Pinsent Masons - True Picture

Pinsent Masons offers “big-firm opportunities with a small-firm culture” according to trainees.

From AM to PM

With eight offices in the UK and many others popping up around the world, you’d be forgiven for pinning Pinsent Masons as a congested conglomerate which only has eyes for international expansion. When we spoke to trainees, however, they reported an entirely different story. “I was immediately drawn to the atmosphere and culture of the firm,” interviewees reflected. “It’s a corporate business without a solely corporate mindset.” Trainees backed up this claim by pointing to CSR schemes like community mentoring programmes and myriad diversity and wellbeing initiatives – more on those later.

But first back to business: Pinsents' hefty national presence is demonstrated by the scores of Chambers UK rankings it picks up across Yorkshire, the Midlands, Scotland, Northern Ireland, London and nationwide. To give just a few examples: the firm's top-ranked for M&A in Scotland and the North West; top-ranked for real estate in Yorkshire and the West Midlands; has nearly 20 rankings in London; and wins a dozen top-tier rankings as a national leader outside London. Oh and it also picks up a top ranking globally for construction, an area where the firm has particular strength. For a full overview of rankings go to

“I was immediately drawn to the atmosphere and culture of the firm.”

In early 2019 Pinsents opened a brand-new office in Frankfurt, adding to its European clout. “It’s vision of where it wants to be is very clear,” trainees felt. We heard that the firm’s ambitions are regularly communicated via quarterly briefings and internal publications, and that “there’s a focus on becoming a purpose-led firm,” which interviewees explained meant “wanting to be more than a moneymaking machine and thinking quite profoundly about the type of employer we want to be.”

At the time of our research there were 25 trainees in London, 24 in Birmingham, 16 in Leeds and 15 in Manchester. The firm also recruits trainees in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Belfast. It’s common for rookies to do a seat in different offices, including Scotland, but there are currently no overseas seats. Before starting and before each rotation, the graduate development team gives trainees a list of potential seat options across all offices. Trainees then rank their top three preferences, although many agreed that they “still hadn’t figured out the science” behind the seats trainees end up with. Others reasoned, however, that “graduate recruitment do try to take your preferences into account as much as they can.”

Attack of the super sewer

Trainees in the property development and investment department described working on “a lot of asset management, lease renewals and applications for tenant works.” They added that they were able “to get involved in corporate support work – so I spent a lot of time reviewing leases and licences as well as doing ad hoc research.” The group is split into two sub-teams: one deals with buying and selling, while the other is the development side  Sources in this seat told us that they were able “to run smaller files, like licences, under close supervision, as well as having a junior role on larger transactions like sales, purchases and restructurings.”

Pinsents' constructionclients including Balfour Beatty, ScottishPower Renewables and E.ON on its books. It’s currently advising BMB, a joint venture of Balfour Beatty, Morgan Sindall and BAM Nuttall, on the £416 million construction of the western section of the Thames Tideway Tunnel, the new ‘super sewer’ under London. Lawyers have also been involved in projects like the upgrade of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon, the nuclear decommissioning site at Sellafield in Cumbria, financing for a new railway line in Ethiopia, and various improvements to UK prisons for the MoJ.

“I was in control of my own work stream.”

Clients of the corporate team are a mix of national and international corporations and investment management companies, including industrial manufacturer Fenner, investor Elevation Capital and the Co-op. Trainees described working on “a lot of M&A: mostly purchases rather than sales, as well as a few private equity deals.” Cross-office teams recently advised Zurich Insurance on the sale of its £15 billion UK workplace pensions and savings business to Lloyds, and helped food tech company Cargill form a joint venture with poultry supplier Faccenda.Another interviewee told us: “I was working on a high-value IPO with another of the firm’s offices.” That may well have been the £650 million flotation of stockbroking platform AJ Bell on the London Stock Exchange, which lawyers in Manchester and London worked on. One interviewee described their role on a transaction: “I was in control of my own work stream, as well as needing to know where documents were at all times and being on top of the due diligence process.”

Restructuring clients include big names like Deloitte, PwC, KPMG and all of the UK’s clearing banks apart from the Bank of England. The London team advised Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority on a £100 million restructuring imposed by central government. Meanwhile, a cross-UK team led by a partner in Birmingham advised Grant Thornton as liquidators of formerly AIM-listed cruise operator All Leisure. Sources described the work as “fast-paced” and said that “you don’t always know what’s going to happen on any given day.” Trainee work includes “security reviews and reports to banks, as well as running off to court at short notice as more contentious things like insolvency litigation crop up.” We heard the team uses “a lot of technology and innovation tools for things like document review, which saves us a lot of time.”

