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Inside Pinsent Masons: Insights from four trainees

Book open Reading time: 8 mins

We recently spoke with four trainees who are just at the start of their careers with Pinsent Masons. We were interested to see what sort of person makes an ideal member of their team, and how they got to be there. It was also a great chance for us to get an insight into the daily life at the firm. Here they share their top tips and advice for candidates considering a career in Law.

Introducing the trainees…

Sarah Baird is coming to the end of her first year with Pinsent Masons. She’s a graduate of Queens in Belfast, where she studied Law.

Finlay Fraser from Glasgow studied at Edinburgh and did a year abroad in the Netherlands before joining Pinsent Masons last September.

Harriet Bowers studied at both the University of East Anglia and Queen Mary.

And finally Tom Mills who studied Linguistics at UCL before completing the GDL with the University of Law.

What was your degree background and what are some of your hobbies?

Sarah: I studied law at Queen's University Belfast between 2010 and 2013. I was president of the student law society in my final year, and was elected Vice-President of community at the University for the year following graduation, where I advised students on the university disciplinary process and worked with locals in the area who came into contact with students. Following this I worked as a paralegal at Pinsent Masons for a year before beginning my training contract. I enjoy going to the gym, reading and do a lot of running - I'm going to run a half-marathon with some trainees this summer.

Finlay: I thoroughly enjoyed my four years at Edinburgh University. I enjoyed the academic rigour of the law degree and beyond this, I was heavily involved with the International Law Students' Society and the Free Legal Advice Centre. I took masters level courses during my third year abroad in the Netherlands studying international law. I did a vacation scheme with Pinsent Masons after my third year, and then went on to the Scottish equivalent of LPC before joining Pinsent Masons. Outside of work I enjoy eating out, foreign cinema and skiing. I took part in the Pinsent Masons Edinburgh Office Ski Trip to the Cairngorms in February 2016.

Harriet: I did LLB in law, French Law and language at the University of East Anglia, and then went on to study European Law at Queen Mary. My undergraduate featured an Erasmus year abroad, which I spent in Lyon.  I love sports and attend a variety of classes each week around London.  I am also about to start playing touch rugby with the firm.  Cooking is also one of my favourite things to do – I cook new dishes every weekend, which vary in success!

Tom: I studied Linguistics at UCL, which was great - very challenging and abstract. I found it very interesting, but it wasn't leading to a particular career. In my second year I found myself feeling that I needed to think about my career when I finish my degree. I realised, after some research, that I could convert to law, so started looking into it and learnt about the route through law school I attended the University of Law in Bloomsbury. The teaching there is good, there's a lot of content to get through but good support is available. In terms of my hobbies, generally I'm a big sports fan, football takes up most of my time. I played football at university, and now play with the alumni team.

How did you select Pinsent Masons?

Sarah: I was interested in commercial law, because you're not simply applying the law to a situation - you're working closely with a client, and coming to the best use of the law for their specific needs.  I did a vacation scheme at Pinsent Masons and was impressed with the work-place environment and the really friendly and approachable people; no question was too silly and I was given good levels of responsibility early on and treated like a key team member.  Pinsent Masons is unique in that it's situated in all three legal jurisdictions in the UK; working in the Belfast office, this was an important factor for me and we are involved in a good mix of transactional work in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Finlay: I did the vacation scheme here, and others at Scottish law firms - for me the key differentiator was the global outlook of the firm. McGrigors and Pinsent Masons had been merged for over a year and there was still a real excitement about the benefits the international reach of Pinsent Masons could bring to clients in Scotland. Similarly, the Firm's clients south of the border and internationally were really beginning to see value from the depth and breadth of expertise in Scotland. This global outlook was a good fit with my experiences from my year abroad where there was a lot of collaboration while studying with people from across and the world. There was a pretty vibrant social scene abroad too which prepared me well for trainee life at Pinsent Masons!

Harriet: I worked here as a paralegal beforehand and I was really impressed with how they engage people from a junior level - they give you plenty of responsibility early on. As a projects paralegal, I worked on a wide selection of deals over numerous sectors including infrastructure, energy and finance.

