Taylor Wessing titillates trainees with its big tech focus, cool clients, and some seriously ’grammable wall art.
When we last visited Taylor Wessing’s London HQ, we learned that the firm sponsors the National Gallery’s annual Photographic Portrait Prize, and displays innumerable entries throughout the office. Like any millennial worth their salt, we spent the rest of the afternoon agonising over which filter would do justice on our Instagram page. But this isn't Lonely Planet, and there are many more practical reasons to consider Taylor Wessing. For one, “its client base really stood out,” trainees told us. Alongside many familiar names like Burberry, Monzo and even Dame Vera Lynn, “there are loads of startups.” TW was “top of the list” for trainees who wanted tech, life sciences and IP work, with Chambers UK bestowing high rankings for all of these teams. Taylor Wessing’s alliance with Silicon Valley star Wilson Sonsini also speaks to TW’s talents in the tech and life sciences domain. But trainees went on to point out that “even though it’s strong in those areas, it’s not all the firm is known for.” Case in point, TW achieves its highest Chambers UK accolades in private equity and media and entertainment. The firm’s private client work is also noteworthy – TW is ranked top in London for private wealth law by Chambers High Net Worth.
“The most unconventional law firm I could find.”
With all of these practice areas on offer, one trainee described it as “the most unconventional law firm I could find,” a sentiment echoed by others. “It doesn't feel like I'm working at a law firm,” one shared, “more like a well-established tech startup.” With a trainee intake of around 20 a year, “it’s nice to have a decent number of trainees for camaraderie and support, but not so many people that you don’t get to know others in the building.” All newbies join the London office, but TW also has bases in Cambridge and Liverpool (plus a ‘TechFocus’ office in Shoreditch), and a further 24 offices in 15 other countries. The firm doesn't currently offer overseas seats (though this may be in the pipeline) but insiders happily pointed out that trainees occasionally get to spend a bit of time in a foreign office if the work requires it. For example, “the patent team might be working with a German office, so the trainee might go there for a couple of weeks to work on the matter.”
Client secondments are fairly focusedon the tech sector, with destinations including household names of the industry. Trainees are told which secondments are available in each seat rotation, but some felt there could be more transparency in the allocation. “It’s not always clear why some people get them over others,” one felt, while another source reasoned that “clients need secondees with certain experience. It’s not for the firm to send whoever they want and tell the client to suck it up.”
At each seat rotation, newbies are asked to rank five departments. One source felt that “it opens us up to getting a seat we really don’t want,” explaining that “some other firms only ask for three choices.” True, but we should point out that there are also firms that ask trainees to rank more than five departments. Others were pleased with how “organised” the process was. “We meet with the grad rec team halfway through each seat and they ask us to think about where we want to go next, so we’re not panicking right before the deadline!” Trainees said the grad rec team was also “very good at telling us which seats will be hotly contested, like corporate technology.”
IP and media was another popular option. One trainee told us it was their favourite seat “because most matters are leanly staffed, so I got the most responsibility there.” The team covers trademarks, brand management and design rights. Clients include major telecoms companies, Taylor Wessing assisting with global trademark portfolio management. The team recently advised AdTech company Amobee on licensing its videology platform to ITV. There are also some fashion names on the client list, like Christian Dior’s perfume line. It was a “varied and fast-moving” seat for trainees, where “every day is different.” Interviewees helped to put commercial contracts and trademark applications together and enjoyed “constant” communication with clients and other law firms. It’s not technically a litigious seat, but there was a fair amount of contentious work on offer, which had rookies drafting cease and desist letters and witness statements. In a litigious capacity, the team recently acted for PlanetArt (which owns the photo-printing app FreePrints) against Photobox after it launched a competing app.
“… consolidating advice from our European lawyers for a US client.”
Distinct from IP and media, the patents team is divided between contentious and non-contentious work. “We’ve got a heavy life sciences focus but we do a bunch of telecoms work on the tech side too,” trainees explained.High-profile life sciences clients come in the form of Pfizer and Abbott Laboratories. The team recently defended the latter’s valve repair product MitraClip in infringement claims and proceedings against another company's product. In this “really complex area of law,” trainees were “much more led by a partner” and given “more admin tasks” compared to other seats. “I spent most of the seat on litigations,” one source told us. “Trainees are responsible for keeping track of the documents and court dates.” Trainees also “attended a decent number of expert witness meetings,” where they’d draft attendance notes and statements. Unlike IP, there wasn’t much direct client contact, but sources did get to liaise with barristers, courts and outside counsel. On international cases, the team coordinates advice from TW’s international offices. For example, trainees might help with “consolidating advice from our European lawyers for a US client.”
