Taylor Wessing ain’t messing when it comes to 'the industries of tomorrow'.
A sonnet for the on-it
Who should apply to Taylor Wessing? The third page of the firm's graduate recruitment brochure offers a poem to explain. It's 'music streamers', 'avid gamers', and those 'ahead of the curve'. A person who 'thrives on the active; the trending; the now'. This all sounds very… millennial. We can practically hear the sighs as you double-check your Instagram followers. But don’t be discouraged, this is just the firm’s way of driving home the fact it does stellar work for start-ups and other, more established, cutting-edge companies – and prides itself on being similarly innovative. We asked trainees what lawyers at the firm were really like: “Everyone here is very friendly and driven, and they mix law with business, in the sense that they have commercial aptitude. The firm is attractive because it emphasises commercial awareness and entrepreneurship.” But you'll be glad to know that the firm goes to great lengths to teach trainees those skills. More fundamentally, trainees reckoned “everyone is very switched-on – they have a bit of sparkle.”
Taylor Wessing’s 2017/2018 had a bit of sparkle too – it announced a 12% rise in revenue, and announced the opening of a new Liverpool office to complement its existing Cambridge and London hubs (only London takes trainees). What drives this success? As we’ve mentioned, the firm is enough of a pro in exciting industries – technology, media and communications, life sciences and energy – to be recognised as one of the very best in the country by Chambers UK rankings for its life sciences and venture capital work. Alternatively, to frame the firm's expertise by more conventional practice areas, Taylor Wessing also picks up impressive Chambers UK rankings for corporate, IT, IP and private client.
Trainees submit up to five preferences before each rotation to help determine the seats they'll do. Meetings are run to explain the process, as well as "speed networking sessions to meet people in the different teams." Some sources were still a little unclear on exactly how their preferences were taken on board, but they were also very happy with the process. "Grad recruitment make you feel you're being listened to and that your development is key." Seats in IP and media, as well as corporate tech, can be hard to come by given how popular they are. It should also be noted that the firm's work is broader than the firm's futuristic billing. A stint in more traditional seats, like real estate and pensions, is a very real possibility.
Within a broader corporate department, the corporate technology team works on a hybrid of M&A and venture capital tailored towards – you guessed it – tech companies. Clients are a mix of investors, start-ups and major names. Alongside Sky and the Californian Partech Investors are creative clients like SuperCell, the creators of Clash of Clans, who got help acquiring a majority interest in SpaceApe Games for $90 million. The firm also advised the holding company of Goodgame Studios (which makes free-to-play mobile games) on its €270 million acquisition by the Swedish Stillfront Group. Sources tended to work in small groups, sometimes consisting of just them and one partner. This, insiders felt, allowed them "to go through the whole spectrum of work." Trainees marked up sales and purchase agreements, as well as helping with "the management of a lot of signings, and drafting ancillaries." One feature that stuck out to sources was the start-up clientele: “You are working with founders who are really passionate about what they do, rather than a CEO who has been there for a few years."
“There are a lot of grey areas in how brands are interpreted in case law."
The firm's excellent IP and media department excels in tech and life sciences, but also brings in clients from industries like publishing, advertising and music for advice on trade marks, copyright and design matters (some of it contentious). Red Bull and Just Eat are both clients, while the team also recently advised Chocolatier Godiva on a design infringement dispute over its manufacture of chocolate eclairs in the EU, US and Japan. For trainees doing contentious work, "there's a lot of drafting of cease and desist letters and also browsing the internet looking for trade mark violations." Legal research is a big task too, with trainees looking into the market, as well as case law. “IP and trade marks are quite subjective, there are a lot of grey areas in how brands are interpreted in case law." On the non-contentious side sources instead worked on "things like media agreements and music and fashion rights” where trainees could do drafting of commercial contracts and assignments of intellectual property rights.
The patents department meanwhile recently helped Hospira, part of pharma giant Pfizer, revoke rival Cubist's patents related to daptomycin, an antibiotic used to treat life-threatening infections. The contentious side of this seat can mean plenty of bundling and doc review, though there is the chance to "look at case law, review it and do the first set of replies." Court runs were also possible as the "office is very conveniently located next to the courts, which gets you a nice walk." Non-contentious work is instead "nicely divided between reviewing contracts and drafting specific clauses." The technical and scientific nature of the work meant a steep learning curve, but sources found this provided "a really holistic experience" with the upshot being that they "learned quite a bit about the pharmaceutical industry."
