“If you’re interested in media, tech and IP law, then this is a brilliant place to be,” declared trainees at boutique firm Wiggin.
If you’re looking for information on Bradley Wiggins, the town of Wigan or barristers’ wigs, you’ll want to look elsewhere. If however you’re looking for everything you need to know about media, tech and IP law firm Wiggin, because you're interested in becoming a trainee with the firm, then you’ve come to the right place.
From its offices in London, Cheltenham and Brussels, the firm works on headline-worthy media matters despite a limited headcount. “We’re quite a small firm that’s recently grown hugely,” one trainee told us. Wiggin has certainly upped its headcount of late – the biggest step came in 2017 when it merged with IP boutique Redd, creating a 20-lawyer IP team.
This means IP is now a big deal here, but the most common thread through Wiggin’s practice is media and entertainment. That’s an umbrella term – the firm works on matters for the film, television, computer gaming, tech, publishing, music, advertising and gambling sectors. Netflix, Warner Music, Sony, Microsoft, News UK and many more household names call on Wiggin’s expertise for commercial or litigious matters. Chambers UK hands the firm rankings for film and television, publishing, gaming, IP, sports law and defamation.
Back in 2015 the firm cancelled its formal training contract, citing clients handling more work in-house as the reason. The programme made a comeback in 2018 when Wiggin offered four paralegals a chance to become trainees, and going forward the firm plans to recruit externally as well. “I was a bit apprehensive as we hadn’t regularly taken on trainees for a few years, but so far the training contract has been really well run,” one of the four trainees who started in 2018 told us. Three of those four are based in London and one in Cheltenham.
We’re still in the early days of the new training contract, so “there is a structure in place but it’s not all set in stone yet.” The current crop of trainees have all had unique paths with seats of varying lengths, but future joiners will probably stick to the traditional four six-month seat model. “The firm probably needs to work on communication about the training contract generally,” insiders conceded, before adding: “It's all very new.” Client secondments are likely to pop up on an ad-hoc basis in future.
Crazy little thing called Wiggin
The biggest slice of Wiggin’s media law pie is film and TV work, and trainees can do a seat wholly dedicated to the big and small screens, or at least what’s going on behind them. Within the team there are finance and production subgroups. Trainees primarily worked with the latter: “The team does everything from daily crew contracts and vendor agreements for props, to cast agreements for celebrities.” The firm advised Twentieth Century Fox on the production of Bohemian Rhapsody and worked with Carnival Films and Focus Features on the structuring of the production of the Downton Abbey film. Sadly, rookies are unlikely to meet Rami Malek or Dame Maggie Smith as a result, given “trainees primarily work on the lower-level stuff.” This means they get to “draft and review commercial contracts and speak to the production teams.” On the finance side, Wiggin recently acted for MUFG Union Bank on a loan to finance production of the next Kingsman film. The team also advised on the sale of Sid Gentle Films, producers of Killing Eve, to BBC Studios.
“You’ll see names of actors and programmes that you recognise.”
Media companies are key to the corporate practice – “if they’re seeking investment or being sold to large organisations we’ll work on that.” For example, the firm acted for Canadian entertainment company Boat Rocker Media on its acquisition of media company Fremantle’s children’s TV division. “Wiggin works on interesting but manageable deals,” according to trainees. “They’re not huge and overwhelming and the clients are interesting – you’ll see names of actors and programmes that you recognise.” It’s not all media, folks – clients like Manchester United and Jaguar Land Rover are also on the books. Bibling and due diligence act as the starting point for trainees here but “there will be greater variety later in the seat.”
Trainees in the commercial seat reported that “a lot of the work lately has been GDPR-related,” calling for them to draft privacy notices and data processing agreements. “We have clients all over the world that send us large media agreements for a first review, and we’re flagging up potential issues and making direct amendments,” one source shared – for example, Wiggin recently helped HBO with its GDPR compliance. The team also does software-related work and advised Rockstar Games on the music licensing for an expansion pack for Grand Theft Auto. “As a trainee I’ve been trusted to have a go at first drafts,” an insider reported. “I’ll sit down with my supervisor and run through everything but I’m on email chains with clients too.”
