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, it’s moving at a rate of knots. Having grown its UK profits by a tidy 32% last year to £93 million, it rewarded employees with a 5% share as a summer bonus, divvied out on the basis of salary levels. That’s the second year running for the 5% profit bonus, and it comes on top of its annual performance bonus payments of up to 30%.
For those at the helm, profit per equity partner (PEP) rose 27% to a rumoured record high of £870,000. UK revenue for the year increased by one quarter to £219.3 million, and its global revenue shot up 13% to £420.6 million. The firm opened a Dublin office in September 2021, capitalising on the Irish capital’s booming tech sector with a focus on tech and life sciences, bringing its total to 29 offices in 17 countries. It also attracted some impressive lawyers to its team, including international arbitration specialist Karel Daele from Mishcon de Reya and corporate partner Claire Matthews from Linklaters in Hong Kong.
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 ― last year, 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 junior bemoans the work is “very seat dependent ― corporate teams really allow you to take ownership of drafting if you prove you are capable but cannot say other teams do the same”.
Nevertheless, the ratio between challenging work and grunt work is generally 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.”
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, however, doesn’t always go according to plan. “Frustratingly poor for a firm with a focus on the Tech sector,” one rookie moans, while another reveals: “Setting up group conference calls in meeting rooms is always an impossible task ― and is very embarrassing if a client is on the other end.” While the firm has “some good legal tech” such as “Kira for due diligence work”, the use of it varies between different departments.
The training is thorough, with a two-week training period before you start in your first seat, and then department specific training within each seat. However, trainees report that “quality of supervision varies across practice areas”, and is apparently “poor in the patents department”. Feedback from Taylor training contract veterans is generally highly complimentary ― “if they trust you, you’ll get fantastic training” ― but with some gripes. According to one disgruntled junior, the training is “extremely team dependent and does not account for some trainees being given a huge amount of work immediately at the start of the seat. Therefore, attending training becomes increasingly difficult and some teams are extremely unforgiving about missing sessions. Ongoing and tailored approach to training throughout seat non-existent in 3/4 seats”.
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. There is a firm-wide holiday, dubbed “Taylor Wessing holiday”, that extends the May 2021 Bank Holiday weekend. Post-Covid, the firm has adopted a “hybrid” model of working where staff, including trainees, work from home for 20-50% of the time.
One trainee said he had only had to cancel one evening plan in his first 10 months, and there was no expectation to work on the weekend. 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. Also, 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. A trainee reports: “With the caveat that they are sometimes very busy and therefore unavailable, I have never found anyone to be unapproachable. In fact, I would go so far as to say there is a very ‘open-door’ and approachable policy around the firm. I have no issues going to a partner’s office or giving them a call.”
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 says: “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.”
The firm pays competitive silver circle rates of £95,000 for newly qualified (NQ) solicitors, while trainees can expect to earn £45,000 in year one and £49,000 in year two.
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. 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, 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”. On the downside, the “women’s showers are terrible” and the flagship premises at New Street Square, by Fleet Street, “once impressive, [are] now a bit tired and in need of a refurb”.
The perks are also pretty good, with weekly mindfulness 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.
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.