The 2020 Pinsent Masons Vacation Scheme

This article aims to share the insight of individuals who experienced the Vacation Scheme with Pinsent Masons this year as well as the perspective of the Graduate Recruitment team at Pinsent Masons.

The first half of the article Matthew Berrick speaks with Lauren Moore who had applied for the Manchester office and Callum Simpson who had applied for the Leeds office. Matthew Berrick will also give his perspective of the Virtual Vacation Scheme having applied for the London office during this application cycle.

The second half of this article Matthew Berrick interviews Magdalena Karcz, a Graduate Recruitment Officer at Pinsent Masons, about the Vacation Scheme and the opportunities created by COVID-19 for future applicants.

Big thank you to Lauren, Callum and Magdalena for sharing your insight and thoughts on the Virtual Vacation Scheme placement with Pinsent Masons.

What was the placement like for you? 

Lauren Moore, Manchester Office:

The placement was a real eye-opener for me, especially coming from a non-law background. I have just graduated from The University of Manchester with an honour’s degree in Chemistry – so quite the switch!

The tasks were challenging, particularly the due diligence exercise, but equally approachable considering I have had no legal work experience before. Getting one-to-one feedback on the tasks set was particularly beneficial to me and helped me gain legal skills which I can take forward in my future legal career.

I organised two female empowerment networking sessions during the scheme, which helped me get to know my cohort better – we are still continuing these even though the placement has finished. There were quizzes (which my amazing buddy on the scheme organised) and a cocktail making competition, which acted as ice breakers for each office and the cohort as a whole that I thoroughly enjoyed. A particular highlight, apart from meeting everyone at the firm and my cohort, were the mental health & time organisation webinars.

The biggest take away I had from the scheme was the emphasis Pinsent Masons has on its people – they really care about everyone as individuals and try to make everyone feel included. The placement was something special and an opportunity I will forever be grateful for not just for the legal experience I gained, but for the friends I made also. 

Callum Simpson, Leeds Office:

My Vacation Scheme with Pinsent Masons was an incredible opportunity for me, particularly with regard to networking, socialising, and being involved in work and research tasks. With the firm moving the internship online, one of the major concerns for a lot of students were the challenges we might face with networking. Being in an office makes it much easier to ask someone for a coffee and a chat. However, this ended up being remarkably easy to do via online platforms.

One solicitor in my team recommended organising ‘virtual coffees’ early on during the internship, which I could organise by dropping anyone an email. This was really successful as I got to talk with staff from different offices and departments that I might not have had the chance to do otherwise. I was really impressed with how well this worked. The placement reflected how sociable and welcoming the firm is. Alongside the Grad Recruitment quiz and bingo that was organised, we had virtual cocktail making classes with our office.

I was also lucky enough to be involved in the Leeds Litigation Team’s social. The camaraderie amongst everyone in the team made me feel so welcome and enhanced the overall experience of the placement.  It was great to be invited to so many virtual socials as well as being involved with students in the Leeds office who were proactive in organising more. Socialising and meeting people are the best aspects of any Vacation Scheme, and the virtual alteration on this proved great!

I particularly enjoyed learning about trainees and solicitors’ different routes into law, no two people have the same story. The same goes for the different Vacation Scheme students. It helped me to appreciate what is unique about my own journey, as well as learn about the inspiring things different people have done. Without being in the office, I was worried about not being able to sink my teeth into proper work due to confidentiality protection. However, the activities organised by Grad Recruitment were really stimulating. I also found that with such a lovely team, I was able to help out with small research tasks for team members.

It helps to be proactive and see if there is any extra work going. The team were always happy to find any tasks they could get me involved in. It really gave me more appreciation about the tasks involved in the daily life of a solicitor and find out more about the team. It also allowed me to learn about the diversity of work in the office. It was my first time shadowing a Litigation Team so I didn’t really know what to expect. However, I was amazed by the variety of work the team got to do and it made every day as a Vacation Scheme student exciting.

Despite the placement being online, it gave me incredible exposure to the legal industry in what I think was a really successful first Vacation Scheme placement. I learned skills that I can take forward in my professional career and it has helped my confidence massively for the future.

