1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
Our role was to assist trainee solicitors in various departments within the company. The day would begin with a small informal lecture, regarding a different aspect of law (both the academic and practical side). On one day we were given an interactive task where we had to split into groups, given an imagined situation and instructed to advise them, which was particularly interesting. After this, each person on work experience was sent to a different area of the company and there we carried out various tasks depending on the department and the workload of that day. We were able to deal with real issues that trainees themselves were working on, which was really informative and interesting and completely dispelled the myth that work experience students simply made others cups of tea! The areas I visited were Contentious Construction, Environmental Planning, Commercial and Corporate Tax Advisory. I carried out a lot of research, proof read documents and drafted claim forms.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
I learnt completely new skills such as how to draft a claim form and developed my researching skills: learning how to select more relevant information and to decipher complicated legal jargon. Each trainee gave me an in-depth insight into their current department which undoubtedly improved my legal knowledge. Naturally, my communication skills were greatly developed as the placement involved talking to many different people; even directors.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
I can honestly say that the programme exceeded all my expectations: the work was varied, exciting and interesting, and above all, 'real'. Every member of the team I interacted with was supportive and seemed genuinely interested in my future plans for a career in law and gave me their own tips on how to succeed. They were also helpful with the work despite the fact they too were busy, and gave me a lot of praise and positive feedback. Nothing seemed too much trouble and I although I was only there for one week I truly felt like a member of the team! The building itself was impressive and the whole atmosphere of the place was one of a hard-working yet tight-knit bunch of people.
4. How valued do you feel by Pinsent Masons?
I felt extremely valued on the whole; as mentioned before I became heavily involved (within reason, obviously) within tasks and projects that trainee solicitors were undertaking, and they were always quick to feedback on my work in a constructive manager. However, I do think that to increase how valued I felt it would have been great to receive some form of feedback and summary at the end of the placement. I appreciate that this would have taken even more time and that so much work already goes into the programme, but even just one written comment from each trainee would have been something!
5. How well organised/structured is your programme?
The programme was extremely well structured; we were sent an itinerary and plenty of information well in advance over email. The induction was interesting and told us everything we needed to know, and the training (as aforementioned) was amazing. Each trainee had a conversation with me telling me what they wanted me to do, informing me of the ins and outs of the particular area and asking about my career plans/aims, and then telling me of theirs. The lectures in the morning were well delivered and covered a wide range of topics - for example one morning was used to inform us of the litigation procedure and another was used to tell us how to become a lawyer (eg university pathways, LPC's, vacation schemes...).
6a. How much support do you receive from your training provider?
The general attitude towards work experience students was extremely positive, not once did it seem like a 'chore' to have us there, despite the trainees having their own work to be getting on with. We were viewed as an asset to the team rather than a hindrance which greatly enriched my experience, because obviously a negative attitude towards me would have lessened my confidence and also how much I enjoyed the scheme. The trainees struck just the right balance between being informal and friendly and being professional and informative. We were given details of who to contact for any problems and each trainee told us not to hesitate to come to them if we had anything we needed help with or wanted to ask.
6b. How much support do you receive from your employer?
Communication through email from the coordinators was good, and we were provided with a very informative booklet which allowed us to note down specific things we learnt during our placement. The general attitude of all involved in the programme was very good, however there was one flaw which I believe is quite significant - whilst the trainees did meet and discuss us all on the placement, we did not get any overall feedback (obviously I am not taking into account informal comments throughout the scheme, there was plenty of that and it was very supportive), and we were also informed on an email that Pinsent Masons would never give any individual feedback to us if requested, or if a potential employer or university requested it; they would merely confirm we attended the programme. I think that it would have been incredibly beneficial if we were given some form of written individual feedback, however brief, just so we knew what we could improve on as individuals and what aspects impressed the staff, as for many of us it was our first experience at a real law firm.
7. How well does your salary/package meet your costs?
Not relevant; the one week training programme did not offer any financial benefit. Of course I wasn't expecting any, however I did meet people on the work experience programme who had travelled from as far as Nottingham, and so perhaps some travel costs could have been offered. However, bearing in mind the fantastic and invaluable experience this placement provided I believe everyone was happy to fund their own travel expenses.
8. Are there many opportunities outside of work?
Again, this is not relevant to my one week training programme, however we were informed of the Pinsent Masons netball team which many of the staff we met enjoyed. They also gave us the opportunity to use the showers (if we wished to walk or cycle to work) and recreational area for exercise! We were informed of company dinners and wine tasting events and when we were not working we all congregated in the canteen which proved to be a very social and welcoming environment.
9. Would you recommend Pinsent Masons to a friend?
Because of all the reasons above! Each individual I encountered was an absolute delight to work with, and the work itself was interesting. Work experience placements within the legal sector, particularly for students still in 6th form, have a reputation for being limited to photocopying and tea and coffee making, but not once did I carry out either of these tasks at Pinsents. Rather, I dealt with real issues and everything was explained to such a high level. Prior to this placement, I believed that working as part of a large commercial firm was not for me, however my placement with this company has caused me to reconsider.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to Pinsent Masons?
Don't rush your application form and think carefully about your answers. I thoroughly expanded all my answers and ensured I made good use of English grammar and phrasing. The form is extremely detailed and requires you to research the firm to some extent and have a basic knowledge of law firms (though not anything that you wouldn't expect someone interested in a legal career to know or want to know!). If you are selected, make the most of this opportunity and don't be a wallflower; if you are yourself, ask everything you want to know and work diligently you will leave feeling much more confident about the practical side of law.
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