Pinsent Masons - True Picture

Construct your career at this multi-site UK firm, which boasts a five-sector focus and a “holistic approach” to working life that left trainees with a lot to be cheery about. 

Pinsent Masons training contract 2022

The Firm

Be innovative and commit to increasing diversity: these are the staples for any progressive forward-thinking law firm. And for Pinsent Masons – a firm with eight offices in the UK and 16 overseas – these commitments do have substance behind them. On the innovation front, 2020 saw the FT name Pinsent the ‘Most Innovative Law Firm in Europe’ for the second time in five years. And its diversity credentials? Alongside consistently high rankings on the employer index at Stonewall – Pinsent was the first legal sector employer to work with Stonewall on the index – the firm’s ‘Project Sky’ scheme launched in 2013; it aimed to improve gender balance at senior levels and its initial goal has long been surpassed (but its efforts to achieve gender balance across all roles continue). Initiatives and achievements like this gave this source the impression that “you matter here as a person rather than a product – it’s just a really nice place to work.”  

That may be, but the firm isn’t known just for its cultural and inclusive attributes. Roughly 90% of the firm’s revenue comes from five sectors: financial services; infrastructure; energy; real estate; technology, science & industry. Chambers UK bestows praise on many of the firm’s practice areas that cater to clients in these sectors: of its 130 UK rankings, 50 are top-tier – you can check out a full breakdown of the firm’s rankings here. Practices that repeatedly receive top-notch rankings across the UK include constructionenergy and natural resourcescorporate/M&Abanking & financelitigation and pensions. Pinsent scoops up 30 rankings in Chambers Global and it’s one of just two firms with a top worldwide ranking in construction.  

"We take a one-firm approach."

Our survey results also paint a pleasing picture, with sources overwhelmingly agreeing that they’d chosen the right firm to train at; that the firm adds value to their CV; and (most importantly) that they were happy. “The people here differentiate the firm; everyone is incredibly friendly, approachable, and I’ve never been scared to make a mistake!” one source summarisedOur results also suggest that the firm actively encourages a sense of camaraderie – an important quality in a firm that has a string of offices across the UK. Roughly 70 trainees are recruited each year across these offices, though most find their home in either the LondonManchesterLeeds, or Birmingham bases. The AberdeenGlasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast offices also welcome newcomers.  

The Seats 

While the firm doesn’t have specific seat requirements, the range of departments available can vary by office location. Take technology, media and telecoms (TMT) litigation, for example – it’s offered in London but not elsewhere. Or commercial, which is a “very regional team” and not offered in the Big Smoke. Seats also take on a different remit depending on location, like in projects: the London office sees projects that have a UK-wide scope, while in some of the regional offices we heard that work with local authorities keeps the desks full. However, sources did note a unified stance overall: “We take a one-firm approach,” one commented. “Even in Scotland, for example, you’re not just restricted to Scottish work.” 

What did ruffle a few proverbial regional feathers this cycle was secondments: they’re usually a mainstay of the Pinsent contract, but the pandemic (understandably) has prevented trainees locating elsewhere. “Grad recruitment said you’re only allowed to apply for a secondment local to the office you’re in,” confirmed one trainee (although as the situation improves trainees are likely to be able to apply for positions in other cities again). For LondonBirmingham, and the Scottish offices this played out fine due to the available options in those places. But elsewhere – like LeedsManchester and Belfast – opportunities were limited. “It was a shame,” one trainee said. “I understand the reasoning behind it, but I was looking forward to it a lot.” 

"Major international infrastructure and energy projects in Africa or Singapore.” 

The firm’s projects seats cover construction & engineering, energy & finance, and infrastructure projects & concessions. On the construction front, the firm acted for top global contractors, typically on “major large-scale” work such as the multimillion-pound contract to build a section of the Thames Tideway Tunnel. Pinsent is also the sole legal provider to Balfour Beatty. Projects work, meanwhile, sees the firm involved in meaty endeavours, such as the Dublin Metrolink (the largest civil engineering project in the Republic of Ireland), and the fastest railway line in East Africa. Net-zero or low carbon infrastructure investment work continues to grow at the firm. Trainees found their footing on matters for “local authorities, where we worked on the heating systems for social and affordable housing,” but also on “major international infrastructure and energy projects in Africa or Singapore.” The scale naturally determines the trainee role: some of the larger projects can run on for years and give trainees limited responsibility. Sources had, however, drafted tender documents and schedules of amendments; liaised with local councils; and handled warranties. “It’s not a massive effort to get three signatures on paper, but it’s important!” a trainee highlighted proudly.  