The wider disputes team advises not only tech and life sciences clients, but financial institutions and professional services firms such as Deloitte. Taylor Wessing advised Deloitte in relation to Financial Reporting Council proceedings into audits it carried out. On another recent case, the team represented three entities in a Russian-owned investment group in $25 million claims against a former employee, alleging misrepresentation and breach of employment agreements. Trainees worked on professional negligence, High Court litigation, corporate crime, arbitration and product liability claims. Shareholder actions, joint venture disputes and warranty claims are also common, and the firm also has an investigations practice. “On my first day I had a six-hour meeting going through the key documents with witnesses!” one trainee recounted. Sources also got to draft sections of witness statements. Another trainee was drafted onto a case involving a lot of creditors, “which took up a big chunk of my seat. I was talking with 100 creditors every week!” Newbies also got to spend a lot of time in court: “I’d summarise the day’s proceedings then report it to the team and answer the client’s questions directly.”
“I interacted directly with CEOs and CFOs from early on.”
Over in private capital and corporate finance, trainees got involved in M&A, main market rights issues, private M&A and commercial contracts. Sources were “pleasantly surprised by the amount of responsibility” they got.One told us: “I was heavily involved in the entire deal rather than just paper-pushing.” Another said: “I interacted directly with CEOs and CFOs from early on.” Rookies were regularly on calls with directors for big fund-raises and share issues, but explained that TW also works with smaller startups too. “That work is usually associated with the corporate technology team but there’s a nice overlap between us.” For example, these folks recently advised Oxford-based startup Tokamak Energy on a £75 million fund-raising round.
Two trainees sit in TW’s private client seat, with one handling the litigious side and the other working in the non-contentious branch. Much of the work is for “ultra high net worth, high-profile people” – who’re also ultra confidential. The work revolves around managing family structures and trusts. “Drafting straightforward wills and powers of attorney are tasks that trainees specifically do,” they told us. There’s a decent amount of research too, which trainees compiled into advice memos for clients. Given the nature of the work here, trainees praised this seat for getting a lot of interaction with the client. “I called clients directly and ran the smaller matters for them,” said one. Trainees found their responsibilities on the contentious side similar to the disputes seat, with rookies getting to draft witness statements and instructions to counsel (with a bit of bundling thrown in for good measure).
Trainee supervisors tend to be either senior associates or partners. We heard “senior associates are more in tune with the type of work trainees do, so they were really hands-on,” while partner supervisors “are very good for giving us exposure to clients and helping with business development, like pitches and publications.” Either way, “they all want us to grow and develop.” Even during the upheaval of lockdown, “it was great to see how many people were still dedicated to mentoring us.” One trainee told us: “My supervisor was really good at keeping in touch, so if they were CC’d on an email to me and thought I’d want to discuss the content, they’d call me.”
“We’re never there just as observers – there’s too much work going on for that!”
In fact, trainees felt supported across the firm.“We’re integral to the teams,” they said. “We’re never there just as observers – there’s too much work going on for that!” The private capital and corporate finance seat reportedly demanded some of the toughest hours, where trainees typically work on investment banks’ schedules, meaning some 10pm finishes plus a couple of 2am finishes here and there. IP and media trainees clocked out around 8pm, while in disputes “we work intensely from 8.30am to 6.30pm but then we stop because the deadlines are court-driven rather client-driven.” Trainee salaries normally start at £40,000 in first year but following the outbreak of Covid-19, all trainees took an additional ten days of annual leave at a cost of 8% salary spread out over a period of six months. Proving that Taylor Wessingers go through the mud together, the firm also cut the partnership draw by 20%.
Trainees didn’t pick up on any kind of social hierarchy at the firm either. “We all have lunch together in the canteen every day,” they told us, enjoying views overlooking the city. Certain groups run their own socials, like informal Friday drinks. The private client folks were known for being the biggest social butterflies, and trainees enjoyed regular pizza nights and drinks on the office’s roof terrace together. TW also hosts events with future trainees “to help the cohort bond.” In the two-year period between finishing the firm’s vac scheme and starting the training contract, newcomers are invited to the summer and Christmas parties.
TW has mental health first-aiders on every team, who are trained to spot signs of mental distress: “They’re people of all levels, from secretaries to partners.” The firm also offers yoga and mindfulness classes every Wednesday, monthly massages, and a subscription to mental wellbeing app Headspace. One source was “pleasantly surprised with how the firm did regular catch-ups and social calls during lockdown. I feel like they’re genuinely concerned for our wellbeing.”
The pandemic did throw off the NQ process somewhat. Given how stressful qualification time can be at any firm, some trainees felt there could've been a tad more communication addressing the changes to the NQ timetable. That said, others recognised “it’s very difficult for them to know exactly what the situation will be in a couple of months.” Ordinarily, trainees chat with HR about where they want to qualify, submit an application to their preferred departments (they can apply to more than one) and then have an interview. In 2020, Taylor Wessing was yet to confirm a retention figure when we went to press.
