Lewis Silkin is an industry heavyweight when it comes to both employment law and specialisms catering to creative industries. With roots stretching back to the early 20th century, the firm has come a long way from its humble beginnings and now comprises more than 75 partners across eight offices: London, Manchester, Cardiff, Oxford, Leeds, Dublin, Belfast and Hong Kong. The Leeds office is a new addition, having opened its doors in May 2023. And remaining true to its niches has paid off ― Lewis Silkin rookies can expect to rub shoulders with an incredibly broad spectrum of clients, ranging from media stalwarts to Magic Circle firms (because yes, law firms need lawyers sometimes, too!)
Clearly some of the starry-eyed wonder induced by their Hollywood clients has rubbed off on the junior lawyers, who score the firm highly across the board. And having such a small trainee intake each year ― typically around seven places are offered ― means the firm can offer the rookies a more personalised experience. While the firm still operates a standard four-seat rotation plan, trainees “are encouraged to seek out the work we are most interested in” so their training and experience can be tailored to their goals.
The training itself is described as “excellent” with a focus on ensuring trainees get all the support they need or want from the outset. As one insider explains, “the legal specific training we consistently receive ensures we are up to date on any recent developments or issues we may need to be aware of but the investment in training in all our soft skills and development generally allows us to continue to improve how we are able to support both the teams and clients”. Moreover, the firm has moved to an open-plan model which should certainly allow the trainees more than adequate access to training through direct contact.
If sharing an office with a partner fills you with fear, then worry not ― the firm scores highly when it comes to the approachability of superiors and closeness of trainee ranks. “Good team spirit and lovely bunch to work with. The friends I made as a trainee are my lifeline and have become some of my closest friends,” reports one spy. “We’ve got an amazing trainee cohort who are all incredibly supportive of each other, whether that’s delivering a coffee to your desk in an hour of need, lending a hand when you’re busy, or just generally doing what they can to help you,” another happy camper adds. Partners are, overall, “very approachable” ― but also “incredibly busy”, so be prepared to pick your moment of approach wisely and be ready to chase things up with them. One insider adds that, “throughout my training contract I’ve never had any issues approaching any supervisors. They have always been fantastic and ensured I’m comfortable speaking to them about anything and everything.”
Trainees praise the amount of supervision they receive, coupled with the “large amounts” of responsibility they are given. Obviously, it’s not all NQ-level work ― the downside of being part of a smaller trainee cohort is there are fewer people to share the grunt work. The level of this differs between teams, and we’re told that ― as with many other firms ― litigation trainees fare the worst when it comes to drowning in paperwork. On the plus side, as one rookie rather smugly puts it, “we have some of the most interesting work in the market on the intellectual property and media & entertainment front”.
And the trainees perhaps have a right to feel smug about the firm’s roster. The likes of Google, Sony Music and Arsenal FC all feature and, luckily for trainees, the chance of a client secondment is high at the firm – some even report doing two! Recent destinations include Lush, the British Film Institute, NBC Universal and Associated Newspapers Limited. It is clear that trainees really value such opportunities: “It was a fantastic experience and I loved it!”, enthuses one lucky spy.
When not on secondment, trainees are typically based at the firm’s London headquarters, which recently relocated from near the Royal Courts of Justice to the super-eco Arbor building at Bankside Yards, located on the South Bank of the Thames. So far, our sources are impressed with their new digs, with one insider saying: “It is high tech with amazing views of the Thames, a great canteen and unlimited coffee from a barista.” Another describes it as “a huge upgrade”, adding: “Aside from everything being brand new (including the building itself) it’s a fantastic space which has been designed perfectly to meet the needs of a hybrid workforce who realistically aren’t going to be there every day. The facilities are absolutely fantastic and it’s a brilliant space to work”.
The new office is a step-up in terms of sustainability too as it is part of the UK’s first mixed-use regeneration scheme, and net zero in terms of carbon emissions. Sustainability is clearly a growing focus for Lewis Silkin, with insiders reporting the firm is “very conscious of their environmental impact”.
Of course, since the pandemic, trainees nowadays don’t spend all their time at the office. Rookies describe the firm’s WFH set-up as being “pretty faultless”. Nowadays, Lewis Silkin has opted for the hybrid approach to working, though the lure of a shiny new digs is apparently drawing many to spend much of their time in the office. It still offers a “very generous” budget for trainees to purchase WFH equipment and the hybrid working policy is not just all talk, either: “People here have a refreshingly relaxed attitude to hybrid working,” one respondent tells us.
When it comes to tech, however, there’s slightly less praise to be handed out, though as one insider points out it is, “something that’s improving and being focused on.” As it’s a smaller firm, new technology can be integrated at a “much faster pace” than at larger outfits, but equally the technology itself is likely to be “not as advanced”. Regardless, the firm is reported as having the “key basics” covered, and the insiders remain positive that change is coming: “With our brilliant solutions team and initiatives like innovation sprints I’m sure it will improve dramatically in next few years.”
Rookies rate the firm’s perks as everything from “respectable” to “excellent”. Besides private healthcare and a gym subsidy, there are “various post-work events and team lunches.” One well-caffeinated spy added: “Personally, I think the best perk is the free coffee from our in-office barista who has very quickly become one of the most popular people in the firm.”
But perhaps in reality the biggest perk of working at Lewis Silkin is the work/ life balance. Compared to its City rivals, this is an area where the firm excels: “Decently low chargeable targets and definitely have much better work/life balance than peers at other firms,” says one mole. Understandably, this will differ between teams ― again, the contentious seats tend to fare worse ― and there are grumbles that sitting in a busier team makes the £43,250 starting salary (which rises to £78,000 on qualification) poor value for money. Despite this, “there’s a genuine respect for people’s other commitments and working hours are much healthier than most other firms of its quality”. Rookies add that “there is no need for presenteeism” at the firm and when things are busy, “there is always another colleague around to help or offer support if needed”.