We recently spoke with three trainees: Lauren Fowler, Louise Stratton and Sophie Al-Mahdawie, who are just at the start of their careers with Pinsent Masons. We were interested to see what the work culture is like and how they’ve settled in. Here they share their top tips and advice for candidates considering a career in Law.
Tell us a bit about you - your background and what you enjoy doing.
Louise: I studied Law at Sheffield, where there are many pro bono opportunities for students. For example, we had FreeLaw, a programme where students can support local residents with legal queries. After graduating I attended The College of Law in York where I studied towards the LPC. Whilst there I was able to secure an in-house paralegal role with a large insurance provider. This gave me a great opportunity to understand how clients of firms like Pinsent Masons operate in practice. It also allowed me to develop my commercial awareness and exposed me to areas of law outside my degree and the LPC, such as pensions and investments - this really made my CV stand out.
Sophie: I've always loved music, and this is something I discussed in my interview with Pinsent Masons. Now I'm in the firm, I sing in our work choir and we perform throughout the year. This has given me the opportunity to meet and bond with new people from a variety of departments. There are also lots of sporting opportunities at the firm – for example, I'm doing a 5k in a few weeks with colleagues in the city after work. We also have bake-offs in some departments, and generally any hobby really is encouraged - there's always someone else to share your interests with.
Lauren: I studied Law at Edinburgh University - I was originally studying Law and Spanish, but decided to focus on Law. I then completed my Diploma at Glasgow University. In my spare time, I go running and go to the gym. I've also been trying to learn Italian but haven't got very far! I am in my final seat of my traineeship and will be qualifying into the Property Investment team in Edinburgh in September.
How did you select Pinsent Masons?
Lauren: I did a summer placement in my third year at university, when I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I wasn't expecting to, but I loved every minute of it. I then went on to another firm and didn’t enjoy it at all. Pinsent Masons’ atmosphere was much more open, approachable and helpful. You hear horror stories of placements where work only comes from printed memos left on your chair when you leave the room or where you spend two weeks photocopying but Pinsent Masons was the complete opposite. It is a very inclusive place – everyone is willing to help and wants you to get the best learning experience possible and this really appealed to me.
Louise: A colleague at my paralegal role who had trained at Pinsent Masons told me I would be a good fit and to look into the firm. I liked their values, and they covered areas of the law I was interested in so it seemed like a brilliant opportunity to apply – and I haven’t looked back!
What does a typical day at Pinsent Masons involve?
Lauren: You work in a variety of different departments for a variety of different people, and I think that's really good. Each team inevitably has a different way of working. You get to know different people from across the firm and see how they work. I always have lunch with the other trainees and paralegals, very rarely at my desk. Almost every day would involve some form of client contact whether it be attending a meeting or a conference call, sending an email to a client or drafting a letter. I start work at 9am and generally finish around 6-6.30. I have worked later, but it's not the norm. The teams I have worked in have been very flexible too - I have often finished work at home in the evening rather than staying late or sometimes I prefer to come in an hour earlier in the morning to get a head start on the day.
Sophie: I'm in my fourth seat, currently working in Construction Advice and Disputes. A typical day would start with checking my emails, and seeing if any new tasks have come in overnight. I would then continue with the on-going tasks that I have; I do a lot of research in this department, and I may be looking into foreign law or reading case law on a specific subject. I might then have a client call or appointment. I might have to draft some documents or letters, and as this is a dispute seat I might have to prepare timelines, chronologies or research barristers, witnesses or experts for a trial. There are also regular team meetings to attend, and Thursday drinks. I'm in a social department, so there's lots of team bonding!
How would you describe Pinsent Masons’ culture?
Louise: I've been in two offices, I spent the first six months in Glasgow and now I'm in Leeds. It's very down-to-earth and I've been made to feel very welcomed and there are lots of social events. Your work always feels appreciated, which is good as a junior.
Lauren: I'm on the social committee, and it's a lot of fun. Here at the Edinburgh office we have an event every month. Tomorrow is the summer barbecue, which we hold at a rugby club. Next month we have a sports day which will feature the all time classic egg and spoon race and we've extended the invite to kids – it should be a fun evening. We're always trying to think of fun things to do every month beyond just drinks on a Friday.
What advice would you give to prospective Pinsent Masons undergraduates?
Sophie: First thing is to make sure the firm suits you and your personality. Pinsent Masons requires a strong academic record, however the firm is also looking for sociable people with interests and passions outside of the work place. If that sounds like you, then this is a great firm for you. We're a modern, forward-thinking firm. Research our sectors and industries, and make sure you're interested in those areas. Also, look into press coverage of our work, to get an idea of what we do. We have a fantastic website, Out-Law.com, that covers a lot of legal news and commentary, and includes coverage on some of our current work. If you can get work experience then definitely go for it, and vacation schemes are an excellent insight into any firm.
Louise: Research the firm, make sure it's right for you. You get so focussed on just applying, but you need to take a step back and make sure you will enjoy the training contract. If you can, do the vacation scheme. Also, don't be put off by taking time out, if you want to travel or work. I did and made sure the law was right for me, and any work experience can add value to your application.
Lauren: Try to speak to anyone you know who works at the firm, if you don't know anyone then take advantage of the University Law Fairs - there are always trainees attending who will be more than happy to have a chat. It's hard to get a feel for somewhere from a website, so speaking to people from different firms really helps you understand if it sounds like the type of place you would like to work. Also, any work experience / vacation scheme / paralegal experience you can get involved in will be really valuable even if you don't think it is directly related to commercial law. For example, I did a week's work experience at the Crown Office and Prosecutor Fiscal's office and learned lots of valuable and transferrable skills. There are often fixed term Paralegal contracts available at Pinsent Masons which is a great way to spend a year out to get a real feel for the firm.
Like the sound of this? Visit Pinsent Mason’s employer profile for more.