I sat in two practice areas over the course of the three-week scheme and was assigned a trainer at each of those seats. Most of the tasks I did involved proofreading and legal research. My favourite piece of work involved doing legal research and drafting a response to a query from one of the organisations that A&O volunteers with.
I found that there was a good balance between the scheduled talks on different practice areas and time at our desks for actual work for our trainers. The talks on practice areas and on other aspects of the firm were largely well-delivered, and speakers were honest about the difficulties of the work. My trainers gave me a good array of work that was both interesting and challenging, and were happy to answer questions whenever they arose. There was also a project we had to do about halfway through the scheme, which made for an interesting exercise in time management and teamwork. I felt that, overall, I received a lot of support from my trainer, my trainee buddy, and the graduate recruitment team.
As a vacation scheme student, I knew that I could hardly be expected to provide much value in the way of legal insight or commercial acumen. Being enthusiastic about the work and asking lots of questions, however, seemed to be enough for the people I interacted with, who never made me feel particularly silly and who took the time to answer my questions and to explain what they were doing or asking me to do. Everyone I spoke with at the firm struck me as very friendly. Most of them seemed quite happy to have a batch of vacation scheme students to help out with whatever we could. I was thanked sincerely every time I handed in a piece of work, and people seemed genuinely grateful for our help.
I received a great amount of guidance and support during the vacation scheme. People who set me work were always happy to explain the tasks they had set out for me, and to give some background information into the tasks so I'd know the context. I was given a lot of useful feedback for each task I completed. Additionally, lawyers I spoke with were happy to share their experience working at the firm. The graduate recruitment team also provided a lot of support throughout the scheme and made sure that we were well looked after.
The skills I developed and information I took in during this vacation scheme should stand me in good stead for my future career. I learned a lot about the different practice areas, and in particular, about the two I sat in during the course of the scheme - I learned what sort of work goes on in those areas, the skills that are valued or necessary for those who would like to join those areas, and whether I would be well-suited to those areas. I also learned more about the firm itself, the areas that it specialises in, and the way it operates as a business. I also learned more about the different roles that trainees, associates, partners and other members of the firm play, and how these interact with each other. Skills-wise, I learned more about negotiation and working with people.
The vacation scheme was very well structured. We each received a folder on our first day, which indicated which seats we would be in and what talks and social events had been arranged for us. The timetable was largely adhered to, with the exception of a number of talks. We received email reminders from the graduate recruitment team prior to the social events. There were a few days where I had some difficulty finding time to do the work that had been set by my trainer, but it was all manageable in the end.
The general atmosphere was congenial. Our batch did not seem particularly competitive, with the exception of a few individuals. Although we all knew what was at stake and wanted training contract offers, most of us did not let that get to our heads; at the same time, we all seemed reasonably competent and professional, and nobody did anything outrageous at the firm. The social events served to bring us closer to each other while letting us get to know lawyers at the firm in a more informal setting. We (the vacation scheme students) ended up meeting up a couple of times outside of the scheduled social, which was quite nice.
The firm seemed quite invested in the vacation scheme students. We were given a fair number of presentations on different aspects of the firm, including the practice areas and pro bono opportunities. We had the opportunity to ask questions at these sessions and the speakers seemed quite happy to share their experience with us and to talk about what sorts of values they were looking for. I also received a lot of training from my trainers and from other lawyers in the practice areas I sat in. This took the form of giving me a range of tasks, explaining the context, and giving me feedback, both informal and formal.
I learned about what it would be like to have a full-time role in a number of ways. Firstly, speakers at the presentations would tell us about their own experience at the firm. Secondly, I could observe the lawyers around me to see what they did on a day-to-day basis and how they coped with the challenges. We also had the opportunity to ask questions of lots of lawyers at the firm at different levels in more informal settings, such as over dinner sponsored by the firm. All in all, this was a very useful experience in getting to know what lawyers do full-time at the firm.
This vacation scheme was very helpful in this respect. Through interacting with a large number of people every day in a variety of settings across three weeks, I observed first-hand how people at this firm work. I learned that Allen & Overy's reputation as a friendly firm was very well-founded indeed. People I spoke with were always courteous and eager to help; smiling faces were the norm. I had initially been slightly skeptical that such an internationally successful firm could have such an environment, but I could see for myself that people at the firm did indeed manage to be both friendly and efficient.
I was paid 250 pounds per week. The scheme was three weeks long, so this made for a fair allowance over the summer holiday.
Yes, there were lots of opportunities to do so at practice area talks and socials. I also got to interact with other people in my practice area, as my trainers took me around their respective departments and introduced me to everyone. I asked for, and received, the opportunity to do work for a large number of them.
The social events were good fun, and I appreciated the thought that had been put into organising them. In particular, the Duck Tour of London and the dimsum-making class were a departure from what I'd come to expect from law firm socials, and gave the vacation scheme students the chance to bond outside of work.
Yes, I learned that there were plenty of pro bono opportunities, as well as a large number of sports and recreational clubs. One of the trainees I spoke with likened working at A&O to the next step on from university. My trainee buddy actually got me involved with one of her pro bono inquiries, which I found to be a very exciting and rewarding opportunity.
I would heartily recommend this insight to friends who are thinking of working as a commercial solicitor. I enjoyed the work that I had been set and the conversations I had with different people at the firm. This scheme was well-organised and a lot of fun, and I did feel at the end of it that I had learned a lot about the firm and that I actively wanted to join the firm. A&O really showed itself to be a very welcoming firm, and I'm very glad I took part on this vacation scheme.