Our people

Meet our people.

Fiona Joe Sin Yeoh

A&O First, Future Trainee

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Fiona Joe Sin Yeoh

A&O First, Future Trainee

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My first few weeks at A&O...

Studied Law at University College London

A&O First gave me a sneak peek into the life of a trainee solicitor at the firm. Even as a potential applicant, A&O has exposed me to high quality training through the Think! Business Challenge and a negotiation exercise to develop my soft skills. Besides that, I was assigned my trainee buddy, David, who helped me understand the various practice areas and day-to-day role of a trainee. I was also given the opportunity to meet many other trainees, associates and partners in various departments who kept in touch with me throughout the year. The support network that I experienced showed me the firm’s inclusive nature and truly reflects the collaborative and supportive culture that the firm has. Moreover, under the A&O First programme, I had the opportunity to work as the firm’s Campus Executive at UCL, which has allowed me to get to know the Graduate Recruitment team even better.

When it came to my Training Contract application, A&O First helped me to prepare as I participated in webinars and skill sessions. It really helped me with the online application questions and two interviews.

On the Assessment Day itself, I did not have to worry about getting lost on the way to the office as I have already been there numerous times. Seeing familiar faces from Graduate Recruitment and meeting my trainee buddy for coffee afterwards helped me to relax and enabled me to build rapport quickly with my interviewers. Furthermore, having been in contact with A&O for almost nine months, speaking about why I want to work in A&O has become second nature to me and I was able to articulate my reasons well and support them with my participation in A&O First.

Getting a phone call with my Training Contract offer on Monday morning the week after my interview felt like my whole journey on A&O First ended on a high note. The best part came in terms of drafting countless thank-you-emails to the many people I knew from A&O who have helped me through my application process. I am comforted by the fact that if I were to accept this Training Contract offer, I would already have friends in the firm.

George Poulston

International Vacation Scheme, Current Trainee

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George Poulston

International Vacation Scheme, Current Trainee

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Studied Natural Sciences at Durham

I was very grateful to be given the opportunity to work in the Hong Kong office on the International Vacation Scheme. Going to Hong Kong allowed me to consolidate the skills and knowledge I developed on the London Vacation Scheme, where I sat in International Capital Markets (ICM) and gave me the chance to experience a different practice area – arbitration. Many skills such as attention to detail, verbal communication, clear drafting, teamwork and transaction/case management were immediately transferable, and I cemented these during my time in Hong Kong. However, the nature of the new practice area had me doing more research tasks and allowed me to become more acquainted with the vast array of resources on offer at A&O, as well as improve upon my legal knowledge of international arbitration.

There is a very strong connection between the London and Hong Kong offices. I met many lawyers who have frequently been able to move between the two locations either for secondments or even permanently. For example, all the trainees in Hong Kong spend six months in London at the end of their training contracts. Every six months some of the London trainees are flown out on international secondment. It is no surprise that I recognised the familiar warm and encouraging culture that I experienced on the London Vacation Scheme. It was great to be around such a diverse range of people who practise Hong Kong, English and US law, and sometimes even a combination of the three. This not only shows the level of collaboration and integration between the A&O offices worldwide, but the sheer breadth of opportunities on offer at our firm.

The International Vacation Scheme was a fantastic week that went by in a flash. It gave me the opportunity to witness the international strength of this global elite law firm whilst gaining real work experience. On the last day of the scheme I joined the Hong Kong Vacation Scheme participants to help clean up one of the beaches on Lamma Island in the afternoon, followed by a great dinner with all the trainers. This was the highlight of the scheme for me because it demonstrated that A&O values its social and environmental responsibilities across the globe, as well as its people.

Jessica Goodwin

Associate, Real Estate

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Jessica Goodwin

Associate, Real Estate

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A day in the life

Studied Government & Politics at Bristol University

I joined A&O as a trainee back in 2012. During my Training Contract, I spent my first seat in the Banking department and my second in the General Securities Group within the International Capital Markets (ICM) practice. Since qualifying I’ve spent some time on secondment at a bank, and I’ve now joined the Real Estate practice.

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure what to expect from ICM. I researched the capital markets before joining and I remembered some terms, such as the ‘Prospectus Directive’ from the LPC, but besides that, ICM GSG seemed like a whole new world!

The ICM department provided us with a week of intense training at the beginning of the seat, which was a great way to learn the basics of capital markets law and begin to understand the regulatory requirements. It acted as a useful introduction into the type of work we would be doing, such as drafting base prospectuses and running the signing of programme updates, as well as providing an opportunity to meet other trainees and associates in our teams.

