At A&O we recognise that people are different, in ways that we can see and ways that we can’t. We think that is a good thing. As well as creating a rich working environment that makes our work more enjoyable, the business benefits are clear. Being diverse and ensuring that we are inclusive helps us to attract the best people, innovate and understand and relate to our clients.
Hear from Jo, our UK Head of Diversity
For us, the case for attracting and retaining diverse talent is obvious – our product is our people. We and our clients take outstanding legal knowledge as a given – what makes our lawyers the best in the business, is their insight, their willingness to challenge and their delight in solving problems that others see as insurmountable. Diversity of thought is what makes our business successful.
A&Out is Allen & Overy’s global network for our LGBT+ community, with over 100 members and 700 allies across the world, it allows people across A&O to promote and support the equality of their LGBT+ colleagues. Allen & Overy has been named a Top Global Employer by Stonewall and has also been ranked in the top 100 of their UK Workplace Equality Index 2019.
My experience as a gay man – and one who is very much out and proud – has been unbelievable. I expected the firm to be quite conservative but that’s simply not been the case. I’ve felt nothing but warmth from my colleagues and completely accepted for who I am.
A&O BAME network group, called Race & Ethnicity @ A&O, was formed in 2018 and focuses on the needs of and issues affecting Black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals at A&O. It provides networking opportunities for BAME staff, promotes professional relationships with in-house counsel and clients and offers mentoring opportunities for BAME people at all levels. 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.
A&O’s Global Women’s Network, works to ensure that we are a firm where women can achieve their potential and rise to the most senior positions. Though creating genuine equality is a challenge we face globally and the barriers vary depending on jurisdiction, there is a lot that we can learn from each other.
We know it will take time to achieve equal proportions of men and women at the top of our business, but our gender strategy is designed to provide visibility and accountability for making progress every year until we get there. We also know that barriers exist for women in the workplace whatever their role, so many of our initiatives are designed to benefit support staff as well as lawyers.
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 have partnered with Rare recruitment for the past 7 years and have seen true success. 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.
I was a candidate on Rare Recruitment’s “Discuss” programme as I entered my penultimate year of university. I was the first in my family to have qualifications, go to university or work in the City and, prior to the Discuss programme, I had no experience of A&O at all. The Discuss programme gave me first hand exposure to A&O when I visited the firm for an open day. Here, I took part in a commercial case study, I networked with trainees and I learned about the firm’s values from the graduate recruitment team. In fact, by speaking to the graduate recruitment team through Discuss, they put me in touch with members of the firm’s LGBT network, A&Out. This commitment to diversity and going the extra mile for me (an applicant who had very little experience of the city) increased my confidence to apply to a firm like A&O immensely. Additionally, and probably more importantly, it allowed me to imagine myself actually working in a firm like A&O which is something I wouldn’t have contemplated before.
Our work with Aspiring Solicitors 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.
Aspiring Solicitors provided a fantastic platform to gain exposure to the legal sector, participation in the Barclays Legal Week is one highlight that comes to mind. Access to professional ambassadors was also integral. It was invaluable to ask future and current trainees what they thought of the firm, what life was like as a trainee and to ask for application advice. Finally, the aspiring solicitors team were also fantastic ahead of attending interviews. In advance of my interview with A&O, Gemma took the time to help me prepare for my interview, going through preparation questions and suggesting techniques that I could employ to overcome difficult questions.
We work with My Plus Recruiters Club in order to reach candidates with disabilities. As founding members of this group, we continue to attend and host events, workshops and seminars around disability-specific issues, such as best practice throughout the recruitment process.
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.
The A&O Accelerate residential course is run in conjunction with global law firm Allen & Overy and IntoUniversity, with the aim to improve social mobility in the legal industry. For two packed days in August, pre-university students from underrepresented backgrounds are hosted at Allen & Overy’s offices in Bishop’s Square, where they take part in innovative and practical challenges.
My experience on A&O Accelerate was invaluable. During my two days on the programme, I participated in interactive seminars with key themes such as networking, allowing me to gain a theoretical and practical insight into networking etiquette in a professional environment. On the programme, we were tasked with a technology focused project lead by the FUSE department at A&O. We were given the rare opportunity to present our project to a panel of partners and received extremely useful feedback. This helped sharpen my commercial skills, including teamwork, team leading and presenting. After the programme I found my confidence levels, in professional environments, had greatly increased. I also found that I was less intimidated by the idea of applying to law related opportunities at top law firms such as Allen & Overy. The graduate recruitment team were especially accommodating as they shared their advice on making an impression and standing out when applying to A&O. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the culture at A&O and develop a long lasting network of like-minded peers
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We'll be working with and running events at over 30 universities in the UK and Ireland during the academic year 2019-20.