Like a high-spec TV, techy Taylor Vinters gives trainees an HDview of its entrepreneurship-driven practices.
Taylor Vinters training contract review 2022
‘We are for the bravehearted.’ That’s one of the rousing messages you’ll see emblazoned on the Taylor Vinters website. But keep your kilt on please – this isn’t about Mel Gibson, but rather the innovative and entrepreneurial companies that the firm represents, or as one trainee put it, its “really cool techy clients.” The sorts of businesses that are using snazzy new technologies, like Featurespace, which uses AI to prevent fraud attacks. Or those that are trying to do things a bit differently, like The Modern Milkman, a plastic-free grocery delivery company. Both are clients of the firm.
“It’s great to be part of a forward-thinking firm.”
In fact, Taylor Vinters itself is partnered with legal tech start-up ThoughtRiver, whose CEO is one of the firm’s former senior partners. “It’s great to be part of a forward-thinking firm,” declared one trainee. “We put on events during London Tech Week so clients can showcase their products.” In 2018, Taylor Vinters also set up The Zebra Project: “It’s kinda like a roundtable discussion, where clients and third parties discuss subjects like the future of the workplace.” The firm’s focus on innovation and entrepreneurship was a selling point for our interviewees, alongside its small intake. “There are only a couple of trainees in each department so we get high-quality work – we’re never shunned into the corner and we collaborate with senior members of the team.”
When it comes to business, “our client base ranges from start-ups to multinational companies, so we certainly punch above our weight.” We’re inclined to agree: despite only having roughly 100 lawyers, the firm picks up ten Chambers UK rankings across East Anglia, Cambridge and the nationwide category. It’s recognised as the cream of the crop for agriculture and family/matrimonial work in Cambridge, while its litigation, mid-market corporate/M&A, IP and, of course, IT practices all get respectable tips of the hat in East Anglia. Nationwide, the firm is ranked in charities and venture capital investment. The firm has offices in Singapore and NewYork, plus three UK bases in London, Oxford and Cambridge, all of which take on trainees.
Rookies are slotted in where they’re needed for their first seat. A couple of months before each subsequent rotation, trainees get an email with all seat options, then sit down with HR for a little chit-chat to express their interests and “to discuss your long-term plans." Second-years get priority as they’re closer to qualification, but our sources thought the process was transparent and fair. Secondments aren’t available for trainees, though it is possible to repeat a seat if it’s something the trainee is particularly interested in.
“I’ve done data protection, health tech and charities matters – and that was just this morning!”
Commercial and technology is split into sub-teams, including data protection, brands (IP, essentially), GC work and charities. Although it’s technically one team, the sub-groups “work independently in many ways.” Trainees get assignments across all strands, and sources were pleased with the variety of matters they got involved in, as this source exemplified: “I’ve done data protection, health tech and charities matters – and that was just this morning!” During the pandemic, interviewees described their work as “a lot more commercial than legal” – article writing and preparing marketing materials formed much of their to-do lists.The legal work rookies did get to do was heavily contract-based: “I did anything related to commercial contracts, like non-disclosures, agreements and negotiations.” The firm’s recent IP work includes advising clothing start-up Ten of Clubs on contracts to secure IP rights to its designs, and advising Smart Separations on the trade mark strategy for an air filter it created that can eliminate Covid-19 particles.
Interviewees had a blast in commercial disputes, or ‘comm diss’ as it’s fondly known: “I loved it and really got stuck in with the team.” The group handles all sorts of contentious issues, from insolvency to huge construction disputes which span years. The firm’s charities expertise also comes into play here – the team recently represented five charities on an international trust dispute worth over £5 million. Less scintillating tasks like bundling are to be expected, but trainees were also drafting court documents and attending mediations and court hearings. “I loved doing that because I really got involved with the client,” one shared. “I was on one case from start to finish and the partner really involved me. The client was really happy with the outcome and invited us to his office party!” By nature of the practice, this seat is more research-driven than others: “It often involves quirky points of law, so you need to know civil procedure rules inside out.”
Real estate is unofficially divided into three parts: commercial, residential and agriculture. “Trainees work for all three,” sources explained, “but we tend to do more on the commercial side.” This involves reviewing commercial property leases, handling Land Registry filings and drafting documents for big transactions. The residential (or to use the trainees’ lingo, ‘rezzy’) portion sees rookies “handling entire files from start to finish.” There were lots of title search reports to be done. “Say we’re working on a science park’s expansion plans, we’ll go on site and review the titles,” one interviewee explained. Trainees were thrilled with the level of client interaction in this seat, and one felt “real estate greatly improved my transactional skills and matter management.” Another elaborated: “There’s no such thing as an ‘easy’ sale or lease, there’s always something niche involved.” Because matters can be pretty time-sensitive, 11-hour days could crop up, but we heard agriculture work was more predictable: “Farmers are happy for us to work over a longer time frame.” The agricultural team recently advised Longrove Farms on the £1.4 million sale of several barns that came with rights to develop into residential properties.
“It was like something out of Suits!”
Over in employment, trainees got involved in everything from international to domestic, contentious to non-contentious and employer- to employee-side matters. Taylor Vinters advised AI company Secondmind on an array of matters, including agreements with employees to enable them to continue further education. Newbies started off reviewing employment contracts and settlement and consultancy agreements, then drafted those three documents once they became more senior. Helping clients bring or defend tribunal claims came up on the contentious side. Issues like bullying, harassment and unfair dismissal were also common. “I worked on one case where the client had been told by her previous firm that it was too late to bring a claim, but we got a successful resolution for her,” one said. “I was delighted. It made me feel like all that work was worth it.” Another case involved high-profile litigation between a university and a former employee. “It was like something out of Suits!” a trainee recalled. “We had boxes and boxes of disclosure material to go through.”