Fracking please, Gromit

Trainees in litigation and regulatory had different experiences depending on their location. In Manchester there are separate litigation, regulatory and tax teams, whereas in Birmingham trainees work across the whole litigation and regulatory shebang; and in London there’s a separate contentious tax seat. Litigation clients range from E.ON, BP and Aeroflot (in London), to the London School of Economics and Manchester City FC (in Manchester), to Honda and the London Borough of Haringey (in Birmingham). Birmingham lawyers also recently represented Halfords in a dispute with recruitment agency First Personnel over staffing issues. And Leeds and Manchester lawyers represented Nottingham Trent University in an £800,000 dispute with a disabled student who brought a claim under the Equality Act because of alleged omissions by the university. Trainees told us about “attending court a few times and going to a couple of mediations, as well as attending witness proofing sessions, drafting lengthy instructions to counsel, and drafting a letter in response to an allegation.” On the regulatory side of things, trainees reported “dealing primarily with health and safety issues in the workplace, as well as giving advice to companies about Care Quality Commission checks.”

Because of the firm’s construction and property strengths, the property disputes practice is of significant importance. Clients include residential developer Grainger, construction company Lendlease and fund manager Legal & General Property. The team recently supported Ineos with a claim under the 1966 Mines Act which would allow it to frack for gas under Clumber Park, a National Trust property in Nottinghamshire. Trainees attend court for hearings and “get involved in all of the preparation for trial.” They also reported working on “judicial review applications as well as attending mediations and negotiation settlements.”

Pinsents' planning and environment team works for local councils, property developers and major private and public institutions including Highways England, Transport for London, Leeds City Council, the West Midlands Combined Authority, the Port of Tilbury, Wembley Stadium and property developer Berkeley Group. The firm is advising Heathrow Airport on all the planning, policy, parliamentary and property aspects of its £17.6 billion third runway expansion. Trainees had mixed feedback about the responsibility on offer, with some saying they “found it quite admin-heavy and you're often pulled onto matters without context.” As such, workloads consist of “filling out registration forms and filing things with Companies House.” Looking on the bright side, sources reasoned that “it was a fantastic seat for learning because you do the same tasks over and over again.” Others told us that because the work is “semi-contentious, I did various bits of development planning work, went to several hearings and did a lot of environmental research.”

The suite life

As we mentioned above, trainees often find themselves moving location to do a seat in a different office or complete a client secondment. When trainees find themselves upping sticks “the firm is fantastic about it,” we heard. “It covers accommodation which is fully serviced – it was like living in a hotel!” A trainee who'd spent time in multiple offices told us: “I’ve no idea how, but they’ve somehow managed to create the same atmosphere across every office I’ve been to. Whenever I pick up the phone to someone new I know they’ll be helpful and kind, and that makes for a great environment.” Others praised the graduate recruitment team for its efforts to create this shared environment.

“They’ve somehow managed to create the same atmosphere across every office.”

Describing Pinsents as having an “inclusive, friendly atmosphere where everyone genuinely gets on,” trainees complimented the firm for “supporting people with family or caring commitments.” This is reflected by the “agile working set-up” and “new policies coming in that foster more acceptance of people with commitments outside of work.” We also heard about a push for wellbeing, which includes a wellbeing month in May, massages, weekly yoga classes and “mental health champions who you can talk to if something’s bothering you.”

Many interviewees also flagged up the firm’s commitment to CSR, which includes an initiative aimed at young people called Starfish, “a mentoring scheme which includes working with people from disadvantaged backgrounds and talking about their future career.” The firm is also part of an accelerator hub that offers free legal advice to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Trainees were involved in multiple initiatives and told us: “It’s not an add-on – it’s part of your job.” There are a number of diversity-led programmes on offer within the firm too, including Project Sky, which is aimed at increasing the percentage of female technology lawyers; Project Sun for ethnic minority lawyers; a group for LGBT+ allies; network groups for diversity and wellbeing; Free, covering faith, race, ethnicity and equality; a family support network and the firm’s international women’s group, Female Futures. Oh, and Pinsents was named Stonewall's 'employer of the year' in 2019.

As if all that wasn’t enough, trainees also described a busy social calendar including lunches, drinks, a cinema party in November and a sports day in June. “Trainees have their own socials as a cohort,” sources added. “A group went to Prague last Christmas and there are also charity events like bake sales and coffee mornings.” All these extracurricular activities are given a helping hand by the fact that trainees work hours which fall short of most City shops. Interviewees reported an average working day of 9am to 7pm, with later nights in seats like restructuring and litigation where people had experienced “a couple of 2am finishes.” Trainees agreed that “people don’t expect you to be at your desk all the time. If you need to take a morning off they’re very accommodating.”

