A focus on tech, entrepreneurs and investment has Taylor Vinters growing right alongside the “interesting, wacky businesses” it has come to represent.
An inclination for innovation
“We don't have sector focuses, we have client focuses,” insisted the trainees of Taylor Vinters. Specifically, the firm targets clients who are “innovative.” Unsure what this means? Well, the fact the firm started out in Cambridge, now one of the key tech centres in the UK, is probably the biggest clue. Over the years the firm has refined a model which feeds off the growth of exciting new companies, the investment they seek, and the continued success of entrepreneurs who've graduated to the next level. Software, biotech and electronics companies feature heavily – there are start-ups like drone firm Sky Futures and AI developer Prowler – but names like Go Ape; Kings College, Cambridge; and travel website Secret Escapes provide variety.
To best serve clients of this ilk, the firm has built respected M&A, venture capital, employment, IT, IP and litigation practices – all of which are ranked in East Anglia by Chambers UK. If that sounds good to you, you’re not alone. Among the numerous draws that enticed current trainees, one stood clearly above the rest: “The firm has a clear direction in the clients it wants to work with. I felt if I came here I’d get very focused training.”
Cambridge is still the largest of the firm’s two domestic offices, but TV’s London base – opened in 2010 – is growing. As managing partner Ed Turner explains: “The reason we’ve ended up growing quicker in London is principally because the market for innovation in London is growing more quickly than in Cambridge. Cambridge has a fast-growing economy but the innovation economy is more mature.” Overall, the firm is growing both in headcount, and in turnover. This means changes to the training contract are on the cards. “There is the prospect of a gradual increase in seat availability in London,” says Turner. TV also has a base in Singapore (Taylor Vinters Via), and Turner hints: “There may well be opportunities for trainees and lawyers to spend time there.”
All trainees sit in the Cambridge office, but they also have a good chance of spending time in London for some of their seats. There are currently eight seats in Cambridge and four in London. After the options are emailed out, HR meets with trainees to talk through their choices. Trainees then submit as many preferences as they like. “It’s not a case of being shoved wherever there’s a gap in your first year,” said sources.However, those moving to the capital wanted more notice: “It’s a faff to relocate if you don’t know far enough in advance.” The firm tells us that they give trainees a month's notice, and that trainees receive a London salary while they are completing seats in the capital.
Startup before you grow grow
For startup clients, the gateway into the firm is through the growth team. “It’s very much at the heart of the firm’s strategy,” said trainees. “A lot of work comes out of growth and is then divvied up into other teams.” The premise is that the growth team will work with “young, but fast-growing” companies, with “the grand idea that we’ll be their trusted legal adviser from day one to the day they decide to exit, whether through an IPO or all the way through to being a fully-fledged massive company.We hold their hands through funding and investment rounds – they can come to us with any question.” Examples of clients on the receiving end of big investment include Focal Point, a Cambridge University start-up that’s developed ‘super-GPS’ technology, and Technology Will Save Us, a creator of educational toys focused on engineering and coding. But the firm also occasionally approaches fundraising from the other side: it recently acted for an investment group led by Italian venture capital fund Atlante Tech on their first UK investment.
Trainees support associates and partners during completion, keeping on top of admin tasks and “compiling completion bibles to make sure the client has the full pack of documents to refer to in the future.” There was also quite a bit of drafting: “In the early days you do ancillary documents for investments, like board minutes and written resolutions.” As their skills progressed they were able to draft shareholder agreements, share evaluation requests and investment agreements. Some had been involved in Enterprise Management Incentive scheme work, “providing employee option schemes for start-ups that need to find a way to incentivise their staff but don’t have the finances to provide big salaries.”
“I worked closely with the client on brand protection: writing cease and desist letters.”
Commercial and technology, the firm’s biggest team, advises a mix of fast-growth companies, and more established businesses (some of whom began life with the growth team). Its array of IP and IT work includes advising on licensing deals, commercial contracts, copyright matters, data protection advice and regulatory issues. The team recently advised analytics technology provider Featurespace on its £16.5 million fundraising and a number of commercial contracts it signed with other tech companies. It also acted for Bridgestone Tyres on the clearance and registration of certain EU and UK trade marks, and repeatedly advises Go Ape on maintaining its international trade mark portfolio. We also heard about a matter where “Chinese companies were importing fake machines into the UK and trading under names similar to our client's. I worked closely with the client on brand protection: writing cease and desist letters and trying to get a patent.” Trainees reported a lot of drafting in this seat – examples include terms and conditions, and warranties and indemnities.
