Lewis Silkin - True Picture

If you want to be part of the Lewis Silkin-crowd, prepare to get stuck into cutting-edge media and entertainment work while rubbing shoulders with employment law stars.

Lewis Silkin training contract review 2024

The Firm

Life is all about balance, as they say. And this is a philosophy that Lewis Silkin adheres to. City work without regular late nights? Check. Big name clients without the intense atmosphere? Check. Although it’s nestled in the heart of London, Lewis Silkin doesn’t describe itself as a typical City firm. “While we are a full-service firm, we are not, as many City firms are, led by our corporate practice. Rather our focus is on protecting and enhancing a 21st century organisation’s most important assets – their ideas and their people,” explains training principal and employment partner Shalina Crossley. “Doing exciting work with creative, innovative and technology-focused businesses is a major focus for us, so we’re not afraid to take risks, innovate and try new things, and we support our clients to do the same.” For example, the firm launched The Collective by Lewis Silkin in 2019, which brings together leading figures in the luxury, lifestyle and brand-led business to drive commercial understanding. “We encourage the same ethos in our trainees, too. They don’t come to us to just do copying and bundling; they get involved in cutting-edge work and play a huge role in the firm's responsible business and DE&I initiatives. They are empowered to crack on with the ideas they come up with,” Crossley tells us.

Employment is Lewis Silkin’s bread and butter. The firm has received an array of top rankings from our sister guide, Chambers UK, in London, Thames Valley, Wales and Northern Ireland for this work. In fact, the employment practice is so highly regarded it’s earned a spot in the Chambers Global guide for its world-leading work. But this is no one-trick pony: 23 of LS’s departments are ranked by the Chambers guides, with further tips of the hat going to its UK-wide media and entertainment work, as well as its information technology and IP practices in Northern Ireland. The firm only set up shop in Belfast following a local merger in 2021, but the office has taken on two trainees. The Cardiff office houses a further two trainees, with the rest based in London. Further afield, the firm has two international bases in Dublin and Hong Kong.

“If you do something brave or kind, people shout about it.”

Although many days might be spent dealing with workplace grievances from clients, our interviewees felt settled at LS: “I wanted to work somewhere I didn’t have to put up a façade walking into the office. Even though we have big clients and interesting work in exciting areas, it’s still a nice place to work.” Thefirm’s ethos of bravery and kindness is key to its culture. Lord Silkin, the firm’s founder, wona scholarship to Oxford but couldn’t take it up because the headmaster of his school told him he wouldn’t benefit from a university education. He worked at the docks until he saw an ad in the window of a law firm – he qualified as solicitor, went on to sit in the House of Lords. As Crossley says: “He was incredibly determined and brave. That history runs central to everything we do at Lewis Silkin.” Trainees felt that this story set the tone for the supportive atmosphere in the firm, noting that “if you do something brave or kind, people shout about it.” Having a smaller trainee intake has helped, as newcomers get lots of hands-on experience as part of a more personal, integrated training contract.

The Seats

Trainees were grateful for the “fluid” seat allocation process: “It’s an open process, and HR are always transparent about what is and isn’t possible,” a trainee explained. “It’s a two-way street, so if you’re passionate about something you can make a strong case for it.”We even heard first-seaters can do client secondments, granted they've previously paralegalled with the firm: “Some are recurring, but new opportunities come up such as entertainment, retail and healthcare.”

“You can see how the job fits into the real world”

Both contentious and non-contentious work is on offer in employment, including regulatory, advisory and investigations. A number of household names form the client roster, including AstraZeneca, Twitter, Chelsea FC, LinkedIn and Google. The department mainly works with employers: the firm is currently representing Deliveroo in a long-running dispute concerning the classification of its riders as ‘workers’. Trainees help prepare for tribunals and High Court trials by taking notes for witness interviews, doing bundling and attending hearings. “That’s where all the action happens,” quipped one trainee. “My favourite part was seeing how those weeks or months of work come together in front of a judge.” It’s worth noting that some of the investigations work deals with sensitive topics in the workplace such as bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment. For one trainee, this was valuable as “you can see how the job fits into the real world.” Trainees also get involved in “peeling back the layers to put the puzzle pieces together” during the fact-finding process. Advisory work might include working with employers on policies, changes in the law and handbooks.

