Pinsent Masons - True Picture

International expansion is still on the agenda at Pinsent Masons, which trainees feel is “definitely an exciting place to be right now.”

A very particular set of skills

'It doesn't matter where you are,' states Pinsent Masons' website. Not in an ominous, Liam Neeson 'I will find you and I will kill you' sense, but more in relation to its growing global reach. The firm already has a well-established and extensive network in the UK, but has been working on bolstering its international offering over the past several years. So far, it can tick off 15 international locations and sources reckoned the expansion trend looks set to continue: “We've got a purpose and vision – the firm is focused on becoming an international leader in the legal market.”

Part of this purpose includes the firm's key sectors: financial services, energy, infrastructure, real estate and manufacturing/technology. Chambers UK awards the firm a plethora of rankings in not only these areas, but many many others. For example, Pinsents picks up UK-wide rankings for construction arbitration, projects, public procurement, rail transport, life sciences, energy and natural resources, and healthcare. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. 

As such, trainees found themselves attracted to “the general reputation of the firm” as well as the feeling that “this is a firm that is going places and pushing for international growth and cross-border work.” (For the moment, most of the work trainees do is more domestic though.) Pinsents' size and standing made some suspect “it could be a cut-throat corporate firm,” but in actual fact sources found “everyone has been lovely and approachable, and people seem to genuinely enjoy what they do.” 

E.ON a roll

At the time of our research there were 44 trainees in London, 19 in Birmingham, 17 in Leeds and 13 in Manchester. Pinsents also recruits trainees in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and offers a Middle East training contract which sees rookies train as English lawyers in Doha or Dubai, while doing two seats back in the UK. Occasionally an English trainee might do a seat in a different office (including in Scotland), but there are currently no overseas seats.

Before starting and before each seat change, the graduate development team reach out and give trainees a list of potential seat options across all offices. Trainees then rank their top three preferences and grad development “tries hard to accommodate your preferences.” A common grumble concerned the lack of transparency surrounding allocation: “Sometimes we talk among ourselves and can't work out why we've been put where we are. If a couple of us switched, we'd all be doing one of our preferences.”

“Regulatory work for energy clients like E.ON who come to us for advice on energy legislation.”

The 150-lawyer projects department is split into construction and engineering, infrastructure projects and concessions, and energy and finance. Sources highlighted their involvement in “big projects like HS2 and Hinkley Point” as well as regeneration projects and construction. For instance, over 20 solicitors across all four English offices have been advising Heathrow Airport on various aspects of its £14 billion plans to build a third runway. A trainee told us of the seat: “At first I was updating standard form construction contracts, but then moved on to drafting forms of warranty and appointments.”

Infrastructure lawyers often deal with “big infrastructure projects like energy-from-waste plants,” while the energy and finance side handles “a lot of renewables work, like buying and selling solar or wind farms.” The team also continues to advise Sellafield on over £10 billion in projects at its nuclear decommissioning site in Cumbria. There's also “regulatory work for energy clients like E.ON who come to us for advice on energy legislation.” Lawyers also “negotiate purchase, operation and maintenance agreements” which means the standard corporate finance fare for trainees: due diligence, running closing meetings and “registering securities for banks when lending money to a borrower.”

The property development and investment team often acts for “institutional investors like property investment companies and pension funds.” So clients include Land Securities, Aviva Investors and Legal & General. The group is split into two sub-teams: one “deals with buying and selling,” while the other “is the development side, so works on things like town centre regeneration projects.” Trainees often start with “Land Registry applications and stamp duty land tax forms” but swiftly move on to “doing first drafts of leases, lease renewals and licences” and “running our own files, like the leases for a business complex, and negotiating points with the other side's lawyers.” London lawyers recently worked for Capital & Counties Properties on the development of a £75 million luxury hotel in Covent Garden, and with ABP Investments on the £1 billion regeneration of London's Royal Albert Dock.

Construction is an area Pinsents is well known for. Sources reckoned the construction, advisory and disputes team (CAD) had worked on disputes related to “pretty much every big construction project in the UK,” including a £6.8 million spat over digging the tunnels for Crossrail. Sources highlighted “representing contractors in construction disputes over things like delays and disruptions or extensions of time.” Tasks include “drafting settlement and confidentiality agreements” and “liaising with the client and the other side to get documents executed.” Trainees also emphasised “research has been a biggy – I put together the first draft of an advice about a niche area of law.” Many found there was a significant international element to the work: “There was some international arbitration for clients not based in the UK, as big infrastructure projects happen all around the world.” For example, the team acted for J E Galloway Construction in a dispute with the government of Montserrat over a land rehabilitation project on the island.

“Development consent orders for nationally significant infrastructure projects.”