Once upon a time Wiggin’s IP team worked mostly on trade mark protection and online copyright disputes: recently it acted for luxury goods holding company Richemont in a Supreme Court appeal over cost liability for website blocking orders. The merger with Redd has broadened the team's scope to include patents and IP transactions. “We still do a lot of work for the film and TV industries,” interviewees confirmed. “It’s nice to see something on TV and get to say, ‘We did something for those guys!’” Outside media, Wiggin recently defended MacGregor Healthcare in a patent infringement dispute about surgical catheters.
The firm also has a strong reputation for gambling and licensing law – the practice is top-ranked by Chambers UK. Social responsibility in gambling has been a hot topic recently and trainees have seen “lots of regulatory work with the Gambling Commission – it’s another one of those seats where you sometimes see something on the news and realise you’ve worked on it.” The firm recently advised William Hill on a regulatory investigation by the Gambling Commission into money laundering and social responsibility which led to a £6.2 million fine. The team’s also taken on more commercial work of late, representing Pokerstars in joint venture arrangements with Hong Kong’s International Entertainment Corporation; Wiggin also advised Ladbrokes Coral on the regulatory aspects of its £4 billion takeover by rival GVC. We heard that trainees in this seat recently had “a lot of interaction with US firms,” and that “partners are happy for you to act as a direct point of contact for clients.”
Gettin' Wiggin Wit It
They may have been chinwagging with US firm lawyers, but Wiggin’s trainees weren’t matching their hours: most days wrap up at around 6.30 or 7pm, and “it’s weird for you to be here until 8 or 9pm unless there’s something mammoth going on.” The salary for first-year trainees in Cheltenham is the same as in London.
“You can sit between two partners and happily have a conversation with them.”
Wiggin's London base is in Fitzrovia, an area that's home to lots of businesses in the creative sector. “We're away from all the law firms, and there’s a much more relaxed feel with lots of cool bars,” one trainee shared. Recent expansion means “the office is getting cramped.” Both London and Cheltenham have hotdesking policies so “there’s not much feel of a hierarchy – you can sit between two partners and happily have a conversation with them.” Interviewees also appreciated the lack of an official dress code. Some had “concerns about whether Wiggin will lose its laidback feel as it grows, but it seems they’re trying to hold onto that as long as they can.”
It doesn’t look like growth has affected the social scene – in London there’s a drinks trolley on the last Friday of the month (“normally a new starter takes it round so they can get to know people”) and lawyers often “go to the pub on Thursday or Friday if people are free.” There’s less going on in Cheltenham, but the firm alternates between offices for its Christmas party and runs ‘Wiggfest’, complete with food tents and bumper cars, every couple of years.
At the time of our calls trainees were unsure how qualification would work, but noticed “the firm’s started to do a lot more formal training – we have knowledge management sessions in each team.” Sources also praised their supervisors for providing regular “hands-on advice.” The firm's one 2019 qualifier was kept on.
Wiggin has a match-ready sports practice, which recently advised the owners of betting app MoPlay on its kit sponsorship deal with Watford FC.
Interview with partner Ben Whitelock
Chambers Student: Could you give a brief overview of Wiggin’s position in the market and what makes it distinctive from other firms?
Ben Whitelock: We’re a leading media, tech and IP firm and only work in these areas. That in itself makes us pretty unique – lots of big firms have great TMT (tech, media and telecoms) groups but it’s often hard as a trainee to secure a seat, and harder still to secure an NQ role on qualification. That’s all we do, so if you’re interested in these sectors and practice areas, then Wiggin really is the firm for you. We're not the largest of firms but our work is high quality - we're top ranked in a number of areas and regularly win awards for our legal work, and for our entrepreneurial approach as a firm.
CS: What prompted the restarting of the firm’s training contract?
BW: We've experienced really significant growth over the last few years and as a result are now in a place where we can ensure that trainees will get high quality work and effective supervision out of both our London and Cheltenham offices. Previously we used to require trainees to re-locate to Cheltenham which did not necessarily work for all graduates. We’ve always really valued trainees as an important part of our culture and it's great that we are now in a position to offer a first class training contract, focused on interesting sectors and areas of law, that's also flexible in terms of geography.
CS: The firm recently merged with IP specialist Redd – how has that expanded Wiggin’s practice and capabilities?