Large projects can sometimes lead to construction disputes“We have a massive, flagship team devoted to these disputes,” a trainee told us. Pinsent is reportedly acting on over 70 international construction arbitrations that have a combined value of $7 billion. The firm has recently worked on the Gorgon gas project in Western Australia, the Bugesera Airport in Rwanda, and large onshore wind farms in Chile and Brazil. One matter involved representing FCC Construction during a dispute related to the Mersey Gateway Bridge. For one “big publicly funded hospital litigation,” a lot of document review fell into trainees’ hands. “Big arbitrations are incredibly document-heavy, but I got to draft various submissions, attend hearings, and work on six or seven adjudications,” a source recounted. 

Lawyers in the planning, energy and investment department recently advised on the development of new facilities at the London College of Communication and assisted on the redevelopment of the Elephant & Castle shopping centre. It is also advising Heathrow Airport on its third runway expansion project, as well as Legal & General on the acquisition and development of the largest single storage and distribution site in the UK. Sector strengths here include transport, energy (both renewable and traditional) and sports. There are residential, commercial and urban regeneration schemes to sample too. We heard that the firm’s ongoing relationships with certain clients means trainees “get good responsibility, as we can negotiate full sets of lease documents, licence alterations, and rent deposit leads.” This trainee continued: “All the tasks stretched me and were good to take on; you also get the benefit of working with a repeat client.” Elsewhere, trainees had busied themselves with “big due diligence” projects for offshore wind farm clients and given presentations to clients. “I liked working on the big renewable stuff and seeing all this developing technology,” one source commented. 

A stint in corporate offers opportunities in private equity, private M&A, and public company IPO work. Many of the deals worked on by the department have a private equity component. The London team have been especially busy of late: they advised on over 75 transactions worth £3 billion in 2020, for clients such as Huntsworth, Zurich, Motor Fuel Group, and Royal London. Recent deals include acting for legal tech solutions provider Big Hand on its management buyout, as well as the senior management of skincare and make-up brand Charlotte Tilbury on the sale of a majority stake in the company to Puig. “It’s not like a firm where you’re dedicated to one specific corporate area,” one source explained. “You work with the corporate team as a whole.” Accordingly, trainees had acted on behalf of asset managers looking to fund newly established companies; banks and insurance companies on financial services matters; and companies “across any sector” on “standard M&A” deals. The latter involved conducting disclosure exercises; drafting disclosure letters; and having input on share purchase agreements (SPAs), warranties and indemnities. “There’s quite a lot of responsibility here,” a trainee reflected. “There’s so much to do, so you get more sophisticated tasks.”  

“The sheer volume of emails required a lot of focus and coordination!” 

There’s some overlap with the restructuring and insolvency team too. This group acts for top accountancy practices and is on the panels of major clearing banks. In 2020 Pinsent acted for KPMG as the administrators of six companies with the Calon Energy Group, as well as Grant Thornton UK as the administrators of companies within the Four Seasons Healthcare Group. Trainees had encountered matters spanning early-side involvement between banks and companies that were about to enter financial difficulties; companies that were entering insolvency procedures; and contentious work spilling out from administration procedures. The latter “saw us instructing counsel for court proceedings and running with the companies to devise a strategy.” Trainees had also worked on a matter for “a big bank and their LIBOR transition, which was a huge tech-led project” that involved “lots of organisational issues overseas” and “instructing foreign counsel in countries we don’t have a presence in.” One source remarked: “The sheer volume of emails required a lot of focus and coordination!” 

Sources had also sat in the employment team, where the firm “generally works for major employers” operating in its sector focuses. The group represents the likes of Natixis, AXA IM, and Allianz Insurance; lawyers here recently represented Direct Insurance Group as it brought claims against a former employee who was accused of passing on confidential information to a competitor. The team also worked for Liverpool Victoria during its recent reorganisation to integrate an acquired business. “There were many large litigations and High Court matters,” one source found. Sources had attended virtual hearings; drafted applications, settlement and service agreements; and provided “a lot of advice on an ad hoc basis, which I hadn’t done before.” 

Trainee Life 

Across the firm, trainees reported a “level of openness, where competitiveness doesn’t really feature.” One interviewee spoke of how much they valued the culture in the office: “I struggled with lockdown because I missed going to the office. So much of what I love about this job is the people I work with.” Sources were also quick to flag the importance of “not just being a great technical lawyer,” as this trainee went on to explain: “The firm is the way it is because you’re not expected to hit US or magic circle firm targets. It’s not all about work and servicing clients; you’re involved in more holistic pursuits.” Our sources also felt that the culture and firm’s approach to lawyering was informed by “ways of rethinking old processes” and creating some new: “There’s just lots of well-rounded development here that’s not strictly legal-focused.” 

Connections are forged during the firm’s trainee orientation programme, which has traditionally included a residential trainee conference in Glasgow (over the pandemic this has been hosted virtually). All incoming trainees “mingle, train and have fun together.” Socialising tends to be more localised once trainees return to their designated bases, with individual offices “organising things from time to time,” like “spur of the moment drinks after work” or more formalised events, such as a Christmas party or a “virtual murder mystery, which was fun.” 

