Whether it's the growth of its own London office or the techy ventures and entrepreneurs it serves, this firm has the greenest of fingers.
Tinker, Taylor, Vinter, Spy
Cambridge: a city where minds go to grow, and tech startups too! Nestled among them is Taylor Vinters, based in the ever-expanding Cambridge Science Park on the city's northern edge. Taylor Vinters’ growth and its focus on tech startups is a keen-eyed response to the ever-rising tech entrepreneurships of the ‘Silicon Fen’. Though spearheaded from Cambridge, the firm has seen its London office in particular “growing considerably – we’ve maxed out floor space capacity.” London headcount has almost doubledin the past few years, and following the opening of a Singapore office in 2017, the firm’s international focus on tech, IP and entrepreneurs has grown considerably too. Taylor Vinters currently wins Chambers UK rankings for mid-market corporate M&A, IT, IP, employment, litigation, family law and a few other areas. It's also ranked nationally for venture capital and higher education work. Two more things: the firm recently announced plans to open an Oxford office, plus a sales base in New York.
Trainees can do seats in both Cambridge and London, with just under half of those completed by our interviewees being in London. Real estate and commercial disputes were only available in Cambridge at the time of our calls. After receiving an email of available seats, trainees chat about their preference for seats and locations with HR. Allocations are announced four to six weeks before each rotation. Some rated the system for “providing the flexibility you need,” but those moving cities noted that “only having a month to six weeks to figure out if you’re moving to London or Cambridge is a negative.”
The intriguingly named growth team is “an interesting department – rather than having a sector focus, it's focused on a specific type of client.” The clients in question areinvestors, founders and entrepreneurs. Taylor Vinters helps “startup companies which can be anything from restaurants to gene researchers” with things such as funding rounds, IP protection and commercial contracts. “Startups typically don’t have a lot of cash, so we’re essentially fulfilling the role of in-house lawyer for them, because they’re not big enough to have in-house counsel,” one trainee told us. “We do the work that doesn’t necessarily make a huge profit now, but will pay off in the long run when they become fully-fledged companies.” The team also helps investors provide venture capital for startups. Funding rounds can be worth anywhere from £1 million to £100 million for companies such as travel website Secret Escapes, techy toymaker Tech Will Save Us, and analytics company Featurespace. Trainees do company house and post-completion filings, and draft board minutes, resolutions and shareholder agreements. Plus there are a fair number of client meetings to attend, often at clients' offices.
As one of only two contentious options (along with commercial disputes), employment is “a really popular seat.” It's offered in Cambridge and London, with the main difference being that “London does slightly more international work, though recently the firm has been trying to get both offices doing international work.” Interviewees talked about the team working with counsel in countries close to home (Spain, Germany, Italy) and long-haul (Singapore, Brazil). The team recently worked with an international payroll and outsourcing provider on its employment contracts in Canada, Australia and Hong Kong. It also deals with clients' general HR concerns, breach of contract matters and employment tribunals for “a variety of clients – established businesses but also some startups who pick up the phone to us if they have an issue.” The group recently defended an estate agent against a racial and religious discrimination claim and helped a higher education institution remove an underperforming employee. Trainees can expect to draft employment contracts and settlement agreements and conduct “a lot of ad hoc research.”
“Startup companies which can beanything from restaurants to gene researchers.”
Commercial and technology covers “everything from IP brand issues to life sciences, data and outsourcing – the group is split into little sub-teams.” Trainees can work across all teams or specialise in one area if need be. The group manages trade mark and IP portfolios, for instance for the estate of Stephen Hawking and the Royal Chemistry Society, and advises the World Trade Centers Association on EU trade mark matters. Because there are “so many sub-teams, work varies on a day-to-day basis.” So trainees draft data processing agreements, trade mark assignments for IPOs and commercial contracts. There’s also “a lot of niche research, especially on the life sciences front. You get to dig into areas of law you don’t touch on in your studies.”
The private client department works for mainly high net worth individuals on “two main categories of work: matrimonial and private wealth.” On the matrimonial side, the team deals with “high net worth people in divorces and surrogacy matters.” On the private wealth side, “we deal with landed estates, wills and estate planning, and lasting powers of attorney.” We also heard of a third type of work: helping entrepreneurial clients who “perhaps don’t have a lot of liquidity as they are starting a business. When you’re running a business, sometimes personal stuff takes a back seat – so we strategise with them on how to put wills in place and think about prenups and things.” Trainee tasks include drafting LPA reports, being involved in probate, going to will signings and hearings, and sending out pre-inquiry letters to asset holders and banks. Newbies get a lot of client contact – “initial calls about divorces and involvement in the equity release process.”
