I went for A&O First, a 2-day insight programme at the firm that buddies you up with a mentor to help you develop throughout the year, at the end of which I'll interview for a TC. The programme was packed and thoroughly enjoyable - the commercial awareness sessions, workshops, and networking events were all engaging.
It was a short programme but it's clear that a huge amount of effort went into its planning and execution - I was put in a hotel since I'm not based in London, and lots of fee-earners (including partners) made time to come talk to us.
The highlight for me is the mentorship programme. A&O buddies you up with someone you can relate to (for me, my buddy and I went to the same uni) and we got along really really well. My buddy has been immensely helpful and supportive, and we catch up when I'm in London.
It's not useful to my degree, but that's more a function of Oxford law being quite irrelevant to solicitor work for the most part. The commercial awareness and networking skills I picked up definitely came in handy - a valuable advantage for TC applications.
It was only 2 days long, but it was quite packed full of events in those 2 days. Each day felt fulfilling but not overly long, and adequate breaks between events kept us refreshed.
Almost everyone I met was immensely keen. HR was completely supportive, fee earners we met were enthusiastic, and all the attendees were no doubt happy to be there. I really enjoyed meeting our counterparts from Brussels, who travelled to London to attend the scheme with us and were very fun to be around.
The fact that a law firm is investing so much in someone that'd potentially work for them only 3 years later is astounding to me, but definitely in a good way. No doubt a lot of content that was covered was only introductory, but the impression I get is that of a keen commitment to training the best possible solicitors.
There's no better way to gain an insight into work than to actually shadow solicitors in the course of their work, which was a significant portion of the programme. I sat through several hours of a live deal, which was quite insightful.
I've interacted with dozens of staff at A&O at all different levels of seniority, which is as good a picture as I can get without actually working there.
I've always been quite keen on being a solicitor, but the insight made me quite sure about my choice of firm too.
I wasn't paid, which is only fair since I didn't actually do any work. All meals and transport was covered, as well as accommodation for one night. It was a pretty nice hotel too.
Networking opportunities were incorporated into the programme. Aside from dedicated sessions, each activity left time for questions and networking, so I ended up meeting people from various practice areas and at various different stages of their career.
Pretty good. There was a nice social at a place at Shoreditch which was pretty fun (a bar with ping pong) so that was great to chill at.
I don't think this is something people tell you unless you ask, but I did ask and some people had some interesting hobbies.
When I started uni I was surprised to learn that there were even programmes for first-years, but I was absolutely floored by the amount of effort put into it. Top-drawer stuff.