A seat in planning or energy and infrastructure offers up a “mixture of development planning, regeneration schemes and housing work,” as well as exposure to “development consent orders for nationally significant infrastructure projects like power stations, roads and railways.” For instance, lawyers in Birmingham are advising on planning for two new bridges in Lowestoft and Ipswich, while London lawyers have been advising Highways England on its proposed tunnel for the A303 at Stonehenge. Trainees do “a lot of research tasks,” handle Section 106 agreements to “redevelop sites for local authorities,” and “make draft amendments, check figures and arrange the execution and completion of documents.”

There's also work for the occasional high net worth individual who “wants to object to residential developments around their grand stately home.” Other clients range from big energy companies like E.ON to developers and landowners. The energy side covers “a lot of solar and wind farms, both onshore and offshore,” while environmental work might see the firm working on water pollution claims. For example, Leeds lawyers recently won a case for United Utilities Water when it was accused of trespass for discharging water and treated sewage into the Manchester Ship Canal.

The restructuring department handles transactions and litigation, and clients include the Big Four accountancy firms (Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG), other insolvency practitioners, directors of defunct companies (like Monarch Airlines) and the occasional bank. Solicitors here have to “monitor the market and keep our ears to the ground, looking to see who the next Carillion is going to be!” Trainees told us they were “involved with insolvency refinancing,” doing ancillary jobs like drafting board minutes and notices of intention, as well as “doing the first draft of a sale and purchase agreements.” Manchester lawyers recently advised PwC on the appointment of an interim manager for The Park Charitable Trust (which promoted the Jewish faith and education), and counselled Gloucester and Cheltenham councils on a £2.25 million loan to support Gloucestershire Airport.

The corporate team covers public and private M&A, private equity and corporate finance. “You're given sole responsibility for parts of a transaction and you're left to run them,” a trainee reported. Rookies draft ancillary documents and “help out with the disclosure process or due diligence,” which means “speaking directly to the client.” Sources admitted that “board minutes don't look that glamorous,” but recognised “they are an integral part of the deal.” Lawyers in Manchester recently advised the Co-op on its acquisition of Nisa for £143 million, while Birmingham bods acted for truck dealer Imperial Commercials on its £28.2 million acquisition of Derby-based car dealership Pentagon.

A regular trainee working day lasts from 9am to 6.30 or 7pm or “at busier times 8.15am to 7.30pm.” Long hours do happen and an interviewee reported: “In corporate and projects it may be once a fortnight or once a week you’re in after 10pm.”

The salad days aren't over

I am constantly impressed by the fact this is a prestigious firm with a massive network, but you come in and it feels very warm,” one trainee beamed. “People don't subscribe to a cold corporate culture.” Other sources said: “It doesn't feel that hierarchical in a traditional sense,” and one elaborated: “The open-plan offices makes it easy to approach people. You overhear them on the phone or in casual conversation, so they don't become some distant or scary partner.” In fact, most reckoned “partners are very invested in your training, as they know you're the next generation of lawyers that's going to come up through the ranks.” As a result, “everyone is willing to help.”

An active firm social life also “feeds into the inclusive culture.” There are several sports clubs across the offices, including netball, hockey, football and (in London) yoga, pilates, and climbing clubs. Sources noticed “they're trying to make things more inclusive for people,” so alongside the standard last Friday of the month drinks, there are events like summer barbecues and pizza nights. One Londoner said the office summer party was a particular highlight: “It was at the Magic Roundabout on Old Street. You walked in and it was like a festival, with popcorn, ping pong, and glitter on faces. It was pretty edgy for a law firm party!”

“You get to meet all the trainees from across the offices.”

Several trainees were also talking about the ongoing move to agile working across the offices: “It caused a few grumbles at first, but those who have gone agile really like it.” The aim is to “to use the space better” by allowing some people (though not trainees) to work from home. Leeds sources reported that their office was “undergoing a facelift. It was perfectly comfortable, but it just needed to be brought up to date.” Leeds folk also praised the “fantastic roof terrace” which boasts “amazing views – it's really nice on a sunny day.” Londoners highlighted facilities in the office such as bike racks, showers, hair straighteners and “a multi-purpose room where yoga classes are taught.” Birmingham trainees explained: “We just moved to new premises last year,” so now Pinsents has two offices in the city – “the other is for HR, IT, and other business support.” Sources added: “The salad bar didn't make it over from the old office at first, which people were unhappy about, but it's just been reinstated.”

When newbies first start, they're shipped up to Glasgow for a week of training. This includes sessions on financial knowledge, accounting and client care among other things. There are also social events which are “great because you get to meet all the trainees from across the offices.” After the Scottish excursion, training is more departmental. “In the first six weeks of my property seat we had various workshops dealing with leases and quirks we should expect to encounter,” a trainee reported.

