Meet Taylor Wessing at the Legal Cheek UK Virtual Law Fair on 4 November 2021
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 this perception live up to the reality? Surprisingly well, it turns out, with Taylor Wessing scoring highly in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2021-22.
The jewels in the crown are quality of work and tech-savviness. High-profile clients, including Sky and Pfizer, 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. Recent work highlights include advising on the funding of digital bank Monzo, the UK fintech Curve as well as acting for cryptocurrency exchange platform Bitstamp. 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 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 is “always looking to innovate and introduce new technology”, developing its own AI products internally through its ‘TW: navigate’ programme. Integration of such tech into day-to-day work is “less than seamless”, one insider reveals, with glitches and poor IT support being among rookie complaints. There is also some variation between departments: “The litigation team was lagging behind while I was sat there; it has since improved. The corporate technology team has the best tech, but the finance team is only recently catching up.”
Another strength is work/life balance, which has a reputation for being at the more reasonable end of the City law spectrum. But some argue that this has worsened during the pandemic, “we work a lot and our hours have definitely increased over the last year or so”. That said, the culture is that “you share the load”, and when trainees are at capacity, work is pushed up to associates who “are not afraid to get their hands dirty with tabbing, bundling etc”. In general juniors can make plans that won’t be compromised by work commitments and are “very happy with the balance”, something that seems to be connected to the top-notch experience trainees can get: “more work means more experience, so I am happy about this”, one insider told Legal Cheek.
The hard work has not gone unappreciated, however. Taylor Wessing announced Covid bonuses and a firm-wide holiday, dubbed “Taylor Wessing holiday”, that extended the May 2021 Bank Holiday weekend. Post-Covid, the firm will adopt a new “hybrid” model of working that will see staff, including trainees, work from home for 20-50% of the time.
Despite the impact of Covid-19, the firm has performed strongly amid good times for the tech sector and all the work generated by GDPR. Revenue in the firm’s UK business grew 12% to £175.5 million, while globally the firm climbed to record-breaking revenue figures of £371.3 million with profit per equity partner soaring 18%. Back in April 2021, the firm announced its intention to open a new office in the Republic of Ireland with a focus on tech and life sciences. Taylor Wessing has also lured several partners to its cause including the former Reed Smith partner Alison Dennis, who now heads the firm’s international life sciences practice, and corporate technology expert Ross McNaughton. The firm has also recently increased NQ salaries to a competitive silver circle rate of £81,000, whilst trainees can expect to earn £45,000 in year one and £49,000 in year two.
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” and “take a genuine interest in your growth as a solicitor”, 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: “There is a very strong team spirit and community feel among the trainees. One of the most social and supportive groups I have met.” 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. Since the pandemic, the firm also organises regular “informal lunch-time catch-ups, quizzes and one-to-one calls” to ensure remote-working trainees are supported and feel integrated within the 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 that the firm has 29 offices in 17 countries. The firm now offers international secondments to its trainees, with locations including Munich, Eindhoven and Dubai. Trainees have also been known to visit the firm’s offices in Paris, Hamburg and Bratislava on one-day trips. As for client secondments, 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 canteen that puts many restaurants to shame (with a recommended £2 all you can eat breakfast every Friday), plus generous subsidies which mean it’s “really good value”. The perks are also pretty good, with weekly mindfulness sessions, premium subscriptions to meditation app Headspace, in-house massages, 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.
We’re also told that Taylor Wessing has taken serious steps to become more eco-friendly by reducing the number of printers, removing waste-bins from the office and introducing more recycling points that are clearly signposted around the firm. There is even an active Sustainability Network which offers trainees the opportunity to get involved in making the techy firm more green fingered.