The general securities group is split into several smaller groups, with one or two partners overseeing each one. The two partners in the group were both called Jonathan, which made it easy to mix them up every now and again! The group was very welcoming and warm. We often went for team lunches and everyone helped out if someone was particularly busy. I asked lots of questions about the markets and the trades we were working on, and found that this was always well received by the associates and partners. My experience was that there is no such thing as a stupid question and the training I received was fantastic as everyone, my trainer Stephanie in particular, consistently took the time to explain the mechanics of the deal and our role.

In terms of the work, we focussed on setting up trades, updating programmes and helped publish supplements to trades. This involved numerous stages including drafting documents, submitting documents to the relevant stock exchanges and then running the signings and closings. Trainees are able to get involved in all aspects, and I even had the opportunity to run my own updates, which were challenging but really interesting. There is lots of direct communication with clients and other research tasks to get involved in too. So there is plenty of work to keep you busy!

Speaking of being busy, the work-life balance at A&O is really good. The days are busy but you can leave at a reasonable hour most nights. Generally the timetables are set in advance and it’s possible to manage your own workload accordingly. Obviously some times are busier than others, but that is part of the job and can make it quite exciting! Overall though, there is a general sense that work-life balance is important and you’ll often see people heading off to a spinning or running class for an hour in the middle of the day.

Matt Short

Associate, Leveraged Finance

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Matt Short

Associate, Leveraged Finance

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Overview

Studied Law at Leicester University

Following my Training Contract, I qualified into Leveraged Finance, which is part of our Banking practice. Leveraged Finance helps companies, particularly Private Equity groups, to raise large volumes of cash to buy companies (amongst other things). As a trainee in this area you are more involved with ancillary documentation, for example, the documents allowing companies to enter into the loans. Now that I’m qualified, I play a more active role in leading the transactions, liaising with counsel in different jurisdictions and making sure that the lenders are comfortable with how they will be repaid – and what they can do if the transaction doesn’t go to plan further down the line.

When I first applied to A&O, I was sure to let them know that I would need some additional support due to a condition I have. I suffered from bone cancer in my teens and had to have my leg amputated. The firm have been very supportive and have been great at letting me know how they could support me, but rather than imposing anything on me, they let me guide them on what I needed. For example, my prosthesis needs maintenance or repair sometimes and that can take me out of the office; the firm has always been very supportive, giving me whatever time I need for this. I remember once I had an emergency appointment, which came at a very busy time in our team, but the emphasis was still very much on supporting me – maybe I shouldn’t snap it in future!

A lot of firms stress the value they place on hiring people who have interesting and active lifestyles and A&O is no different in that respect. I love the outdoors and being active: I ski, play football, hike and climb. 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 firm’s ethos is to be the best, and that encompasses being a great place to work and having a strong culture. We know that our clients (and other members of the team) value building relationships and establishing trust with people from all kinds of backgrounds and life experiences, and that means we have to be diverse ourselves. It’s something the firm does really well and I’ve really appreciated that since the day I started.

Chris Cobb

Associate, Litigation IP

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Chris Cobb

Associate, Litigation IP

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Overview

Studied Pharmacology and completed a PhD at The University of Manchester

During the course of my PhD I reached a point where I’d run out of love for the lab, so I decided to research careers outside of my field and considered where I could use the skills I’d developed. I was attracted to law as it was an opportunity to apply my research skills to a complex and evolving career. I attended a number of law fair presentations and found out quickly that I could relate to the people I met from A&O – they spoke with passion and also seemed to really enjoy the work.

I think what impressed me most when I first started as a trainee was the sense that I was working with people performing at the highest level. There’s also an appetite to ask questions and to keep finding ways of doing things better; ideas are welcomed no matter what level they come from, so even as a trainee, I know that I can contribute. A&O doesn’t have a hierarchical environment, so it’s really easy to speak with partners and learn from them.

I started my Training Contract in banking and then moved into intellectual property litigation in my second seat. During my third seat I sat in corporate M&A. I really enjoyed the involvement I had with the clients, from small private companies to large listed companies, and I gained a much better understanding of how a number of different businesses operate. The breadth of experience was fantastic and gave me such a great insight into different areas and A&O’s capabilities.

I received a lot of support from the firm throughout my training. The culture is very open; people across the business are approachable so you can always ask questions - even the ones you think have an obvious answer! There’s a lot of online know-how you have access to as well. For example, I was recently given the task of putting together the first draft of an asset purchase agreement. I hadn’t done this before but was able to find examples of how to structure the document and advice on when you might include certain provisions based on the client’s business. It means you’re rarely starting from scratch and it’s then down to using your judgement and knowledge of the deal to include the relevant information. As a trainee these resources were invaluable and it meant that I could take advantage of the firm’s experience to reach a solution independently, before discussing with my trainer.

