Corporate and tech firm Taylor Wessing runs a happy ship, and its approach has paid off with dividends. The firm’s high-profile sponsorship of the National Portrait Gallery Photographic Prize helps ratchet up its ‘cool’ factor. Financially, the firm enjoyed its fifth year of global growth with a 4% uplift to £439 million — its highest recorded revenue to date. Focusing on the UK, revenues climbed a modest 4% to £227 million but profits slumped 12% to £87.1 million (although it’s worth noting this is still the second highest posted by the firm). TW didn’t disclose its latest profit per equity (PEP) figure but this is understood to sit around the £800k mark. Despite the flatness encountered in the UK market, Taylor Wessing’s European offices are understood to have had good financial years, France and the Netherlands in particular, offering an element of reassurance.
Having opened a Dublin office in September 2021, the firm has expanded beyond its tech and life sciences focus here, adding finance and real estate expertise, with two new partner hires from rival firms Addleshaw Goddard and DWF in March 2023. Filling a gap in its European network Taylor Wessing has also concluded a ‘strategic alliance’ with Spanish firm ECIJA, collaborating with them on a non-exclusive basis on matters such as referrals, secondments and client pitches.
It’s known for being exceptionally friendly, a great place to work, and as having some pretty neat clients across intellectual property, media and competition law, the likes of Sky, Pfizer, digital bank Monzo, fintech start-ups and cryptocurrency exchange platform Bitstamp. Some clients might even be described as peachy — in 2021, it advised The Roald Dahl Story Company and its shareholders on the sale of the business to Netflix, helping bring Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach to a whole new audience.
It’s not all Netflix deals, however. We’re told the variety of work “across practice areas is large, with stimulating work more readily seen in non-transactional seats”, and that in some areas there can be “some lesser skilled, administrative-type tasks”. One trainee even notes that they have been “given responsibility way above [my] experience”, with the opportunity to “run matters and cases by [myself]”, with appropriate supervision, of course. Meanwhile, another junior sums it up as an “overall good level of involvement in important and interesting work”.
Generally, the ratio between challenging work and grunt work is regarded as good relative to many firms. According to one rookie, “genuinely every single day is different”. Another enthuses: “Due to strength of support staff, trainees aren’t stuck with mundane tasks. Lots of my work feels associate-level.” Taylor Wessing’s Liverpool office, which opened in September 2018 with a brief to handle lower-level tasks, may have helped tilt the balance. As one former trainee puts it: “This is a small part of the overall trainee work and the people giving you these tasks try to avoid doing so where possible. At the other end of the scale, I’ve been consistently given the opportunity to engage in interesting and challenging work in all four of my seats. Overall, I think this breadth of experience and wide exposure has helped me to build up an understanding of the way in which matters work, from a junior to a more senior level.”
While Taylor Wessing has recently closed its TechCity satellite office in a workspace in Shoreditch, East London, its commitment to tech clients remains strong, with the firm’s well-established Cambridge office developing close ties with top academics specialising in legal tech research. What’s more, with the firm announcing two Cambridge-based training contracts to start in 2023 or 2024, some trainees will now have the opportunity to get involved in the firm’s work with such pioneering technology in its Cambridge office. 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.
The firm is “always looking to innovate and introduce new technology”, developing its own AI products internally through its ‘TW: navigate’ programme. Following involvement in testing phases, it also rolled out LitiGate, an AI-driven litigation platform across a range of its contentious practices to increase efficiencies in document searching and witness evidence review, among other areas. However, integration of such tech into day-to-day work, doesn’t always go according to plan. One trainee bemoans the firm’s legal tech as “very average”, with another noting that there is “definite room for improvement”. However, the firm’s IT team is said to be “very responsive”, and one insider tells us that there are “some really interesting projects in the works with the technology user group”, with trainees having the opportunity to join this group and contribute to developments.
The training is thorough, with a two-week training period before you start in your first seat, then department specific training within each seat and ‘know-how’ sessions on different topics. But trainees report, like with many firms, “quality of supervision varies across practice areas”. On the whole, however, feedback on the training programme is generally highly complimentary, with one trainee finding that it “helps trainees identify a number of ways to grow and develop”. Another positive voice notes the approachability of colleagues at all levels of seniority, that they are “always willing to answer questions and allow me to develop greater understanding of legal principles and strategy”.
