My vacation scheme was extremely enjoyable because of the work I was doing in addition to all the people that I met over the scheme. Although it only lasted 1 week, I felt that I gained a great insight into the work environment of Allen & Overy and I feel confident in saying that A&O has a friendly and supportive culture.
Although only a vacation scheme student, I was given work by senior associates, associates and trainees and I felt valued given that they briefed me on cases they were working on and gave me the opportunity to pitch in and contribute. For example, I was given drafting work and research tasks, and I was able to sit-in on a negotiation call with the client. I sat in the Banking team, and despite not knowing much about Banking law, I was brought up to speed by trainees.
The scheme was well-structured and I had multiple points of contact for support and guidance. For instance, I had a main "trainee buddy" that I liaised with regarding any queries about A&O I had, while I was also partnered up with a senior associate who would supervise me during the scheme. The senior associate then assigned two trainees to ensure that I learnt the basics of the work the team was doing and I felt that I could ask any questions I had.
This scheme was extremely beneficial in giving me a foundation regarding what "banking" actually involves in a corporate law setting. Not only did I develop communication and negotiation skills, it was also my first real experience working in an office and it will definitely assist me in my future career. The information I received from the trainees regarding different terminology was also extremely useful.
Lasting 1 week, we were given a timetable/schedule at the start of the scheme with an outline of all the talks and events that we had planned. The scheme was extremely well-structured, with talks covering a wide variety of areas such as FinTech, mental health, the future of A&O etc. These events were often in the morning or at the end of the day when we were given the chance to network.
The general atmosphere was light-hearted and fun, and I could definitely get the feeling that every student on the vacation scheme really enjoyed the experience. Personally, I loved how nice everyone was and also the type of work that the team was dealing with. Our supervisors also offered us constructive feedback and we could see the open-door policy in action as we could ask any questions at all and they would always have time to discuss it with us.
A&O assigned many associates and trainees to ensure that we felt supported throughout the scheme, and I was taught the basics of what working in a law firm means and what services are offered to clients. I felt that I developed significantly as a result of the vacation scheme, learning new terminology and understanding how to interact in an office environment.
Despite the vacation scheme lasting only 1 week, I feel that I fully understand what a trainee/associate experiences at Allen & Overy. I did tasks that a typical trainee would do and I really enjoyed working under the direction of associates during the scheme. However, trainees and associates did tell me that law is a demanding job and the working hours might be longer than expected.
The vacation scheme helped me to understand what Allen & Overy's culture is like, because it is often difficult to differentiate firms based on their website. Allen & Overy has been one of the nicest firms I've met so far and working there, I truly felt supported to choose the path that I wanted. They helped me with basic issues such as IT and getting settled in, whilst also teaching me how to grapple with different research tasks and deal with complex problems.
The actual day-to-day work was insightful as I performed typical trainee tasks, and it has helped me to understand whether becoming a trainee solicitor is the career path that I want to take in the future. Despite the long working hours, Allen & Overy's friendly culture means that spending most of the day in the office isn't something that'll be hated.
I was paid 450 pounds for the 1 week vacation scheme, and I also had Uber expenses reimbursed after a dinner during the scheme. Definitely appreciate A&O's graduate recruitment team helping us to cover any expenses that we might have. I also know that if students needed to book a hotel for the scheme, A&O could help subsidise/cover it if they had special circumstances etc.
We had ample opportunities to network and meet lawyers from across different practice areas (I was connected with associates from banking, corporate, international capital markets and competition). For example, we had breakfast networking on one of the days, as well as networking with future joiners and current GDL/LPC students at the end of one of the days to enjoy a nice meal at A&O's offices.
Regarding networking within the vacation scheme cohort, there were multiple informal opportunities to meet and the main one was a networking dinner at the Ritz. We also had the opportunity to celebrate the end of the vacation scheme with drinks and cake which was a really nice wrap-up. A&O's graduate recruitment team also encouraged us to get to know each other more as we might become colleagues in the future.
We were given a talk on the pro bono opportunities and charities that A&O partners with, and we had to create a presentation on a group pitching to the charity how to market a new campaign. While it was a fun exercise, I felt that we could learn more about different pro bono initiatives and how lawyers at A&O can get involved.
I would absolutely recommend this vacation scheme to a friend, not only because of Allen & Overy's reputation, but also because of how nice and friendly everyone was and how much I learnt from getting to work on real transactions. I genuinely felt valued and I hope to join Allen & Overy in the future.