The combination of a construction powerhouse, and a provincial firm with strong Northern ties, Pinsent Masons is heating up to be the industry's leading 'sectoral' firm – focusing on specific areas, such as energy, construction, government, technology and insurance.
- There is a good variety of work and clients
- Open minded in recruitment with solicitors from many different universities
- Good opportunities to spend time abroad working with alliance firms on the continent
- Staff are kept well informed of firm decisions
- Has a good reputation for diversity all round, and a solid CSR program
- The firm doesn’t always get recognition for the work it does
- The firm isn’t very flexible when it comes to working from home
- Bonuses, pay rises and rewards could improve, especially when the firm has a good year
Take two UK legacy firms – one construction, and one with strong provincial ties in the Midlands and the North – mix their fortunes thoroughly, leave to sit for three years and… hey presto – you’ve got Pinsent Masons. These fortunately turned out to be the perfect legal ingredients, as just four years later, in 2008/9, this new firm turned over £215 million, placing it firmly among the UK’s top outfits. Although considered a regional powerhouse, Pinsent Masons is headquartered in London, where 41% of the firm’s total income is procured.
Pinsent Masons was formed through a series of mergers, the first of which being the 1995 union between Simpson Curtis, of Yorkshire, and Pinsent & Co, of Birmingham. In 2001, the firm merged with Biddle, a 29-partner London practice, particularly well known for its private equity work – one of Pinsent Masons’ key markets. Economic conditions at the beginning of the 21st century built an unfavourable backdrop for growth, and as commercial markets dried up, another London merger was sought. Therefore, the 2004 merger of Pinsent Curtis Biddle and Masons surprised no one.
Pinsents was eager to expand its footprint in London, after having watched from the sidelines as arch-rivals, DLA and Eversheds, expanded beyond their regional roots. Masons, on the other hand, was a firm that was absolutely first-rate for construction law work – one of the best in the world in fact – but was having trouble holding on to its clients when branching out into corporate and commercial work. So, although not the most exciting deal on paper, it did make perfect practical sense. Pinsents landed an expanded London brand and roster of construction clients; Masons got an opportunity to forge much deeper relationships with the clients it already had, and a chance to take a crack at Pinsent’s client base.
Pinsent Masons is a national firm rather than an international one, with 7 domestic offices: Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London. This isn’t to say the firm completely forgoes an international presence; it also has branches in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore. Pinsent Masons’ strategy – to be the leading ‘sectoral’ firm – focuses on so-called Chosen Markets, including energy and utilities, financial services and insurance, government, infrastructure and construction, manufacturing and engineering, real estate, and services and technology. The idea is not new, but it is certainly more developed here than it is elsewhere. Essentially, partners focus on industries rather than just on practice areas. It is hoped that partners will then get to know the business of their clients much better, allowing Pinsent Masons to give legal advice in a better context – and so far, it seems to be working. The firm’s major clients include National Grid Transco, ASDA, Barclays, HSBC and the Home Office.
Pinsent Masons and Salans have more recently launched a strategic alliance; this will strengthen both firms’ international reach and capacity to service large cross-border projects across a wide range of industries and markets in key business centres across Europe, the Gulf and the Asia Pacific region. Bringing together the skills of more than 1,800 lawyers across 18 countries, both firms believe the new alliance will provide the capability to handle large-scale international projects. The benefits include increased resources for joint initiatives and access to sector-specific experts with local legislation knowledge.
Pinsent Masons has reached beyond the Continent as well, particularly in East Asia, with offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, together with a new joint venture in Singapore – with independent local practice, MPillay. Of the firm’s national rivals, only DLA Piper has an office in Singapore.
Pinsent Masons has seats on four of Barclays Bank’s panels: commercial, lending and finance, corporate recovery and MBO work. The firm was also thrilled to land places on Vodafone, Nestlé and BT panels, although it turns out they were just the beginning of the firm’s winning streak. An apparent hit with the intellectual crowd, Pinsent Masons was also named to legal panels of the University of Manchester, University of Wolverhampton, University of Durham and the London School of Economics – all within 12 months.
It is little secret that the somewhat macho legal profession is not always the most comfortable place for gay and lesbian solicitors and staff. Pinsent Masons appears to be tackling that issue head-on. It was the first firm to be recognised as a Diversity Champions by Stonewall, the lesbian and gay rights lobby group, and is one of the few firms to advertise vacancies in lesbian and gay publications. Pinsent Masons has also set up an employee network that aims to enhance all types of workplace diversity, including gender, disability, ethnic minority, religious and part-time workers, as well as gay employees.
Paying above market rate is one means of attracting talent, and while Pinsent Masons competes with top firms in the City, it is in fact the highest-paying practice in Manchester – with 2007 salaries for first-year trainees at £26,000 and newly qualifieds earning £38,000. Pinsent Masons also launched a new way to spread its wealth, in 2008, creating the first-ever bonus scheme for trainees, with candidates in line for a £5,000 windfall upon qualification – if they’ve logged at least 2,000 hours per year, including internal training and marketing initiatives. And following a trend among City law firms, Pinsent Masons introduced the new grade of legal director for solicitors, as an alternative career path to becoming a partner.Read all 6 employee quotes
Pinsent Masons avoids the trap of favouring specific universities, keeping a remarkably open mind about where its candidates were educated and whether or not they have studied law. The firm does expect a certain level of academic success, however: a minimum of a 2:1 and 300 UCAS points, excluding general studies. But prospective trainees and lawyers face an additional challenge in the form of human resources, with HR managers also present during interviews, as well as departmental partners.
Pinsent Masons Graduate Recruitment Info
Training Contracts: 31st July 2013
No. of lawyers firm-wide: 1,000+
Trainee intake: 60
Trainees retained: 73% (Sept 2012)
1st year trainee: £36,000
2nd year trainee: £39,000
Newly qualified: £58,000
Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds & Manchester
1st year trainee: £26,000
2nd year trainee: £28,000
Newly qualified: £38,000
Edinburgh & Glasgow
1st year trainee: £22,000
2nd year trainee: £25,000
Newly qualified: £37,000
Banking & Finance
Dispute Resolution & Litigation
EU & Competition
Insurance & Reinsurance
Projects & Construction
TMT & Sourcing
You were made to feel very welcome and valued, and you had the sense that they were genuinely trying to give you every platform to show that you were good for the job. You were well supported by both a trainee and a solicitor and everyone was lovely.InternHelpful?
There was a friendly atmosphere but at the same time, clearly everyone was working hard. It was a good balance. There were also lots of social events which meant you got to know staff and fellow interns.InternHelpful?
Average 9-5, only stayed later one or two nights through my own choice because I was enjoying the work.InternHelpful?
Everyone was really friendly and supportive, and open to questions. You were never made to feel silly for anything you didn't know or did wrong, which I think is something I appreciated most about the whole thing.InternHelpful?
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One Ropemaker Street
London EC2Y 9AH
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7418 7000
No. of worldwide offices: 12