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. Formed following a merger in 2004 between national outfits Pinsents and Masons, the combined Pinsent Masons went on to shack up with Scottish giant McGrigors in 2012.
Now it has a total of 24 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. With Brexit in mind perhaps, the firm has also recently opened an office across the Irish sea in Dublin.
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 lately in Australia. But trainees shouldn’t expect too much travel, with international secondments largely taking place at the post-qualification stage. According to the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19, under 10% of Pinsents’ rookies have done international secondments, while close to 20% have done client secondments. There are some interesting destinations, including Manchester City FC, RBS and Heathrow Airport.
Insiders report a pleasant culture, with excellent training and work that often reaches ‘silver circle’ levels of complexity and beyond. The happy internal mood corresponds with robust recent financial performance; profit per equity partner rose again this year to reach £653,000 this year and overall revenue went up 6% to just shy of £450 million.
This has trickled down to junior lawyers, with newly qualified pay in London rising recently to £70,000 and trainee money being boosted up to £41,000-£44,000. The firm’s regional lawyers have also seen their wages increase (see full breakdown below).
While these figures are not market leading, our survey indicates that they are accepted as fair in view of the decent levels of work/life balance offered by the firm. Taken across all the UK offices, Pinsents’ average arrival time is 8:55am and average leave time 6:47pm. One trainee comments: “Like all law firms some sacrifices have to be made, but these tend to be where the work genuinely requires it and the effort made to stay late or work over the weekend is usual recognised directly. There is no ‘face-time’ culture.”
Inevitably, there are variations between locations and departments. At its worst this is what you can expect: “In the office past midnight 3+ nights per week and have worked my way through every aspect of the M&S Balanced for You range. The most annoying thing by far is the time-recording system’s warning that it’s the weekend so you shouldn’t be recording time.” And at its best: “I can count the times that I’ve been in the office past 9pm on one hand.”
There’s also an excellent sense of camaraderie. One trainee tells us: “I count most of the juniors in my team as some of my closest friends. Half of the team went to Glasto together and we regularly go away for weekends etc together. This means we are able to flex and help each other out in a way which I don’t think is common in other firms.” This filters through to a good social scene, with “great summer/spring/winter bashes” and lots of ad hoc social gatherings. Recent highlights include a barbecue hosted at a partner’s house a hike across the Pennines.
An “unstuffy” culture means that partners are also friendlier than at many rivals. Although it can vary from department to department, the “vast majority are very helpful and supportive”. In this respect, “the open plan office(s) definitely helps – you feel like you can talk to anyone as there’s no doors closed!”
The firm also does well for training and quality of work. One trainee sums up the former like this: “Training is very good. A mixture of online training videos (easy to watch online whenever convenient) and also in person training on a variety of topics.” As for the work, “responsibility levels vary depending upon the seat, but overall there are some good opportunities out there if you are proactive”. The insider adds: “I have had the opportunity to draft notes of advice and provide legal advice to clients over the phone, which are great opportunities for personal development. On the flip side, the trainees are often still asked to do proof reading tasks and other trainee tasks, as you would expect.”
It’s worth noting the Pinsents is particularly highly rated for its tech-savvy – scoring an A* in this category of this year’s Legal Cheek survey, alongside top marks for training and peer support – 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”. Currently there is a “big push on using AI for doc reviews, which has freed the trainees up to do other more interesting work”. Meanwhile, the firm is given an interesting extra dimension by its Out-law.com 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 and for the last two years an additional holiday day for everyone gifted for the firm exceeding targets. But a decision to stop BA flights on internal business “has come close to causing revolt amongst certain members of the firm”. And generally freebies are “a bit meh”, concludes a trainee – with the well-received recent GDPR cupcakes an exception to this rule.
Still, Pinsents’ “new snazzy digs” in Birmingham, which may be even smarter than the firm’s impressive City of London office, have fired hopes of a glamour splurge. And the makeover that the Leeds office is currently undergoing seems to be progressing well. The finished floors “look amazing”. Underlying the refurbishments is a plan to roll out agile working across the firm, in which everyone is given a laptop and an iPhone and no one has a desk. So far our spies tell us that this is being well received.