Lewis Silkin - True Picture

In quirky mid-sizer Lewis Silkin you'll find a full-service firm with a particular knack for employment law and the creative industries.

Lewis Silkin training contract review 2022

The Firm

Ideas. People. Possibilities. These are the three words that greet anyone who clicks on Lewis Silkin’s homepage. “We’re a full-service firm, and work with businesses to protect and enhance their most important assets – their ideas, their people and their future,”training principal Shalina Crossley tells us. Lewis Silkin has certainly achieved a high-flying status in one of the most people-inflected law practices there is: employment. The firm picks up several top Chambers UK rankings in the area, including accolades for employer and senior executive-oriented work. The ideas and possibilities strands are very much linked to sector specialisms in creative fields like media, entertainment, advertising, marketing and technology, as well as the ideal qualities exhibited by the firm’s lawyers. Crossley highlights that when recruiting its trainees, the firm looks out for “someone who isn’t afraid to come up with an idea and take it forward... We’re looking for people who are really interested in providing practical and commercial solutions for our clients.”

These clients include a whole host of well-known names from areas such as tech, sport and fashion: Sony Music, Google, Fremantle, Facebook, Arsenal FC, Hermès, Dr Martens, and Vivienne Westwood are all on the books. “We’re a mid-sized firm,” explained one trainee, “but, because of our niches, we’re working with big clients in those areas and competing with big names.”These mid-sized dimensions contain offices in London, Cardiff, Oxford, Dublin, Belfast and Hong Kong. The London HQ collects most of the firm’s Chambers UK accolades, which cover its IP, real estate, corporate/M&A and litigation work alongside its employment prowess. Lewis Silkinalso gains UK-wide praise for its deft handling of business immigration, partnership and retail-sector matters, while its advertising & marketing knowledge is up there with the best of the best. 

Lewis Silkin typically takes on six or seven trainees a year and most will probably be based in London (one will be based in Cardiff from now on). Those who did join the HQ spoke of its “great culture,” with one highlighting how the firm “allows people to develop their own skill set and become their own lawyers, rather than one homogenous product.” With the exploration of new ideas and possibilities top of the agenda, we were curious to hear how the firm may be set to develop over the next year or so. “I anticipate that there will be growth across the board in our practice areas including commercial, IP, employment and elsewhere,”says Crossley. “I can speak about litigation in employment. I anticipate more litigation around health and safety concerns: sickness and disability connected to Covid and long Covid... Interestingly, the High Court team in our employment practice is incredibly busy with employee competition cases. Everyone is looking for the best people in a post-Covid economy, so there’s lots of poaching and team moves going on." Law firms also tend to look for the best tie-up companions in a consolidating legal industry, and Lewis Silkin has recently partnered up with a Belfast-based firm, JCB, to expand into Northern Ireland. In other news, the firm Lewis Silkin brought on a new partner in Hong Kong earlier in 2021 to launch an IP practice in its office there. 

The Seats 

Trainees have a rough seat plan mapped out for them before they start. “You tell them what you want your rotations to look like and then HR talks to everyone and comes up with a plan for each seat for the two years,” sources explained. “You have catch-ups in every seat in case your views have changed.” While sources acknowledged that “it doesn’t always work,”the consensus was that “HR is able to accommodate nearly everyone’s ideal choices.” Sources explained that seat choices“typically comprise employment, commercial, corporate, contentious IP, data privacy and dispute resolution. There is an option to do immigration and/or real estate, but you have to say you’d like to do either of those seats.” In addition, there are client secondments available to interested trainees. 

While none of the seats are compulsory, trainees are likely to sit in the firm’s largest department: employment. Here the firm recently represented Citadel during a dispute that concerned the alleged misuse of highly valuable confidential information and trade secrets by a former employee. “There’s big variety in the work,” sources told us. From High Court litigation all the way through to “investigations: the firm is becoming quite strong in these,” one source noted. “It’s a good thing to get involved in them if you can.” The department also does a lot of advisory work on the likes of “how to go about making a redundancy, for example.” On the client list you’ll find magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, along with Deliveroo, Ford and Accenture. There are many media companies and some start-ups on the client roster too. “We work for really huge clients, but sort of under the radar,” an interviewee commented. “People don’t necessarily associate Lewis Silkin with these clients.” Sources felt they got “pretty high exposure early on,” with this one stating plainly: “I don’t feel like a dogsbody.” That said, interviewees did acknowledge having “to do bundles, because you’re at that level, but the level of responsibility goes up quickly.” Another trainee highlighted more substantive responsibility “drafting grounds of resistance or settlement agreements – if a client calls up, I can speak with them too.”

“I’ve drafted IP licences for artists I listen to myself!”