Next, there's the corporate department. “Names I see now in my corporate seat are the same clients whose Ts & Cs you’d be drawing up in comm/tech. A lot of them are now primary shareholders growing their business to sell or merge five years down the line.” And that’s where corporate comes in – buying and selling companies (though they do some investment work too). The firm recently advised US-based toy company Funko on its $4.5 million purchase of A Large Evil Corporation, a Bath-based animation production company. With drafting and managerial roles available, trainees told us the seat delivered some tough hours: “When closing a deal you notoriously never finish before 11pm.”
The employment seat was particularly popular and comes with a heftier amount of international work. Matters are a mix of contentious and advisory, and recent work includes advising Dutch boutique company Three Rivers Management on an unfair dismissal claim after the closure of its UK office. Trainees on GDPR-related matters had worked with “lawyers in Sweden, Finland, Norway, France, Germany, Austria – any European nation you can think of!” Sources recalled attending tribunals, taking notes in court, and talking disclosure through “face to face with the client in their office.” This seat was so popular that when jobs were released, supply unfortunately didn’t meet the demand. Nevertheless the firm kept on five of its six qualifiers in 2018.
Working for such creative clients rubs off. Taylor Vinters’ annual Pitch Up competition invites teams to submit ideas for the firm to champion. Everyone then votes for the winner in a grand finale, “a bit like The X Factor.” The idea “could be anything. Last year’s winner was for everyone to get their own branded water bottle with their name on it – kind of like they have on Love Island.”
“No airs and graces.”
TV trainees were comfortable at the firm: “When you get coffee on a break there are no airs and graces about who you’re talking to.” Coffee machine chat with partners is a good sign, but it doesn’t end there. Trainees divulged that some partners happily got stuck into office beer pong on a Friday. The firm's cricket tour meanwhile could mean a sunny innings in Madrid or Milan, but a warning to any stone-faced pros: “Don’t be fooled. It’s a two-day jolly really – we just find some expats to play with.”
With all these sports, games and challenges on the go, trainees insisted it’s all “healthy competition.” There were less competitive visits to Cambridge Beer Festival, Newmarket races, a George Ezra gig, and the London office Christmas party: “It was pretty spectacular with all the fairy lights, looking out at the city when it’s all lit up.” Cute. Invites are always firm-wide, and trainees described a “one-tribe mentality” between the offices. Their different vibes arrive only “by virtue of location. One is 33 floors up in the middle of London; the other is on the outskirts of Cambridge Science Park.” To cement the deal, beyond the corporate department's tougher hours, trainees reported an average finish of 7pm.
Have a peek at the lawyer bios on Taylor Vinters’ website. You might find a kindred spirit in partners who reminisce over mosh pits or devote themselves to wine-tasting.
How to get a Taylor Vinters training contract
Training contract deadline (2020 and 2021): 31 January 2019 (via vac scheme only)
For the third 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.”
The firm is currently reviewing its selection process, but it expects the new procedure will involve an online assessment of some kind and an assessment day for the shortlisted applicants. In 2018 it introduced a game-based assessment, which around 100 applicants were asked to complete. 40–50 candidates were then shortlisted and interviewed by a member of the HR team and a partner.
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.
Working in Cambridge
- Partners 29
- Associates 59
- Trainees 11 (UK)
- UK offices London, Cambridge
- Overseas offices 1
- Alix Balfe-Skinner, HR manager, [email protected], 012 2322 5148
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 6
- 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 2018
- Training contract deadline, 2021 start: 31 January 2019
- Vacation scheme applications open: Autumn 2018
- Vacation scheme 2019 deadline: 31 January 2019
- Salary and benefits
- Post-qualification salary: £42,000 (Cambridge); £60,000 London
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: No
- Maintenance grant pa: No
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: London, Cambridge
With 26 partners and 80 lawyers across our offices in London, Cambridge and Singapore we help entrepreneurially minded clients make great things happen, whatever their size and sector.
Main areas of work
During your two year programme, you’ll complete four seats of six months each in different legal disciplines, across our Cambridge and London offices, to help you decide which aspects of the law interest you most. During your training contract, you’ll also complete your Professional Skills Course (PSC), which we’ll pay for.
Please note that we only recruit from our vacation scheme.
Our applications will open in the Autumn with up to 20 places offered each year. We hire the majority of our trainees from our vacation scheme and to qualify, you must to be an undergraduate or postgraduate student who can start a training contract with us within two years.
University law careers fairs 2018
• Durham University: Tuesday 20 November 2018
•UCL: Monday 29 October 2018
•University of Exeter: Tuesday 13 November 2018
•University of Nottingham: Monday 15 October 2018
•BPP (London): Thursday 15h November 2018
•UEA: Wednesday 7 November 2018
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018
Cambridge and surrounds
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 2)
- 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)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
- Charities Recognised Practitioner
- Education: Institutions (Higher & Further Education) (Band 3)
- Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 4)