I really enjoyed the Winter Vacation Scheme with Allen & Overy. The scheme ran smoothly and was organised, enabling us to make the most of the 5 days we had. The graduate recruitment team organised a number of sessions for us that were not only useful in understanding more about the firm, but also to develop our own skillset. These included a practice area networking breakfast, a coding evening, business services game and multiple 'coffee chats'.
I certainly felt valued whilst on this scheme. Members of the firm were extremely keen to meet up to have a chat about their experiences and offer any advice. This was impressive given how busy their schedules were. A&O had a very friendly vibe. I felt that partners were keen to talk, though I did feel was a sense of hierarchy.
During the insight we received a large amount of guidance and support with regards to learning more about the firm. The graduate recruitment team were keen to organise chats with anyone who shared similar interests, for example. With regards to the work itself, there was a decent amount of support and guidance from our supervisors and others.
Although the week was geared towards developing a career in the legal sector, there were some skills that I found could assist me. There was, for example, a session problem solving and creative thinking by a member of the Fuse team. Not only was this enjoyable but I felt the exercises encouraged us to think out of the box. Other skills such as networking and learning to be proactive were greatly improved.
The scheme was incredibly well structured. We were given a good amount of information before starting and on the first day, presented with a timetable. The graduate recruitment team had organised a number of diverse events which ran very smoothly. There was, however, still enough time to organise meetings independently, providing some flexibility.
The atmosphere was brilliant; this was also helped by the festive period. My cohort and members of the A&O team were very friendly. There wasn't a competitive atmosphere at all and this made it easier to make friends and really enjoy the week. Not feeling like we were constantly being assessed was also a benefit as people were able to be themselves.
Although it was a short week, the graduate recruitment team did target some sessions towards personal training and development. These included sessions on coding, business services, a pro bono presentation and a tech problem solving challenge. I felt these sessions helped to develop a wide variety of skills but were also very topical and tailored to the technological/entrepreneurial strength of the firm.
Although the vacation scheme was very enjoyable, I'm not sure it was the most accurate representation of what a week as a trainee solicitor is like. The week did help us get a feel for the friendly culture of the firm but less so the working life of a solicitor. This is, however, understandable as the firm couldn't provide us with important tasks and so they accommodated by encouraging us to speak to as many people as possible.
The vacation scheme provided a strong insight into the friendly and collegiate culture at A&O. The graduate recruitment team did their best to ensure we could meet with a variety of people. If, for example, we expressed an interest in sports, choir, BAME, women or LGBT networks, they had already set up meetings. There were also numerous events such as a Christmas party and dinner to which partners and other members of the firm were invited.
The scheme certainly assured me that my decision to be a solicitor was the right one, despite not having the chance to try out a large amount of work. More than this, the content was useful in learning more about different areas and sectors that I had little knowledge about, such as international capital markets.
We were paid £450 for our 5 day vacation scheme at A&O, though tax was deducted making it around £350. For those who had to move to London for the scheme, and had extenuating financial circumstances, the firm were able to provide for the cost of accommodation in a hotel room.
There were numerous opportunities to network and meet other employees. Grad rec had organised coffee chats with people who shared similar interests such as sports teams, choir or LGBT/BAME/Women networks. There were also events to which members of the firm were invited such as dinner and drinks. Employees were more than happy to meet up or have a chat outside of the formal, structured events too.
The social events were great, particularly the dinner. The dinner took place at Galvins at Windows in London. We took the tube there and sat with partners/members of Grad Rec who rotated at each course. There was also a future trainees Christmas party with drinks and food which was enjoyable.
There seemed to be a number of activities employees could get involved in, and Grad Rec had set up meetings to speak to those involved prior to our arrival. The facilities were incredible including music rooms and a gym etc. which allow for more activities such as choir and various sports clubs. There seemed also to be scope to start something if one were interested.
I would definitely recommend this vacation scheme - it was great fun and I picked up a whole host of skills.