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Partner views on trainee roles at Lewis Silkin

Here you can read some Q&As from our Training Principals Matthew Rowbotham and Shalina Crossley.

Matthew Rowbotham, Trainee Recruitment Partner

What is your role as Trainee Recruitment Partner?

I coordinate and oversee the process of trainee recruitment.  So amongst other things I’m involved in the design of our application process, and oversee our assessment days.  It’s both satisfying and very challenging, because we get a lot of great candidates from all sorts of backgrounds.  It’s very hard to assess people’s potential when they’ve had such different experiences, but I like to think we do a good job.

Why did you join Lewis Silkin?

My main role now is as head of the Tax, Reward and Incentives group, but when I joined in 2013 I was a senior associate with a focus on the tax issues associated with corporate and commercial transactions.  From the very first people I met (partners in the Corporate team and HR), it was clear Lewis Silkin had a completely different culture and energy to most firms.  I found the sector specialisms interesting but only had a surface knowledge of them at the time – it was the people that made all the difference, because I knew my role was going to involve a lot of slotting into teams where tax was a component part of a broader project.

Other people I know have different reasons for joining – the quality and profile of the work we do is fantastic, particularly in our divisional specialisms, but it’s important that those specialisms don’t overshadow the amazing work being done in Real Estate or Dispute Resolution for instance.

What does Lewis Silkin look for in a Trainee?

It should go without saying that there’s no “cookie-cutter” Lewis Silkin trainee – qualified lawyers need to come with all sorts of skills and attributes, and so our trainees will reflect that.  We want people who are diligent and enthusiastic as a baseline of course.  It’s also good to have an active interest in areas that we specialise in, but I would recommend that our trainees keep an open mind – you can never be entirely sure where a training contract will take you.

Our small trainee intake also means you will need to be capable of taking responsibility – don’t expect to be on projects involving dozens of lawyers where you might blend into the background.  All out trainees get noticed, for better or worse.  Almost always for better of course!

How are training contract applications marked at Lewis Silkin?

With a lot of hard work is the short answer.  All applications are individually marked and then sifted by a small group to find the best candidates to go through to a written exercise stage.  The candidates who have done the most to research what we do, and found a way to relate it to their own experience, often shine through.

What has been your most memorable moment as Trainee Recruitment Partner?

Coordinating my first assessment day.  People from other firms sometimes can’t quite believe that more than 20 people (trainees, HR, partners and senior associates) voluntarily give up a Saturday to help with the assessment day procedure.  It really brings out the best in everyone involved, and we’re keen for the candidates to show us their best side as well.  Getting to the end of that day, and managing to reach a broad consensus on who we would make offers to, was very satisfying.

Shalina Crossley, Training Principal 

What is your role as Training Principal?

There are two parts to my role as Training Principal.  Firstly, I am responsible for ensuring that our trainees receive excellent quality legal training and opportunities for their career development, proper supervision and regular and constructive feedback.  Secondly, I provide pastoral care and mentoring to our trainees throughout their training contracts.

Having been a trainee at Lewis Silkin myself, it is a role that I am truly passionate about.  Our trainees are the future associates and hopefully, partners of our firm.  It is important to me that we fully  invest in their training and career and personal development.  From the outset we want them to be wholly involved and integrated – we want them to interact with clients, undertake interesting work, build their own profile and pipeline, contribute to the firm’s culture and strategy and socialise with their colleagues.

What makes Lewis Silkin stand out amongst other firms?

It is not the high quality work or the impressive range of clients.  Other firms have similarly impressive things to say about these things.  Put simply, it is the people.  We have a unique culture and we strive to maintain it.  We have many people who have been with us since trainees – in fact both our current Chairman and our Chief Executive were trainees of the firm!

How would you describe the trainee culture at Lewis Silkin?

We have a small intake – usually between 8 and 10 trainees.  They are a tight knit group who reflect our core values – friendly, supportive, inclusive, committed, dedicated and passionate about their work and our firm.

What does Lewis Silkin look for in a Trainee?

We want our trainees to be enthusiastic and interested in the type of work our two divisions are focused on – the world of work and the world of creators, makers and innovators.

The qualities we value are, the ability to build and develop strong personal connections, pragmatism and commerciality and the willingness to work committedly as part of a team.

What was your attraction to Lewis Silkin when you were applying for Training contracts?

It was largely the people and the culture.  When I attended the firm for an interview, I could imagine working happily with everyone I came into contact with.  People were open, down to earth and had a good sense of humour.  With a job in which you spend a large proportion of your time at work it was important to me that I would be able to build strong personal relationships with my colleagues – I thought I would be able to do that here and, luckily, I was right.  I couldn’t imagine working at another firm.
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