Pinsent Masons (London)
The 2004 tie-up between Pinsents and Masons caught very few people by surprise - both had been falling behind national rivals DLA and Eversheds and were desperate to increase their national coverage. In fact, the eventual merger was such an open secret that RollOnFriday managed to cybersquat the website masonspinsents.com. Unwilling to shell out a large wad of cash to buy it back, Pinsent Masons was formed. And on 1st May 2012 Scottish firm McGrigors was added to the fold, increasing the headcount of the firm's City office to more than 500 lawyers.
The new firm was always more of a national than an international outfit, with offices in London, Birmingham, Bristol (since closed), Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Belfast and Leeds. Admittedly, it also had a presence in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Doha and Dubai and has entered a JV in Singapore with local firm MPillay, but no one's really quite sure why. Whereas the other national firms are surging on into Europe and beyond, Pinsent Masons was more reliant on a network of international alliances. Something of which it must be keenly aware: it has now opened in Paris, Munich, and Turkey. In fact it now has more offices outside the UK than in it.
Rather than attempting to challenge all-comers in every field, it has made no secret of wanting to become "the leading sectoral firm
", concentrating on eight different areas including, energy, construction, government, technology and insurance. Following the most recent merger this was cut to four sectors - Energy, Infrastructure, Financial Services and Advanced Manufacturing and Technology. That said, it's also included a catch-all sector of 'services', so we can't really see them turning any work away. Although some suggest that the firm is "obsessed with reclassifying departments
" which can lead to lawyers being shunted between departments and "ultimately feeling displaced
Masons was without a doubt the pre-eminent construction firm in the country, whose clients included pretty much everyone who knows how to hold a shovel. And now, as Pinsent Masons, the firm's construction lawyers still represent some of the biggest players in the country, the likes of Balfour Beatty and Bovis Lend Lease. Its "business strategic services" department (another re-classification formed from the old outsourcing and dispute resolution departments) is also doing pretty well with an impressive client roster including stellar clients such as Manchester United and Odeon Cinemas. Energy counts the likes of Ofgem and Scottish Power as clients, and Financial Services acts for all four of the main clearing banks.
Where the firm has faced more of a struggle is with its corporate department. Focusing heavily on AIM listings, the lack of action on that market hit the firm's total turnover. Property, another of the firm's heavy-hitting department, has also suffered in the wake of the recession and the department's turnover was down last year.
Still, Pinsents doesn't seem to be struggling too much. Average profit per partner seems to have settled at around the £400k+ mark, which is not to be sniffed at, and the firm has just announced its turnover has risn 5% since last year, to £309 million. But it's not all milk and honey. Redundancies have featured rather a lot since a relatively small number - just 19 - were made last year. The firm recently confirmed it was making 13 lawyers redundant, in the third round since the McGrigors merger. But, equally, there were positive reactions to Pinsents' decision to implement a flexi-time scheme which saved £2m and most likely saved a few jobs in the process.
However, for two years in the trot the firm hasn't fared so well in RollOnFriday's firm of the year survey, being found propping up the bottom end of the table. Lawyers grumble about the "lack of morale
" - not helped by the relatively poor retention rates for the last few years - and worry that the firm seems a little top heavy: "it is difficult to forsee any prospects for promotion with so many juniors at the same level
". Other gripes included pay ("you're more likely to see Bigfoot, Yeti and the Beast of Bodmin playing a game of poker in a meeting room than a bonus on your payslip
") and "opaque
But there was praise too, especially for the firm's friendliness and for partners who "genuinely care about their staff
". Another respondent claimed that "interesting lawyers outnumber dullards by at least 3 to 1
" - which by the standards of most firms is a pretty solid ratio. Plus there was much excitement about the "lovely glass lifts
", and word is that the festive fancy dress parties are rather special.
And this should all be on the back of relatively reasonable hours. The firm makes a big play of setting what it calls "reasonable expectations
" for its lawyers. Several lawyers work flexibly and trainees can get a £5,000 bonus when they qualify. One to watch.
For more information on Pinsent Masons click here