Pinsent Masons - True Picture

Pinsent Masons’ sector scope means there’s a medley of seats to sample across its national network.

Pinsent Masons training contract review 2024

The Firm 

If it’s a sense of scale you’re after, you’re in the right place. With over 1,000 lawyers behind its UK operations, Pinsent Masons is one of the biggest firms in the country. Trainees are recruited into every offices across its national web: London, Manchester, Bristol, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Belfast. Those we spoke to wanted to join “a corporate firm with a variety of difference practices,” and found just what they were looking for in Pinsent Masons.

Training partner Peter Morley tells us a bit more about the scope of the firm’s practice. “We are a multi-national law firm with a focus on a number of different sectors and specialisms which we particularly target.” Namely, these are financial services; real estate; infrastructure; energy; and technology and science. “We have clients from small tech companies up to multinational companies on the largest stock exchanges, and everything in between.” The firm picks up dozens of regional rankings from Chambers UK across all of its offices, most notably in planning, banking & finance, pensions and construction, for which it’s also recognised on the international stage in Chambers Global. It’s also top-ranked in the UK for its expertise in capital markets (AIM) and health and safety.

“A lot of partners have specialisms, such as energy, which I found very interesting.”

With 26 offices around the globe, multinational Pinsent Masons had a reputation among our interviewees as “the friendly international law firm.” Those who’d had work experience with the firm prior to their training contracts said that “99% of the people that I worked with were authentic, and invested in me as an individual, no matter the seniority.” Another reflected that their team “had really taken me under their wing, and believed in me.”

The Seats

Prior to each seat rotation, trainees submit a preference form indicating their top three choices, alongside a justification as to why they want the seat. Allocation of the first seat could be “a roll of the dice,” but the consensus was that preference was given to second years as they neared qualification. Trainees made it clear that there is “the opportunity to speak to graduate development to go through how you’re feeling about your development” and express interests that way.Different offices have different seats on offer, so do check the Firm Facts on the top right to get a sense of what’s available where.

Corporate was a popular seat according to our interviewees, who liked how the team dealt with different specialisms such as private equity, M&A, public company work, transactions, and so forth, which meant they could “dip a toe into those different areas.” A London trainee enthused how “a lot of partners have specialisms, such as energy, which I found very interesting. You become fascinated by how companies are built and structured and what their aims are.” Fascinating, yes, but it could also be challenging at times: “They really test you and it was a gruelling few months meeting targets and deadlines.” Trainees appreciated the responsibility though, as “you were expected to run with things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do in litigation, for example. As a trainee in corporate, you do have calls one on one with clients.” Insurance company Royal London is a key client for the firm, and the team recently advised Delek Group, a conglomerate in the petroleum industry, on the proposed $1 billion+ merger between its subsidiary, NewMed Energy, and Capricorn Energy. In the pharmaceutical sector meanwhile, the firm represented NeoHealthHub on its £32 million sale to Pharmalex UK.

“You can get a really small transaction, such as a rent review, and it can be your matter.”

Property proved to be a “good opportunity to get stuck in and involved.” On the transactional side, the focus is on work such as leases and licenses for alterations. “There are lots of clients with huge property portfolios,” an insider in London explained. As a trainee, you might “draft documentation around any sort of changes to the commercial side of the properties.” Trainees here also said they enjoyed “a lot of client contact. You can get a really small transaction, such as a rent review, and it can be your matter. You arrange for the conflict checks, do the work, and bill it.” A Birmingham-based trainee recalled “working on commercial and residential developments of big housing estates, and sometimes offices buildings.” Day to day they described “an admin-based role” for trainees, which encompassed “registering plots, tracking simple documents, dealing with stamp duties, letters to HMRC, and letters from clients.” In the hospitality space, the team acted for hotel management company Cycas as it took on the management of InterGlobe’s portfolio of 12 hotels in Europe. It also advised property management company Grainger in the funding of 468 units (a mixture of build-to-rent and affordable housing) for £128 million. In Birmingham, the team advised developer Court Collaboration on the sale of One Eastside, which will be turned into a skyscraper in the city.

Litigation and regulation was another popular seat among trainees, who found plenty of commercial litigation, arbitration, regulatory and licensing work. On the regulation side, an interviewee detailed working on coroners’ inquests and “supporting the team with the preparation of counsel instructions,” and on the litigation side, “reviewing data, liaising with forensic experts, working on court bundles, attending hearings and assisting with the preparation of witness statements.” There were usually two or three people on any given case, according to one trainee in Birmingham. “Litigation by nature meant no day really looked the same,” another summarised. “It can be quite fast paced and reactionary working to the court timetable, with quick responses.” In a high-profile case, the team worked for the Danish Tax Authority as claimant in proceedings to recover around £1.5 billion in losses relating to one of the largest alleged frauds in Europe. In another matter, the firm acted for The University of Birmingham when it was sued by a US company called Exelogen for, among other allegations, breach of confidence in a $100 million claim.

“Incredibly comprehensive training.”