This group also works closely with Taylor Vinters’ ONE team, which acts as “the one point of contact for international counsel representing multinational companies on employment matters. Two employment partners run it, but we’re trying to evolve it into all aspects of law.” The team’s work is often Europe-centric, “but I worked with our Singapore office lots. That office is very much part of our business so they’re always included in email updates and firm announcements.”
Taylor Vinters doesn’t just expect innovation from clients. Within the firm, staff are invited to put forward their own innovative ideas through an ongoing campaign called Pitch Up. One scheme that came about as a result of the campaign is Champion Local, which supports local businesses around Cambridge, Oxford and London.
Trainees can also show their innovation through CSR activities, which are “a key part of the training contract” at Taylor Vinters. Trainees are set the challenge of running a CSR-focused project related to a cause that they choose as a cohort (and which is in line with the firm’s overall strategy). This year, the firm is supporting mental health charity Restore, Solace Women’s Aid and RefuAid, a charity that supports access to education and employment opportunities. Within six months, the firm hit its £5,000 target for 2021 (and has since exceeded it). “We had a virtual gin masterclass to raise money,” trainees told us, “so we were all sent gin and botanicals from a local supplier and we were taught how to make the perfect G&T.” Make ours a Tanqueray, please.
“I actually find it hard to distinguish between junior and senior people.”
We also heard at those sorts of fundraising events there are “partners you ordinarily wouldn’t interact with” in attendance, “so it’s a great way to build your profile within the firm.” That’s not to say it’s hard to build relationships with seniors. “I actually find it hard to distinguish between junior and senior people,” one reflected. “I approach everyone the same, which has lifted a weight off my shoulders.”
Those who started their training contract during the pandemic praised “a strong culture of inclusivity and openness.” One source “felt as included as I possibly could be,” elaborating that “I’ve never felt like a burden calling people about a tiny question. At the end of my first seat, I felt like I knew everyone even though I’d never met them in person.” Another told us that because of the firm’s size, “I know every single employee’s name, which wouldn’t be possible at a big firm.”
Our interviewees gave the firm top marks for its response to remote working. “Within a month, everyone had a second screen and a £150 budget to make our home working environment more comfortable,” one trainee explained. “I bought one of those fancy alarm clocks which lights up gradually.” During lockdown, the firm also sent everyone care packages with goodies from local businesses. Goodies and fancy alarm clocks aside, “it wasn’t like ‘right, we’ve set everyone up, let’s put our feet up.’ I can't believe how much they look after us.” The firm has kept an eye on its lockdown practices by sending surveys to get employee feedback and has now moved to a hybrid working system, whereby staff can book a desk in the office for up to three days a week.
Trainees also praised their supervision system. In addition to a seat supervisor, second-years act as mentors to first-years: “The firm believes that one day we’ll be seat supervisors, so we need to learn those soft skills." Trainees also have a career coach, who’s usually a partner. They felt “you can be very candid with them,” whatever their ambitions were (all of our interviewees wanted to stay at the firm indefinitely.) The NQ jobs list is released around April time for qualifying trainees to apply to their desired positions. Interviews do take place, which are especially important if more than one person goes for the same role. In 2021, the firm kept on five qualifiers (but did not specify how many qualifiers were eligible to apply for an NQ position).
Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, I Spy a work-life balance
Trainees reckoned they put in around 40 hours a week: “I’ve never felt pressure to keep my computer’s green dot on when I’m done for the day.”
How to get into Taylor Vinters
Training contract deadline (2023): TBC
The firm receives more than 300 applications a year.
The application form “covers things like what grades you got and what legal and non-legal work experience you've done, but also includes questions designed to get an insight into your personality and why you're applying to us,” HR manager Alix Balfe-Skinner explains. “Write clearly and concisely, and don't just regurgitate our website.” Typically, candidates need a minimum of a 2:1 and ABB at A-level, though “there's no hard and fast rule and everyone will be considered. We particularly like to hear from people who have outside interests beyond law and for those looking at law as a second career.” That said, the firm is “looking for people to have both legal and non-legal work experience, so they have real-world experience but also have gone out and learned exactly what they want to do.”
After submitting the online application the firm shortlists applicants to complete an online assessment which combines neuroscience, AI and game technology. Following this around 100 applicants are invited to an assessment day. Visit the firm's website for further information on the selection process and timeline.
- Partners 27
- Associates 70
- Trainees 70 (UK)
- UK offices London, Oxford, Cambridge
- Overseas offices 2
- Alix Balfe-Skinner, HR manager, email@example.com, 012 2322 5148
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 5
- Applications pa: 300
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or equivalent
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: ABB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 20
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: Autumn 2020
- Training contract deadline, 2023 start: 31 January 2021
- Vacation scheme applications open: Autumn 2020
- Vacation scheme 2021 deadline: 31 January 2021
- Salary and benefits
- Post-qualification salary: £47,000 Cambridge, £47,000 Oxford and £63,000 London
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: No
- Maintenance grant pa: No
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: London, Cambridge
Our clients range from Fortune 500 technology multinationals through fast growth venture backed businesses and owner managed businesses, to individuals driven by great ideas. Our firm is purpose-driven and we are proud of our culture — read more at www.significant-times.com
Main areas of work
University law careers fairs 2020
•University of Nottingham
•University of Warwick
•University of Exeter
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
Cambridge and surrounds
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 3)
- Information Technology (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 2)
- Litigation (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Charities (Band 4)
- Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 4)