Working with so many different startup clients, we weren’t surprised to hear that the growth team has been “spinning lots of plates – perhaps literally. When it gets to 6pm, you’ll see people playing about.” The team apparently has a set of indoor snowballs which lawyers like to mess about with – “we're a team that works hard but knows how to have fun.” Open-plan seating in both offices means “everyone of all seniorities is on the same level culture-wise.” Trainees felt the layout demonstrates the “fun but focused” vibe of the firm – “we’re focused and passionate about our work, but there’s always someone willing to have a chat.” The fun doesn’t stop with mere chatter. Trainees told us about trips to the London Dungeon, the Cambridge Beer Festival and Alcatraz – “an immersive bar that’s set up like a prison. You have to put on a jumpsuit and smuggle alcohol in.” When its lawyers aren't role-playing out on the town, the firm hosts themed food nights (empanadas anyone?) and sports tournaments.
“You have to put on a jumpsuit and smuggle alcohol in.”
Overall trainees felt the firm feels “very inclusive. Everyone is invited to social events – it doesn’t matter what your role in the firm is.” Trainees did admit that there’s “room for improvement” when it comes to diversity. However, they noted that “people are encouraged to be themselves,” and first-year trainees recently launched a CSR project that puts on events to support mental health issues – “it’s been really well received.”
Juniors found partners in general to be “inspiring and energetic – it makes you want to be like them in the years to come.” When it comes to supervisors, we heard that they “always have time to go through anything and answer questions – even if they are stupid ones!” Career mentors are allocated to each trainee at the beginning of their journey – “they’re a partner who won’t be your supervisor. You go through what you’re thinking career-wise with them and can talk about your personal life as well. It creates a great relationship to call upon whenever you need it.” Ongoing training firm-wide includes sessions on how Brexit affects certain markets and the ins and outs of venture capital, plus talks from barristers on case law. Many have a tech focus – “we had training on what cookies are, how to explain biotech to non-scientists, and protecting digital assets and bitcoin.”
Trainees reported regular working hours of 9am to around 6.30pm, with some seats (like employment) coming in at less on average and others (like corporate) requiring more over the course of the seat. London seats also demand slightly more time from newbies than their Cambridge equivalents.
The firm releases a list of available NQ roles for budding qualifiers around Easter. Following that, second-years vying for a spot “submit a CV to gauge exactly what you’re going for. Then you have an interview with your preferred team.” If there’s no competition for a position, the process is less complicated. Between 2015 and 2018 the firm retained 18 of its 27 qualifiers and in 2019 it kept three out of four.
“I see myself here long-term. I get to work with startups and see so many new ideas. It’s so fresh and interesting – I can’t see it being the type of work I’d get bored of very quickly.”
How to get a Taylor Vinters training contract
Training contract deadline (2020 and 2021): 31 January 2020 (via vac scheme only)
For the fourth year running, the firm is recruiting only through its vac scheme. So to bag a training contract, candidates should apply for and undertake the vac 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 firms website.
Vac scheme and interviews
Around 20 places are up for grabs on the firm’s vac scheme in total. Those who participate spend one week in Cambridge and one in London. “Vac schemers spend a week each in two departments, and in both they're given the opportunity to get involved in client meetings, complete some research and do some drafting,” Balfe-Skinner tells us. "There are also practice area talks, so participants get the chance to understand the business.” Vac 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 vac scheme, candidates complete the final stage of the application process – a second interview. Training contract offers are then made.
- 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 2019
- Training contract deadline, 2022 start: 31 January 2020
- Vacation scheme applications open: Autumn 2019
- Vacation scheme 2020 deadline: 31 January 2020
- 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 2018
•University of Nottingham: Monday 21st October 2019
•University of Warwick: Tuesday 22nd October 2019
•UCL: Monday 28th October 2019
•UEA: Wednesday 6th November 2019
•BPP (London): Thursday 14th November 2019
•Durham University: Tuesday 19th November 2019
•University of Exeter: Wednesday 20th November 2019
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
Cambridge and surrounds
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 2)
- Information Technology (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 2)
- Litigation (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Charities Recognised Practitioner
- Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 4)