At Pinsent Masons (PM) there is so much to get involved in beyond the day to day legal work. I have been involved in lots of ‘non-chargeable’ activities both in my current role as a trainee and previously as a paralegal. I would like to share with you some of my favourite experiences and the benefits of getting involved.
Let’s start by explaining what non-chargeable hours are. At PM, we have hourly targets which are split into chargeable and non-chargeable and the ratio of each depends on what level you are. As a trainee, your targets are split equally; this is to allow you to train in black letter law, gain knowledge and commercial experience while building your network from the very start of your career. This is something which is unusual at a lot of firms, particularly firms of PM’s size.
PM has a fantastic social scene. I am on the Social Committee in Leeds; each office has a committee and runs their groups in different ways. I was lucky an opening on the committee became available when I was a paralegal, so I snatched up the opportunity to get involved. I have loved being able to organise events and manage the social budget (definitely feels like a lot of responsibility at paralegal/trainee level!). It’s been great for me to build my internal network, acting as a host when we put on events and making sure I know everyone there.
This network has helped in my working life, allowing me to bring in work from different departments or even just ask for help when working across departments. So, getting involved in the social aspect of your working life is definitely something I’d recommend (if nothing else, you get the first free drink of the night!)
Not only does the office get to socialise as a group, each team has a budget which means they can get creative with team building relationships. Some teams go for walks or do escape rooms, whereas others like to frequent the local pubs (a definite favourite of mine!).
Trainee life has its own social aspect.. The trainee cohorts in each office do their socialising in different ways; some have lunch together in the office deli while some have organised socials on certain Friday nights.
As well as internal socials, there is an abundance of opportunities to develop your junior network outside of the firm. This is both with other young professionals and clients. Most locations have a law society in their city which organise their events throughout the year. PM encourage attendance at these events and pay for law society memberships.
It is great to meet lots of young professionals from other sectors and specialisms. I always make it a priority to go to these events as ultimately, as we progress through our careers, these contacts will be vital to our success in bringing in work. In Leeds, I get involved with PM’s networking group called Yorkshire Professional Meet. This group was created after a group of junior lawyers pitched their idea at PM’s yearly ‘Dragon’s Den’ and successfully secured funding. These events are particularly beneficial as I can invite client contacts I have met and build my relationships further.
I’ve also been lucky enough to get involved in playing hockey with clients as part of a networking event. This was definitely a different way to network but was fun!
Mental Health and Well-Being
Being a lawyer is a stressful career as we all strive for success while working in large international companies with a fast pace of life and a reputation for a lack of work/life balance. Luckily PM has lots of resources in place to help and support anyone who needs it. In the offices, we have Mental Health Champions who are trained on the resources available and those which may be appropriate to recommend, and are also trained in a crisis situation. I am a Mental Health Champion myself and I wear a green lanyard daily to symbolise that I am a point of call for support. All Mental Health Champions can also be easily found on our intranet pages, so we’re always accessible. If this is something you are passionate about, you are able to sign up to the training and once completed you will be a Champion too.
If employees feel they need extra support from professionals, amongst other things, PM offer to pay for six face-to-face counselling sessions with an external counsellor. As someone who has benefitted from this facility, I can say it was definitely helpful and as I was a paralegal at the time it wasn’t something I could afford to pay for myself. I was able to access it quicker than I could access aid on the NHS.
As well as trained Champions, we also have a Minds Mentoring programme which is more focussed on general support. You can either volunteer to be a mentor or sign up to have one. My mentor has been great throughout my training contract and coming up to NQ application time. Graduate Development Team are always on hand for a chat or extra support too. I have a great relationship with them as they are so easy to get along with and always good as a sounding board.
For all you budding sports players, if you work at PM you’re in luck, PM have a sports budget! This is run by each office, has a budget holder and they split their funds up between different sports. In Leeds, we have a star netball team, picking up trophies every season in the Junior Lawyer Division league! In other offices they do different things, i.e. in Manchester they have a football team. This is another way to build great internal and external networks whilst staying active. Netball is certainly one of my favourite parts of the week and I feel very lucky to have it funded. I have met a lot of great people through netball who I am now friends with!
Trainees can do lots to build their CV even more!
You can volunteer to be an Innovation Trainee being part of the Trainee Innovation Group. This started for me by all the trainees having calls with some of the innovation team to discuss ideas. We have a facility on our intranet to be able to submit innovative ideas no matter what level you are, and this does happen across the board.
You can also volunteer to provide help to the NatWest Accelerator Legal Hub. I have been involved in this a lot during my training contract. It is open to all levels but is perfect for a trainee. NatWest have an Accelerator Programme where they aid entrepreneurs start-up and better their businesses. The Hub is an advice service that we run at NatWest in many different cities where we offer legal support and advice. I have helped on this in different ways. Firstly, I delivered a presentation followed by a Q&A session to the batches of new entrepreneur recruits in Leeds explaining how PM can help them and their business. I helped out at the drop-in Legal Clinics where entrepreneurs come in and ask for ad hoc, business related legal advice. Naturally, as a trainee, it is quite difficult to give detailed advice on the spot, particularly if it related to an area of law when you have not yet had a ‘seat’. However, as long as you know what services and expertise PM can offer, you can relay anything you can’t advise on to the appropriate department. Equally, it means you can strengthen relationships within PM too! Finally, I have attended entrepreneur networking events including the ‘Next Level’ events which include larger businesses with a turnover of over £1 million a year. I have enjoyed every event and session I have been to and made some great contacts both in the entrepreneurs and the NatWest employees.
You can also get involved with Graduate Recruitment activities and attend various networking events, law fairs or volunteer to be a School Work Experience Supervisor – something which I found particularly rewarding.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
At PM, there are many opportunities to get involved with CSR activities locally and globally. To ensure I give you a thorough overview of the initiatives I am involved in, I will publish another blog on the subject. Watch this space!
If anyone is interested in knowing more about the activities I have mentioned above or anything else at PM please do feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com or add me on LinkedIn and drop me a personal message (Nikki Hosker).