The work-life balance is one of the firm’s strengths, and it has a reputation for being at the more reasonable end of the City law spectrum. One trainee says that it “really varies from team to team. In my first seat, my average hours were incredibly reasonable (apart from the odd late night here and there), which allowed me to have evening plans in the work week. However, in my second seat, which has been slightly busier, my average hours have slightly increased. On the whole, though, compared to other firms, my working hours are incredibly reasonable – highlighted by the fact I have only worked two weekends in my ten months or so with the firm”.
One trainee said he has “no complaints at all”, with most people at the firm respecting work-life balance, “especially for trainees”, although those in the corporate departments “may have periods of longer hours in the evenings”. Another plus, according to one junior at the firm, is that there’s no “face time culture”. If you are finished for the day, you can leave for home.
Post-Covid, the firm has adopted a “hybrid” model of working where staff, including trainees, can work remotely for a percentage of the time. To adjust to this shift, the firm has also implemented BigHand resource management to ensure that hybrid working is accompanied by equitable and inclusive work allocation. One rookie notes, “the hybrid working system is amazing. It’s great to be able to factor in your personal life by working from home. It also means I can use the time I would to commute for exercise. I personally haven’t noticed a drop in my development due to the model”.
The “chatty and welcoming” partners are highly rated by juniors at the firm for their approachability, with the natural caveat that they are unavailable during particularly busy times. A trainee reports: “I’m in my fourth seat and yet to come across someone who isn’t supportive and willing to take time out of their day to provide guidance and support. Most memorably, I asked one of the partners if he had 10-15 minutes to speak about a recent update of interest. Our chat ended up lasting just over an hour and when I thanked the partner for his time, his response was that he is always happy to take time to help support and further the interests of junior members of the firm.”
And the “trainee cohort is absolutely lovely — no complaints at all”, an insider says. They are so close, they talk every day. One trainee says: “My peers are amazing and I can rely on them for support.” Another echoes this: “I think the culture is probably the best part of Taylor Wessing. There are almost no ‘bad apples’ and I’d be more than happy to chat with any of the other trainees or my team.”
What you previously wouldn’t get at Taylor Wessing is an international secondment, which would’ve come as a disappointment to some new joiners, given the firm’s international presence. The firm now offers international secondments to its trainees, with locations including Munich, Eindhoven and Dubai, although these are not too common with most people “coming to the UK office, than going out”, as one trainee reports. Trainees have also been known to visit the firm’s offices in Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg and Bratislava on one-day trips. As for client secondments, these are more common, with destinations include Amazon, Farfetch and other major tech, pharmaceutical and property companies.
The office is renowned for its “incredible views over the City; beats most rooftop bars in London”. What’s more, the firm has a rooftop canteen, Cloud 9, that puts many restaurants to shame, plus generous subsidies which mean it’s “really good value” with “free fry-ups on Fridays”. And it looks set to get even better. TW City HQ is about to undergo a major refurbishment, expected to last 16-18 months, with changes including a new reception, lifts and an outdoor communal terrace, as well as the decarbonisation of the building.
The perks are also pretty good, with yoga sessions, premium subscriptions to meditation app Headspace, free drinks trolleys every Thursday from 5pm, in-house massages, a national art pass, an in-house GP, free dinner and Deliveroo allowances after 8pm, and free tickets regularly made available to some of the glamorous events that Taylor Wessing sponsors. Meanwhile, the firm has also increased its newly-qualified (NQ) salaries from £95,000 to £100,000, as well as trainee salaries to £50,000 and £55,000 for first and second-year trainees respectively.
We’re also told that Taylor Wessing is incredibly focused on being environmentally friendly, with facilities such as food waste, numerous recycling points throughout the office and the provision of an e-bike to allow employees to cycle to meetings and events to reduce their carbon footprint. This environment focus also drove the firm’s decision to refurbish its existing London office rather than move into new premises, like a host of other City law firms are doing. One trainee also reports that Taylor Wessing “recently helped develop and sign up to the Legal Charter 1.5 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”. There is even an active Sustainability Network which offers trainees the opportunity to get involved in making the techy firm more green-fingered.