The firm’s banking and finance seat offered trainees insight into general corporate lending and real estate finance, as well as “incredibly comprehensive training into the market and technology.” Day-to-day, trainees managed documents like the conditions precedent list and drafted authorisations (the documents that companies sign to enter a loan). There was also a bit of client contact here – some lender clients include NatWest Group, Wells Fargo, and HSBC. The team here advised Hill & Smith, an infrastructure company, on the refinancing of a £250 million loan with a group of six banks. One trainee mentioned that the “best bit so far is that the more you go on in your seat, the more advanced things you do.” And because “everything gets reviewed, you get the first crack at it!”

In terms of overseas opportunities, international secondments are available upon qualification. For second-year trainees, there are some client secondments in the UK, with employers like banks and supermarkets taking on juniors for six month stints. “During secondment, they see you as a lawyer rather than a trainee, with NQ responsibilities,” one enthused.

Trainee Life

With open plan seating across the offices, trainees described a “great learning environment.” They get formal training at the start of each seat, and the opportunity to meet everyone in that practice across the country, either virtually and in person: “It is brilliant to meet all the other trainees who moved into that seat.” Trainees were pleased with the level of support they received, with one praising their supervisors throughout the training contract: “They provided great schemes of work and feedback, and listened to what I wanted to get out the seat.”

There were just a few grumbles about trainee salary. While they acknowledged it was “relatively competitive,” they also expressed that “it is difficult to see firms at the same level offering higher salaries for their trainees.” The silver lining for some was the NQ salary of £92,000 in London and £61,000 in the English regions is “a big jump from the trainee salary.”

“I had that conversation with not just one team, and I’d say it was very, very helpful.”

In March, a formal list of all the NQ roles available is circulated, and trainees can apply for up to two positions.  Although it is not guaranteed that every department will have a position on offer, trainees agreed the whole process is “very transparent. Prior to applying, you can also speak to partners about what the team and what the job involves. I had that conversation with not just one team, and I’d say it was very, very helpful.”Retention rates are generally good, and in 2023 the firm kept on 54 of 68 qualifiers.

As for hours, one trainee claimed they “can easily log off at 6pm on average,” and many others echoed this, confirming a typical working pattern from 9am to 6 or 7pm. As expected in law, there is the potential for late nights in the buildup to crunch points. Some were “lucky to not have had many late finishes – only once or twice ‘till 10pm.” Of course, this depends on the nature of the seat and the clientele. In property, for example, late nights were a rarity for trainees. Whereas corporate could have long days in the build-up to the completion of a deal. However, it helped that the corporate team has a “very friendly atmosphere that makes people want to go into the office!”

When it comes to remote working, trainees are generally expected to be in the office three days a week minimum, but we heard some teams prefer more days in the office. But even before remote working became the norm, Pinsent Masons already had an agile set-up, so “working from home is almost second nature!”

“Partners who will genuinely have a good laugh – those who don’t stick out like a sore thumb!”

Trainees outlined a good social calendar, with a spread of seasonal events inclusive of religious festivals, as well as team-specific events and away days. Bowling, family days to Drayton Manor and Alton Towers, as well as informal board games and drinks nights between teams were all on the cards. Trainees also said that social events are well attended, even by “partners who will genuinely have a good laugh – those who don’t stick out like a sore thumb!”

There are plenty of different CSR initiatives on the go at the firm, and trainees were quick to tell us about some of them. Each person gets 25 volunteering hours, which some had spent mentoring school students, for example – they said the idea is to “debunk the myths” around City law firms  and “assist with CVs and applications.”

In terms of representation, Pinsent partakes in the 10,000 Black and Able Interns programmes to provides six-week internships for Black students and those with disabilities. From the trainee perspective, a few wanted to see more ethnic minority partners and women partners, but all in all, they did feel that there is “big shift in overtly trying to address it.” For example, the firm has set a 20% ethnic minority target for its UK workforce and its trainee population by 2025.

Pinsent needles: Here’s something to get excited about – the firm already runs vac schemes in a few overseas offices, but Morley hints that Pinsent is now “actively looking at trainee positions outside of the UK…”

How to get a Pinsent Masons training contract

Vacation scheme deadline (2024): 13 December 2023 at 23:59 (opens October 2023) 

Training contract deadline (2026): 13 December 2023 at 23:59 (opens October 2023) 

Initial screening 

Aspiring Pinsent Masons trainees hoping to get a foot in the door at one of the firm's UK 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 recruits around 60-70% of trainees from the vacation placement. “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 1,500 candidates typically apply for the firm's 100 vacation scheme places. The application begins with an online form that focuses on biographical information, 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, self-direction, attention to detail, organisation, drive, intellectual capability and sociability. Those who come out on top at this stage nab a vacation scheme spot and are very much in the running for a training contract. 

The firm runs one vacation scheme s in each of its UK offices which takes place in June lasting 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 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 1,500 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 initial application followed by the three assessments at the assessment centre: a case study, business simulation exercise and 1-1 interview. Typically, half of those attending the assessment centre is offered a training contract. 