BW: Wiggin always had strong IP capabilities and was particularly known for its ground-breaking work in relation to online enforcement. In comparison to other firms we now have one of the larger IP teams, and our practice is much broader than before, including an enhanced trade marks offering, in addition to designs and patent expertise.
CS: IP aside, are there any practice areas that are doing especially well at the moment? In what areas do you see most potential for the future?
BW: Film and TV is a big one – we’ve been doing tremendous amounts of work for both the traditional US studios and the newer platforms such as Netflix as the demand for high quality film and TV content has soared.
The firm’s also been doing a lot in online betting and gaming. The work is almost always cross-border and legally is extremely interesting, requiring a good knowledge of both the complex regulation as well as areas such as data protection, IP, advertising and consumer law.
Going forward we see opportunities in tech-related work, particularly 5G, extended reality, AI, blockchain, and computer gaming. Film and TV also currently shows no sign of slowing down.
CS: How are new technological developments affecting the firm’s practice?
BW: We’re certainly aware of their effect on the profession. The new due diligence and document automation tools are certainly relevant for the larger more generalist-firms. We have focused on developing tech-related solutions to problems and issues that are specific to our clients and their businesses. A great example is INCOPRO, a tech business we founded which detects online copyright and brand infringement – incredibly useful for audiovisual content owners and any business for whom counterfeit goods are an issue. The business and its product offering have grown enormously over the last couple of years and recently took a $21m VC investment.
CS: A firm’s character or culture is an important subject for our readers. What would you tell them about the culture at Wiggin?
BW: Maintaining our culture has always been incredibly important to us. We are a young firm and the attraction for many of our joiners is not just our sector and practice area focus, but the opportunity to be entrepreneurial and to shape and grow their own firm. This still very much applies today and by joining as a trainee you will have the opportunity to do this from day 1 of your career. We want people to feel they can be themselves, focus on doing excellent quality work for the most ambitious businesses in our sectors and to have a bit of fun at the same time.
CS: How do you see Wiggin’s training contract developing over the next few years?
BW: The contract is designed to produce newly qualified lawyers who have a really good grasp of the fundamentals which go to being a first class lawyer in our sectors. To achieve this we need to ensure that all trainees get good hands on, relevant experience across IP, commercial, corporate and litigation. This process always requires honing, but the types and size of deals and cases we work on are highly conducive to giving our trainees excellent practical experience.
CS: Do you have any advice for readers about to enter the legal profession?
BW: By all means test the water in different areas of law but try and find a practice area or industry sector that you’re genuinely interested in. That’s the trick to committing to and enjoying the law long-term. Lawyers work hard and there can be long hours but a natural underlying interest in the subject matter and not just the law makes the job all the more rewarding.
How to get a training contract at Wiggin
- Partners: 40
- Associates: 50
- Total trainees: 5
- UK offices: Cheltenham, London
- Graduate recruiter:Grace Walton [email protected] 01242 224114
- Training partner: Ben Whitelock, [email protected]
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: up to 4
- Applications pa: 317
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: January 2020 for 2022
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant: £7,000
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: Cheltenham and London
- Client secondments: yes
- Due to the COVID-19 outbreak we have taken the difficult decision to postpone the selection day for our 2022 training contracts from this summer (2020) to next summer (2021). We will continue to accept applications for 2022 until 30 May 2021.
Wiggin focuses exclusively on media, technology and IP. They advise clients on the financing, exploitation and protection of their creative and commercial assets in these sectors.
Main areas of work
Alongside its specialist commercial expertise, the firm provides a full legal service across corporate, tax, finance, litigation, employment and property. Wiggin’s clients range from leading businesses in broadcast entertainment, music, sport and publishing through to platforms, content retailers, gaming and technology companies and early stage entrepreneurs.
The firm’s Brussels office provides legal support and lobbies EU decision makers on behalf of clients on a wide range of matters, including EU copyright, audio visual regulation, data protection, competition policy, trade and e-commerce. Wiggin has also built a network of trusted overseas law firms, with a similar media, technology and IP focus, covering all key worldwide jurisdictions.
4 x 6 months
• Group personal pension
• Permanent health insurance
• Death in service
• Corporate gym membership
• Holiday buy / sell scheme
• Cycle scheme
Email: [email protected]
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
- Media & Entertainment: Gaming, Social Media & Interactive Content (Band 2)
- Media & Entertainment: Publishing (Band 1)