Matthew Berrick, London Office:

I was involved with the Property Dispute Resolution team during the Virtual Vacation Scheme. Similarly to Lauren I am a non-law applicant. Speaking with my supervisor gave me the opportunity to learn more about the practice area and it was great to hear the experiences that my trainee buddy has had so far at Pinsent Masons. Albeit virtual, the three week were well spent as I was given the chance to meet so many different members of the Pinsent Masons team across all offices.

One highlight of the scheme for me was speaking (virtually) with a future trainee who is currently working at Vario. As Vario is a unique and diverse approach used by Pinsent Masons I found it interesting to hear more about the projects and solutions emerging from this provider.

Despite being online, I felt that we were more connected than ever. On the one hand socials still happened with the cohort applying for the London office. However, because the Vacation Scheme was online it felt as if we were one cohort rather than pockets of applicants to different offices.

Q&A with Magdalena Karcz, A Graduate Recruitment Officer at Pinsent Masons

As a recruiter what are some of the similarities and differences of the virtual Vacation Scheme that you noticed compared to previous years which have been in person?

When preparing to run our Virtual Internship this year, we wanted to ensure that the scheme reflects the in-house placement as much as possible. Therefore, many elements of our virtual programme were similar to the Vacation Scheme. To achieve that, the Graduate Recruitment team created a scheduled programme to expose the participants to quality tasks, networking events, workshops and informative sessions. On top of that every participant was assigned to a specific department in the office location they applied to which allowed them to broaden their knowledge of a specific sector and meet more people in their teams. Participants also had a supervisor and a trainee buddy who offered their support and feedback throughout the placement.  

Hosting the programme online meant there were some differences however, we believe that they enriched the participants experience. For instance, the virtual placement allowed our interns to connect and create long-lasting relationships with each placement participant and Pinsent Masons colleagues (across the UK and internationally!) that they would not necessarily have otherwise met.

Another big difference was that the Virtual Internship allowed for more flexibility than the traditional placement, allowing participants to continue to take part as their personal circumstances changed as lockdown progressed. We knew we need to create a programme that will allow them to gain valuable skills and insight to Pinsent Masons whilst still allowing them to fulfil other commitments, such as work, exams and other work experience programmes.

That’s why a lot of the materials were easily accessible on the Inside Sherpa platform – such as pre-recorded videos from fee earners explaining what their teams do, templates for completing tasks and presentations.

Overall the feedback from our virtual placement has been overwhelmingly positive and it’s certainly down to the participants who made the most of the virtual opportunities and our colleagues across the business who helped us prepare the content, took part in events and acted as mentors. We couldn’t have delivered a comprehensive three-week programme in such a short amount of time without them!

What opportunities has COVID-19 created in terms of how you recruit students going forward?

Not much has changed to be honest – except for our assessment centres being held virtually, we are still recruiting as planned. We are following the government advice and will contact all candidates applying for 2021 Vacation Placement or Training Contract should there be any changes to the recruitment process.

The recent situation has certainly proven that many recruitment activities can be held online. We no longer need to travel across the UK to meet with potential candidates as many law fairs and employer events will be hosted online. It’s great news for the Graduate Recruitment team as we can reach a wider audience; for those who couldn’t see us in person due to the distance or other commitments; and for the planet, as the reduction in travel means less carbon emissions!

That being said, we know that online activities cannot fully replace face-to-face human interaction and we are hoping we’ll be able to meet with candidates face to-face either on campus or in our offices once it’s safe to do so. 

What advice and tips would you give to students planning to apply to Pinsent Masons Vacation Scheme in the next application cycle?

Firstly, visit our website and make sure you know what we do and what we look for in our future trainees. The majority of applicants will go to our website and write about our awards, wanting to work for international clients and gaining high-quality training and learning from our lawyers. That doesn’t make candidates stand out as it doesn’t evidence in-depth research. It’s much better to show that you’ve done your homework by mentioning characteristics about the firm that are relevant to why you’re applying to us. 

Secondly, our online application form is designed in a way to help us get to know you, so be honest and avoid generic answers and clichés such as being ‘passionate’ about law and ‘relishing challenges’ or spending time ‘honing your transferable skills’. Those don’t tell us much about who you are, what skills you have that will help you become a successful trainee or you why you want pursue a career in commercial law.  Instead, tell us what sparked your interest in commercial law, what you do in your spare time, how do you challenge yourself, etc. Also, remember to back your answers with evidence!

Finally, run your application through a spell check or have someone read it for you. You’d be surprised what a fresh pair of eyes can spot in your form!

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