In this episode of the Legally Speaking Podcast, our host Rob Hanna is joined by Eloise Skinner, a 2 PQE Corporate Tax Lawyer (at time of recording) based in London, working for the leading Global US Law firm, Cleary Gottlieb Eloise doesn’t stop there, she has authored and published the Junior Lawyer’s Handbook, was nominated at the Law Society Excellence Awards, does lots of public speaking, teaches yoga, and features on various podcasts all whilst working as a top Corporate Tax Lawyer.
Find Eloise’s website here: https://www.eloiseskinner.com.
- Learn how to interweave your work with your hobbies.
- Hear about the importance of mindfulness and wellbeing.
- Get an insight into Eloise’s ‘Junior Handbook’.
- Cleary Gottlieb
- Junior Lawyer’s Handbook – How to Navigate the Transition from Student to Legal Professional by Eloise Skinner
- Eloise’s website
- The Lawyer
- The Law Society
- Gain exclusive benefits and bonus content by signing up on Legally Speaking Podcast’s Patreon page!
- Eloise grew up in the East End of London.
- Her parents were musicians, so she grew up in an artistic, creative household.
- Eloise never had any sense of wanting to be a lawyer – she wanted to go to music school.
- She started her GCSEs, A-Level and then went to Cambridge.
- She decided to study law and proceeded from there.
- Eloise says it has been a good fit for her because she has a mind that really likes to go into the details.
- She likes analysing situations, playing around with language and speech.
- For Eloise, law has been a natural fit.
What Eloise enjoys most as a Corporate Tax Lawyer:
- With a big corporate firm, there is a very fast pace of work.
- There are challenges all the time and this keeps lawyers on their toes.
- It is a good environment for people who thrive on the idea of ‘fast-natured’ work.
- Lawyers get a real depth of intellectual study, especially working in an area like tax.
- As Eloise explains, lawyers get the legal and transactional nature of the job.
What a typical day looks like for Eloise:
- Eloise teaches yoga at the weekends.
- She keeps working as a lawyer separate to yoga.
- She has always had clear boundaries.
- This is the only way she thinks, she is able to do both.
- During the week, every day is different for Eloise.
- There will be meetings and conference calls.
- Eloise tries to be reasonable in the mornings.
- She likes to sleep as much as possible, then comes into the office.
- Eloise has lots of document heavy work.
- She tries to incorporate her yoga practice into the week.
- This is something Eloise has done ever since she was a trainee.
- It is something she has managed to integrate into the working week – whether it’s practicing at home; if there’s time to take a class during the day; or whenever she gets an opportunity.
- Eloise has a strong sense that yoga is something she needs to do for her own personal mental health and wellbeing – this is why she prioritises it.
- At the weekends, Eloise teaches a couple of yoga classes in central London.
Which form of yoga does Eloise specialise in?:
- Eloise teaches a general vinyasa class.
- They are quite fast paced, with flowing movement.
- Eloise comes from a dance background as well.
- She tries to bring a dance element to yoga.
- It is about working with the breath and working with the body.
The type of dance Eloise specialises in:
- Eloise does mainly ballet.
- Eloise likes to experiment with lots of different ways of being in her body, fitness and movement.
- There is so much to discover with finding different disciplines and fitness classes.
Eloise finding the time to dance and work as a lawyer:
- Eloise says the reality of it are personal sacrifices.
- There’s the idea you can do everything and you can do a lot with your time.
- Eloise explains you have to be clear about the things you are doing.
- She has always managed to do it by setting herself clear priorities.
- Her job is her number 1 priority and the other thing is using her personal time in the way serving her the best.
- Eloise is an advocate of making time for yourself, to chill out and do nothing.
- It is about finding those pockets of time where you could do things.
- If there is something you are passionate about, it can sometimes feel like you are fighting to keep the passion alive.
- Eloise thinks having a strong enough passion and keeping in touch with that passion is fundamental.
Eloise’s ‘Junior Handbook’:
- Eloise has always wanted to produce a book.
- It was going to be a manual – this is how it started.
- When Eloise came into law, she didn’t have any understanding of what a lawyer did – she felt really behind everyone else.
- She didn’t have an understanding of how to behave in a professional environment.
- When Eloise was doing her training contract, she wanted to put something together for people who maybe felt like they were stepping out of their depth, when coming into a professional environment.
- Initially, the handbook started as an internal handbook at Cleary Gottlieb.
- It was called the ‘First Seat Trainee Manual’.
- There were tips about admin, taxis, ordering, as well as personal and professional development for junior lawyers.
- Eloise believed the handbook could be something helpful in places broader across the city.
- Eloise had an agent through a friend, a commercial publisher, who spoke to the Law Society.
- They were interested in publishing the Handbook.
- The Law Society have a Solicitor’s Handbook, aimed a different audience.
- Eloise hopes the Handbook will be updated with new editions.
- She wants the Handbook to evolve with the times.
- Eloise wanted the Handbook to be like tools and resources people would use to form their own legal careers.
- It took 3 – 4 years for Eloise to complete it.
- She had been working on the concept for so long, it took a year to properly write.
- The Handbook has a lot of broad personal and professional development advice.
- The Handbook includes advice on networking; mentoring; how to craft your correspondence; and how to present yourself.
- It has a wide audience base.
- Those who are experiencing a real transitional stage – those starting their training contract, NQs, or 1-year PQE may be interested in reading the Handbook.
How much networking Eloise does as a Corporate Lawyer in London:
- The way Eloise writes about networking in the Handbook is to present it more as an opportunity to build a relationship.