Some of the most challenging work I did as a trainee was in litigation. I had to get up to speed with a complex matter very quickly and understand the fine points of law so that I could prepare for a hearing in a pharmaceutical patent case. I was involved in drafting and collating documentation, which would go before the judge, liaising with solicitors for the other party and assisting counsel in their preparations. It was really great to be in the hearing and see the pieces come together.

As a trainee you are usually working on several matters simultaneously so you need to be confident in your prioritisation and organisational skills. A key part of the training process is analysing the changes people have made to your drafting and, for your own development, understanding why those changes have been made. Trainers and associates are always happy to discuss these, which makes the learning process a lot easier.

The best advice I can offer is to make the most of the skills you have picked up along the way but also try to develop new ones, particularly in areas that will make you stand out. Taking on roles that involve co-ordinating a team or organising an event is a great starting point and will pay dividends as a trainee, and beyond.

Fatima Shawaf

Associate, Corporate

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Fatima Shawaf

Associate, Corporate

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Associate

Studied Law at Cambridge University

I wanted a career that provides a constant intellectual challenge and allows me to continue to learning and developing a range of skills. Being a solicitor at Allen & Overy is exactly that. 

A&O’s scope of work includes commercial, economic, political and international dimensions across a range of industries, which has made both my A&O Training Contract and my experience as an associate in the corporate department very varied. As a trainee, I worked on deals and matters involving media, corporate governance, the regulation of the UK’s financial sector, renewable energy and oil and gas, before going on an international secondment to the firm’s Paris office.

A big part of my role, both as a trainee and an associate, is to quickly develop an understanding of our clients’ business: what direction their sector is moving in, what pressures they are facing, how their particular industry is changing. Being able to advise our clients often requires having an understanding of the law as well as being able to analyse how the law can be applied to solve problems, resolve situations or capitalise on opportunities particular to their industry.

As a trainee I worked very closely with a supervisor in each seat who spent a lot of time supporting and guiding me. Alongside that, each department provides a variety of training sessions, such as fortnightly team meetings or presentations of recent deals and transactions, where experts in a particular field provide updates on recent legal and commercial developments. These training sessions and meetings also give us an insight into the experience of the firm’s network and who we could contact for advice on a particular issue; in a global firm such as A&O, that person could be sitting at the desk next to yours, in another department or on the other side of the world.

During my Training Contract I was given the opportunity to spend 6 months’ on an international secondment to A&O’s Paris office, working in the Banking and Project Finance department (which was an area I’d worked in as a trainee in London). I was living in Paris, acting mostly for French banks and companies, providing advice and assistance on English law governed transactions. As a trainee, this could include advising on points of law and working closely with our clients and the deal team, to ensure that the transaction process from the initial negotiation of the legal documents to the signing of these documents is managed efficiently. As a fourth seat trainee, I was able to take on more substantive work and so, from a development perspective, my time in Paris definitely pushed me to learn new skills and competencies.

A&O takes great care of its secondees while on international secondment. I was able to live in a centrally located apartment 10 minutes from the office and was given weekly language lessons before and during my secondment. My French wasn’t great before I went, and whilst I wouldn’t now say I’m fluent, I definitely saw an improvement!

I had a great time living and working in Paris and was able to explore the museums, galleries and enjoy the French culture, whilst developing an understanding of A&O’s wider global network. As one of a number of international secondees based in Paris, I developed strong friendships with the other trainees and associates based in Paris and I am still in contact with colleagues I met whilst there.

For me, working and living in Paris was a highlight of my Training Contract. It was fantastic to live and work in such a vibrant European city, and it’s definitely something I’d recommend to anyone joining A&O.

David Berman

Associate, Litigation – Banking, Financial and Regulatory

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David Berman

Associate, Litigation – Banking, Financial and Regulatory

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Overview
Studied a Bachelor of International Studies and a Bachelor of Laws at University of New South Wales.
I worked in another firm in Sydney, Australia for three years before I began to get itchy feet and wanted to experience something new; relocating to the UK and working in a London firm was a perfect opportunity to do just that. As soon as I got to know A&O I felt at home – the firm is so down to earth and I immediately felt it was a good fit for me.

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.