Another contentious seat is IP disputes, which falls under the wider IP umbrella. Trainees work as part of the wider group, but typically focus on the contentious side.The work is centred on infringement issues, both defending clients against allegations, and bringing claims against others. The firm recently defended John Lewis and its creative agency adam&eve against a headline copyright infringement allegation concerning its 2019 Christmas ad. Other clients include Sky, Trustpilot and Britvic. We’ll have an orange juice, please. Interviewees were happy to report that the work has been interesting, with trainees spending time searching for infringements online and in-person, writing and responding to cease-and-desist letters and preparing for hearings: “It’s different to other disputes seats because you’re not constantly caught up in preparing for trials. Trainees are very much involved in the strategy of the case – it’s a two-way discussion.”

Many other trainees found themselves doing a rotation with the digital, commerce and creative (DCC) team, working on a variety of commercial matters relating to advertising, retail, tech and media & entertainment. Matters involving the video games, esports and gambling industries are also on the rise. There's a massive range of work with names such as ASOS, TikTok, B&Q and Hermès. The group worked with the British Fashion Council in the run up to the 2022 Fashion Awards, advising on various commercial contracts relating to sponsor partnerships, key talent deals and agency agreements. Trainees explained that a stint with DCC involved plenty of drafting, including prize promotion, T&Cs, NDAs and service agreements. One trainee particularly enjoyed “picking apart the language of the contracts, making sure it met the client’s objectives.” Ad clearance might involve working directly with partners and clients, joining negotiation calls and researching to make sure ads aren't breaching regulations.

Corporate, on the other hand, is a smaller department which works on M&A, finance and equity deals, often with smaller companies on matters worth up to £50 million. Recently, LS acted for music rights company First Score Music in the sale of its entire catalogue to an American music rights group. The firm also works with organisations like AIM-listed Next Fifteen Communications and Fat Llama, a platform enabling people to rent out their items. Typical tasks for newbies might include monitoring due diligence, looking at a company’s shareholder history and M&A ancillary documents, such as board minutes, resolutions, letters and notices. One source was particularly keen to highlight: “There’s a misconception that you need to work long hours during a corporate seat – at any firm – but that’s not been my experience.”

Trainee life

“I’ve only worked past 8pm a handful of times,” one trainee gratefully told us, explaining that the great work/life balance shows how “it’s not all about billing.” Our trainee survey indicated that trainees work a couple more hours a week than the market average, but interviewees typically felt they didn’t have to cancel evening plans and appreciated getting high-quality work and training without the intense atmosphere. Our sources were generally pleased with the compensation, noting that, even if it’s slightly lower than other firms, the work/life balance was worth the trade-off. With a first-year trainee package of £43,250, rising to £78,000 upon qualification, we're inclined to agree!

“It’s not all about billing.”

At Lewis Silkin, “there’s a human element to the management structure. There’s no ‘I can’t talk to you because you’re a partner’ culture.” Evidencing this relaxed atmosphere is the lack of formal dress code, so long as everyone’s is dressed appropriately for formal meetings. (We at Chambers Student are also big fans of our casual dress code.) Trainees appreciated being part of a close cohort: “You can chat to everyone like they’re your friends.” Interviewees made it clear that it’s the kind of place where you can get to know everyone and there’s a “real celebration of people and their achievements, both professional and personal.”

Our interviewees also praised the firm for the quality of work and training: “There’s an emphasis on training you so you’re actually a solicitor by the end of the contract.” Know-how sessions are commonplace at LS, and NQs, trainees and paralegals are all encouraged to show up to learn about changes in the law. The firm hosts soft skill-building sessions as well as department-specific training to help get newbies up to speed. More informally, supervisors are known to take the time to help trainees with any issues: “They’re always open to being asked silly questions, but you’re never made to feel like they are silly.”