- Networking is between 2 people who are working in the same industry, or similar industries, who can help each other in some way, or form a connection.
- Networking works best when you think of it as an opportunity of meeting another person and see if you could offer anything to them.
- It is about connecting with people – seeing how you could be helpful.
How Eloise became a frequent contributor to career related topics:
- Eloise started writing for The Lawyer when she was at law school.
- She has always been interested in writing and offering something back to other people.
- Her content has evolved over the years.
- ‘Should we have cameras in Court?’ was Eloise’s 1st article.
- Now, her content is more mental health focused.
- Eloise likes working with The Lawyer on the wellbeing side.
Where Eloise’s passion for wellbeing comes from:
- Eloise has more of an insight into the importance of wellbeing.
- As a yoga teacher, Eloise sees lots of people from the city coming to yoga, wanting advice on how they can feel more relaxed.
- Eloise has 2 perspectives, as she has experienced it.
- This makes a valuable contribution to wellbeing discussions.
Eloise and the full 8 hours of sleep policy:
- Eloise thinks everyone should get the right amount of sleep, so they can function properly.
- One thing in the city is, there is a growing appreciation of people being well slept.
- This means they can function better as human beings.
- It is a fundamental element of wellbeing.
- Sleep trackers can be helpful at night.
- Eloise personally uses an app to track her sleep.
- As a lawyer in the city, there are periods where Eloise is not getting the sleep she would desire.
- This is due to the transactional nature of the job.
- Regularly keeping in check with yourself is key when it feels like you are working all hours of the day.
- It is important to take time out to recover from those periods.
- Observation of what’s going on in your own life is helpful.
What tips would Eloise give to people in terms of improving their mental health?:
- If you need medical intervention, seeing a therapist or getting a referral from your doctor can be helpful.
- Looking after your own mental health, no step is too small.
- Practices like mindfulness or short meditation practices can be useful.
- It is something you can take on the go with you.
- At work, you can have a moment of mindfulness, like breathing.
- There are groups in London that do mindfulness.
- There is a group called Mindfulness in Law and they have monthly meetings at The Law Society.
- Events are tailored for lawyers.
- It is an opportunity to meet up with other people who are doing similar things and taking care of their wellbeing.
Eloise and monastic living:
- Eloise has been involved with the spiritual space since university.
- She was at a church in South London, where the leader was recommending a programme – a year of monastic living.
- There was a residential component for some people.
- There was also an option to interweave it with your professional life.
- Eloise used her annual leave to go on silent retreats.
- There was a community of people Eloise was part of for the year.
- Once a month, Eloise would spend the day with them, at Lambeth Palace.
- It was a programme ran by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
- You would take a rule of life for yourself.
- You would live by a certain set of principles, which were very cultural.
- It would be things like incorporating more silence into your life, doing more charity work, or living within your means.
Eloise and the idea of integration:
- In the past, Eloise felt fragmented.
- She had lots of interests and her job.
- She also liked lots of different things and wanted to pull these all together, in a way which made sense to her.
- Eloise came across the idea of an integrated life where all the pieces of your life, are feeding into the fullness of who you are.
- Working environments are now making more space for people to bring themselves as a whole into the professional world.
- This is something Eloise is interested in – the movement towards people having full lives.
- Understanding yourself, your passions and keeping a hold of them is important.
- With anything, there are crossovers and you can see integration between all of the different parts of your life.
Recurring questions with Eloise:
- Eloise has written about how to get a vacation scheme and a training contract for The Lawyer.
- Her resources her accessible on the Internet.
- For people who are already in their 1st kind of job, wanting to take control, they need do some strategic planning.
- This is the idea of weaving their career and life together.
- There is this idea of figuring out what your priorities are, where your passions are, and how these 2 things fit together.
- Figure out how you are going to spend your time and structure your life.
- A good idea is having a weekly check-in with yourself.
- It is like a personal and professional development checklist.
- Having something you complete weekly, continuing to refer back to it, is a good way to see the form of your career and your life.
- You are always staying observant.
5 powerful quotes from this episode:
- “But I think it’s like having a strong enough passion and keeping in touch with that passions, has been yeah, really fundamental in being able to do, like, the different things”.
- “And I think networking works best when you just think of it as an opportunity of like meeting another person and seeing if could, like, offer any kind of, anything to them, which is like how, you know, most people approach their like actual relationships, like just wanting to connect with people and then seeing how you could be helpful”.
- “And, I sort of came across this idea of an integrated like where, like all the pieces of your life, are feeding into the fullness of who you are”.
- “So I think like, with anything there are crossovers and seeing like the integration between all of the different parts of your life, could be really valuable and like making you more successful or whatever you want to get to you in your professional life, but also make you feel more fulfilled, like in your personal life”.
- “And I think this idea of figuring out what your priorities are, where your passions are and how these two tings fit together and like you know where you’re going to spend your time and how you’re going to structure your life”.
If you wish to connect with Eloise, you may reach out to her on LinkedIn.
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To learning more about the exciting world of law, Robert Hanna and the Legally Speaking Podcast Team.
Rob Hanna: Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast, powered by Kissoon Carr. I’m your host, Rob Hanna. This week I’m thrilled to be joined by Eloise Skinner, a 2 PQE Corporate Tax lawyer, based in London, working for the leading global US law firm, Cleary Gottlieb. Eloise doesn’t stop there. She’s authored and published the Junior Lawyers Handbook, was nominated at the recent Law Society Excellence awards. Does lots of public speaking, teaches yoga, features on various podcasts, and as I say, manages to hold down a top lawyer day job in the city. So I’m delighted to give Eloise a warm welcome for her first appearance on the Legally Speaking Podcast today. So welcome, Eloise!
