Lewis Silkin

The Legal Cheek View

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 60 partners across seven offices: London, Manchester, Cardiff, Oxford, Dublin, Belfast and Hong Kong.  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 being “excellent”. 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 newbies are “encouraged to share an office with either our supervisor or another partner” 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. “The people at Lewis Silkin are the main factor as to why I chose to train here. They are incredibly supportive,” another adds. Partners are, on the whole, “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. 

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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 ― our figures show just under two-thirds of the junior lawyers complete them during their training contract or just after it. Recent destinations include Warner Media, Lush, the British Film Institute and NBC Universal. 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, just up the road from the Royal Courts of Justice in a building described by the insiders as “well located” and “fine”. Not exactly glowing praise, but no bother, because the firm is moving in 2023 ― much to the delight of the junior lawyers. The new office, conversely, is described as “modern”, “impressive” and “snazzy”. Situated in Bankside Yards, it will certainly be a step-up, not just in terms of looks but in terms of sustainability too. The building is part of the UK’s first mixed-use regeneration scheme, and will be 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, thanks to the pandemic, trainees nowadays don’t spend all their time at the office. Rookies who joined during the pandemic describe the transition to WFH as being “pretty faultless”.  Nowadays, Lewis Silkin has opted for the hybrid approach of a minimum of two days a week in the office, and still offers a “generous” £300 budget for trainees to purchase WFH equipment. The hybrid working policy is not just all talk, either: “People here have a refreshingly relaxed attitude to hybrid working.” 

When it comes to tech, however, there’s slightly less praise to be handed out. 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.” 

Sadly, the firm fails to impress its rookies with its perks. Besides private healthcare and a gym subsidy, there are “very few” and rookies note they “haven’t really changed in a few years”. As the pandemic eases, however, the “good parties” put on at the expense of the firm will return. And perhaps 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 £42,000 starting salary (which rises to £70,000 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”. 

Insider Scorecard

A
Training
A*
Quality of work
A
Peer support
A
Partner approach-ability
A
Work/life balance
A
Legal tech
B
Perks
B
Office
A
WFH
A*
Eco-friendliness

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2022-23 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

Money

First year trainee salary £42,000
Second year trainee salary £46,000
Newly qualified salary £70,000
GDL grant £8,000
LPC grant £8,000

Hours

Average start work time 08:59
Average finish time 18:41
Annual target hours 1,200
Annual leave 25 days

Average arrive and leave times are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2022-23 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

Secondments

Chances of secondment abroad 0%
Chances of client secondment 63%

Secondment probabilities are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2022–23 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK. Please note that due to COVID-19 secondment probabilities are lower than in usual years.

General Info

Training contracts 7
Latest trainee retention rate 86%
Offices 7
Countries 3
Minimum A-level requirement N/A
Minimum degree requirement N/A

Diversity

UK female associates 67%
UK female partners 25%
UK BME associates 11%
UK BME partners 12%

Universities Current Trainees Attended