Trainees appreciated the firm-wide compulsory allyship and anti-racism training, with one explaining that it has helped broaden their ways of thinking about the workplace. Sources noticed that DEI is regularly discussed at the firm and “there’s a real focus on conversation as a mechanism of raising awareness. Panellists at events share experience from their personal lives, which is really meaningful and impactful.” On the wellbeing side, solicitors across the firm can book sessions with an in-person counsellor and take part in wellbeing days.

CSR was highlighted as a key part of trainee life; newbies are required to complete 30 responsible business hours a year. “We all meet it quite easily,” according to one trainee. “It covers quite a few things, such as gardening, charity events and volunteering with a local food bank.” We heard that there are also some pro bono opportunities, such as working with US organisations on capital punishment cases through the Amicus Project. First-years organise the annual fundraiser. This year's event was the Great LScape - a jailbreak meets scavenger hunt challenge.On top of this, interviewees found the Meet the Trainees event particularly memorable. “It was casual,” explained one trainee, “but there was a massive turnout, from trainees to managing partners. Belfast trainees were flown in, and everyone bonded over food, ping-pong and competitions.”

Interviewees told us that many people stay at LS long-term: “I’m constantly hearing of people’s anniversaries! Emails always come through saying so-and-so is celebrating 25 years at the firm.” Trainee retention rates are also high, with six out of seven trainees qualifying in 2023. Insiders explained that the process is relatively informal as “the firm views the training contract as a two-year interview, so they don’t usually need to interview us all over again come qualification.” Interviews may be required if there's a tie-breaker situation where there's more than one trainee applying for the same position. Conversations are usually had with HR to discuss aspirations, and trainees are then encouraged to speak to the departments they're keen on qualifying into. “There’s an active effort to keep everyone if possible,” interviewees agreed.

Pastures Lew

With its roots in Peckham, Lewis Silkin’s recent move to a new office on the South Bank has brought it back south of the river.


How to get a Lewis Silkin training contract

Training contract deadline: 31 January 2024


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

The firm shortlists approximately 60 applicants to complete the pre-selection exercises (a written case study and a video interview), and these do not require any preparation in advance. 

According to an HR source, the case study exercise, 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 case study 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.”

Candidates who are successful at application stage will then be invited to attend an assessment day. The dates of these will vary depending on location. All candidates invited to the assessment day will complete two interviews, meeting with different members of LS. They will also complete a case study exercise, during which they will then have the opportunity to present their findings to two partners.

Ahead of the assessment day, London candidates will be invited to attend a two-day workshop at the firm’s London office. It’s the first year the firm has run this; the aim is to allow candidates an opportunity to get to know the firm better and meet people they may not get a chance to on the assessment day itself. The day will include a variety of presentations (including a session with one of LS’ joint managing partners to learn more information about the firm’s vision and strategy), as well as a group project. During the group project, candidates will be working with each other to come up with a workable solution to a problem relevant to the firm’s business.

Trainee profile

To bag one of Lewis Silkin's training contracts (there are up to seven on offer in London, with one in Belfast and Cardiff each) 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

Arbor, 255 Blackfriars Road,
Website www.lewissilkin.com

Firm profile

We work with high performance businesses to protect and enhance their most important assets – their ideas and their people - and in doing so, enable them to create endless possibilities for future success. We call this ‘Ideas. People. Possibilities.'

We help turn Ideas into reality and ensure they are protected. This is crucially important for businesses which are challenging norms and pushing boundaries – particularly those in creative, innovative and brand-centric industries and in the tech sector.

We are passionate about people, and help our clients succeed through the optimisation of their talent. We provide support with all the strategic and operational HR and legal issues across the world of work, both nationally and internationally.

With offices across the UK, Ireland and Hong Kong, and with strategic alliances across the globe, our clients range from large multinational corporations and FTSE 100 companies, to household name startups and entrepreneurs.