Eloise Skinner: Thank you Rob. Thanks for having me.
Rob Hanna: That’s quite a mouthful! [Laughter]
Eloise Skinner: It’s a long list.
Rob Hanna: So I think you’re aware, and we were speaking off air, but our customary initial question is very much, on the scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very real, as you are in the corporate legal space, how real do you rate the TV series Suits?
Eloise Skinner: I feel like I always disappoint people when I answer this question.
Rob Hanna: [Laughter]
Eloise Skinner: I have never watched it, and I would like to watch it. So it is on my list of things to do.
Rob Hanna: Okay.
Eloise Skinner: I feel like it is a responsibility to the profession to have an idea of what Suits is.
Rob Hanna: Yeah.
Eloise Skinner: But I’ve heard it’s not very realistic, so maybe give it like a, maybe it could be a 5.
Rob Hanna: Yeah, I think it’s definitely hovering around 5 because some people are giving it a 0, some people are giving it a 10. So I think a 5 is kind of fair.
Eloise Skinner: Yeah, let’s go 5.
Rob Hanna: So, as I said, at the top of the podcast you’ve been involved in so many things and very active. But before we sort of go into all of that, tell us a bit more about you and your, your background.
Eloise Skinner: Yes. So I actually grew up not far from here, so we were in the city of London, and I grew up just in the east end of London, so near like, Aldgate East kind of area. And, my parents are musicians, so I grew up in a very artistic, creative household. But not one where I’d ever been exposed to the corporate side of like, the professions. Um, so I never really had any sense of wanting to be a lawyer, I actually wanted to go to music school for a long time.
Eloise Skinner: Okay.
Eloise Skinner: And then I, like, started studying for my GCSEs and then A Levels and actually ended up going to Sixth Form in Cambridge. And that was when I was kind of exposed, to like the sort of academic institutions there and yeah, really just threw myself into that kind of environment. Decided I wanted to study law and yeah, just proceeded from there. And it’s always been a really good fit for me, law, because I have the kind of mind that really likes to go into the details. I like analysing stuff, and I really like playing around with language and speech and stuff like that. So law has always, been quite a natural fit.
Rob Hanna: Yeah. Okay, good. But I think it’s very interesting. What do you most enjoy then? You talked about aspects of that, but within the job coming into the city, as you rightly say, we’re in Cleary Gottlieb’s office today. Beautiful offices, by the way. But you know what particularly if we’re looking at people who may be looking to jump into your area of law, what do you most enjoy in particular?
Eloise Skinner: Yeah, I think. So there’s a mix of things, I think, with a, like a big corporate firm, you get a very fast pace of work. I think people who thrive on the idea of that, yeah, really fast nature of work, things coming at you, like challenges all the time and always being a little bit, having to like, be on your toes a bit. I think it’s quite a good environment for people like that. But you also get a real depth of intellectual study, even at a corporate law firm, especially working in an area like tax, you’re really, like in depth with the legislation and working with guidance and stuff like that. So I think you get both sides of it. You get the real legal side of the job and you also get the transactional nature of the job. So like you know, all the fast-paced stuff.
Rob Hanna: So you like doing deals? [Laughter]
Eloise Skinner: Yeah! Yeah! Well I mean, I like both. [Laughter] I think the mix
Rob Hanna: You’ve definitely got to watch Suits then! Harvey Spectre’s all about the deals.
Eloise Skinner: [Laughter] Yes! I know! Oh my god.
Rob Hanna: Okay, and you know, you feature this, I think on your your website, which we’ll talk about in a minute. But we’re talking about ‘Lawyer, Author, Teacher’ today. But it would be good to sort of just paint a typical day, describe a days in Eloise Skinner’s shoes. So full time city lawyer and yoga teacher, what does a typical day look like for you?
Eloise Skinner: Yeah, I think I think it’s a lot more boring than people imagine,
Rob Hanna: I doubt it! [Laughter]
Eloise Skinner: I mean, I teach yoga on the weekends, so keep them both quite separate. And I have quite always had, like, quite clear boundaries. And I think maybe that’s the only way I could probably be able to do both. So my kind of yoga life, or like the teaching part of my life is very much like, not in the working week. But yeah, during the week, I mean, every day is a little bit different. There will be things like meetings or conference calls.
Rob Hanna: Are you an early riser? Let’s get into that.
Eloise Skinner: I am actually not! I cannot stand them like I’m not a morning person.
Rob Hanna: What does ‘not an early morning’ mean to you?
Eloise Skinner: Well, I try and be like a kind of reasonable with my mornings as possible. So I’m not someone who gets up in, like does yoga at 6am. I’m definitely more of like a, like sleep as much as possible and then come into the office. And yes, so lots of, like, document heavy work obviously, as with any legal job. And then yeah, I try and, like, incorporate my yoga practise in to my like, my personal yoga practise into the week. It has been something that I’ve done, like ever since I was a trainee and actually before that as well. So it’s something that I’ve always managed to kind of integrate into the working week, whether it’s like practising at home, like on my yoga mat in the evenings or, you know, whenever I get an opportunity, or if there’s time to take a class during the day, just making sure I fit that in. And I think again, like having a really strong sense of like this is something I need to do for my own like personal, like mental health. And like, wellbeing. And I’ve always like, had that quite clear. So, like that is something I will make a priority. And then at the weekends, I teach a couple of classes in central London, yoga classes.