Recharge your finances
Over in banking and finance the team is perhaps best known for real estate finance, though lawyers work on other things, like private equity. Acquisition finance work recently saw lawyers advise Hilton Food Group on the debt facilities it used to finance the acquisition of seafood company Icelandic Group. The team also acted on the £70,000 refinancing of Maplin Electronics' debt. For newbies, work involved "pushing the deal along at ground level while the associates are involved in the technicalities." In practice this meant "emailing clients, drafting board minutes and doing the first draft of securities documents." There's also a fair bit of "communicating with the wider team – often you are the one who knows the exact status of the deal." Sources praised the team here: "They're good at letting you shape your own training contract. You can just go up to one of the partners and say, 'I'm interested in private equity deals, can I do more of them?'"
“A good balance of old, landed families and new international clients."
Private client has "a good balance of old, landed families and new international clients" and the department is top-ranked in London by Chambers High Net Worth, with particular praise coming for its international capabilities. Work spans advice on personal wealth structures; international tax planning; commercial and real estate investment; reputation management; and immigration. Contentious matters normally involve "a fall-out related to wills and trusts" with trainees "attending mediation, drafting witness statements and attending conference with counsel." Insiders enjoyed this seat as it involved "acting for individuals who are acting a bit more emotionally, as well as the normal sensible rational decision making. That's hugely interesting."
A seat in the real estate team picks up on some of the matters that private client tackles, working on “the huge amount of foreign investment into London.” But there are also larger commercial projects, and “a lot of work on stadia, working with football and rugby clubs.” Work of that ilk saw the firm represent Brentford FC, while the firm also advised real estate investor Meadow Partners on its £75 million purchase of the Shoreditch office building, C Space. “I did a lot of first-hand reviews of Section 106 agreements on planning permission, plus due diligence on title and applications to the land registry,” recalled one trainee.
Insiders recognised a focus on helping them to develop professionally and settle in. For example, keen to help trainees get to grips with business development, the firm has "a trainee networking event every July where each trainee gets to invite clients to network at the firm. They encourage you to invite contacts you know. It sets us up well for the future and off the back of it I've been able to suggest clients to the firm." Other trainees recalled "going out once a month for coffee with the junior associates, just to check how everyone is doing." There are also various professional networks run by the firm, including an equality network. We also heard of bi-weekly updates on law and current affairs "with a legal slant, both for your general knowledge, or if you ever go to a client event."
“There is a really impressive support structure."
The training contract starts with a two-week induction given by HR, IT and the other business services teams, while each seat also offers a few weeks of training. That can cover everything "from basic debt finance law to the tasks that you will be expected to do, like how to bundle documents." Day-to-day supervision was also praised: "I hate the word flourish, but it is true of what they allow you to do here." Partly, this involves supervisors "checking in on my workload on a weekly basis to make sure I am not overburdened. They're not hands-off – they know what's going on." Another source recalled that “even if I am working on a case my supervisor is not involved with, there will still be a couple of people saying, 'How's it going? Here's some feedback on how you did on that last piece of work.' There is a really impressive support structure."
Lawyers catch up away from work too: "There are a lot of team drinks going on,” and since we caught up with trainees at the time of the World Cup, they told us about “organised sessions to go and watch it together." Footie fanatics can also jog along to a law firm league, while those who prefer yoga can attend fortnightly classes. A trainee solicitor council represents the cohorts' interests to the firm, but also puts on events such as karaoke, bowling or a sushi chow-down. The firm's Christmas party was probably the highlight though – it was held in the Shard and "had champagne and canapés, then dancing with a DJ until 1am – it was great fun!”
Insiders felt their working hours were quite reasonable here – an average day seemed to last from 9am until around 7pm or 7.30pm. Late nights, say a 10.30pm finish, only occurred “a few times,” meaning trainees viewed those occasions as “rare.” Some sources even commented that “on a Friday at 5.30pm, everybody's out!” There are reasons not to flee though – the offices' canteen, named Cloud 9, was judged to have "really good chow," and office perks include free taxis and meals for those staying past 8pm. Some of the office's walls are even adorned with photographs from the Portrait Prize the firm runs in association with the National Portrait Gallery.
