Through a combination of its top-rated technology practice and high profile sponsorship of the National Portrait Gallery Photographic Prize, Taylor Wessing has managed to achieve something extremely rare for a corporate law firm: coolness. But how does the perception live up to the reality? Surprisingly well, it turns out, with Taylor Wessing once more scoring an impressive sweep of A*s in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19.
The jewels in the crown are quality of work and tech-savvy. High profile clients, including Spotify and Google, generate the sort of high profile and challenging instructions that lawyers dream of, across sexy areas of law like intellectual property, media and competition law. At its best, being a Taylor Wessing trainee is “incredibly interesting”. At the same time, we’re told that the work “varies seat to seat”, and that in areas such as corporate and litigation there can be more bundling and photocopying. Nevertheless, the ratio between challenging work and grunt work is generally regarded as good relative to many firms. Taylor Wessing’s new Liverpool office, which opened in September 2018 with a brief to handle lower-level tasks, may tilt the balance further.
Taylor Wessing’s closeness to the tech scene is such that since 2011 it has been operating, in addition to its London HQ, a small office out of the Second Home workspace just off Brick Lane in Shoreditch, east London, while its Cambridge office has seen the firm develop close ties with top academics specialising in legal tech research. It’s no surprise, then, that the firm has been at the forefront of trialling some of the new artificial intelligence (AI) software that has hit the market lately. Among others, Taylor Wessing is working with Brainspace, a machine learning platform, for UK litigation analysis. The firm has also been developing its own AI products internally through its ‘TW: navigate’ programme.
Another strength is work/life balance, which is at the more reasonable end of the City law spectrum. Taylor Wessing rookies chalk up an average of just over ten and a half hours a day, typically starting at 8:59am and finishing at 7:24pm. “I tend to know if I will have a busy day/week so can plan accordingly. I can generally make dinner plans,” one trainee tells us.
That average leave time has crept a few minutes later this year, reflecting perhaps how busy the firm has been lately amid good times for the tech sector and all the work generated by GDPR. Revenue is up by 12% to £301.5 million this year, while profit per equity partner has soared 20% to £579,000. Happily rookies are sharing some of the spoils, with newly qualified pay rising from £63,000 to £71,000.
The training is very thorough, with a two-week training period before you start in your first seat, and then department specific training within each seat. Partners are said to be “busy yet approachable”, with one trainee telling us that they “feel that I can ask any question to my supervisor, no matter how silly I feel it is”. And the vibe among trainees is apparently excellent. Another trainee reports: “The great thing about moving departments is becoming friends with new trainees and they are always there for support.” The camaraderie often continues outside work, with a regular drinks scene. “There are great trainee events organised by the trainee solicitor council,” we are told. In addition there are free department away days and wider firm trips, such as the recent jolly to run the Vienna marathon. “Don’t worry, you could do a relay marathon and run as little as 5km,” we are told.
What you probably won’t get at Taylor Wessing is an international secondment, which can come as a disappointment to some new joiners given that the firm has 33 offices in 23 different countries. There are, however, a few client secondments going, with destinations including major tech, pharmaceutical and property companies.
The office is lovely, with great views over legal London and the City. What’s more, it has a canteen that puts many restaurants to shame. Plus generous subsidies mean it’s “really good value”. The perks are also pretty good, with weekly mindfulness sessions, an in-house GP, free dinner after 8pm, and free tickets regularly made available to some of the glamorous events that Taylor Wessing sponsors.