Working in the Belfast Office
19 January 2023
In the Belfast office, the trainee intake is small which means there is a greater emphasis on you and fantastic opportunities for significant responsibility. You can expect to work alongside Partners on a daily basis, and Partners are very involved in the Trainee’s experience and seat progression, which makes for a great opportunity to extract some wisdom and learn from individuals who are considered leaders in their field.
Working in the Belfast Office
Lewis Silkin (N.I) LLP became an official entity in August 2021, after Lewis Silkin merged with Jones Cassidy Brett Solicitors, Northern Ireland’s leading employment law firm. Forde Campbell LLC merged later, in January 2022, bringing expertise in the creative sphere, with particular focus in Intellectual Property, Dispute Resolution, Defamation, Reputation Management, and Commercial and Corporate law. Since August 2021, the practice has more than doubled in size and the desks are quickly filling up.
New office, new ideas and new colleagues with extensive and diverse knowledge and expertise, the Belfast office combines the sense of fresh possibility you might expect from a start-up company, with the confidence and advantage of decades of industry experience. It’s a very exciting time to be a part of the team.
It wasn’t until August 2022 that the three firms physically came together under the one roof in our new premises in the Linenhall building in Belfast. Suffice to say, three law firms coming together was a very ambitious move, and the past five months have been a time of significant and exciting change. Within the first few weeks, the Belfast team sat down together to share our ideas on the challenges we faced and what we wanted to achieve for the firm and for ourselves in the coming weeks, months and years. During this session, the room was abuzz with enthusiasm and innovative ideas. Some were, admittedly, more ambitious than others but it was clear there was a shared enthusiasm for the future and the many doors and opportunities that await us.
Having been with the firm for almost a year, I understand that first huddle session was indicative of the firm’s culture. At Lewis Silkin there is a genuine collegiate environment and a sense that you are a part of a collective. No matter which strand of the business you come from, everyone’s voice is heard and your contribution matters.
The Belfast Office from a Trainee Perspective
Trainees across the firms’ various offices are treated as one cohort, which means we keep up to date with our counterparts in the other offices on a regular basis. We attend monthly meetings together and have group chats to share our experiences and ideas. At the monthly meetings we discuss the work we’ve been involved in and our seats generally, which is an excellent forum for getting tips and insights into the other seats.
In the Belfast office, trainees rotate through four seats in each division of the business: Employment, IP/Litigation, Digital Commerce & Creative, and Corporate), spending six months in each area. The six-month allocated time for each seat is in the perfect amount of time to develop a genuine and deeper understanding of the law, to hone your skills and to extract some knowledge which will almost certainly be useful for the future, no matter which area you qualify into.
Within the first few weeks of your training contract, you can expect your diary to be jam packed with in-office and online induction sessions, training sessions and social activities. For each seat, the department is awaiting your arrival and Teams calls/in-office meetings are set up to introduce you to the wider team, including our colleagues in other offices.
Once you are in your first seat, you will be exposed to a variety of work and the likelihood is that you will have limited or no experience in the area. Although each new seat may seem daunting at first, there is significant support available and a large pool of resources. In particular, the firms Practice Development Lawyers (PDLs) focus solely on researching niche issues and updates in the law in their area of specialism, and are always on hand to answer any queries.
In the Belfast office, the trainee intake is small which means there is a great emphasis on you and fantastic opportunities for significant responsibility. You can expect to work alongside Partners on a daily basis, and Partners are very involved in the Trainee’s experience and seat progression, which makes for a great opportunity to extract some wisdom and learn from individuals who are considered leaders in their field.
The work you will be involved in will be varied and will depend on the seat you are in. We work closely with our colleagues in Dublin, London, Manchester and Cardiff and offer inter-office support across all LS offices. You can therefore expect to be exposed to international clients of all sizes and a wide range of legal issues. From experience, this really helps to see things in the round and ensures you never feel pigeon-holed into a particular type of work or client.
Curating the talent of trainees is a big focus at Lewis Silkin and the support available is ubiquitous. As well as having a Trainee supervisor in each seat, the firm has a designated Training Principal who is very hands on and always available to offer support and advice. There is also a Trainee contact within HR, and each Trainee is assigned a second year Trainee as a “buddy”. There is seat-specific training for trainees at the beginning of each new seat, regular training hosted by partners and individuals with specific expertise, and away-day training. The firm also keeps an extensive catalogue of resources to utilise and learn from on the intranet page and document management systems.
As the saying goes: work hard, play hard – in addition to firmwide events, there are also a number of trainee-specific social events, including the annual “Meet the Trainees” event where the whole firm comes together to greet the new cohort of trainees over some food, drinks and games!
Pointers to future trainees:
- Be prepared to restart: your previous experience in the profession will be useful but each seat is area specific and requires to you adapt to a new area of law with different issues and experiences.
- Get organised: make sure you know how to use the file management system; time recording software and create a ‘To Do’ List.
- Ask the question: no question is not worth asking. Learn as much as you can in each seat - you’re there to train and learn! Also, keep a record of key take-aways from each seat that you can carry throughout your career.
- Get involved: attend the trainee social events and take time to do meet and greets with your colleagues, even if it is only a 5-minute coffee catch-up via Teams. Also, join the offices different strands/committees, for example in Belfast trainees can join the diversity and inclusion strand or the responsible business committee and various other training sessions.
Want to know what it’s really like to be a trainee in our firm? Hear it direct from our trainees.