I had a truly fantastic experience during the two weeks of my insight. From start to finish I felt really engaged, both professionally and academically, and I felt welcomed into the firm and valued as a member of the team. Similarly, the work was challenging but not too challenging - it was wide-ranging, and pitched at just the right level to stretch you without making you feel out of your depth.
Ultimately in just two weeks it is difficult to feel completely at home in any firm. However, all of the members of Graduate Recruitment and the departmental members went out of their way to help and assist me, and to get me involved in really interesting projects. Similarly, positive and constructive feedback helped me to feel that I was really making a difference.
Received really regular and detailed guidance and support throughout the insight, both from my departmental trainer and from HR/Graduate Recruitment. On research tasks I was given very clear instructions, and targeted help when I needed it. My trainer always made himself available to chat through things, without being overbearing.
I do not study Law, so the skills learnt will not directly transfer. However, the attention to detail, rigorous analysis and working to tight deadlines will help me to develop a better approach to study at university, especially in analytical subjects. The biggest help will undoubtedly be in my career - there's no substitute for working in a professional environment, and you pick up new knowledge about, for example, dealing with clients which is invaluable.
The insight had a very clear structure from start to finish. We received our seat allocation in advance (which helped us to prepare), and were lent a company iPad for use during the two weeks which was loaded with our timetables, contact details for various members of the firm, group and subgroup descriptions etc. Similarly, every detail was communicated in advance and ran on time.
There is a great atmosphere within A&O. That's not to say that every moment was one of joy - ultimately you are working in a competitive environment with high-pressure deals and cases, so there were moments of stress and agitation. However, there is a really strong spirit of collaboration that extends even to vacation scheme students. The atmosphere was positive, even more so within the department in which I sat.
Throughout the vacation scheme many sessions were organised which were geared towards personal and professional development. This included a Business Development game revolving around getting and maintaining client business, a Presentation Skills session and a session on Project Management. It really did feel like a holistic insight, and an investment in us that went far beyond the financial.
It was a really tremendous insight, as I was able to work directly alongside trainees, associates and partners, seeing how they operate on a day-to-day basis and engaging directly with clients. It is only two weeks, and of course it's difficult to really know what a full-time job is like in such a short period of time. However, the amount of direct time with my trainer meant that I really did feel like I could gain a great insight.
Really valuable. By working directly with qualified lawyers and having been given real responsibility, I got a great insight into what life as a commercial lawyer is really like. For me this was a positive, and I'm a lot more convinced about following the route, but I am sure it would work the other way round too. The balance between socials and work really helped here - it meant that I could evaluate the work for what it is, rather than being lulled by the socials.
The pay for the scheme was excellent, and did adequately meet London living costs. We were paid £450 per week, which is slightly above the going rate (even for Magic Circle firms). Short-term living in London over the summer is extortionately expensive, but the higher amount meant we didn't have to worry too much about finances. It also gave us an opportunity to go out and enjoy ourselves with less financial pressure.
The networking opportunities were very good, as most members of the firm were willing to spare the time to talk you through whatever you needed to discuss. This included filling you in on seats and subgroups you weren't working in, and explaining more niche or smaller areas of the firm and their operations. Similarly, Graduate Recruitment helped to show us how to network effectively on the first day, meaning we could get a lot out of it straight away.
The social event opportunities were well-organised throughout. Occasionally the socials can feel slightly forced - alternatively, you can get the impression that the whole experience revolves around the socials. With A&O it didn't feel like that. There wasn't a tremendous amount of opportunities to network with partners (other than the final night dinner) - however, given how busy they are this is understandable.
There were plenty of opportunities to find out about additional activities outside of work. Not only did we have specific exercises geared around pro bono and volunteering activities, but the Graduate Recruitment team also matched up our expressed interests with relevant members of the firm and set up coffee chats to allow us to find out more. Similarly, they provided us with the details of Sports Club captains, and many of us attended games/coaching.
I would certainly recommend this insight. Ultimately it's extraordinarily hard to determine what a company or career path is like without trying it out for yourself. Many firms and companies don't realise that the internship/vacation scheme is a two-way process - A&O was fantastic in getting us involved, investing in us and giving us plenty of opportunities to work too. By focusing on the work, it's the best possible way to know if this field and firm is right for you.