The firm’s other large department, media & entertainment, works for traditional companies in this area as well as with the ‘disrupters’ in the industry who come bearing new tech and ways of providing services. For our boastful sources, a seat here meant “working with major music names,” like Sony Music. The firm also deals with those operating in the live entertainment space, like concert organisers and theatre producers. In the publishing sector, the firm works with newspapers like The New York Times and several magazine and book publishers. Lewis Silkin also does gaming and social media work (for Facebook and Snapchat, for example); has a strong advertising and marketing arm, where it deals with regulatory matters as well as litigation when required; and handles film and TV work, which involves advising clients on content creation, contracts, financing, and IP-related issues among other areas. For some of our sources, this meant “drafting IP licences for artists I listen to myself!” From the surreal to the real, trainees’ media & entertainment work often meant “spending a lot of time drafting and conducting a variety of research tasks.”

For those who want to see the contentious side of the commercial coin, a seat in dispute resolution awaits. Here the firm represents Airbnb, ASOS.com, Dyson and the Rugby Football Union. The team recently acted on a conspiracy action that stemmed from a $1.5 billion arbitration award on behalf of the family members who founded the construction conglomerate Essar. Another matter saw Lewis Silkin represent Ford in a breach of contract case against Mitsubishi. Sources said work depended “on the case you’re working on,” but felt that “trainees were involved quite a lot; we’re not just making the tea.” For those involved in trial work “the bread-and-butter work was reviewing disclosure documents, bundling and helping to draft letters.”An interviewee had also got to attend a few hearings and complete the first draft of a claim: “Inevitably, when you’re on a big trial there’s lots of hard work involved.”

We heard that it is possible to do more than one client secondment as some are short-term or part-time arrangements. In fact, we were told about one person who had done three! (Although this was highlighted as unusual.) Secondment destinations run the gamut from “a whistleblowing advisory firm that deals with MPs”to IP consultancy firms to film and television clients. “The media places can be quite exciting,” one trainee commented, while others highlighted the experience being “responsible for representing the firm to the client as a trainee.”Secondments can bestow plenty of drafting experience too: “I had five to eight drafting tasks a week.”

Trainee Life

For our satisfied sources, there was little to bemoan and much to love at Lewis Silkin. Sources mentioned “a lot of formal and informal mentoring,” with supervisors providing advice and guidance on “work, business development opportunities, and tips on training.” In addition, the firm hosts “bi-weekly training meetings” and appoints a ‘buddy’ (typically another trainee or an NQ) for all trainees. Sources felt these buddies provided “good opportunities to ask questions you’d perhaps prefer not to ask a partner.”

This was not to say that partners were unapproachable. Trainees mentioned “a lack of hierarchy” at the firm, which benefited several aspects of life at the firm, including its “informal by design” NQ process. Trainees are “encouraged by the training principal and HR to have conversations with them” about where they see themselves qualifying. HR liaises with the heads of different departments on whether there are roles available to trainees.In 2021, all six qualifiers were retained. The flatter hierarchy also encouraged a deliberate culture of transparency – something our sources really liked. All this made working at Lewis Silkin “the opposite of clunky,” a trainee stated. How so? “It’s streamlined I guess; everyone’s so approachable, so you have no reservations about asking questions or getting feedback, which makes work better.”

“It’s a place where everyone is encouraged to be the best.”

“They trust you to take the lead where appropriate,”a source told us. “It’s a place where everyone is encouraged to be the best, but it’s not the kind of place that pushes people [before they’re ready].”Returning to the firm’s emphasis on ideas and possibilities, this trainee explained that “if you want to do something you can just shout and they’ll look at what can be done to make it happen.”As this interviewee concluded: “The leadership are very open.”

In terms of working hours, the average recorded by trainees in the previous week was around 45. The consensus on this topic was positive, with sources telling us that they were “literally told to log off”if they were working late. That doesn’t mean that late nights never happen. “If you’ve got a hearing coming up” then the hours can get more intense for a few weeks, “but after that you might be finishing by 7pm.”Another trainee told us that they typically work from 9am until 6.30pm, but “if there are priority contracts to arrange then that finishing time will creep towards 7.30 to 8pm.”

And finally... 

Gender diversity stats at partnership level fall slightly below the average range for the law firms we research. Shalina Crossley tells us: “In the partnership itself, what we’re hoping for is increased diversity through promotion of our talented female associates... We’ve also looked at remuneration to make sure it’s not disadvantaging women who are already partners.”  


How to get a Lewis Silkin training contract


Training contract deadline (2023): 28 February 2022 (opens 4 November 2021)


Lewis Silkin receives over 550 applications for training contracts each year. These are made via Apply4Law, and there are no CVs involved.

The firm shortlists approximately 60 applicants to complete the pre-selection exercises (a written case study, video interview and the McQuaig test), and these do not require any preparation in advance. Following this, 16 are chosen to take part in an assessment centre that involves a group exercise and interviews with two pairs of partners, plus a chance to speak to current trainees.