Rob Hanna: These the ones you’re threatening to get me involved in?
Eloise Skinner: Yes, yes! [Laughter] Challenging!
Rob Hanna: Yes!
Eloise Skinner: Your new years resolution. We’ll get you on the mat!
Rob Hanna: Which form of yoga do you specialise in?
Eloise Skinner: So I teach just a kind of general vinyasa class. They’re quite fast paced, very like flowing movement, and I come from a dance background as well. So I do like to try and bring a little bit of that dance element into it. And I, it’s just really about working with the breath and working with the body. And it’s like a really beautiful practise actually.
Rob Hanna: Okay and dance? What were you, ballet? Tap or are you modern? Contemporary?
Eloise Skinner: Yeah! [Laughter]
Rob Hanna: I know, I know more.
Eloise Skinner: Yes, gosh, salsa! [Laughter]
Rob Hanna: I was saying the other week actually, you know how it is, I was saying we had Sam Lewis on the other week who is the wellbeing lawyer at Pinsent Masons. And I was saying I can do a very good arabesque.
Eloise Skinner: Oh yeah? I want to see it!
Rob Hanna: [Laughter] Yeah, it’s never gonna get seen.
Eloise Skinner: That has to be the cover art for this episode.
Rob Hanna: No this is your moment, not mine! [Laughter]
Rob Hanna: So what do you dance? What did you do, or what did you most enjoy?
Eloise Skinner: So mainly ballet, so that’s what I do now and, like, trying to keep that up as well. Yeah, there’s lots of different, like there’s obviously lots of different ways of movement. And I think it’s nice to like have your, like, to experiment with a lot of different ways of like, yeah being in your body and, like fitness or movement or whatever reason it is that you try to do these things. There’s just so much out there to discover, and like finding different like disciplines and like, different kind of fitness classes and stuff is really like, yeah.
Rob Hanna: Yeah. I think one thing that I’m particularly fascinated about your journey and what you’re doing, just sticking on the sort of balance that you have there. There is a lot of people like, ‘Wow, you’re a top US law firm and you’re still finding time to do this!’ As there has always been a bit of a, a stigma if you like, well, the hours it’s not possible. How is it possible? What would you say to that? Because you’re making it happen, right?
Eloise Skinner: Yeah. I mean, I think that, like people often ask me this like thats the first question people be like, ‘How do you do that? Like there’s no time!’ I think the reality of it is, like there are some personal sacrifices involved in it as well. So, like, obviously, there’s the idea that, yeah, you can do everything and you can do a lot with your time. But you also have to be quite clear about like what the things are that you’re doing. So like I’ve always sort of managed to do it by setting myself quite clear priorities. So obviously my job is like number one priority, and the other thing is like, yeah, using your personal time, like in the way that serves you the best. And I think people probably think like, ‘but, you know, there just, like, isn’t any time in the weekend’ or like anything. Obviously, it’s important to make time for yourself as well, just, to like chill out and do nothing. But really like finding those pockets of time where you could do things. If there’s something you’re passionate about, just like holding on to that and sometimes it does feel like, yeah, you’re fighting a little bit to keep those passions alive because the reality is even if you’re not working, you’re really tired and you like, maybe don’t want to do yoga or whatever it is that you’re interested in. But I think it’s like having a strong enough passion and keeping in touch with that passion, has been yeah, really fundamental in being able to do, like, the different things.
Rob Hanna: Very much by the hour.
Eloise Skinner: Yeah!
Rob Hanna: Legal-ing by the hour instead of prioritising passions, by the hour right?
Eloise Skinner: [Laughter] Yeah!
Rob Hanna: Sounds like that is what you have to do.
Eloise Skinner: Maybe it is helpful that I do have a brain of a lawyer basically, and time management is probably one of my skills, like in my skillset.
Rob Hanna: Yeah, for sure, for sure. Okay. And you do so much, as I obviously keep alluding to, but one of the things that you recently done, and congratulations, is obviously the Junior Lawyers Handbook, which has gone down fantastically well. But what sort of sparked your passion to want to do that?
Eloise Skinner: Yeah, that was an interesting one, actually, because I had always wanted to produce that, like, book. Well I didn’t know it was gonna be a book at first. It was just gonna be, like a manual, like even a handout, like that’s how it started its life. And I think when I, so when I came into law I didn’t really have any understanding of what a lawyer did, I felt really behind everyone else.
Rob Hanna: Mhmm.
Eloise Skinner: I like, I didn’t have any understanding of how to behave in a professional environment.
Eloise Skinner: Not that was like, completely clueless, but I just didn’t I hadn’t seen it modelled for me. So I wasn’t really sure, like I always thought maybe everyone knew more than I did. So when I actually trained as a lawyer, or doing my training contract, I wanted to put something together for people who maybe felt like they were stepping out of their depth when they were coming into a professional environment as a lawyer.
Rob Hanna: Mmm.
Eloise Skinner: And initially it started life as an internal Handbook here at Cleary. So it was, it was called the First Seat Trainee Manual.
