A&O First involves a 2 day office visit in April and a further return office in September. The scheme is an ongoing programme that enables you to keep in contact with your Trainee Buddy and with the Graduate Recruitment scheme. There is also the opportunity to take part in an international office visit and to become a Campus Executive for the firm.
I really enjoyed this insight at Allen & Overy's First Scheme. There was a perfect blend between informative, interactive sessions (to name a few: a personal brand presentation, a mock negotiation exercise and inside tips for interviews) and social activities (networking over lunch and even ping pong!). The scheme also provided the opportunity to shadow a 'trainee buddy', which allowed me to see for myself what kind of work corporate lawyers got involved in rather than hearing it from other people!
I felt very valued at A&O. Trainees and associates were very willing to answer all of my questions and seemed genuinely interested in my personal journey and ambitions. When shadowing, I felt that everyone was very keen to show me the work that they were doing and were more than happy to explain what was going on to a first year law student. Everyone was also very friendly, smiley and none of the conversations felt fake or forced!
The Graduate Recruitment team were always on hand throughout the scheme to answer any of our questions and it felt as if they really had our back! The trainees and associates that I met also gave invaluable guidance about applications, interviews and life as an A&O solicitor.
What I also loved about the scheme was that it has been an ongoing process - we have been able to keep in contact with our trainee buddies via email and LinkedIn.
The reason why I haven't given a 10/10 here is because I think it would have been useful to have more Q and A sessions with trainees about their experiences of working at A&O and how they managed the interview experience.
The detailed information I received will put me in the best possible position to secure a vacation scheme/training contract at A&O.
There were also skilled based sessions during the scheme (on how to negotiate for example) and workshops on identifying our own competencies.
Naturally, the scheme is much more about giving us an insight into the firm rather than transforming us into students equipped with a mass of legal and personable skills in such a short space of time!
The insight was very well structured - the day was busy so that we were never left sitting around feeling as if we had nothing to do, but at the same time the day was not hectic, which enabled us to process the information that we received. The insight was also balanced out well so that we were constantly experiencing different parts of the firm.
The atmosphere was inclusive, friendly and open. There was no element of competition at all (despite many myths about the legal profession)- all of us as a cohort loved meeting each other and we are rooting for everyone to get their desired vacation scheme/training contract.
When shadowing my trainee buddy I was able to appreciate how collaborative the atmosphere was - paralegals, PAs, trainees and associates were all able to work together but clearly got on very well. I was also able to visit a team on a Friday when it was their cake day!
I did notice that the teams were very busy and the work does seem to pile in - but that is natural with any Magic Circle law firm.
The firm was very interested in helping our personal training and development in the sense that they wanted to prepare us as much as possible for our fast-tracked interview. We also received some sessions to help us develop and grow individually - for example, we were asked to think about our values and make a personal brand statement.
I can only imagine that there will be more personal training and development if an A&O First participants does go on to become a trainee solicitor - a dedicated HR team for trainees will be on hand.
I was fairly able to gauge this from conversations I initiated with trainees and associates.
I think it would have been nice to learn more about employee workings hours, benefits etc and also to hear some accounts of a trainee's, associate's and partner's typical week (although I understand this would be difficult because in this area of law things are so unpredictable!)
It was clear to see A&O's culture from the insight - this not only came across through presentations about A&O's strategy, values and brand, but also was telling from the work shadowing. There is very much an open door policy but it is also clear the firm has a high-performing culture in order to give their clients the very best service.
The content was very valuable in helping me decide on my future career path - the work shadowing in particular gave us the chance to see things from our own perspective. The content was also valuable by clearly laying out the options ahead of us and how best we could pursue our next steps.
The firm offered to reimburse travel expenses to the value of £150, which was able to cover my train and tube travel to and from the office.
When we had a 2-day office visit in April, the firm also put us up in a Citizen M Hotel in Shoreditch if we lived outside of April.
Yes - there were opportunities to network - A&O even had BAME, women and LGBT + networks at one lunch so that we could see its inclusivity efforts. Networking was also possible after our trainee buddies introduced us to their colleagues in their team.
It would have been even better if there was an opportunity to speed network with all kinds of employees at the firm
The networking/ social event opportunities were very good - there was the opportunity to network during lunch breaks but also there were tailored activities for this (for example ping pong)
It would have helped if we were given some advice about how to network effectively I think, especially as although some people on A&O were very confident in this others may not have been depending on their level of exposure to law firms.
I do remember this being mentioned in a session, but I also talked to A&O employees about what they got involved in outside of work.
I think it depends on the employee themselves and what they personally enjoy- I think there are pro-bono opportunities and sports activities available, for example.
I would definitely recommend this insight to a friend - it would be suited for someone who is unsure about whether to pursue a career in commercial law, but it would also be incredibly useful for someone who has already made up their mind and needs some tips for their next steps!