The firm which briefly began life as Masons Pinsent, before swiftly re-ordering its name upon discovering that the corresponding internet domain had been squatted, is now one of the most recognisable in the UK.
The national outfits Pinsents and Masons combined in 2004 which marked the beginning of a couple of decades of expansion. The firm now has a total of 26 offices across the globe, including a big British presence, with bases in Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester, alongside its City of London headquarters. Other additions include the firm’s Brexit-induced decision to open its Dublin hub in 2017, and more recently the launch of its offices in the Netherlands in 2021 and Luxembourg in 2022, its seventh office in continental Europe.
Unlike many corporate firms, Pinsent Masons gives its British offices equal status, with a renowned UK-wide projects practice setting the tone for an approach that is less London-centric than many. Tech, energy and real estate are other strong points.
Internationally, the firm is strongest in mainland Europe, Asia and the Middle East, although it has been expanding in Australia. But trainees shouldn’t expect too much travel, with international secondments largely taking place at the post-qualification stage. Client secondments are more common with trainees heading off to retailers like Tesco, financial institutions, as well a smattering of other prominent clients such as Heathrow Airport.
Insiders report a pleasant culture, with excellent training and work that ranges from “very interesting cross border work” and “being given full reign over some matters from opening the file to closing” to “proof reading a draft and making sure all the cross references throughout the document work”. Expect “impeccable” training too. As well as providing trainees with hands-on supervision, the firm offers “pre-recorded webinars, live training sessions, regular update forums and a mass of practice development lawyers who are on standby to give bespoke training or to answer quirky queries”.
One rookie offered this concise summary: “Lots of client contact. Lots of responsibility. Lots of coaching”, while others told Legal Cheek that they enjoy a “wide range of work” from “cyber, to IP to insurance” that is “regularly topical” and “contextually interesting”. Another junior summarised their experience as this: “As a trainee, I have had the opportunity to push myself and lead workstreams / matters myself with limited supervision and every task is contributing to furthering the work on particular cases and is a valuable contribution”.
Pinsent Masons’ most recent financial results reveal a record-breaking ten years of consecutive growth that saw revenue rise just under 6% from £503.3 million to £531.1 million. Profit per equity partner (PEP) continues to grow well, rising 16% to £739,000. But junior lawyer pay is the biggest winner — NQs in London have seen a 23% rise to £92,000 whilst there has been a 36% rise to £61,000 in the regions announced in April. This puts it just below the regional rates offered to NQs by DLA Piper and Eversheds Sutherland, whilst the London rate is now only around £15,000 off certain Magic Circle and Silver Circle pay.
Given these pay rises, insiders are content with their work/life balance: “can’t see it being any better elsewhere for the same money work I do”. This, of course, varies from seat to seat. One trainee tells us: “As always, don’t bother making week night plans in corporate and that goes for any office, not just London. The same goes for some weekends — they’re not sacred either. Other departments will shimmy you out the door if you’re still at your desk after 6”. The firm is also said to have “a very progressive attitude towards working from home” with most only going into the office around three-days-a-week, although trainees are more strongly encouraged to be in the office regularly.
There’s also an excellent sense of camaraderie that comes with Pinsents’ culture being unusually detached from “the commercial law firm stigma that many hear about and experience elsewhere”. One trainee tells us: “My cohort of seven was extremely close and we were friends both at and outside of work. For many questions, my fellow trainees were my first port of call, in particular those who had been in the respective seats previously. Luckily, all of us were interested in very different areas of the law and there was no competition for jobs, meaning that we were all happy to help each other out even when it came to this stage”. It is rumoured, however, that the London rookies are less of a unit than those working in the regions.
An “unstuffy” culture means that partners are also friendlier than at many rivals. Consensus is that the “majority are very helpful and supportive”, with “the odd ‘difficult’ personality”. In this respect, “the open plan office(s) definitely helps — you feel like you can talk to anyone as there’s no doors closed!”.
It’s worth noting that Pinsents is highly rated for its tech-savviness — consistently scoring top marks in this category of the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey — with “many new initiatives in the firm to streamline work” and “encouragement and support from all corners to work in a more tech savvy way”. It therefore appears that investments in the contract legal business Xenia and Xenion, and the continued expansion of its flexible-lawyering service, Vario, which has now become a practice group in its own right, are paying off. Another curious addition has been the firm’s Human Cyber Index that analyses behaviours and attitudes towards cyber security with the aim of improving protection against hacks.
One newbie summarises: “[There are] tons of different tech solutions I can draw on. We also have dedicated support teams — so I can get a shared platform set up in an hour or so, I can send a long dictation to be sorted overnight, I can get a redaction done speedily by an out of office team. I know Pinsent Masons is at the forefront of legal tech”. Another doing a seat in IP details: “I have had first-hand experience of project management tools in my IP seat, such as a contract generator for life sciences contracts and a tool named ‘Parallels’, which acts as a one-stop shop for clients to keep track of parallel imports”. In addition, the recent roll out of new Advanced Delivery Teams across the entire firm has also been appreciated.
Inspired by the firm’s push on legal tech, trainees have a proactive mindset on how to improve. One insider tells us: “I have ideas on products we could create/ways we could better use what we have. These are taken seriously at the firm and are listened to by partners and progressed”. Another added: “There is active encouragement to engage with legal technology and further developments in the pipeline. Everyone is encouraged to come up with opportunities that solve problems”. The firm is also given an interesting extra dimension by its Out-law legal news arm, which employs three full time journalists.
What you won’t get at Pinsents are amazing perks. OK, so there’s a subsidised Costa Coffee, yoga and Pilates classes, plus regular themed Friday drinks events, reduced Barbican membership and free healthcare. Trainees do feel the firm is making a big effort to be more environmentally conscious. Pinsents is “leading the way” exclaims one, pointing to the fact that Pinsents was one of the first law firms to have its global 2040 net-zero target verified by the Science Based Targets initiative.
Still, Pinsents’ “snazzy digs” at 55 Colmore Row in Birmingham have fired hopes of a glamour splurge. Claims that the firm’s City of London office is “impressive” are bolstered by the fact that it has been used as a filming location for a couple of BBC dramas. The glass lift is also known to be “a client favourite”. And the makeover that the Leeds office has undergone has impressed, with the refurbished floors looking “amazing”. Underlying the renovations is the firm’s continued efforts to promote agile working, with the firm happy to accommodate people’s preferences in the wake of the pandemic.