There’s definitely a sprinkling of stardust about the media, technology and IP specialist firm Wiggin. Its impressive client list is a who’s who of music biz behemoths, Silicon Valley start-ups, gamers, gamblers, fashion brands, sports clubs and publishing houses. It works with all the Hollywood studios — the only law firm in Europe to do so — and even runs its own music festival, “Wigstock”.
If the prospect of advising Gucci, Warner Bros, 21st Century Fox, Manchester United, Nintendo, Sony Music, Netflix or Audible floats your boat then Wiggin is your firm. “If you’re interested in media & entertainment law, the work does not get better than at Wiggin. The firm is unarguably a leader in the media & entertainment space,” says one rookie.
One insider details their experience: “In the first few weeks of my first seat I was pretty amazed to be doing work for Microsoft, for example! Now, in my Film & TV seat, the contracts I’m working on are filled with star-studded cast names and big film studios, which (as far as commercial contracts go) is very cool”.
Another rookie enthuses: “The work is cutting edge stuff. The firm is more often than not in the vanguard of the latest global media story, development or transaction and the subject matter that underpins the legal work is exciting, high profile and often pretty newsworthy”.
Practice areas include corporate, tax, finance, litigation, employment and property advice. The firm’s Brussels office also lobbies EU decision makers on issues such as EU copyright, audio visual regulation, data protection, competition policy, trade and e-commerce.
Not surprisingly, given its media focus, Wiggin’s adjustment to lockdown was “handled incredibly well, with good communication about what is going on and lots of people making sure that everyone is doing okay”. The technology “worked flawlessly” and everyone “adjusted to using Teams very quickly”. The firm even provided “little surprises, such as a bottle of prosecco sent to each of our homes during lockdown and permission to buy ice cream on our corporate cards. The firm has arranged for monitors, chairs etc to be sent to our homes”. One newbie praised the “fantastic leadership”, while another noted the “help that people have had to work from home in ways that suit the individual. Mentors chat to associates whenever they’re needed (at the very least) and people feel looked after and able to make the necessary adjustments to working from home with full support and daily contact”.
The firm also attracts praise for the quality of its training which is said to be “very hands-on”, allowing rookies to “jump straight into motion and run small matters or parts of larger matters on their own (with appropriate supervision of course)”. The firm has a new Learning & Development programme, tailored for each level/cohort, consisting of training sessions on a variety of topics to support you around work. “The support and assistance you receive from associates is amazing”, explained one.
And there is a real personal touch too, with the firm only taking on a handful of trainees per cohort. There are reports that senior members of the team take the time to find out about newbie’s interests so that they can filter through work related to what juniors are into. This helps with the fact that partners “usually like it when trainees are able to get on with their work and handle it appropriately without too much partner intervention”. People are apparently always very happy to give feedback, but “you just might have to ask for it first”. Regular team calls help to keep trainees in the loop about up-to-the-minute industry matters, and hear the discussions around these. All in all, this “really makes you learn very quickly”.
This approach combines well with the firm’s “stand-out friendly and down-to-earth culture”. One insider explains that “senior lawyers at Wiggin really are experts in their field, so you have the opportunity to learn from the best”. But this certainly does not mean that they are unapproachable, in fact, trainees frequently work closely with partners on a 1-1 basis. The firm is very sociable and non-hierarchical, a fact best showcased by the annual Christmas show put on by trainees, which pokes fun at all of the partners. “If there were any intimidating characters, that brings them down to size in the minds of new joiners!”, points out one. Another told Legal Cheek that “people get on famously with natural, honest, supportive collaborations on projects”.
This all makes for a refreshing change, says one lawyer: “Unlike many law firms where a rigid hierarchy can hold people back and stifle innovation, Wiggin’s management actively seek the opinions of the entire firm and it never seems like merely paying lip service either, there’s genuine encouragement (via easy channels) for even the most junior people to get involved and contribute to the firm’s strategy and vision”. Consensus is that the firm’s IT is “good”, but is set to improve when the firm launches the internal tech working group that spies reveal goes by the secret codename ‘Hubble’.
This “family feel” extends to trainees, many of whom enjoy the lively social and sporting side of the firm that breeds a healthy atmosphere of team players. As well as running the aforementioned Wigstock music festival every two years, Wiggin traditionally throws an annual Christmas party featuring the aforementioned show put on by new joiners, a solicitors’ dinner “which gets pretty messy and typically ends around 5am” and regular events at its in-house pub, The Wiggin Arms. Cycling is another popular pastime: in 2018, a Wiggin team cycled from Cheltenham to Dublin, and in 2017, from London to Paris. The firm’s football team, the Wiggin Warriors, plays once a week, and there are also ski trips.
And the refurbishment of the firm’s London office just off Tottenham Court Road seems to be geared towards yet more social events. One spy tells us, “they are building a bar in the London office (the Cheltenham office already has the firm pub), making more social areas in the office, and I heard that the building is getting a new rooftop garden which we’ll have access to”.
The firm provides up to three training contracts each year, paying a respectable £43,000 first year trainee salary, £46,000 for the second year and £72,000 on qualification. Those who make it all the way to equity partner can expect to take home just shy of half a million per year. It has 41 partners and offices in London, Brussels and Cheltenham. In the past two years, it has made several key lateral hires at partner level and continues to expand, especially in the firm’s growing Brussels office that opened in 2012.
Wiggin lawyers work hard but the office tends to be fairly quiet by 7pm and there is no routine weekend working. There are “naturally long days involved from time to time but there is not a culture of working late for the sake of it which I have seen at other firms”.
One busy bee explains: “The hours were less than expected when I started, but it does have very busy periods which coincide with production peaking in the spring and summer months in the UK. There is no face time culture and you are not expected to work on weekends.” Another adds: “There are certainly pinch moments leading up to deadlines, and in some teams (particularly Film & TV) client requests can come in very last minute, so you have to be able to re-prioritise quickly to address urgent matters. You do have to learn to keep a lot of plates spinning at the same time”.
Recent secondments have included three months at a sports media company during the traineeship, six months at Vodafone, and a couple of months at a TV channel. One rookie spent three months at the firm’s Brussels office but international travel and secondment is generally rare.