In 2020, the UK arm of Pinsent Masons adopted the Mindful Business Charter, which aims to “promote a culture of openness about mental wellbeing” and reduce any unnecessary causes of stress and pressure in the workplace. Initiatives like this were felt to reflect the “constant thinking about how we can improve” on diversity and inclusion. The firm’s ‘Let’s Talk About Race’ classes were championed during our research, as were its LGBT+ events – like a virtual Pride celebration or LGBT+ movie nights in Manchester. The representation of women in the firm’s leadership was also praised, with one source commenting on the firm’s surpassing of its gender targets: “It wasn’t about just paying lip service to wanting change at the top – they achieved those targets ahead of time, which was awesome.” Interviewees were also optimistic about the firm’s ongoing collaboration with D&I consultancy firm Brook Graham, which they felt signalled better things to come.

"They do cut you some slack if you’ve been working later for a couple of weeks.” 

On the whole, “my work-life balance has been pretty reasonable,” concluded one trainee, echoing the thoughts of others. Another described the working hours as “pretty humane.” Naturally, longer hours can occur – we heard that the corporate and construction groups have more regular late finishes – but those were pitched at “the occasional 1am” level rather than frequent all-nighters. “There’s a respect for personal lives here,” one said. “I’ve always found that there’s recognition for going above and beyond and they do cut you some slack if you’ve been working later for a couple of weeks.” Trainees said that on average they finished between 6 and 7.30pm each evening, while our survey found that the average number of working hours recorded in the previous week was 44.  

Accompanying these more reasonable demands is the “pretty standard” compensation structure. The feedback we got on salaries was pretty typical for a firm with multiple national office: some sources outside London were slightly envious of the salaries earned by their counterparts in the capital. However, for the most part interviewees tended to agree with this wise soul: “It’s a balanced deal for not selling your soul. It’s a fair trade-off here. I’m happy, and value being able to say that.” Sources did note that associate-level pay is an area “where we can’t compete with the bigger firms.” 

I Pin-sent you my application last week! 

You’ll find no surprises with Pinsent’s qualification process: the standard NQ jobs list, applications, and interviews can be reliably expected. In 2021, 63 out of 72 qualifiers were retained by the firm. 


How to get into Pinsent Masons


Vacation scheme deadline (2022): 3 December 2021 (opens September 2021)

Training contract deadline (2024): 20 May 2022 (opens September 2021)

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 with two intakes in each of its UK offices. These take place between June and July every year, and each intake lasts for two weeks in English offices and three weeks in Scottish offices. 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 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 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. Candidates applying for the English offices can expect to hear back by mid-September.

Pinsent Masons

30 Crown Place,
Earl Street,

  • Partners: c. 475
  • Associates: c. 1550
  • Trainees: c. 190
  • UK offices: London, Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester
  • Overseas offices: Amsterdam, 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,
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 69
  • Applications pa: 1,500+
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
  • Minimum UCAS points: 120+ UCAS points
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 98
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Training contract applications open: September 2021
  • Training contract deadlines, 2024 start: May 2022
  • Vacation scheme applications open: September 2021
  • Vacation scheme 2021 deadline: December 2021
  • Open day deadline: Please check website
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: London - £42,500, English regions - £28,000, Scotland - £25,000, Belfast - £19,000
  • Second-year salary: London - £46,000, English regions - £31,000, Scotland - £28,000, Belfast - £20,000
  • Post-qualification salary: London - £72,500, 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

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 475 partners and more than 3400 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.

Main areas of work

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:
• Launching the Mindful Business Charter with Barclays and Addleshaw Goddard. Over 80 organisations have now signed up
• Proud to be the highest ranked law firm on the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 2020
• Being ranked as a Times top 50 employer for women

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. 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 workbased 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. 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.

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 2021

Please find all details on our website.

Social media

Facebook PMGrads

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+, named as the UK's most LGBT+ inclusive employer, amongst the top global LGBT+ employers by Stonewall, 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.

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

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: Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 4)
    • 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 2)
    • 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)
    • Tax (Band 6)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • 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 2)
    • Employment (Band 3)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Pensions (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Education: Institutions (Band 1)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 1)
    • Energy & Natural Resources (Band 1)
    • Licensing (Band 3)
    • 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)
    • Product Liability (Band 2)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
    • Shipping (Band 1)
    • Transport: Road: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Competition Law (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 2)
    • 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 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 2)
    • Investment Funds: Investor Representation (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences: IP/Patent Litigation (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 2)
    • 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 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 2)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Employment (Band 2)

More from Pinsent Masons:

Visit the firm's graduate recruitment page.

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