What is your current role and how would you describe your experience of the firm so far?

Finlay: I'm a trainee in the tax team in Glasgow. It's a small team so we work closely with bigger teams in London and Leeds. The small team feeling means that I get more responsibility, which I enjoy. I work on general tax queries, drafting and negotiating Tax Deeds and provide general tax structuring advice. Pinsent Masons is a challenging firm to work at, but in a good way - there is pressure, but you have the chance to rise to the challenge. Also, there's so much going on beyond your legal work - and I've really tried to make the most of that. There are so many activities and events you can attend depending on your interests. Our office took part in the Glasgow Kilt walk a couple of months ago raising over £9,000 for charity. 

Harriet: I am a trainee at the moment. I worked in corporate law for my first seat, and pensions in my second seat. Pensions is an interesting department - sometimes working on the behalf of employers or pension trustee schemes, they take an advisory role on trustee meetings and look at the implications of data protection. It's a real mixed bag, and it's made me think a lot about my own future - which is a bit scary!

Tom: It's really good. I've been in the firm for nearly two years already and have worked in three different departments. I've been involved in some important and challenging work and generally it's been a very supportive process. I'm currently in my second seat in the infrastructure projects team - we work on big interesting projects, such as the development of toll roads.

What are the things you enjoy most about the firm?

Harriet: The 'get stuck in' atmosphere is brilliant, they get you involved and networking from a junior level - and being given responsibility early on is very important. The firm is ambitious and wants to become a global leader in its core sectors, this makes it a great time to be here.

Tom: I think every department in the firm is working on really high-profile stuff - industry leading work. You're going to get to see cutting-edge work in whichever department you get the chance to work with at Pinsent Masons - you know you'll never be in a role doing mediocre work.

What three things were you surprised to learn when you joined the firm?

Finlay: The first thing which pleasantly surprised me is that there are all sorts of people at the firm. Obviously we all come under the umbrella that we're all lawyers, hard-working and focused - but beyond that there're so many different interests - people are so much more than the lawyers they are at work. Everyone is friendly and approachable and I've made a lot of friends at the firm. Secondly, I hadn't realised that Pinsent Masons would become such a big part of my life. There's always a lot going on outside of work whether it's social, sporting or business development - there are so many events to attend. Finally, I didn’t expect to be given so much responsibility in the first year of my training contract. There's pressure at times but there's a lot of support too and it feels good when you rise to the challenge. I hope this continues as I progress!

Harriet: Firstly, I didn’t realise how much the firm really engaged with their core values: approachable, bold and connected. Pinsent Masons really want to recruit candidates who support these values. Secondly, the firm does a lot of work globally – this isn’t necessarily apparent from outside of the firm. Thirdly, there are so many different aspects to each department – there are even art and sports law specialists!

What advice would you give to candidates considering a career at Pinsent Masons?

Sarah: First of all, be yourself. It's very easy when applying to a large commercial firm to try hide behind something you're not at interview, but we want to see who you are, your interests and what makes you tick. Keep up with the world around you, news stories, how that might affect a business and think about the advice you would give them.

Finlay: My advice is do your homework on the firm, find out what we're all about - especially about the culture of the firm. There's so much useful information on sites like Bright Network and our own, and you should take advantage of this. Also, make the most of going to graduate recruitment events and speaking to our representatives. Find out if this is the right law firm for you.

Harriet: Definitely be yourself. It's a very open firm with lots of different personalities. To stand out, link your experience to skills you already have from university or work experience. Don't be put off if you don’t have a lot of legal experience. Apply for the vacation scheme too! It is a really nice firm and it's a joy to work here.

Tom: Everyone is approachable and will take the time to help you out - you should seek out the chance to speak to someone who works at Pinsent Masons, so you can learn first-hand whether this is the right firm for you.

Your undergraduate degree wasn’t in law, what advice might you give others who aren’t currently studying law, but are interested in the field?

Tom: It's a different angle. My impression of people who've done law degrees at undergraduate level is that they're generally better prepared for the process of getting a training contract. I'd advise that you get yourself fully up to speed on the vacation schemes and work experience opportunities that are available - appreciate how important those interim stages are for getting a job.

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