Prior to qualification, the firm puts on career coaching workshops. “These focus on our personal brand, and the best way to proceed for the future,” sources explained. “Then there's a CV workshop and mock interviews, which are really helpful before the NQ application process kicks off.” The NQ process itself was said to be “really quite formal and structured.” It starts with a catch-up with grad development followed by the release of a jobs list. Candidates can apply for up to two areas, in as many locations as they want, and do this by submitting their CV and seat appraisal comments. Then candidates are usually interviewed by two partners and someone from HR. Sources found it “quite intense” but reckoned “the firm values its people and does genuinely want to hold on to as many of us as it can.” In 2018, 54 of 67 qualifiers were retained.

Pinsents' community investment programme Starfish organises bake sales, dress-down days and raffles for charity, plus mentoring at local schools.


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How to get a Pinsent Masons training contract

Vacation scheme deadline (2019): 7 January 2019 (opens September 2018)

Training contract deadline (2021): 26 July 2019 (opens September 2018)

Initial screening

Aspiring Pinsent Masons trainees hoping to get a foot in the door at one of the firm's English offices need a history of strong academics and be on track for a strong 2:1 degree.

Beyond this, graduate recruitment manager Margaret Ann Roy tells us the firm is looking for candidates who are “confident, proactive people who want to make the most of the opportunities presented to them. We want people who have the ability to generate innovative ideas and the tenacity to see them through to the delivery of a successful commercial solution for our clients.” Showing you're flexible and resilient also impresses.

The firm prefers candidates to apply via its vacation scheme: around 60% of trainees are recruited this way. “A vacation placement is the perfect way to discover if a firm is right for you and it will be a fantastic experience regardless of whether you end up with a training contract or not,” says Roy. She adds that "of course we do understand that not everyone can undertake a vacation placement and so we always have a small number of training contract places which we fill directly.”

Vacation scheme

Over 1,250 candidates typically apply for the firm's 80 vac scheme places. The application begins with an online form that focuses on biographical info, academic results, transferable skills and work experience, although that need not be legal specific. The use of a contextual recruitment system allows candidates' academic results to be considered in light of the circumstances in which they were attained.

Pinsent Masons then uses a framework of key competencies to decide who to invite to the firm's assessment centre. This consists of a number of different assessments with various Pinsent Masons representatives who assess traits like commercial awareness, confidence, attention to detail, drive, intellectual capability and sociability. Those who come out on top at this stage nab a vac scheme spot and are very much in the running for a training contract.

The firm runs two vac schemes in each of its offices. These take place between June and August every year, and each lasts for two weeks. Attendees spend the duration of their visit in a single practice group. “This lets vacation students develop strong working relationships with their peers and colleagues, and allows them to get involved in substantive work," says Margaret Ann Roy. Candidates express their practice group preference before the scheme starts.

Vacation students are assessed for a training contract as part of their placement. Feedback from candidates' supervisors and the other lawyers they've worked with is taken into account in making the final decision, together with the results from the initial assessment centre.

Social events aren't compulsory but there are a few things like comedy nights, 'escape room challenges' and pizza-making courses scattered across the scheme, giving students a chance to mix with a wider range of potential colleagues.

Direct applications

Around 1,200 candidates complete a similar online form to apply for a training contract directly. The same key competency framework is used to screen applicants and whittle them down to the select few that will attend an assessment centre.

Candidates complete the same psychometric test, SWOT presentation, business simulation exercise and partner interview. Just under half of those attending the assessment day are offered a training contract.

The firm offers around 45 UK-based training contracts per year in their English offices with a further 23 being offered to candidates applying for training contracts in Scotland and Northern Ireland.  Candidates applying for the English offices can expect to hear back by 1 September.

Pinsent Masons

30 Crown Place,
Earl Street,

  • Partners: c. 450
  • Associates: c. 1600
  • Trainees: c. 140
  • UK offices: London, Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester
  • Overseas offices: Dublin, Madrid, Munich, Dusseldorf, Paris, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Doha, Dubai, Johannesburg, Sydney and Melbourne
  • Contacts  
  • Graduate recruiter: The Graduate Team, [email protected]
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 68
  • Applications pa: 1,500+
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
  • Minimum UCAS points: 300+ UCAS points
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 100
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Training contract applications open: September 2018
  • Training contract deadlines, 2021 start: 19 July 2019
  • Vacation scheme applications open: September 2018
  • Vacation scheme 2019 deadline: 7 January 2019
  • Open day deadline: Please check website
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £41,000 (London), £27,000 (English regions), £23,000 (Scotland), £17,500 (Belfast)
  • Second-year salary: £44,000 (London ), £30,000 (English regions), £26,000 (Scotland), £18,500 (Belfast)
  • Post-qualification salary: £70,000 (London ), £43,000 (English regions), £40,000 (Scotland), £28,000 (Belfast)
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship 
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grants pa: Yes

Firm profile

Pinsent Masons is a global 100 law firm, specialising particularly in the energy, infrastructure, financial services, real estate and advanced manufacturing and technology sectors. We work with clients including FTSE 100 and AIM listed companies, government departments and public sector institutions. Pinsent Masons is the only firm to operate across all three UK jurisdictions and we have been developing our overseas network of offices in Asia Pacific, the Middle East, continental Europe and Africa. This reflects our strategy to become a firm of truly international reach, offering world-class service and excellent value.

