You are here:
  1. Home
  2. Law careers
  3. Features
  4. Career choice: Partner at Lewis Silkin LLP

Career choice: Partner at Lewis Silkin LLP

Shalina Crossely  

Name: Shalina Crossley
Level of PQE: 12 years
Current position: Partner in the employment, immigration and reward team at Lewis Silkin LLP. Formerly managing associate at the firm (promoted in April 2016).

What was your reason(s) for choosing your career path?

I am involved in trainee recruitment at Lewis Silkin and am often asked by prospective candidates why I was drawn to a career in law. My honest answer is that, growing up, I used to watch 1980s court room series LA Law and was always drawn to the stories and the drama. When I began studying law, I soon realised it bore little resemblance to the reality of practising as a solicitor in England and Wales!

For me, it was a natural progression to become a partner, after having spent a couple of years as a managing associate. The team I work in has a strong vision for providing innovative legal services to clients in the area of employment law, and I wanted to be involved in growing that business.

What steps did you take to make that move a reality?

Nowadays, being a partner in a law firm is not just about being a good lawyer. It's important to be able to demonstrate a good business case for how you propose to grow the business. A key part of this is having a good network of clients and contacts so it's important to attend relevant industry events, use social media appropriately, and be proactive in keeping in touch with people as they move organisations. In addition, as you become more senior, you may wish to specialise in a certain area of law or an industry sector. A lot of my work involves acting for law firms in relation to tricky discrimination issues and litigation.

How easy or difficult did you find the move?

At Lewis Silkin, the role of managing associate is a good stepping stone to partnership. You're increasingly given more responsibility for management, client relationships and strategy. This makes the transition easier to manage.

I also have young children. At times, juggling family life with the demands of the job can be difficult. However, I am lucky to work in a place which is supportive of flexible working.

What do you consider to have been the key factor in enabling you to make that successful move?

Having supervisors who give regular, honest and constructive feedback is critical. It is also helpful to identify a mentor: someone who is experienced and well regarded at the firm, who can act as a useful sounding board, provide guidance, and champion you in your career.

How did you find the transition after you made the move?

As I have said, being a managing associate made the transition easier. It is natural, as a new partner, to worry about delivering on your plan to grow the business, but it is also important to remember that the biggest pressure often comes from your own aspirations. Growing a business takes time, commitment and a bit of luck along the way.

What do you most enjoy about your current role?

As a partner, you have more involvement in the strategy of the firm. As a team, we are constantly looking for innovative ways to service our clients. The way in which we all work is vastly different than when I started my career. With technology, remote working and global mobility, the legal sector must keep up and adapt the provision of its services to meet these needs. Being part of decisions which influence how you build the business in this context is exciting.

What did you learn about how to make change effectively and what would you have done differently?

In law, it is easy to think there is only one career trajectory: from trainee to associate then partner. This will be the right route for some people, but it will not be for many. It is important to really think about the right path for you, and why you have a particular aspiration. I had always thought I wanted to be a partner, until I undertook a secondment to a client. I really enjoyed the secondment, and this challenged my view. For a short time, I considered whether I wanted to be an in-house lawyer. I decided that I did want to continue on the partnership track, but it was good to have had the opportunity to question this and experience something different. If I was starting over again, I would have examined, at an earlier stage in my career, the reasons why I wanted to be a partner, rather than seeing it as the only direction for me.

What did you learn about how to make change effectively and what would you have done differently?

In law, it is easy to think there is only one career trajectory: from trainee to associate then partner. This will be the right route for some people, but it will not be for many. It is important to really think about the right path for you, and why you have a particular aspiration. I had always thought I wanted to be a partner, until I undertook a secondment to a client. I really enjoyed the secondment, and this challenged my view. For a short time, I considered whether I wanted to be an in-house lawyer. I decided that I did want to continue on the partnership track, but it was good to have had the opportunity to question this and experience something different. If I was starting over again, I would have examined, at an earlier stage in my career, the reasons why I wanted to be a partner, rather than seeing it as the only direction for me.

What did you learn about how to make change effectively and what would you have done differently?

It's easy to make assumptions during periods of change, but I've found that these are rarely accurate. There will always be something about a transition that will surprise you. Things will be different in ways you can't foresee or expect.

What are your three tips for a successful change in career direction?

  • Think about the reasons for your particular career aspiration; when you look back on your career, what is it you want to have achieved.
  • Speak to as many people as you can to find out about the reality of that aspiration. Try to get some work experience.
  • Do not be afraid about change: the grass is not always greener, but it might be.

Recommended

Immigration and Asylum Accreditations
Immigration and Asylum Law

Accreditation for members who meet the highest standards of expertise and client service in immigration and asylum law work.

Immigration and Asylum Law > More