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 2020-21.
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, 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 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. Integration of such tech into day-to-day work is “less than seamless”, one insider reveals, but apparently this is “being addressed”.
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 roughly ten hours a day, typically starting around 9am and finishing before 7pm. “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 firm recently introduced a new flexi-working scheme – a cost-cutting measure made in response to COVID-19 – whereby some of its employees across its UK offices work reduced hours for reduced pay.
Despite the impact of COVID-19, the firm remains busy amid good times for the tech sector and all the work generated by GDPR. Revenue in the firm’s UK business grew slightly to £157 million, while globally it jumped 7.6% to £356 million. Profit per equity partner dropped 6.5% to £612,640 each, which the firm attributes to greater investment in tech and its office opening in Liverpool’s Royal Albert Dock.
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. 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 28 offices in 16 countries. The firm now offers international secondments to its trainees, with locations including Munich, Eindhoven and Dubai. One lucky trainee even got to visit the firm’s offices in Paris, Hamburg and Bratislava on one-day trips. There are also a few client secondments going, with destinations including Amazon, Farfetch and other 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 (with a recommended £2 all you can eat breakfast every Friday). Plus generous subsidies mean it’s “really good value”. The perks are also pretty good, with weekly mindfulness sessions, premium subscriptions to mediation 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.