Who needs the Tour de France when this Wiggin has shown that its specialist media, tech and IP work is a tour de force?
Wiggin training contract review 2022
If it’s a specialist firm with a big personality that you’re looking for, then look no further. As one of the market leaders in media, technology and intellectual property, Wiggin appealed to trainees for its ability to let them develop a focus: “Joining a firm in this area appealed to me because I knew that was the direction I wanted to head in, and Wiggin would allow me to specialise from the outset.” Talk of a ‘specialist’ firm might cause you to wonder what the environment is like. Our trainee sources were quick to clarify that Wiggin’s culture is one that is built around its people: “If you’re after a big City firm environment, something more corporate, it’s probably not for you. Not because of its size, or the quality of work, but because of its culture and its values.”
“Wiggin would allow me to specialise from the outset.”
The firm’s London office – its biggest– is spread over three open-plan floors, with areas that offer panoramic views of the city: “The London office is in a great location – dangerously close to Oxford Street on payday!” said one trainee (we too have experienced this temptation and double-edged sword…). Wiggin is also ideally situated – close to the creative hub that is Soho – to cater to the needs of its clientele, which includes some of the largest media companies in the world. It's worth noting that trainees are also encouraged to spend time in the Cheltenham office throughout their training contact and to complete at least one seat there. The firm’s expertise is certainly recognised by Chambers UK, which awards Wiggin top-tier UK-wide rankings for its gaming, social media, film, television and publishing expertise – this know-how partly covers the financing and protection of its clients’ creative products. When those clients include the likes of Netflix, Disney and Amazon, it’s not surprising that Wiggin is the first port of call for trainees looking to build their legal career in these areas.
The firm recruits three trainees per intake and looks for trainees with a demonstrable interest in sectors it works in: “It’s not a prerequisite, but industry experience is a big bonus, and a passion for the area is what the partners are looking for,” one trainee told us. Prospective trainees are required to submit an application form and attend an interview; Wiggin then invites a handful of shortlisted candidates to an assessment day at the firm’s Cheltenham office, which plays an important part in the firm's activities and culture. As one trainee recounted: “At the assessment centre in Cheltenham, I immediately got a feel for the firm. A senior partner had gone around and stuck jokes up on the walls, which immediately made us feel at ease.”
The first seat is usually selected for you on the basis of your CV and past experience. As a general rule, all trainees complete a seat in litigation (either commercial litigation or contentious IP), but there are conversations at every stage: “They want to find out about who you are and what you are interested in, not just as a lawyer, but as a person.” Seat-planning meetings take place a few weeks after joining, and trainees told us that they had “heard back with our full seat plan for the rest of our training contracts before Christmas. It's been nice to have that certainty in advance.”
The IP seat deals with IP litigation and non-contentious matters. The more transactional IP work is often undertaken by what the firm calls its digital commerce team, which is “an umbrella team that takes on all things related to content distribution.” Back to the IP seat: typical trainee tasks include preparing bundles and reviewing evidence documents, but there is also a significant research element. As one trainee told us: “Research tasks tend to involve a really deep dive into the law, where you look into how the underlying IP rights were protected or infringed, so it can be a good seat to start on.” The department has worked with clients such as the Endemol Shine Group (responsible for titles including Peaky Blinders and Black Mirror), and has benefited from lateral hires in the last year – for example, the former head of Barclays’ global intellectual property team joined in July 2020.
“The firm’s betting and gaming department is one of the best in the country, despite being a relatively small team,” said one proud trainee. Chambers UK grants Wiggin’s betting and gaming team a top-tier ranking, and not without good reasons: the team specialises in all forms of interactive media, gaming, and e-sports for one thing. Recent work highlights also shed light on the team’s highly regarded status: lawyers here advised CD Projekt (famous for its Witcher game series) on various aspects of its new video game Cyberpunk 2077. Trainees did spend some time on regulatory matters while in this seat, which involved instances “where a client wants to launch a product or change an existing one; we go out and interact with local counsel to find out whether they are able to do it and what kinds of regulations there are [in overseas jurisdictions].”
“There's a certain degree of glam working with the big US studios and drafting contracts for famous actors.”
Given its clientele, it’s not surprising that the film and TV seat is popular among the firm’s trainees: “There's a certain degree of glam working with the big US studios and drafting contracts for famous actors.” The film and TV sector is one of the firm’s areas of strength; a focus on finance and production matters is prevalent here. Key clients include Disney, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox, who all need Wiggin’s lawyers to put their expertise to good use on contracts. A trainee told us that the work covers “all of the contracts you need in place to produce a film or a TV show – from financial documents to cast contracts.” Trainees found that there was a quicker turnaround time on their work here than elsewhere. Typical tasks included “reviewing drafts of directors’ and writers’ agreements for film and TV production clients” – not bad for an answer to the question ‘How was your day?’!