The firm offers around 46 UK-based training contracts per year in their English offices, with a further 24 being offered to candidates applying for training contracts in Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

Pinsent Masons

30 Crown Place, Earl Street,

Firm profile

At Pinsent Masons we are a purpose-led professional services business with law at its core. We recognise that our clients rarely have legal problems; they have commercial challenges and opportunities. That’s why we combine legal expertise with a wide range of complementary professional disciplines - enabled by process and technology – to address our clients’ most pressing needs. With over 480 partners and more than 3000 people operating globally from 26 offices around the world, our people champion change, promote progress and enable everyone to make business work better for people.

At Pinsent Masons we believe that if we do business in the right way and for the right reasons, success will flow from that. Some highlights from the last year include:

• Proud to be named the Most Innovative Law Firm in Europe 2023 by FT
• Ranked as the UK’s tenth most inclusive LGBT+ employer for the sixth consecutive year by Stonewall
• Being ranked as a top ten family friendly employer by Working Families
• Being awarded four of The Lawyer awards - ‘Best client service innovation’, ‘Best talent and inclusion initiative’, ‘Corporate team of the year’ and ‘Restructuring team of the year’

We’re also proud to:
• have launched the Mindful Business Charter with Barclays and Addleshaw Goddard.

Main areas of work

Sectors we work in
• Energy
• Financial Services
• Infrastructure
• Real Estate
• Technology, Science & Industry 

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. There may also be opportunities to work more than one location or to be seconded a client. Client secondments are set up to meet business needs and the demands of client. In each seat trainees will be supervised by a senior colleague who will guide them through their learning and development. There is also full support from Pinsent Masons’ Graduate Development team who will meet trainees regularly to discuss their on-going performance. Our retention rate varies slightly each year but on average we retain around 80% of our trainees across the UK.

Vacation scheme

Over the course of a number of weeks, attendees will be fully immersed in all aspects of working life at Pinsent Masons. We design, structure and develop the placement programme to give you an experience which is practical and enjoyable whilst authentically reflecting the Trainee Solicitor experience. Working alongside trainees and qualified solicitors on real client projects, you’ll enjoy structured work-based learning, skills training, and presentations. The programme is available across all of our UK offices — with placements available in London, Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester. Around 60% of our trainees completed a vacation placement with the firm. 

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

Pinsent Masons’ events are open to all law and non-law students. Details of the dates and how to sign up are available on our website

Diversity & Inclusion
Pinsent Masons has long believed in creating an inclusive and supportive workplace that enables its people to feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work.

The firm is proud of its rewards and recognition to support this. A few of these include: a global champion for LGBT+, amongst the top global LGBT+ employers by Stonewall, Best Health & Wellbeing Initiative at the People in Law awards for our Neurodiversity Employee Network, Best Talent and Inclusion Programme award for our partnership with WorkFit (programme developed by the Down’s Syndrome Association), included in The Times top 50 employers for women, 'Law Firm of the Year' at the Legal Business Awards and included in The Times top 100 graduate employers.

Pinsent Masons also partners with Black Professionals Scotland and 10,000 Black Interns and 10,000 Able Interns foundations to help candidates from under-represented groups realise their potential by providing 6-week-long, paid internships in our UK offices and an opportunity to secure a Training Contract. 

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Lenders: Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Competition Law (Band 4)
    • Construction: Contentious (Band 1)
    • Construction: Non-contentious (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: £100-800 million (Band 4)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 5)
    • Information Technology & Outsourcing (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 2)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: £150 million and above (Band 4)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 4)
    • Tax (Band 6)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
    • Social Housing (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: £25 million and above (Band 2)
    • Employment (Band 3)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Pensions (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: £10 million and above (Band 2)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Education: Institutions (Band 2)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 2)
    • Energy & Natural Resources (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • 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)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 1)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Financial Crime (Band 1)
    • Health & Safety (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • Information Technology & Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Licensing (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 3)
    • Product Liability (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: £10 million and above (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
    • Shipping (Band 1)
    • Transport: Road (Band 2)
    • Competition Law (Band 3)
    • Administrative & Public Law: Mainly Public Sector & Charities (Band 3)
    • 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 1)
    • Employee Share Schemes & Incentives (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Power (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 3)
    • Financial Services: Payments Law (Band 3)
    • Fraud: Civil (Band 3)
    • Health & Safety (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Hotels & Leisure (Band 2)
    • Infrastructure: PFI/PPP (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Non-contentious (Band 2)
    • Investment Funds: Investor Representation (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences: IP/Patent Litigation (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 2)
    • Local Government (Band 3)
    • Parliamentary & Public Affairs: Parliamentary Agency (Band 2)
    • Pensions Litigation (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: Up to £500 million (Band 4)
    • Projects: PFI/PPP (Band 3)
    • Public Procurement (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Finance (Band 5)
    • Retail (Band 3)
    • Sanctions (Band 3)
    • Social Housing: Finance (Band 2)
    • Sport (Band 4)
    • Tax: Contentious (Band 2)
    • Tax: Contentious: Fraud (Band 3)
    • Telecommunications (Band 4)
    • Transport: Rail: Planning & Authorisation (Band 2)
    • Transport: Rail: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: £5 million and above (Band 2)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: £25 million and above (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 3)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Employment (Band 2)

More from Pinsent Masons:

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