According to an HR source, the group exercise (which the firm does not always run), is “fun and tongue-in-cheek,” but candidates “should still be mindful that they are being assessed: the exercise is designed to test their decision-making, analytical skills and their ability to put forward a persuasive argument. It also allows the candidate to show us their personality.”

In previous years, the exercise centred on a management-related scenario in which “an award-winning architect and building practice had to create a new landmark building in London by considering the location and design concept.” Future candidates take note: your group exercise – though also focused on management – will not be the same!

To impress, successful candidates need to demonstrate 'personal effectiveness' and people skills. Our HR source explains: “In terms of personal effectiveness, we look at whether they understand instructions and demonstrate a clear thought process. For people skills, we're looking to see if they get along with each other, if they create a team environment and act as a natural leader. We keep an eye out for negative indicators too – for example, a limited contribution to the task, and an unwillingness to make decisions and express opinions.”

Trainee profile

To bag one of Lewis Silkin's training contracts (there are up to seven on offer) our source tells us that you need to be “a bright, open-minded and curious lateral thinker, without the baggage of machismo, arrogance, bravado or working at the expense of others.”

Of course, “there's not a single type of person that the firm's looking for,” trainee sources agreed. “Everyone in my intake is sociable and hard-working, but there's quite a wide age range among us, from 24 through to 36. And a lot of different backgrounds too.” It's worth noting that “many of the trainees have work experience in creative industries like media and advertising,” though that doesn't mean those fresh out of law school can't nab a place.

Who was Lewis Silkin?

You might have noticed how firms like their names to be double, triple or even quadruple-barrelled. In an ever-consolidating legal market, these names often reveal the patchwork of mergers behind a firm's current form. They also frequently point to founding members, as Lewis Silkin's does. But there were not – as you might think – two people: one called 'Lewis' and one called 'Silkin', but rather one person: Mr Lewis Silkin. So who was the eponymous Lewis Silkin?

In short, he was a lawyer, a Labour MP, a minister of town and country planning under the post-war Labour prime minister, Clement Attlee, and latterly a baron. Born in 1889 to a Jewish family of Lithuanian migrants, Silkin grew up in London's East End. Early on he showed academic promise, but his family's finances prevented him from taking up a place at Oxford, as did the intervention of his schoolmaster, who helpfully informed the university that “this boy will not benefit from a university education.” With his academic career cut short, our young hero tumbled into the world of work: first, at the East India Docks; then at a solicitors' firm as a clerk. Inspired by his employer, Silkin eventually went on to qualify as a solicitor and soon went about setting up his own firm.

Running alongside his career in law was an interest in politics – particularly socialism – and it quickly overtook his legal work. In 1925 Silkin was elected to the London County Council and by 1936 he had a seat in parliament as the member for Peckham. When his brother Joseph also qualified as a solicitor (forming – you guessed it – Silkin & Silkin), Lewis put law on the back-burner to press on with his political career.

Silkin's first decade as an MP coincided with the Second World War and presented many challenges. However, he still found time to cover some endearingly everyday topics in parliament. On 25 July 1940, Silkin asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what action he intended to take to ensure that an 'exceptionally abundant' crop of plums didn't go to waste. He followed this in 1943 with a timely question to the Minister for War Transport, which touched upon the beloved British topic of queueing: [Is he] aware that the regulation requiring queueing at omnibus stops is frequently not being observed?” A scandal!

As minister for town and country planning, Silkin went on to shape three key pieces of legislation during the post-war drive to reconstruct Britain. First, in 1946, came the New Towns Act, which created 14 new towns beyond the big city boundaries. Second was the Town and Country Planning Act (1947), which set an early precedent for modern planning law. The third was the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act (1949), which reserved national parks “for the hikers and ramblers, for everyone who loves to get out into the open air and enjoy the countryside.” Of all the political legacies to leave, this is evidently one of the more desirable ones.

And what about the law firm that bears his name? Well, it developed quite independently of the man himself after his departure into politics. Silkin returned later on, applying his specialism in planning and development law, but the modern incarnation of the firm was mainly shaped by other family members and fellow partners. However, the firm still wears Silkin's name as a badge of honour, paying tribute to the man who traversed the worlds of law and politics, and achieved success in both.

