It was really enjoyable. Our vacation scheme was made virtual for the first time, due to coronavirus. To say that all the sessions had to be online, it was clear a lot of organisation had gone into making the sessions as fulfilling and varied as possible. It was clear the other vac schemers were likeminded so it was easy to network and work in teams. There was a good mix of activities (social and business) to get a better feel for the company
It was clear a lot of time and interest was invested in us as students and I could see that it would be the case as an employee with A&O too. Nothing seemed too much trouble or off limits and there was always someone at the end of an email if we needed to ask anything. Everyone was really friendly and made us feel welcome which was reassuring especially if you would have felt uneasy in such a corporate environment ordinarily.
We received as much guidance as was possible remotely. We could email people in Grad Recruitment, our trainee buddy or our trainer, alongside members of our team for the teamwork exercise.
We were allocated a trainee buddy a few weeks before the scheme if we had anything to ask in general, which was not assessed. And we were allocated a trainer who was either Associate/Partner in our chosen seat, who we could direct more specific firm questions towards
We got a good insight into all areas of the firm, which was useful for us to make an informed decision about our futures and preferred seats for the training contract. It was useful to see typical work done by the different departments. When at Uni I will bear it in mind when choosing modules etc and when approaching tasks. Choosing modules at uni which have a more business/finance focus will definitely benefit you going forwards
Excellent. There was a good mixture of social activities, to get to know our peers and A&O better. We heard from the networks and Pro Bono initiatives also, which is something open to trainees to take part in. We also were lucky enough to hear from Gareth Price, Managing Partner, who provided a realistic view of the future of the legal sector and specifically A&O. We also heard from trainees and associates talk about their work which is more relatable to us at a junior level
Very welcoming. Everyone was really friendly and willing to help. You imagine that law vac schemes in general are really competitive and that a lot of people will come from privileged backgrounds, but it was not the case at all. There was a really good mix of people, and a diverse group, everyone was really down to earth. It did not feel like a competitive process and it was said that the most competitive part was leading up to the original interview anyway
They definitely went above and beyond. We were sent gifts in the post before we actually took part which was a lovely gesture. We were shown how we could develop personally and professionally if we were to work at the firm or if we were to undertake training with the firm. There seemed to be an open-door policy in terms of queries or how things can be improved and changed. There is definitely a high-performance culture but if you are at the stage of vac schemes you are already aware of that and have accepted it
Hearing from staff at all different levels, from entry level to partner, it gave a good impression of how you can improve and progress. I felt able to ask any questions, specifically on secondment opportunities and working with other offices. It seems there is a very collaborative culture but that each department greatly varies, on the scale of work but also the amount of work and type of work. The four-seat training contract would definitely give you a good idea of where you would like to qualify
You could tell that everyone involved in the scheme was so because they really wanted to be there and promote the scheme. It was not forced or false and although there are long hours and hard work involved, there was definitely the impression left that they support each other and are open minded when it comes to wellbeing and not being overstretched. It is a friendly business environment on a global scale. The size of A&O can seem quite intimidating at first but it should be viewed as opportunity instead
There was a strong emphasis on having done well to get to the stage of the vac scheme so there was less pressure going forwards. I felt that the scheme taught me things I wouldn't have otherwise known, not just about A&O but also about law in general, and this has shaped my view going forwards on what I want to do. I had already known what I wanted to do, which has not changed, but become more "streamlined".
Yes, we were paid well, £450 per week. Our scheme was meant to be two weeks but was condensed to one because of becoming virtual, which was fine as we were still paid for the week. We were also sent gifts in the post which was a nice touch. I think if the scheme takes place physically you are usually reimbursed for expenses and taken out for a meal as a team which is also great
Yes, we met a wide range of people. We had a trainee buddy who is currently undertaking their training contract who can advise you on the process from Uni to Trainee. We had a trainer, who was a senior member of the department who could advise on department-specific questions and also about progression through the career. We could ask Grad Rec about any questions relating to the process going forwards too. We met people who run the 'extra-curricular' networks too
Because we were a virtual experience, we did not have the same level of networking as a face-to-face scheme, but the social events were relaxed and a good break from the more formal rest of the day, and involved casual chat and laughter. . . . We had a virtual quiz and also an end of scheme catch up. We also had a review with a member of Grad Rec at the end to discuss highs and lows of the scheme
Yes there was a strong focus on pro bono, networks, womens network, BAME, LGBTQ+, social mobility etc. I think the firm is trying to improve their diversity and equality so there was a lot to get involved with in terms of that. It was reassuring and refreshing to hear from an associate who came from a background not typical of a lawyer and how he wants to increase access to the industry. There is no shortage of things to get involved in
Absolutely. It was a great privilege to be invited on the scheme but also a personal challenge to get through what is an intensely competitive recruitment process. Although the scheme was short and virtual, I felt that I already made potential friends as we were 'all in the same boat'. It was great to see how such a firm operates day-to-day and be able to speak to people openly about life as a trainee/lawyer