I was pleasantly surprised at how much I thoroughly enjoyed the vac scheme at A&O. Before coming, I thought that the experience at such a high calibre firm would be really competitive and quite stressful. My actual experience has been the complete opposite; I've felt relaxed and able to genuinely be myself for the whole scheme which helped me to really enjoy it.
In terms of work, I think it is difficult to feel really valued because of the fact that a vac schemer is quite limited in what they can do to contribute to actual client work. However, outside of the client work context I have felt really valued at A&O because of things like HR knowing your name straight away and being spoken to like a colleague.
I felt that we received a huge amount of support from Grad Rec to pursue whatever we wanted during our time at the firm like sport and networking. However, I only rated this an 8 because it is difficult to always get guidance on work because our trainers are so busy.
I think that the information I received won't necessarily help with the substantive content of my degree too much because there is only scope to cover a small amount of actual law whilst on a vac scheme. However, I know that the research, presentation and networking skills I have developed will be extremely useful for my degree and even more so beyond when (hopefully) starting the LPC and a training contract.
All of the organized events / talks / presentations were really well structured and this allowed us to really get to know each other as well as the firm. However, I only rated this a 7/10 because there are times when we are sat at our desks feeling like we don't have very much (if any) work to do. It could be useful for trainers to have a bank of resources / tasks that they can go to (perhaps client work already completed) if they run out of things to give their vac schemers.
I found that the atmosphere at A&O, both from the vac scheme and throughout the rest of the firm, was so welcoming, friendly and supportive. Everyone I wanted to meet with from the firm was more than happy to take time out of their day to chat / explain what they do and I thought this created a really inclusive atmosphere.
I think that, to say I was only at A&O for 2 weeks, the firm invested a good amount of time in my personal training and development. Any more would probably be too much in the time (although it was a shame the presentation skills session had to be cancelled). I was also really fortunate to have a trainer who would happily take the time to explain anything I didn't understand (although perhaps this just shows the type of people at the firm).
As mentioned above, the fact that everyone was so willing to explain what they do and talk about life in general at A&O really helped me to understand what a full time job with the firm would be like. I learnt a lot more than I could ever do from a website or brochure because people are so honest and happy to tell the less glamorous sides of their jobs too.
I think culture is really something that cannot be gleaned from a website so spending some time at the firm was invaluable insight into this. Also, the scheme gives us opportunity to talk to people from all levels of hierarchy throughout the firm as well as meet with networks such as the Women's Network. This let us see how the culture is throughout the entirety of the firm rather than just one department.
The vac scheme was really useful for helping to de-mystify the different departments in the firm (although I'm still not sure I know what ICM is). Although I was fortunate in that I knew from quite early on I wanted a career in law as a solicitor, the scheme helped me to decide what area of law I might like to practice in or at least experience during a training contract.
I was fortunate enough that my accommodation was paid for by the firm and I am very grateful because I know this was an exception to the general rule. However, I think a rule whereby accommodation is funded if a vac schemer does not live within a commutable distance would be more welcoming and inclusive.
The trainee buddy system and social events with all vac schemers and buddies provides a readily available wealth of networking opportunities. Also, we were really encouraged and supported to meet for coffees / chats with anyone in the firm and Grad Rec were happy to put us in touch with people who practice in areas we were interested in.
I thought the social events were fantastic, we were really quite spoiled with great food, drinks and fun events. I particularly enjoyed the 'Evasion' social and the fact that it was with trainee buddies because it was fun to work in a team and have a bit of healthy competition. Although it wasn't an A&O organized event, I also really enjoyed watching the football at Lavanda after the Evasion social.
There were some opportunities to find out about what activities employees can get involved in outside of work but this mostly occurred in correspondence before the scheme about what networks we might want to get involved in. It might have been useful to get an opportunity to meet the captains of the various sports teams early on in the scheme.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the vac scheme and would recommend it to both my law and non-law friends.
Insight / Vacation Scheme (< 4 Weeks)
6th July 2018