Rob Hanna: Okay
Eloise Skinner: Because it was basically like tips, and it was loads of, like, admin kind of stuff about, like, taxis and like ordering food and stuff. But there was also a component that was like, personal and professional development for junior lawyers. And that part was my favourite part to write. And I really thought, like, oh, this could be something that’s helpful, like in places broader across the city more than just like the Cleary trainee intake. Say then I actually had an agent through a friend of a friend and was gonna go with a like a, sort of commercial publisher, but then spoke to the Law Society, and they were interested in taking it, like taking it on as one of their publications. And I think it fits really well with the stuff that they do because they actually have a Solicitor’s Handbook, which is kind of like aimed a slightly different audience. But it was nice to bring in their first like Junior Lawyers title. Hopefully, like the idea with the Handbook is that, it gets updated and like new editions and as things change and as the legal world changes around us, like. It has to sort of, evolve with the times as well. So it’s not like what I really didn’t want it to be was like a set of 10 rules to follow, like how to be a good lawyer, because A) like, what do I know anyway? Like I’m just one person and B) like, I just didn’t want to give, like, a prescriptive set of advice. What I wanted it to be was like tools and resources that people would use and use to kind of, like shape and form their own legal careers. So I wanted it to be something that would be like passed around through trainees to trainee to like and that, like, make notes in and sort of think, like which bits of this are relevant to me? Just like offer a load of stuff that I had learned for other people’s benefit.
Rob Hanna: Yeah, that’s really nice. How long did it take you to complete?
Eloise Skinner: Well, a couple of like ways of looking at it, because I’d been working on the idea for so long. Like maybe if you look at it that way, like three or four years. Like to actually write the thing, because, like, by the time it came to writing the actual book, I’d been working on the concept for so long that it maybe like, yeah, maybe it took a year to, like properly write. And like bearing in mind that was doing it like all of my weekends slash vacations. So, like it was, it wasn’t like I was writing every single day, but yeah it did take a while. So yeah, thats the book for you. It’s obviously a long project. [Laughter]
Rob Hanna: And, it’s obviously called the Junior Lawyers Handbook, but how applicable is it to sort of, you know, what levels would you describe it, to obviously mention for a trainee journey, but is it suitable for people, sort of post qualification, who have are maybe sort of at 1,2, 3, 4 PQE? Is it worth those guys, sort of picking it up and having a read as well?
Eloise Skinner: Yeah, I think so. A lot of it is very like broad sort of personal and professional development advice, the things like networking, mentoring and you know, how to craft your correspondence and how to present yourself. So I think it has quite a wide like audience base. Perhaps those people who are experiencing like a real transitional stage, like the people who are coming into their first couple of years of their training contract or NQs and, like 1 or 2 year PQE. I’m I’m sort of writing for, like, the experience that I’ve had, or the experience that my peer group has had. So I guess, like anywhere around those kind of years.
Rob Hanna: Yeah, and you mentioned networking that’s being a theme, right the way across the first season on the Legally Speaking Podcast. And it is worth pointing out we were very kindly connected through the London Young Lawyers Group.
Eloise Skinner: Yeah.
Rob Hanna: Yeah, shout out to Nicola and Olly, they do great work there, and the rest of the committee. But how much networking do you think you need to do as a sort of, you know, corporate lawyer in London? And how do you go about your networking?
Eloise Skinner: Yeah, no one wants to do it when it feels like contrived. Like everyone wants to feel kind of natural, and any networking event that is too staged and too kind of like, has an agenda, to it, just feels horrible. And is also just really awkward. So I’ve never been someone who’s like’ I’ll go to a networking event!’ or like and sort of have like, go up to people and be like, ‘Hi, what can I get from you?’ And, like the way we write about it in the book is kind of to present it more as like an opportunity to build up a relationship between, like, two people who are working in the same industry or like working in similar industries, who can help each other in some way, or just form a connection that might, you know, be of value to either of them, or both of them. And I think networking works best when you just think of it as an opportunity of like meeting another person and seeing if you could, like, offer any kind of, anything to them, which is like how, you know, most people approach their like actual relationships, like just wanting to connect with people and then seeing how you could be helpful. So I think that’s a good way of thinking about networking.
Rob Hanna: Yeah, and you mentioned helpful. That’s something that’s been right the way through your career and what you’ve done because I was going to ask, also how did you become a frequent contributor to, I think to the careers related topics for The Lawyer, Lex100, etcetera. etcetera. talk to us about that.
Eloise Skinner: Yeah. I actually started writing for the lawyer when I was, like, at law school. So even, like maybe 7; 6,7 years ago. Like a long, long time. I don’t even remember how I got the first, like how I wrote my first article for them. But yeah, I’ve always been interested in, like, writing this stuff, and sort of like, wanting to put it out there a bit. And like, offer something back to other people that might be helpful and so yeah, that’s been a really, really long-standing like working relationship with them. But I guess my content for them has kind of evolved over the years. I remember my first article was like, ‘Should we have cameras in court?’
Rob Hanna: [Laughter]
Eloise Skinner: And then it was like ‘yes vs no’. I don’t even know where that debate has ended up. I should probably research that to see like
Rob Hanna: Or you could do like a refresher article?
Eloise Skinner: Yeah! I should, like a decade later!
Rob Hanna: Yeah like 6 or 7 years on.
Eloise Skinner: I should actually do that. I wonder if it’s still there. But now my content for them, is more like mental health focussed, and I like work with them on the wellbeing side quite a lot on, because
Rob Hanna: On that, why are you so passionate from your side on wellbeing, cause that was something I going to get on to, so tell us a bit more about where you derive your passion from that, and yeah tell us about your wellbeing sort of, connection?