To secure a place at the firm after two years, trainees must face a partner interview. Overall sources liked the way the firm went about the whole qualification process. All trainees are now "called up at different times to be informed of the firm's decision. No one could cross each other and share the outcome, minimising rumours and making the whole process as calming as it could be." In 2018 the firm kept on 21 of 23 trainees, but even for those who weren't successful, the firm offers support. We heard about HR offering to contact recruiters, give practice interviews and review qualifiers CVs, to ensure they weren't left high and dry. How's that for service?
Taylor Wessing is a Swiss Verein, meaning it has outposts and affiliate relationships with firms in 19 countries. International secondments are rare at the trainee level, but possible. Once trainees have qualified, however, they are actively encouraged to pursue opportunities through TW's international secondment programme.
Training contract deadline (2021): 14 January 2019 (open 1 October 2018)
The firm hosts a handful of open days throughout the year. Some are for first-years only; others are targeted solely at law students or non-law students. There are also a few focused on specific practice areas.
The firm generally receives over 500 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. There’s space to list prior work experience, though Harte 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 Harte. “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 called 'cosmic cadet'. This is a game-based psychometric test, which looks at your behaviour and approach to each task to highlights 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 kicks off with a group exercise in which candidates are given a commercial scenario they could potentially encounter as a trainee, and then asked to come up with a solution and present it to a member of the graduate recruitment team, plus an associate or partner.
“We review both their leadership skills and their team-working abilities,” Harte 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. Next is an interview 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.
TW 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, 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, TW’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 45 trainees with the firm at the time of our calls, four had science degrees. Just under half had studied law at undergrad (20) and the next most common degree was history (nine graduates).
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 Kirstie McGuigan 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."
Trends in the technology sector
Taylor Wessing LLP
5 New Street Square,
- Partners 400
- Associates 500
- Total trainees 45
- UK offices London, London Tech City and Cambridge
- Overseas offices 29
- Graduate recruiter: Sarah Harte [email protected], 020 7300 7000
- Training partners: Kirstie McGuigan and Matthew Royle
- Application criteria
- Training contract pa: 20
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum UCAS points or A Levels: ABB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 35
- Dates and deadlines
- Apply for a training contract through our vacation scheme
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1 October 2018
- Vacation scheme 2019 deadline: 14 January 2019
- Salary and benefits
- First year salary: £40,000
- Second year salary: £44,000
- Post qualification salary: £71,000
- 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
Our focus on the industries of tomorrow — technology, media and communications, life sciences, private wealth and energy — means that alongside law students, we also recruit a wide range of students who have studied non-law degrees. Clients include private and public companies, financial institutions, professional service firms, public sector bodies of large and medium size and wealthy individuals. Our international presence is also something we strive to protect as we continue to strengthen our brand globally. Combining a pan-European network with a strong presence in the Middle East, India, China and North America, we are the leading firm for inward investment from North America and experts in IP protection and enforcement rights across the globe. We act for 32 of the world’s 50 leading brands and with clients in the world’s most dynamic industries (TMC, private wealth, life sciences and energy).
Main areas of work
Our award winning training (we won LawCareers.Net Best Trainer - Large City Firm 2018) combines our in-house Professional Skills Course with six-month seats in four different practice groups, including one contentious seat and one in our corporate or finance areas. Our programme is recognised for the extent of partner contact available to trainees, and you’ll work closely with associates on high-quality work from the outset. Frequent client contact and secondment opportunities to their offices are also offered and regular support and feedback every step of the way will ensure that your career is aligned to the growth and needs of the firm and our clients.
First year opportunities
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 3)
- Banking Litigation (Band 5)
- Construction: Purchaser (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 2)
- 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)
- Litigation (Band 5)
- Planning (Band 5)
- Professional Negligence: Financial (Band 2)
- Real Estate Finance (Band 3)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
- Real Estate: Big-Ticket (Band 5)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: AIM (Band 3)
- Data Protection & Information Law (Band 4)
- Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 3)
- Financial Services: Contentious Regulatory (Individuals) (Band 2)
- Financial Services: Non-contentious Regulatory (Band 5)
- Financial Services: Payments Law Recognised Practitioner
- Fraud: Civil (Band 3)
- Hotels & Leisure (Band 2)
- Life Sciences (Band 2)
- Life Sciences: IP/Patent Litigation (Band 2)
- Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 1)
- Media & Entertainment: Advertising & Marketing (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Gaming, Social Media & Interactive Content (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Publishing (Band 2)
- Outsourcing (Band 4)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 1)
- Professional Discipline (Band 5)
- Restructuring/Insolvency: Personal Insolvency (Band 2)
- Retail (Band 4)