The firm is recognised by clients and industry alike as being distinct for our unique culture, which is encapsulated by our ethos of bravery and kindness. We support each other, our clients and our community, embrace diversity and are able to bring our full selves to work.

In 2023 we were ranked 4th on Newsweek’s list of the UK’s Most Loved Workplaces.  

Main areas of work

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

Key sectors we work in include 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.

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

Our firm is named after Lewis Silkin, whose story of social mobility continues to inspire us. His family were refugees from Lithuania and he was brought up in poverty, but qualified as a solicitor before becoming an MP and eventually sitting in the House of Lords. We firmly believe that who your parents are, what school you go to or where you live should not affect your life chances. As a result, improving social mobility is one of the two focus areas of our responsible business programme.

More broadly, we know that creating a diverse and inclusive workplace will generate broader discussion and result in innovation, enhanced client service and a stronger and more cohesive team.

Today, our ethos of ‘bravery and kindness’ sits at the heart of our culture and all colleagues are encouraged to play a role in activities related to DEI or Responsible Business. A number of DEI groups are active across the firm - Gender, Race and Ethnicity, Social Mobility, Lewis SilkOut, Disability, Wellbeing, and Interfaith – supported by our DEI Board.

Recent progress on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI):
• We are now in the Top 10 law firms in the UK on the Social Mobility Index, which ranks UK employers according to changes they are making to how they find, recruit and advance talented employees from less privileged backgrounds
• We remain committed to widening access to the legal profession. During the year 2,000 students from 11 schools attended our careers outreach sessions in areas of low social mobility - and almost 40 students participated in our flagship Mentoring Scheme, a nine-month programme for students aged 16-18
• We have achieved equal representation of men and women at board level, and appointed our first female Joint Managing Partner in 2023
• Our Solicitor Apprenticeship scheme is successfully providing an alternative route to qualifying as a solicitor at Lewis Silkin, helping us to attract a more diverse range of candidates to the firm
• In 2023 we published our social mobility pay gap report for the first time

Our commitments
• We are a signatory to The Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter, the leading diversity initiative of the legal profession, and a Gold Standard award recipient
• We are a legal partner to The Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion
• We are a signatory to The Law Society’s Women in Law Pledge
• Our gender goals are for 45% of partners to be women by 2027, to achieve gender balance in leadership and other fee-earning roles and to reduce our gender pay gap by 40% (from its 2019 levels) by 2027
• Our aim is for 16% of solicitors to come from ethnic minority backgrounds by June 2025, and 20% by June 2029
• We have signed up to the PRIME Commitment, a scheme offering quality work experience to students from low socioeconomic backgrounds
• We have been an accredited Living Wage Employer since 2012, and we extend this to outsourced services
• We are a founding member of the inter-law LGBT network group, LeGalBesT
• We are members of the Black Solicitors Network

Awards related to DE&I
In 2023 one of our Associates, Sophie Jameson, won the ‘Highly Commended and Gold Award’ in the Rising Star category at the UK Social Mobility Awards. Sophie founded our Cold Spot Outreach Programme, which delivers remote and in-person careers events to students in Year 10 and upwards in areas of low social mobility.

In 2022 we were a winner in Accenture’s Outside Counsel Diversity Awards, which ‘recognise and celebrate the tangible progress on diversity and inclusion (D&I) made by law firms and their efforts to increase equality and inclusion within the profession’.

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 4)
    • Construction: Non-contentious (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A: £10-100 million (Band 2)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 1)
    • Employment: Employer: High Court Litigation Spotlight
    • Employment: Senior Executive (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 5)
    • Real Estate: £50-150 million (Band 3)
    • Employment (Band 4)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Commercial Contracts (Band 4)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 5)
    • Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 5)
    • Immigration: Business (Band 1)
    • Media & Entertainment: Advertising & Marketing (Band 1)
    • Partnership (Band 2)
    • Retail (Band 1)
    • Sport (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Employment (Band 2)