Lewis Silkin

5 Chancery Lane,
Clifford's Inn,
Website www.lewissilkin.com

  • Partners 72
  • Associates 161
  • Total trainees 13
  • UK offices London, Cardiff, Oxford, Belfast 
  • Overseas offices Dublin, Hong Kong 
  • Contacts 
  • Graduate recruiter: Katie Deering, Human Resources Officer
  • train@lewissilkin.com
  • 020 7074 8000
  • Training Partner: Shalina Crossley 
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: Approx. 6
  • Applications p:a 500+
  • Minimum UCAS points or A levels: Strong academics
  • Dates and deadlines  
  • Training contract applications open:  4th November 2021
  • Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 28 February 2022
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £39,000
  • Second-year salary: £43,500
  • Post-qualification salary: £65,000
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship 
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: £6,500
  • International and regional 
  • Offices with training contracts: London & Cardiff
  • Overseas seats: N/A
  • Client secondments: Various (Business-need dependent)

Firm profile

We work with leading businesses helping them protect and enhance their most important assets – their people, their ideas, their brand and their future. We call it ‘Ideas. People. Possibilities’.

We aspire to be the leading legal and related services firm for creative, innovative and tech-focused businesses. We don’t try to do everything, but what we do, we do well. We offer market leading practice areas including our pre-eminent employment & immigration, commercial, IP, data and dispute resolution groups as well as a deep cross-firm market expertise in our chosen sectors.

Our clients range from large multinational corporations and FTSE 100 companies, to household name high growth startups and small owner managed business and entrepreneurs.

People are at the heart of our firm, united by a passion for creativity, technology and innovation. Our firm’s culture is encapsulated by an ethos of bravery and kindness and guided by our values of Integrity, Clarity, Unity and Excellence (our I-CUE). We support each other, our clients and our community, we embrace diversity and we are all able to bring our full selves to work. 

Main areas of work

Our major practice areas include: brands and intellectual property; commercial; corporate; data and privacy; dispute resolution; employment; immigration; investigations and regulatory; partnership; real estate; tax, reward and incentives; and trade mark and portfolio management.

We provide services through key sectors including advertising and marketing; financial services; media and entertainment; professional services; retail, fashion and hospitality; sports business; and technology.

Training opportunities

We offer hands on and supportive training contracts which consist of four six-month seats sitting within legal practice groups across the two business divisions. There’s also the opportunity to participate in a client secondment.

Trainees will enjoy responsibility from day one and will gain a broad range of contentious and noncontentious experience. We aim to attract applicants from diverse backgrounds; we don’t mind if you’re fresh out of law school or someone with previous experience in another industry.

Other benefits

Benefits include individual and firm bonus scheme, life assurance, group income protection, health insurance, group pension plan, season ticket loan, cycle to work scheme and subsidised gym membership and canteen. 

Open days and first-year opportunities

We run an Open Evening in both our Cardiff and London offices. These provide an insight into what it’s really like to work at Lewis Silkin and the opportunity to network with fee earners across the firm.

Diversity, inclusion & wellbeing
We recognise that a more inclusive workplace allows for a plethora of ideas and thoughts, a variety of points of view that can trigger discussions or deliver innovative results, as well as a wide scope of versatile skills and expertise. We are proud of the diverse range of people within Lewis Silkin and culture of bravery and kindness that allows individuals to be themselves at work, ensuring we provide the best possible service to our clients.

We have long supported a gender diverse partnership. Over the past eight years there have been three years where partner promotions were 100% female, including this year in which three female associates made partner. As part of our 2020 ‘Awareness to Action’ campaign we have taken proactive steps to move towards gender balance and play our role in creating a more equal profession for all.

This involved launching our Women in Law Pledge targets including no less than 45% female partners by 2027, gender balance in leadership and other fee earning roles and reducing our gender pay gap by no less than 40% by 2027. Partner appraisals have also been updated to include assessment against how they have promoted the firm’s culture and values, steps they have taken to advance D&I and the setting of a diversity related objective for the coming year.

Our firm’s history is one of social mobility. Lewis Silkin (the man) was born to a poor family of refugees, but his determination and hard work led him to qualify as a solicitor (going on to represent Deptford in the House of Commons and sit in the House of Lords). This history is at the core of our culture and our values and it drives our commitment to ensure that access to the legal profession is open, fair and socially inclusive.

We promote social mobility through our work experience and employment offerings. This year we have launched our Solicitor Apprenticeship scheme, as part of our commitment to creating alternative routes into the legal profession for young people. As part of our PRIME commitment, we offer work experience placements for students from less privileged backgrounds who might otherwise not have the opportunity to access careers in the legal world. Social mobility is also a major part of our CSR programme, and we work with schools and charities including XLP, one of our firm charity partners, to offer mentoring and virtual careers opportunities.

Social media

Twitter @LewisSilkin

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 1)
    • Employment: Senior Executive (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight Table
    • Litigation (Band 5)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Commercial Contracts (Band 5)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 5)
    • Immigration: Business (Band 2)
    • Media & Entertainment: Advertising & Marketing (Band 1)
    • Partnership (Band 2)
    • Retail (Band 2)
    • Sport (Band 4)
    • Employment (Band 2)