Meet Pinsent Masons at the Legal Cheek UK Virtual Law Fair on 4 November 2021
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 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 first office in the Netherlands in 2021.
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 often reaches ‘silver circle’ levels of complexity and beyond. 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”.
Pinsents’ most recent financial figures reveal a record-breaking nine years of consecutive growth, that saw turnover smash the half a billion barrier for the first time, rising from £496 million to £503.3 million. Following a 12% slump last year, profit per equity partner (PEP) rebounded 16% to £636,000. Junior lawyer pay is also up – £72,500 in London and £44,000 in the regions – with trainees also recently receiving rises. A full breakdown is detailed below.
While these pay rates 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. The firm is reported to have done a good job of sticking to reasonable working hours and there is “no culture of presenteeism”. This, of course, varies from seat to seat. One trainee tells us: “I have had weeks on end working 10-12 hour days in some seats but have also had a seat where I would regularly finish around 6pm”. It also appears that the pandemic took its toll on some of the firm’s younger lawyers, with one rookie revealing that their work/life balance “deteriorated during the lockdown but has now re-balanced”.
There’s also an excellent sense of camaraderie that comes with Pinsent’s 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.”
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 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 it’s flexible-lawyering service, Vario, which has now become a practice group in its own right, are paying off.
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.”
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 and for the last two years an additional holiday day for everyone gifted for the firm exceeding targets.
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.