 offices
- Graduate recruiter: Sarah Harte [email protected], 020 7300 7000
- Training partners: Amar Ali and Kirstie McGuigan
- Application criteria
- Training contract pa: 20
- Applications pa: 800
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum UCAS points or A Levels: ABB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 36
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 October 2017
- Training contract deadline 2020: 30 April 2018
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1t October 2017
- Vacation scheme 2018 deadline: 30 January 2018
- Open day deadline: 31 December 2017
- Salary and benefits
- First year salary: £40,000
- Second year salary: £44,000
- Post qualification salary: £63,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: Yes
- International and regional
- Offices with training contract: London
- Client secondments: Yes
Our focus on the industries of tomorrow - technology, media and communications, life sciences, private wealth and energy - means that alongside law students, we also recruit a wide range of students who have studied non-law degrees. Our clients include private and public companies, financial institutions, professional service firms, public sector bodies of both large and medium size and wealthy individuals. Our international presence is also something that we strive to protect as we continue to strengthen our brand globally. Combining a pan-European network with a strong presence in the Middle East, India, China and North America, we are the leading firm for inward investment from North America and experts in IP protection and enforcement rights across the globe. We act for 32 of the world’s 50 leading brands and work with clients in the world’s most dynamic industries (TMC, private wealth, life sciences and energy).
Main areas of work
Our award winning training (we won LawCareers.Net Best Trainer - Large City Firm 2017) combines our in-house Professional Skills Course with six-month seats in four different practice groups, including one contentious seat and one in our corporate or finance areas. Our programme is recognised for the extent of partner contact available to trainees, and you’ll work closely with associates on high-quality work from the outset. Frequent client contact and secondment opportunities to their offices are also offered and regular support and feedback every step of the way will ensure that your career is aligned to the growth and needs of the firm and our clients.
First year opportunities