Eloise Skinner: Yeah. So I think having, sort of having a foot in the wellbeing world through like my work, as like a fitness instructor and yoga teacher has given me, like more of an insight into the importance of that kind of stuff. I think it’s easy, it becomes easy to take it for granted, if you have, like a regular yoga or meditation practise that you sort of begin, it just becomes a part of your life, and then you can’t really imagine what it’s like, what the alternative would be. But as a yoga teacher, I see a lot, a lot of people from the city, like come into yoga who are just like wanting advice on like how they can feel more relaxed or like for things like anxiety or stress or overwork, or burnout. You can’t sleep, or stuff like that. And it manifests in a very physical way in the body as well. And so, I’ve always like seen it from that kind of side and obviously like, experienced it from this side as well. So I’ve kind of got, like, two perspectives on it, which I think like makes it a valuable contribution to the kind of well being, like discussion.
Rob Hanna: With regards to sleep, do you believe in the policy of the full 8 hours?
Eloise Skinner: Yes! Absolutely. And I think, well, I think everyone should get the right amount of sleep that they need to function properly. And I think one thing in the city, Actually, that’s like, there’s more of a growing appreciation of the need for people to be like, well, slept, because actually, you just function better as a human being if you have enough sleep. And like, it’s a kind of fundamental element of well being as well, especially if you’re like chronically not sleeping and things like that. So I think like sleep trackers could be really helpful at night, I personally use like an app to track my sleep as well. Obviously, as a lawyer in the city, there are periods where you’re not getting like, the sleep you would desire. [Laughter] And its very up and down as the nature of like any transactional job, as like sometimes there are periods where you feel like, yeah, you’re just working hours all hours, all of the hours! But again, I think just being in touch with, like, what’s going on and tracking it in some way, or just like checking in with yourself regularly is probably the key there. And communication with people as well, like if you feel like you haven’t had enough sleep like making sure that other people in your team like aware of the fact that you know whatever is going on that you’re like having a, like a tough time and, you know, making sure that you can take time out to recover from these periods as well. So I think probably communication. And then, just like observation of what’s going on in your own life, really helpful.
Rob Hanna: Okay, great! So one thing in the legal profession a lot of lawyers want to know is around mental health. What, what tips would you give to people in terms of looking to improve their mental health?
Eloise Skinner: Yeah, I think it’s an incredibly important topic and obviously one that, like I’ve been quite close to you, both as like working as a yoga and meditation teacher. But also like, as someone in the city who’s like in the midst of it all and also, like, you know, has had periods of, like, stress or anxiety and that kind of thing. So I think, like first and foremost, like If you need, like, actual medical intervention, then seeing a therapist or like getting a referral from your doctor could be really, really helpful. And I think in terms of like looking after your own mental health, no step is kind of too small, or like insignificant to kind of think, maybe this is something I should just talk to my GP about. And then, in terms of like, just general kind of wellbeing and stuff that you can sort work into your busy day to day life. I think practises like mindfulness or like short meditation practises could be really helpful. And it’s something you can kind of take on the go with you. So you know, at work you have a moment of like mindfulness, like breathing, or whatever it is like a breathing exercise, or even just like a mindful activity. So sometimes in mindfulness, they work with this idea of making a cup of tea with like, mindful quality of attention, and it can be incredibly like calming and restorative for the nervous system.
Rob Hanna: Okay.
Eloise Skinner: Like it sounds kind of weird.
Rob Hanna: No it sounds good!
Eloise Skinner: It can be a really, really beneficial practise. So there are groups in London that do kind of mindfulness in the city on, and there’s a group called Mindfulness in Law Group and they have monthly meetings at the Law Society. And a lot of their stuff is obviously tailored for lawyers, so it’s really perfect if you’re like already in a legal, fast-paced career thinking like, ‘How can I sort of sustain this?’ And it’s also an opportunity to meet up with other people who are doing similar kind of things and start taking care of their own wellbeing in that in that way. So you keep an eye out for that, and there’s also a lot of like resources out there. If you sort of Google around and have a look for mindfulness or just even wellbeing in the law, things like that, there’s a lot of pieces out there so.
Rob Hanna: Well, I only know one guy who trained as a monk for a year and that was Jay Shetty and he is yet to come on the podcast.
Eloise Skinner: Oh yeah! Oh my god, you’ve gotta get him on!
Rob Hanna: So you’re the first female that I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. So that’s a fascinating story. Why did you want to do that? And how do you find it?
Eloise Skinner: So, that was kind of a weird.
Eloise Skinner: Yeah, that was a weird yeah. It was an incredible experience and I don’t really remember what it was my thought process going into. It seems like a bit of a blur now, but so I had obviously been involved in the kind of spiritual.
Rob Hanna: Yep.
Eloise Skinner: Erm I was going to say realm, but the spiritual world.
Eloise Skinner: Very like mystical! The spiritual realm. Um, yeah, I’ve been involved in that kind of space for quite a while since university really. And I was at a church in south London where the leader there recommended this programme and what it was, was a year, a year of monastic living. But you would also just be in your professional life working full time like it wasn’t. There was a residential component for some people, but there was also an option just to do it kind of interweave it into your professional life and so in terms of time commitment, it wasn’t actually that big a commitment. It was more just like you sort of
Rob Hanna: What do you actually do? Yeah, what do you do? I’m really intrigued.
Eloise Skinner: So there would be, there were retreats. So I used, like, my annual leave and stuff to go on like a couple of silent retreats and stuff, which is always like a very strange experience. And, trying to, like, do e-mails on the floor of like a monastery, was definitely like, an enduring memory from those times, um but yeah, so that was like the main component. And then there was obviously a community of people that you were part of, you part of an intake for a year. So you would like, be with those people, maybe like once a month there would be a day that you spent, and this was at Lambeth Palace. So it was actually a programme run by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Rob Hanna: Oh wow!
