With recent office openings in Oxford and New York, tech-focused Taylor Vinters is in growth mode and picking up the freshest entrepreneurial startup clients on its way.
Who needs to go to Silicon Valley when we have Silicon Fen on our doorstep? For the uninitiated, Silicon Fen is the area in and around Cambridge that’s known as a hotbed for innovation in the tech and life sciences sectors especially. It’s so good that now even tech-oriented US firms – like Goodwin – are beginning to open up shop in the city to get access to all the startups and entrepreneurs based there. Of course, any newcomer will have to contend with Taylor Vinters, which has been on the scene and operating in these areas for a while now. Its HQ can be found in the Cambridge Science Park, where the firm’s lawyers have secured TV a Chambers UK ranking for its expertise in venture capital investments into growth companies. “I’m a bit of a tech geek,” said one trainee, “so it was the clientele that got me hooked.” Clients on the books of late include health tech company Thriva, which has developed home blood test kits, and Featurespace, a company that invented behavioural analytics technology to detect fraud and financial crimes.
As these examples show, TV’s target clients are those who are innovating in any sector. Clients can get a lot more than just early-stage investment advice too: TV picks up a whole host of other Chambers UK rankings, particularly for its IP, IT, litigation, employment, and mid-market corporate and private equity work. TV’s focus is also on the wealth that supports and develops innovative ideas. For this reason, you’ll find TV ranked highly in Chambers High Net Worth for its private wealth expertise, which is often put to use for wealthy entrepreneurs.
The firm’s knowledge is spread much further than Cambridge as well: TV has had a base in London for around a decade, where trainees have the chance to complete various seats. At the last count, 40% of trainees were in London and 60% in Cambridge. A Singapore office was opened in 2010 and gives the firm access to emerging tech markets in Vietnam and Indonesia, and over the past year TV has opened bases in Oxford and New York. The latter is primarily a “sales and consulting office to further our presence in the US,” a trainee told us. What’s clear is that TV is in growth mode at the moment, and sources felt very clued up on the firm’s plans.
Trainees submit teams and locations when listing preferences, and it’s likely that everyone will complete at least one stint in London. Interviewees did feel that the firm could do more to support them between office moves. Although the firm aims to gives a month’s notice before each rotation, sources noted that this hasn’t always been the case. At the same time, one reasoned that “it comes with the inherent nature of training contracts; we do need to be flexible as we’re a small intake and there’s a finite number of seats.”
Commercial and technology is split into sub-teams covering areas like life sciences, IT, charities and social ventures, data protection and privacy, and IP. The department focuses on the life sciences and technology sectors, with most trainees citing that they’d worked with clients from these fields. “I found it easier to engage in the work because of the cool clients, like 3D printing companies and artificial intelligence outfits,” said one insider. Commercial work has seen the team advise on a few strategic collaborations in the pharmaceutical realm of late: one involved advising Microbiotica on its collaboration with Genentech, which centred on the study and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. Trainees were trusted to “draft non-disclosure agreements [NDAs], review and mark up contract agreements, and review terms and conditions.” Research is another important trainee activity, with a source explaining that they’d had a chance to “review international regulation, which involved looking at Chinese law and coordinating with international counsel.” Trainees are never too far away from all the science-y excitement either: “We worked on an IP audit for a doctor who developed a medical device.”
“...cool clients, like 3D printing companies and artificial intelligence outfits.”
The corporate department is known for advising venture capital and private equity clients on investments in the tech sector. Beyond investment work, TV also has a core corporate offering that handles the likes of M&A deals and joint ventures. Clients in this core area include energy development business Clearstone, construction-focused Land Survey Solutions and manufacturing tech developer Betatype Group. Meanwhile, on the venture capital side the team has advised fund Playfair Capital on multiple investments over the past couple of years. Trainees tended to focus on mid-value transactions for the sell side: “We act more for the sellers than buyers, who tend to have a biotech or tech focus.” Sources in this seat spoke of doing a lot of company secretarial work for businesses looking to attract investment: “We check to see if there is anything that might put investors off. We make sure their registration and filings are up to date and look at their certificates too.” Aside from secretarial work, trainees had also worked on transactions involving companies in the solar energy and healthcare spaces.
The emerging companies team falls under the corporate department’s umbrella and was once known as ‘growth’. We were told the rebrand centred on refocusing efforts to attract more startups, although one source wryly said it was an attempt to erase any opportunity for confusion: “Lots of people were like, uh… what is the growth team?!” Again, the focus here is very much on (as TV’s website terms them) ‘technology-driven’ businesses. Trainees were kept occupied with a fair amount of support work, like “marking up shareholder agreements and subscription agreements, reviewing term sheets for funding deals, and putting together evaluations for Enterprise Management Incentives [EMI].” As rookies progressed through the seat, they took on more of a management role, with one exclaiming: “I was the main point of contact for the CFO!”
