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 25 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 one eye on Brexit, the firm opened an office in 2017 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 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 — around 15% of trainees have done one. There are some interesting destinations, including Rio Tinto, NatWest and Heathrow Airport.
Insiders report a pleasant culture, with excellent training and work that often reaches ‘silver circle’ levels of complexity and beyond. Its most recent financial figures reveal that overall revenue went up again this year, by 4%, to £496 million. Unusually in this context, profit per equity partner (PEP) slumped by 12% to £546,000 due in part to inward investment by the firm, examples of which include the acquisition of German contract legal business Xenia and Xenion, and the continued expansion of it’s flexible-lawyering service, Vario.
At the time of writing, newly qualified lawyer pay in London stands at £72,500 and trainee money at £41,000-£44,000, with the regional figures detailed 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 around 9am and average leave time before 7pm. One trainee tells us the hours are “generally pretty good” but can vary “depending on team and projects”. But it would appear lockdown has taken its toll on some of this firm’s younger lawyers, with one rookie revealing it became “more difficult to separate ‘home’ and ‘work’”.
Inevitably, there are variations between locations and departments. At its worst this is what you can expect: “In the office past midnight three plus 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: “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. 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, “there are always tasks which may seem more mundane however the lawyers giving the task usually make a point of this (almost apologising for having to give it to you) and try to get you involved in a variety of work.” Another insider adds: “You get a huge variety of work sometimes from other offices. It’s only natural that you find yourself more stimulated by some tasks over others, but as a junior it’s good to get experience in lots of different things before you later get to specialise in those type of tasks that stimulate you the most.”
It’s worth noting the Pinsents is particularly highly rated for its tech-savviness — scoring consistently 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”. Currently there is a “big push on using AI for doc reviews, which has freed the trainees up to do other more interesting work”. One reports: “We are currently teaching a robot how to determine if documents are privileged or non-privileged on a huge international litigation involving several countries.” 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.
Still, Pinsents’ “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 has undergone has impressed, with the refurbished floors looking “amazing”. Underlying the renovations is the firm’s continued efforts to promote agile working, with everyone given a laptop and an iPhone and no one having a desk. So far our spies tell us that this is being well received, especially in the wake of the pandemic.