Eloise Skinner: Yeah [Laughter] It was like from yeah from that side of. But it was all, you know, very diverse kind of programme. And, and then you and then you would take a rule of life for yourself. So you would live by a certain set of principles which were very counter cultural and like, super interesting to form your life around. So it would be things like incorporating more silence into your life, like doing a lot of charity work or like living within your means. So, like not buying stuff you don’t need, basically.
Eloise Skinner: But it sort of just meant re-thinking the way that you naturally programme your life and seeing if you could align it more with, like, the stuff that you say that you believe. Like a lot of people say that they believe that they want to live in a more like, simple, honest or, you know, like that kind of way. And this was an opportunity to, like, actually think like, how did these things play out in practise?
Rob Hanna: Yeah.
Eloise Skinner: So it was interesting yeah.
Rob Hanna: Yeah, very interesting. And one thing you’re quoted on your very impressive website, by the way, which people should definitely check it out, if they want to check it out how can they check it out?
Eloise Skinner: Literally just type my name into Google or like eloiseskinner.com
Rob Hanna: Yeah, and it will come up. One of things that I was really interested about, when it says your, again, one of your passions, you’re very driven by the idea of integration.
Eloise Skinner: Yeah.
Rob Hanna: Yeah, sort of, you know, sharing those values. So what would you say to inspire others and to get people on that sort of similar trail of thought? I think that’s very, very important, particularly in a sort of cosmopolitan city like London and and everything else that’s involved, but yeah, give us some tips and sort of ideas around that.
Eloise Skinner: Yeah, so that was kind of an interesting word to use, because what I was trying to do was figure out, like I think, in the past I felt a bit like fragmented. As in like, I just feel like I’ve got loads of random interests and that I like my job and I loved doing that. But I also like loads of other stuff in my life, and like, how do I pull these things together in a way that makes sense to me? And, I sort of came across this idea of an integrated life where, like all the pieces of your life, are feeding into the fullness of who you are. And I think working environments are now making more space for people to bring themselves as like a whole person into, like, the professional world, and that’s something I really want to be interested in, that movement towards people actually having full lives. And also being passionate about doing, you know, the work that we do as lawyers, which I think is also really important. So, yeah, I don’t know about tips and advice for that kind of thing really. I think just understanding yourself and understanding your passions and sort of keeping a hold of them or keeping tapped into them. So making sure, if your passionate sport, what are you actually doing practically to make sure that that remains a part of your life? And just like, yeah, staying in touch with it, I think.
Rob Hanna: Yeah, I think what I’m gleaming from that as well, you’ve got to find a passion, because ultimately it’s on you to make it happen. So if someone is really into sport, then you gotta find a way that you’re so passionate about that you’re gonna incorporate into your week and you’re gonna share that mantra with people, right?
Eloise Skinner: Yeah! Yeah, yeah.
Rob Hanna: I think, thats your kind of expression on it.
Eloise Skinner: Absolutely! Also seeing what it is that you can take from those like, other things that might form around your working life and, like, how can you bring them into so, like, what is it teaching you in a way? So for example, if you’re doing sports, what kind of leadership or, like, team-teamwork are you developing there that you can bring into, like, your working life and your professional persona. Um, yeah, like so as an example, like, as a yoga teacher, when you’re presenting to a room or, there’s this concept of, like, holding space for people. So you’re working with the people in the room and then you’re being able to present to them and you’re being able to, like, work with the breath and stuff in a certain way. You know when you’re giving a presentation to like 50 of your colleagues, like there’s a similar kind of thing that’s happening where you’re trying to hold the environment together so you can give a really effective presentation. So I think like, with anything there are crossovers and seeing like the integration between all of the different parts of your life, could be A) really valuable and like making you more successful or whatever you want to get to you in your in your professional life, but also make you feel more fulfilled, like in your personal life.
Rob Hanna: Okay, now we’re in 2020, erm, you know, you had a fabulous 2019 it’s going to take something to sort of trump it. But I’m sure there’s lots of your sleeve. What have you got planned? What are sort of some of the main goals you’ve set yourself for this year?
Eloise Skinner: Yeah, I would love to continue writing, I think writing is my favourite way, of expressing ideas and stuff. And I love just creating, like putting stuff out into the world and getting people to feedback from it. I think more things like that for junior lawyers, but also moving a little bit higher up as I become more senior myself, like working with professional development and that kind of thing for lawyers here, a little bit more senior, like my kind of level. So the other thing is doing more projects that are focused on this idea of, like, purpose and sort of, passion within a legal career or within like a city career in general. And, towards the last couple of months of 2019 I’ve been writing some more stuff about purpose and like finding your passion within the law and, like, really shaping and forming your career and forming it around this idea of what your personal mission is. Like some more work on that I think. Yhat is one of the biggest pieces of feedback that I’ve had from Junior Lawyers that I’ve worked with, or like in talks and workshops or whatever. People really do want this sense of like a passion driven career and sort of finding those elements of passion in a career that isn’t necessarily like giving them to you on a plate, you sort of have to figure out what it is that’s actually keeping you here and like what it is that’s gonna make a sustainable and like, purpose- driven career for you. I think it’s a really exciting question.
Rob Hanna: Yeah! No, definitely. Yeah, I’m excited for you.
Eloise Skinner: [Laughter] Thanks!