Main areas of work

Around 90% of revenues are generated from clients operating within the global sectors in which the firm specialises:
• Advances manufacturing and technology
• Financial services
• Real estate
• Energy infrastructure

Training opportunities

The two-year training contract comprises four six-month seats, spent in four different practice groups, and combines regulatory and skills training. Seat allocations take account of trainees’ preferences and aim to strike a balance between their choices and the firm’s requirements. In each seat trainees will be supervised by a senior colleague who will guide them through their learning and development in each seat. There is also full support from Pinsent Masons’ Graduate Development team who will meet trainees regularly to discuss their on-going performance.

Vacation scheme

Over the course of a number of weeks, attendees will be fully immersed in all aspects of working life at Pinsent Masons. They will experience a structured programme of work-based learning, skills training and presentations, as well as plenty of socialising and networking. The programme is available across all of our UK offices — with placements available in London, Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester. We typically recruit around 60-70% of our trainee solicitors through this programme, but acknowledge that not everyone can undertake a placement and fill a number of training contract placements directly.


London - £375 per week

English regions - £325 per week

Scotland - £325 per week

Belfast - £255 per week.

Other benefits

Private medical insurance; pension; life assurance; childcare vouchers; dental insurance; gourmet society and/or taste card; travel insurance; employee offers- discount website on a variety of providers and services; various social and sports clubs..

Insight evenings

Details of the dates and deadlines for the firm’s events are available online. Pinsent Masons’ events are open to all law and non-law students.

University law careers fairs 2018

Aberdeen, Aston, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Dundee, Durham, East Anglia, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Hull, Kings College London, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Queens Belfast, Sheffield, SOAS, Strathclyde, UCL, University of Ulster, Warwick, York.

Social media

Facebook PMGrads

Twitter @PMgrads

Instagram @pm_grads

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Lenders (Band 4)
    • Competition Law (Band 4)
    • Construction: Purchaser (Band 2)
    • Construction: Supplier (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 3)
    • Information Technology (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 3)
    • Pensions (Band 3)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Finance (Band 5)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Big-Ticket (Band 4)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 4)
    • Social Housing (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 6)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Information Technology (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Pensions (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
    • Social Housing (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 3)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Pensions (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Education: Institutions (Band 1)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 2)
    • Energy & Natural Resources (Band 1)
    • Licensing (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Education: Institutions (Band 1)
    • Employee Share Schemes & Incentives Recognised Practitioner
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 2)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Financial Crime (Band 1)
    • Health & Safety (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Licensing (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
    • Retail (Band 3)
    • Shipping (Band 2)
    • Transport: Road: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Competition Law (Band 2)
    • Art and Cultural Property Law (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: AIM (Band 1)
    • Commercial Contracts (Band 3)
    • Construction: International Arbitration (Band 2)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 3)
    • Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 5)
    • Education: Institutions (Higher & Further Education) (Band 2)
    • Employee Share Schemes & Incentives Recognised Practitioner
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Mining (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 4)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Power (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 2)
    • Financial Services: Payments Law Recognised Practitioner
    • Fraud: Civil (Band 4)
    • Health & Safety (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • Hotels & Leisure (Band 2)
    • Infrastructure (Band 3)
    • Infrastructure: PFI/PPP (Band 1)
    • Insurance: Contentious Claims Recognised Practitioner
    • Insurance: Non-contentious (Band 3)
    • International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration Recognised Practitioner
    • Life Sciences (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences: IP/Patent Litigation (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 1)
    • Local Government (Band 3)
    • Outsourcing (Band 2)
    • Parliamentary & Public Affairs: Parliamentary Agency (Band 2)
    • Pensions Litigation (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Product Liability: Mainly Defendant (Band 4)
    • Projects: PFI/PPP (Band 2)
    • Public Procurement (Band 3)
    • Retail (Band 2)
    • Social Housing: Finance (Band 2)
    • Sport (Band 4)
    • Tax: Contentious (Band 2)
    • Tax: Contentious: Fraud (Band 2)
    • Telecommunications (Band 4)
    • Transport: Rail: Planning & Authorisation (Band 3)
    • Transport: Rail: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Social Housing (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Information Technology (Band 4)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 1)