The corporate seat at Wiggin involves “drafting documents and liaising with lawyers on the other side” on various media and tech-related transactions. One of these recently saw the team advise on the sale of Silverback Films (responsible for natural history titles such as Our Planet and The Hunt) to All3Media. One source told us that they’d spent quite a lot of time on M&A deals, where they helped to draft ancillary documents, review due diligence documents and lead a disclosure exercise. Another said that the corporate seat was among the busiest they worked in: “Given the nature of corporate, there are times where the deals dictate the hours. We sometimes finished between 10pm and 11pm, but this was only the case in one week of every three months or so.”
Wiggin relaunched its training contract in 2019. We heard that the firm had devoted time and attention to refining the training contract during the time it was put on hold: “They are pushing to make learning and development more structured, with lots of soft skills workshops and seminars.” On the whole, trainees were keen to tell us just how supportive the environment at Wiggin is: “Everyone is invited to be who they are and tell everyone about it.” During the pandemic, the firm sent out care packages, which sources appreciated. Trainees also reported that partners stayed in regular contact to make sure they were coping okay during times when deals or cases ramped up and the hours increased: “The firm is full of people who realise that we all have a life outside of work.”
Indeed, in non-pandemic times, the social life at Wiggin was deemed to be one of the firm’s great strengths. Trainees pointed us in the direction of the Wiggin festival (yes, really!), which takes place once every two years and sees the firm rent out a field, complete with food trucks, silent disco and live music (and is apparently as fun as it sounds!).
"The thought of one day being a partner and moving out to the Cotswolds seems quite nice.”
Come qualification time, the firm hopes to retain as many qualifiers as possible. However, small teams can mean that spaces are dependent on where the trainees want to specialise in any given year. A source also recommended doing “some work yourself to let the department know that you are keen.” The current qualifying intake summed up the process like this: “We were sent an email just before the three-month mark of our final seat, telling us where the spaces were.” It was music to trainees’ ears that there were no CVs or application forms needed: “They know who we are.” All the trainees we spoke to saw themselves staying at the firm for the long haul if possible, with one source jokingly remarking: “I wouldn’t have been able to find another firm that would let us wear jeans and trainers! And the thought of one day being a partner and moving out to the Cotswolds seems quite nice.” Where do we sign up? In 2021, Wiggin retained three of its four qualifiers.
Trainees spoke of the balanced gender representation at the associate level and were hopeful that this would soon be reflected in the partner ranks too: “There is now a pattern of people working their way up to partner internally, so it’s only a matter of time before the gender imbalance at a partner level is rectified.”
How to get a Wiggin training contract
Opening date for training contract applications (2023): Winter 2021
Training contract deadline (2023): Spring 2022
Wiggin takes on a very small number of trainees each year, and with only four places on the firm’s training contract available for a 2023 start, prospective applicants can expect stiff competition (with three places available for a 2022 start, the firm received 741 applications). The initial application comes in the shape of an online form via a cvMail link on the firm’s website. The application form includes a list of qualifications and work experience, and leaves room for the candidates interests and achievements, as well as the opportunity to upload an additional CV.
The assessment day
The firm invites a handful of shortlisted applicants to an assessment day at the firm’s office in Cheltenham, which forms an important part of the culture of the firm. According to Wiggin’s training principle – Ben Whitelock – people tend to base themselves in London, but all trainees will do at least one seat in Cheltenham: “One reason for this is that a lot of the senior fee earners at the firm - particularly those in film and tv - live in Cheltenham. The way we see it, it’s not really two offices but one office in two locations.”
The number of applicants that are invited to the assessment day is dependent on the application pool, but those that do attend are asked to give a presentation that has been prepared in advance. This runs alongside things like drafting exercises as well as an interview, which is conducted by a partner at the firm and the head of HR.
Among the most important things Wiggin looks for in prospective trainees is a genuine interest in the industries they work in. Wiggin’s Head of Human Resources, Grace Walton, told us: “We are looking for candidates who are personable, confident and have a good understanding of Wiggin and why they want to work in media, technology and or IP law. We want to feel like we have met the ‘real’ candidate and that they have a genuine interest in what we do.” The firm does have a minimum requirement of a 2:1 at degree level, and a number of the firm’s trainees have experience in a relevant industry, like music, film, and Fintech.
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This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
- Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight Table
- Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 3)
- Gaming (Band 1)
- Media & Entertainment: Film & Television (Band 1)
- Media & Entertainment: Gaming, Social Media & Interactive Content (Band 2)
- Media & Entertainment: Publishing (Band 1)