Rob Hanna: Then, if you could win any accolade this year, or is there anything you’re sort of interested in, or do you know they’ll be another nice notch to have from your side?
Eloise Skinner: Yeah, yeah, I mean, I didn’t really even think about, like, awards and stuff like, it’s so kind of weird. It’s a weird thing because, like when I like, the stuff I’m making I sort of want other people to take ownership of it. Like, almost when I wrote the book, I was like, I want to put this out there and I want people to like, run with it and add, like actually what I wanted, and this didn’t happen in the end for publishing reasons, what I wanted in the book was like a lot of blank space.
Rob Hanna: Yeah.
Eloise Skinner: So that people could write their own notes. They don’t publish books with blank space. I didn’t know this beforehand because obviously, like, it doesn’t really work from a commercial perspective.
Rob Hanna: Few issues there.
Eloise Skinner: Like I thought that’d be so cool If you could just have this book and like, it’s half advice, but it’s also your book and, like you get to choose what, like how to kind of take control here.
Rob Hanna: And is there anything you, common questions you kind of touched on it throughout the podcasts as well, you get lots people enquiring, following up with you, speaking to you, is there any common questions you get asked from people that you may like to just sort of respond to, to any listeners, that might be quite helpful is a recurring question that people are asking?
Eloise Skinner: Yeah! What do I get? I get a lot of law students who really want to, well A) get a job.
Eloise Skinner: I get a lot of people being like ‘how do I apply for like a vacation scheme?’, or like, because I’ve written on that kind of topic, quite a lot in the past. If that is you and if you are thinking like, oh, ‘how do I get a training contract ?’or ‘how do I get a vacation scheme?’ I have written quite a lot for The Lawyer on that. And most of that stuff is just accessible on the Internet, so just have a Google. Hopefully some of the stuff will be helpful. And then, for people wanting to, people who are already in their first kind of jobs wanting to take control, well take ownership a little bit of where their careers are going. So this idea of almost like, strategic planning, but not so kind of serious as strategic planning. So just like this idea of like weaving your career and your life together, which again is like the things that I’m kind of interested in and again like, that’s a massive task, and it’s one that will carry on for your whole career. And I think this idea of figuring out what your priorities are, where your passions are and how these two things fit together and like you know where you’re going to spend your time and how you’re going to structure your life. So I think there are a few things I’ve written on that as well, like one thing that people seem to have found quite helpful is this checklist that I wrote for The Lawyer magazine. The idea is that you use it weekly, so it’s like a weekly kind of check-in with yourself. It’s almost a personal and professional development checklist. So, the idea is that it’s got a couple of questions on, like how you think you’re week went or whether there was any, like, careers, kind of wisdom that you picked up along the way that you want to like, keep for yourself from reflect on. And goals and stuff that you want to set for yourself. And it’s also just to check-in on like your mental and physical health. Like, how are you feeling? Like what’s been going on for you this week? Like and just sort of keeping track of it. And I think this is something that I’ve done myself like for a number of years, just like in a very informal way, just like journalling or like checklists or whatever. Whatever works, whatever method works, for you. But I think the idea of like having something that you complete weekly like this kind of check-in on, like continuing to refer back to it, like every week you look back at the last couple of weeks, and in that way, you can sort of see what kind of shape and form your career and your life is taking. So you’re always kind of staying a little bit observant, if thats the word.
Rob Hanna: Yeah, and I think it cuts back to a theme again that’s coming through on this chat is, it’s about also accountability. I think you can be accountable to yourself and kind of use it as a barometer of how you’re doing. If you kind of refer back to that and it comes back to the passion point as well, you gotta find something. And it’s kind of having some sort of accountability it’s gonna be more likely for you to maintain your lifestyle right?
Eloise Skinner: Yeah. Definitely.
Rob Hanna: That’s the whole lifestyle choices. Yeah, okay. Great. Well, from my side it has been an absolute pleasure having you on Eloise. I think a lot of terms of everything you’ve discussed there from lawyer, author, teacher and more! I think we should probably title this.
Eloise Skinner: Etcetera!
Rob Hanna: Yeah! Etcetera, etcetera., etcetera. Yeah, we should definitely, definitely sort of be thankful for that. But the last question I was going to ask, outside of all of that, what do you do for downtime?
Eloise Skinner: Erm, I should watch Suits really.
Rob Hanna: Yeah!
Eloise Skinner: That should be what I do.
Rob Hanna: You could be the new character in Suits! You could do an audition and get yourself in there. Or we could do a UK Suits!
Eloise Skinner: Yes! Let’s begin it. It will be just me and you to start with. But we can recruit more people.
Rob Hanna: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Are you inferring that I could be the Lewis Litt here?
Eloise Skinner: I don’t know what that means! I don’t know what it means! I can’t confirm or deny! [Laughter]
Rob Hanna: Yeah, yeah.
Eloise Skinner: To be honest. Just, like, really boring stuff. Seeing friends, or like seeing families, like, like family. And, I obviously, I do like a lot of, like yoga is my big thing for myself. So I just like doing that and making sure that I do that all the time and then yeah, just like the general stuff that everyone else has.
Rob Hanna: Yeah. The life admin.
Eloise Skinner: God, life admin, yeah you’ve got to schedule that in as well.
Rob Hanna: Yeah, exactly. Well, listen, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thanks ever so much for hopping on today, and we’ll hopefully see you at some point in the future as well.
Eloise Skinner: Yeah, definitely. Thank you for having me.
Rob Hanna: Cheers.