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 scoring an impressive sweep of A*s and As in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18.
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 lots of bundling and photocopying. Nevertheless, the ratio between challenging work and grunt work is generally regarded as pretty good.
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 in Shoreditch, east London, while its Cambridge office has been 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 over the last year. 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 8:39am and finishing at 7:15pm. “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.
The flipside to this is not amazing pay, with newly qualified solicitors on £63,000. A fairly unremarkable financial performance this year – which saw a modest 1.8% increase in the firm’s UK revenue to £128.9 million result in a drop in UK profit per equity partner (PEP) to £481,000 – suggests that rookies may have to wait for a while for a further remuneration boost, but watch this space. Legal Cheek understands that most junior lawyers in the firm’s tech and media teams are relatively content with their salaries, but that there are grumbles in corporate where some feel that their efforts are not rewarded commensurately to their peers at other firms.
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 the vibe among trainees is apparently excellent. One tells us: “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.
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 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. The perks are also pretty good, with free dinner after 8pm, generously subsidised membership and free tickets regularly made available to some of the glamorous events that Taylor Wessing sponsors.