TW’s School of Thought
We heard several trainees and “very senior” partners alike can “take time out of their days to mentor state school students, which is a really good example of how TW views its people.”
Get Hired at Taylor Wessing
Vacation scheme deadline (2021): 11 January 2020 (open 1 October 2020)
Apply for a training contract through the firm’s vacation scheme
The firm hosts 3 open days across November, and one first year insight in March each year. The First Year Insight is targeted solely at first years, while the open days are for penultimate year law and non-law finalist students .
The firm generally receives over 600 applications for its 35 to 40 vacation scheme places each year, with up to 20 training contract places up for grabs. Applications begin with an online form, and candidates need a minimum ABB at A level and a 2:1 degree. However, each application is looked at in context and the firm does not auto-reject. There are spaces to detail mitigating circumstances, along with the use of Rare's contextualised recruitment system. There’s space to list prior work experience, though Block tells us the firm "appreciates 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 Block. “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. This is a game-based psychometric test, which looks at your behaviour and approach to each task to highlight 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 Fortnite to practice for this test, we're told that no prior experience of online gaming is required.
Applicants who pass the initial screening stages are invited to attend a half-day assessment centres. Each assessment centre consists of a group exercise, as well as a commercial awareness exercise and interview. During the group exercise, candidates are given a business scenario they could potentially encounter as a trainee, and then asked to come up with a solution and present it to the assessors
“We review both their leadership skills and their team-working abilities,” Block 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. The interview takes place 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 offers straight off the back of the assessment day.
Taylor Wessing 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 ‘focus on’ 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 at the end of the scheme. “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, yoga, 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, Taylor Wessing'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: the firm works hard to ensure there is a good representation from different degree backgrounds. Of the 39 trainees with the firm currently, five had science degrees. Just over a third had studied law at undergrad (14) with the remaining 20 studying a mixture of non – law degrees.
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 Matthew Royle 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."
Taylor Wessing Diversity & Inclusion Interview – with Sian Skelton
Taylor Wessing LLP
5 New Street Square,
- Partners 350
- Associates 500
- Total trainees 42
- UK offices London, London Tech City and Cambridge
- Overseas offices 25
- Graduate recruiter: Alice Halsted [email protected]
- Training partners: Matthew Royle and Anna Humphrey
- Application criteria
- Training contract pa: up to 20 recruited through vacation scheme
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or equivalent
- Minimum UCAS points or A Levels: ABB or equivalent
- Vacation scheme places pa: Up to 40
- Dates and deadlines
- Apply for a training contract through our vacation scheme.
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1st October 2020 Please visit out website for deadline
- Salary and benefits
- First year salary: £40,000
- Second year salary: £44,000
- Post qualification salary: £77,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £7,000
- International and regional
- Offices with training contract: London
- Client secondments: Yes
A diverse client base allows us to advise on more than just the law. We’re a firm that encourages new ideas and different ways of doing things. Our experts play an essential role in advising clients on business growth and protection, while introducing them to new people, new markets and fresh perspectives that will help their businesses stand out and flourish. Collaboration is key to our success. We recruit a wide range of students including those who haven’t studied Law.
Main areas of work
‘Superb’, ‘outstanding’, ‘expert’, ‘strategic’ and ‘commercial’ are all terms associated with our reputation. We want everyone to enjoy working with us – as much as that is possible when providing legal advice. Efficiency is important, but anticipating needs for greater protection and security through creative solutions compliments the advice we provide to clients and will prepare you for future challenges of exceeding expectations.
Naturally, we expect you to be committed to a career in law, with a genuine passion to learn. Our people love what they do and want to contribute new ideas. They are team players who value and respect individuality, and the benefit of working in an inclusive environment. Qualifications are also important to us, and we look for a minimum of ABB grades at A level and a 2.1 degree in any discipline. We appreciate though that not every candidate’s achievements look the same on paper, that’s why we use Rare Recruitment Contextual Recruitment System to consider everyone’s achievements in context. You should be confident, with good communication skills and the ability to build strong relationships. You’ll have the energy, ambition and creativity to take responsibility, challenge and make a difference. We recruit only through our vacation scheme for our 2023 training contract.
First year opportunities
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Lower Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Construction: Non-contentious (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Employment: Employer (Band 4)
- Information Technology (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight Table
- Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 2)
- Planning (Band 5)
- Professional Negligence: Financial (Band 2)
- Real Estate Finance (Band 3)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
- Real Estate: Big-Ticket (Band 4)
- Data Protection & Information Law (Band 4)
- Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 3)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 3)
- Hotels & Leisure (Band 2)
- Life Sciences (Band 2)
- Life Sciences: IP/Patent Litigation (Band 2)
- Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 2)
- Media & Entertainment: Advertising & Marketing (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Gaming, Social Media & Interactive Content (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Publishing (Band 1)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 1)
- Professional Discipline (Band 5)
- Retail (Band 4)