Meet the firms networks and groups you could be part of as a trainee:
A&Out is our global network both for staff that identify as LGBT+ and staff that want to support and promote the equality of their LGBT+ colleagues (our allies). Globally, A&Out has over 100 LGBT+ members and over 700 allies. The purpose of A&Out is to raise awareness and to offer support and networking opportunities to A&O staff. The network also focuses on contributing to the business of the firm by developing new client relationships within the LGBT+ community and strengthening existing ones. A&Out members participate in networking events with clients and other law firms and regularly host their own events.
A&O has taken on a growing number of pro bono cases on LGBT+ rights, with some significant successes in recent years.
In the UK, associate Josh Little was awarded a LawWorks Pro Bono Award for his, and the wider A&O teams, work to help campaign for an historic amendment in Parliament to broaden the scope of the disregarding scheme for historical gay sex offences – thereby clearing convictions for thousands of deceased gay and bi men. The scheme became known as ‘Turing’s Law’ after the World War II Enigma code-breaker, Alan Turing, who committed suicide in 1954 following a conviction for gross indecency.
A&O’s team, led by partner Andrew Denny, advised LGBT+ rights organisation Stonewall on how the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 could be extended to clear a wider range of offences not covered by the original scheme, such as holding hands or kissing in public.
There is often a misconception that, at work, your corporate identity must be distinct from your personal or 'true' identity. However, the culture at A&O encourages openness and individuality, and dispels any separation between these two identities, which is particularly significant for LGBTQ+ staff. The A&Out network provides a community of LGBTQ+ staff and, of great importance, allies who welcome and value bringing your LGBTQ+ identity to work. A&Out also has exceptional role models who promote LGBTQ+ rights and equality within A&O and beyond. On my own experience, having 'come out' only shortly before I started at A&O, I felt nothing but warmth and acceptance from all of my colleagues. A&Out also provided a community of LGBTQ+ individuals who have shared similar experiences and been faced with similar hurdles. As a result, I have not once hesitated to bring my true identity to work, which is thanks to the people and the initiatives that make A&O a truly inclusive place of work.
Race and Ethnicity @A&O
In 2018 A&O launched its Race & Ethnicity Committee (Race & Ethnicity at A&O). The aim of the group is to focus on the needs of, and issues affecting, Black, Asian, and minority ethnic people at A&O in London. Since launching, the group has successfully implemented a number of initiatives internally to raise awareness of the issues relating to ethnic diversity at A&O, its objectives and to demonstrate the firm’s commitment to creating a more diverse business. This has included several high profile events (including for Black History Month, Diwali and Eid), a number of education campaigns, articles and a series of focus groups to ask ethnic minority people in the business what they want and need from A&O's race strategy.
Race & Ethnicity at A&O also supports the REACH mentoring programme which offers ethnic minority colleagues and vacation scheme students the opportunity to have a mentor to encourage and support them in creating and nurturing a lasting network of contacts within the firm which will ultimately help them build a solid base for career progression.
Find out more about EMpower
It’s a great to be included in the EMpower 50 Ethnic Minority Future Leaders ranking and I’d like to congratulate all of the others on the list but what’s more exciting is what this list represents. Above all it is recognition of how important it is that we continue push the issue of under representation of ethnic minorities in professional environments, and all the excellent work that is being done to support this objective. Here at A&O, the launch of our BAME network is a big step in the right direction, I look forward to helping the group to grow within the BAME community and beyond.
Gender Equality Network
The Gender Equality network works to support A&O to achieve greater gender equality at all levels of senority within the firm. Their mission is to great a gender-balanced workplace where everyone can fulfil their potential. This includes better empowering women to realise their ambitions, playing a role in recruiting, retaining and progressing women through the business, collaborating with other networks to ensure an intersectional approach to inclusion, and celebrating A&O's gender equality champions and role models.
The Gender Equality Committee works closely with the D&I team to drive forward initatives for change, connects with other external gender networks to create a platform for sharing best practice and partners with external organisations to provide access, opportunity and assistance to potential A&O candidates from underrepresented groups.
Our goal is to create a truly level playing field. Providing effective networks and facilitating open and honest conversations is an important part of achieving this goal. We encourage as many people as possible – men and women – to get involved in the network and take advantage of the opportunities that the network will offer.
A&O launched its Disability Network in 2021. Borne out of the recognition that sometimes what makes us different is visible and sometimes isn’t immediately obvious. We know that differences can be life long, life changing and can change over time but that this shouldn’t be a barrier to anyone achieving their potential.
The network seeks to support colleagues who have a disability, those who have caring responsibilities for people with disabilities and those who are allies. In addition it aims to raise awareness across A&O about issues related to disability in the workplace and beyond.
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A&O has a great approach towards inclusion – there are so many different initiatives and other team members are so supportive. I’ve been through some difficult times to get to where I am now and the resilience and positive attitude that experience engenders is something I feel that the firm values.
A&O Social Mobility Working Group: Social inequality is an issue the world over but we believe in the idea of a fairer society. Our backgrounds should be celebrated and shared but should not define our experiences or limit our opportunities. We want everyone at A&O to meet their potential and flourish.
A&O's Social Mobility Working Group draws on expertise from across the firm to collaborate on social mobility initiatives and aims to raise awareness of the value of a socio-economic diversity. The groups also works to highlight and drive engagment with the social mobility activities that we currently run across our Pro Bono & Community Investment, Diversity & Inclusion and Graduate Recruitment Teams and aims to ensure that everyone in the firm understands the behaviours they personally need to demonstrate to make A&O a supportive and inclusive workplace.
A&O Accelerate gave me an incredible insight into the firm’s global strategy, key practice areas and firm wide initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion. I particularly enjoyed learning about the firm’s innovative culture by engaging in workshops with Fuse because we explored the development of technology to create greater efficiencies within the legal sector. I also enjoyed participating in the networking sessions and completing the due diligence for an M&A case study. Overall, A&O Accelerate developed my professional skills and encouraged me to pursue a career in commercial law. The Graduate Recruitment team were especially accommodating and provided us with invaluable advice on future applications.
We sponsor two of their key programmes, Articles and Discuss, which introduce us to high calibre students from ethnic and social economic disadvantage. These sessions aim to equip them with the skills to be excellent lawyers whether that is at A&O or another firm.
We also we use their contexualised recruitment system which puts candidates' achievements into context.
This partnership helps us to reach a diverse range of people who are interested in a legal career. We have a number of Aspiring Solicitors Ambassadors at the firm who have each benefitted from the support provided and are actively involved in helping the firm promote inclusion in the workplace.