Pinsent Masons Belfast event inspires the next generation of legal professionals

A group of 40 students from across Northern Ireland have received a unique insight into the legal world, its culture, and its people through Pinsent Masons’ Schools’ Work Inspiration Day.

Ashfield Girls, Belfast Boys’ Model, De la Salle, Dromore High, Larne Grammar, Methody, Our Lady and St Patrick’s, and partner school Lagan College were among those that participated in a scheme that is designed to widen access to the different key specialist areas of law.

Organised in conjunction with Business in the Community Northern Ireland, the educational initiative, which first started in 2016, has been designed to offer AS and A Level students who are considering a career in the legal profession with an informative and interactive insight.

Held in the Soloist Building at Lanyon Place, home to the commercial law firm’s Belfast offices, pupils were joined at the bi-annual workshop last week by Dame Denise Anne McBride DBE. A Northern Irish judge and former barrister who specialises in international, chancery, family and civil law, Madam Justice McBride was the guest speaker at the event for Sixth Form pupils.

Andrea McIlroy-Rose, head of the Belfast office and the person who leads the Belfast property team and the UK retail property team, said the day had over-delivered for staff and students. “It was fantastic that everyone involved with the Schools’ Work Inspiration Day got so much out of it,” said Andrea. “Students heard about the fantastic law courses at universities and what working for a global law firm looks like and had the opportunity to partake in thought-provoking and skill development exercises.

“Encouraging, identifying and nurturing the next generation of legal professionals from Northern Ireland is a fundamental aspect of the work that we do at Pinsent Masons in Belfast,” Andrea continued. “We know that these days can inspire young people and help to show them what is possible; earlier this year, we had our first trainee join us, having previously been invited along to the Schools’ Work Inspiration Day’.”

A series of ice breaker activities with Pinsent Masons’ trainee solicitors got the day underway and was followed by Madam Justice McBride delivering her keynote speech to those in the room. This explored the many different aspects of the legal world, including how she became the first of two women to be appointed to the High Court in Belfast back in October 2015, and how being resilient and a positive networker are both key to ensuring success in the legal field.

In a presentation by Gill Warwick, HR and Operations Manager at Pinsent Masons, Belfast, she set out the reasons why students should consider a career in law before exploring how they can get started, and the opportunities that exist to make this possible, including PRIME – the legal profession’s commitment to ensuring fair access to summer work experience for those people from less privileged backgrounds who do not have the right contacts to call upon.

The baton was then passed over to Pinsent Masons’ current cohort of associate and trainee solicitors who co-ordinated a number of mock interview group exercises before Anna Rowan BL, a barrister in commercial, company, insolvency, and land law, spoke at length about how a typical working day might look, and the route that she took to receive her call to the bar.

Following lunch and a tour of the offices, talks were delivered by Dr Kevin J. Brown, the Director of Internationalisation, Reader, School of Law at Queens’ University Belfast and Amanda Zacharopoulou, Reader School of Law at Ulster University. These happened either side of round table discussions on legal roles, and a Q&A session with Legal PA Julie Blakely, trainee solicitor Lauren Murphy, Senior Product Services Engineer in Technology Services Nadia Thompson, and associate David Small.

The successful event was organised by Gill Warwick (HR and Operations Manager, Belfast), and associates Jodie Rankin, Meghan Kirk and Aisling Taggart.

For further information on Pinsent Masons’ Schools’ Work Inspiration Day and PRIME initiative, please visit www.pinsentmasons.com/careers/graduate. Alternatively, please send an e-mail to: students@pinsentmasons.com