Supervision, we heard, “varies depending on the individual. Most of mine have been good, but I’ve had instances where I’ve had to wait a few months for appraisals.” That's probably not surprising in a firm with so many trainees where lots of solicitors have to step up to the plate as supervisors. One interviewee believed that “the more senior the supervisor is the less supervision you get, which can be a good thing because you’re able to manage your own time, but it can lack a bit of consistency.” Another reflected, however: “My supervisors have all been open people who’ve wanted to know what I wanted from my time here, and they’ve been responsive to my needs.”

Sources generally felt that when qualification season rolls around the process is “very transparent.” They described it as “similar to applying for a job – you have to fill out an application pack including a CV and the feedback you’ve collected across your seats.” While trainees enjoyed the fact that “there’s no tapping on the shoulder or opaque decision-making,” they did mention that “because you’ve filled out a whole new CV the firm shouldn’t be surprised if people look elsewhere at the same time.” There are also sessions before Christmas where the process is explained to trainees, as well as “career coaching workshops during your third seat where someone comes in and helps with your application.” In 2019 the firm kept 54 of 67 qualifiers.

If you're looking for a national firm which does work of truly national significance, look no further than Pinsent Masons.

How to get a Pinsent Masons training contract


Vacation scheme deadline (2020): December 2019 (opens September 2019)

Training contract deadline (2022):  May 2020 (opens September 2019)

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 1,500 candidates typically apply for the firm's 100 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, self-direction, attention to detail, organisation, 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 July 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 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 1500 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 mid-September.

Pinsent Masons

30 Crown Place,
Earl Street,

  • Partners: c. 450
  • Associates: c. 1600
  • Trainees: c. 170
  • 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, Perth, Frankfurt, Riyadh 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 2019
  • Training contract deadlines, 2022 start: July 2020
  • Vacation scheme applications open: September 2019
  • Vacation scheme 2020 deadline: December 2019
  • Open day deadline: Please check website
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: London - £41,000, English regions - £27,000, Scotland - £24,000, Belfast - £17,50
  • Second-year salary: London - £44,000, English regions - £30,000, Scotland - £27,000, Belfast - £18,500
  • Post-qualification salary: London - £70,000, English regions - £44,000, Scotland - £43,500, Belfast - £30,000
  • 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. The firm employs over 3000 people worldwide, including around 1500 lawyers and more than 400 partners. The firm’s international footprint encompasses seven offices across Asia Pacific, two offices in the Middle East, six offices in continental Europe and one in Africa. The firm also has comprehensive coverage across each of the UK’s three legal jurisdictions.

Main areas of work

We believe that if we do business in the right way and for the right reasons, success will flow from that.
Over the last year we have:
•Launched the Mindful Business Charter with Barclays and Addleshaw Goddard. 21 organisations have now signed up
•Been listed as Stonewall’s most inclusive LGBT+ employer
•Been ranked as a Times top 50 employer for women for the third time
•Affirmed our commitment to UN Global Goals for sustainable development
•Joined the Valuable 500 campaign, which seeks to place disability inclusion on the board agenda of 500 global businesses

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. 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 –£315 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 2019

Aberdeen, Aston, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Dundee, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Hull, Kings College London, Lancaster, Leicester, Leeds, Liverpool, London School of Economics, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Queens Belfast, QMU London, Robert Gordon University, Sheffield, SOAS, Strathclyde, UCL, Warwick, York.

Social media

Facebook PMGrads

Twitter @PMgrads

Instagram @pm_grads

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Lenders: Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Competition Law (Band 4)
    • Construction: Purchaser (Band 2)
    • Construction: Supplier (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Information Technology (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight Table
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 2)
    • 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 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 4)
    • Social Housing (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 6)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Information Technology (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • 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)
    • Social Housing Recognised Practitioner
    • Education: Institutions (Band 1)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 1)
    • 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)
    • 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)
    • Shipping (Band 2)
    • Transport: Road: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Competition Law (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: AIM (Band 1)
    • Commercial Contracts (Band 3)
    • Construction: International Arbitration (Band 2)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 4)
    • Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 4)
    • Education: Institutions (Higher & Further Education) (Band 2)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 4)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Power (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 2)
    • Fraud: Civil (Band 3)
    • Health & Safety (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Hotels & Leisure (Band 2)
    • Infrastructure: PFI/PPP (Band 2)
    • 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 2)
    • Local Government (Band 3)
    • Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • 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 1)
    • 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)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 2)