With such a fresh, techy client pool, innovation lay at the core of the firm’s identity, said trainees. “The clients have created a dynamic energy at the firm,”one pointed out, citing the internal PitchUp programme as a reflection of this: “It’s about how we can be more cutting-edge members of the firm.” We also picked up on a rather Cali/Silicon Valley startup vibe with regard to time management. “You don’t sit around trying to impress anyone,” one commented. “I’m free to manage my days however I would like as a trainee!” Well, within reason of course. Most of our sources worked from 8.30am until 5.30pm, but seats like real estate and corporate did involve slightly longer hours. As for compensation, some Cambridge trainees were a little frustrated with the 10% discrepancy in their salaries compared to what their London contemporaries receive: “We do the same work, and living in Cambridge is also expensive.” One insider, however, defended salary amounts by pointing to a good work/life trade-off.
Trainees were very positive about the level of interaction between the offices. One noted that TV has got communication between the London and Cambridge bases “down to a tee.” Another told how “the firm is keen to keep a fluid culture across its offices” – an aim that is aided by trainees visiting each other in London and Cambridge. “I go to London every fortnight to get face-time with my colleagues; we are one tribe and encouraged to be together.”Partners are also game when it’s time for team bonding. “Our managing partner was the quizmaster once,” one trainee recalled, adding: “You can have banter with partners.”
Sources rated the support they’d received as strong, with one gushing: “I’ve found my forever firm!” Trainees are appointed seat supervisors and a career coach to assist with any queries or concerns throughout the training process. Insiders felt like they were being kept in the loop about their career development and highlighted that during appraisals “you aren’t ambushed: if something wasn’t right, you would know about it well before your review.” The support system has really come to the fore during these uncertain times, thought trainees: “With everything going on, the firm has really pushed us to stay social electronically.”This kind of approach made insiders want to stay with the firm. Typically in April each year, an NQ jobs list is released, and qualifiers set about applying for the positions they want. “There are interviews, but they only become an area of concern if more than one person has gone for the job!”In 2020, three of five qualifiers were retained, with two on fixed-term contracts.
NQs have been known to visit the Singapore office and work with startup clients. At the moment, this opportunity isn’t available for trainees.
How to get into Taylor Vinters
Training contract deadline (2023): TBC
The firm only recruits through its vacation scheme, so to secure a training contract, candidates should apply for and undertake the vacation scheme first. 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 because we hear it all repeatedly.” 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 your online application the firm shortlists applicants to complete an online assessment which combines neuroscience, AI and game technology. Following this around 80 applicants are invited to an assessment day in February. Each day involves group and individual tasks as well as a short interview, and you will also get the opportunity to network with trainees and lawyers over lunch. The date of the assessment days are available on the firm's website here.
Vacation scheme and interviews
Around 20 places are up for grabs on the firm’s vacation scheme in total. Those who participate spend one week in Cambridge and one in London. “Vacation schemers spend a week each in two teams, and in both they're given the opportunity to get involved in client meetings, complete some research and do some drafting,” Alix Balfe-Skinner tells us. "There are also practice area talks, so participants get the chance to understand the business.” Vacation schemers also have the chance to participate in a Q&A with someone on the management board, usually the managing partner or CEO. There are a couple of social activities too. “One night we had pizza in the office, and then another night we went for drinks after work.”
During the vacation scheme, candidates complete the final stage of the application process – a second interview. Training contract offers are then made.
Trainee life in the commercial disputes and entrepreneurial wealth seats
Entrepreneurial wealth lawyers work with high net worth individuals, such as technology entrepreneurs, business owners and those going through family law matters involving their marriages and/or children. Trainees take on both family and private wealth work, as this helpful source explained: “Private wealth covers things like trusts and estates, probate, wills and working closely with tax advisers. With family, you are working on divorces and child arrangements – it can be more emotionally taxing.” Trainees often attended court in this seat, with one flagging going to a final hearing as a particular highlight. Cases can have international dimensions, as this interviewee revealed: “One case was over whether a French prenup should be honoured in the UK.” At court, trainees often took notes on the proceedings, while outside they enjoyed “lots of liaising with clients and barristers.” Due to the nature of the work, client names within the department are not publishable.
The commercial disputes group is recognised in Chambers UK for representing technology companies in a variety of clashes. Recently, the team advised a global tech company on a £30 million construction dispute. The advice available to tech companies also covers IP matters and shareholder disputes. The department has been working on disputes for automotive, pharmaceutical and chemical sector clients, and recently took on a large cross-border fraud matter. On that note, cases over the past year have involved entities in Australia, South Korea, Russia and the Middle East, among many other jurisdictions. As for the trainees, “I do everything!” declared one source, who described tasks ranging from drafting letters of advice to assisting with court procedures. The length of many cases proved to be just right for interviewees: “I found it fascinating, as you often have a case that you follow from start to finish – you are really involved in the journey.” That journey consists of working on documents like witness statements, letters of response and statements of defence. Trainees don’t just sit there during court proceedings and mediations either: “Because we are a small team, they have us participating.”
- Partners 27
- Associates 70
- Trainees 70 (UK)
- UK offices London, Oxford, Cambridge
- Overseas offices 2
- Alix Balfe-Skinner, HR manager, [email protected], 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, 2020
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)