When I arrived here, the LGBT network, A&Out, was languishing a little so I have been heavily involved in the rebranding of our network along with other members and the diversity & inclusion team. Some of the best advocates for change are those outside the LGBT community; if you can get them supporting LGBT and other diversity issues, then you can make better progress more quickly. So, I have worked closely with the network and the D&I senior manager to establish a place for allies in the network, to show support for A&Out and LGBT colleagues.

We had Ben Cohen, the former England rugby star and leading campaigner for LGBT inclusion, at our A&Out launch event. We’ve also had support from Wim Dejonghe, the new senior partner, who, through a broadcast to the whole firm spoke about our global focus and commitment to our LGBT community through A&O’s global diversity strategy. It states that our LGBT colleagues should feel welcome, know that they are valued and be confident that they will not be excluded or held back in any way. Whether you identify as LGBT or not, it is recognised that we are all responsible for making this happen.
Having supported the relaunch of the network, I’m now looking at ways of supporting other LGBT colleagues in our offices around the world.

The firm is a real champion of diversity and inclusion. A&O also values individuality, so when you come to work you are expected to be yourself and the culture here is supportive of that aim. A&Out raises the profile of LGBT lawyers, so that people can choose to be open about who they are when they join the firm. When entering the corporate world, as much as 40% of LGBT students don’t feel they can talk openly about who they are and that is simply not the culture here at A&O.

Our A&O Together event recently was attended by over 250 people from around the firm and everyone was given a mug carrying the message ‘I support my LGBT colleagues’. If just one of those is on a partner’s desk during an office tour it will send a powerful message to any prospective trainee that the environment here is diverse and inclusive.

Of course, this is still a law firm, and I have a job to do, so all these activities fit in around a demanding workload, but ultimately I get a lot of encouragement to drive these initiatives.

Sarah Henchoz

Partner, Employment

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Sarah Henchoz

Partner, Employment

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My first few weeks at A&O...

Studied Law at the University of Leeds

I came to the firm via an unusual route. I trained at another City firm and had started my career there, then moved in-house at Barclays before returning to practice with A&O. In that time, law in general has changed immeasurably. Lawyers used to be very highly specialised, but increasingly clients want a much more holistic view of law; they want to know about employment, data protection, regulatory and IP, not just in the UK but internationally, and how all those elements affect their global business. So there are more opportunities to diversify as a professional and enjoy a more wide-ranging career.

At the same time the working environment at A&O has also evolved. Any fee earner can now work flexibly thanks to our I-flex programme, which means that you have a lot more control over your diary. You have to let people know where you will be, for example, if you’re working from home, but it means you can have a lot of flexibility. For me, it allows me to leave early to see my children and then log back on later from home.

For trainees there is still a requirement to be in the office because they need that intensive learning environment, as well as the exposure to other professionals, but training is also much more sophisticated these days. Trainees are such an integral part of our deal teams; they are given so much responsibility and client exposure.

I joined the firm more than 10 years ago and even now I’m regularly surprised by the sheer quality of the people at the junior end of our business. They are so knowledgeable and articulate, and they present with such authority and confidence, but also without any complacency.

I have responsibility for our pro bono clinic so I’m very much involved with the trainees who staff it and I review the advice they give. It’s wonderful experience for them as it takes them into areas of law that lie outside our usual work, but it’s also great for them to develop their soft skills – relationship building, listening and empathy.

I think to be a trainee here you really have to be motivated and hungry for experience. Get past any reticence you may feel early on, so that you can dive into the job – that way you will get more interesting work and more out of each seat. Be prepared to make mistakes – that’s how you learn.

When it comes to your application, you don’t have to be super-human. I had a trainee whose only previous experience was working in a shoe shop, but she showed that she had learned about customer service, relationship building and merchandising; it’s about showing that you’ve reflected on your experiences and learned from them.

Senem Cilingiroglu

Winter Vacation Scheme, Future Trainee

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Senem Cilingiroglu

Winter Vacation Scheme, Future Trainee

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My first few weeks at A&O...

Studied Liberal Arts at Yale then Architecture and Urban Design at Cambridge University

I applied for the Winter Vacation Scheme. It was such a valuable two weeks for me as a student coming from a non-law background, because I wanted to get some hands-on experience of what a career in the legal profession would look like, and also the culture of a large firm.

I had done other vacation schemes and open days but the A&O scheme stood out for two reasons: firstly, I learned so much about the industry and secondly, it was so much fun. I sat with a senior associate in Corporate Public M&A, observed his work, sat in on client calls and was able to complete some work which one of the trainees had been focusing on. I actually worked on a deal that I have since read about in the Financial Times, so it was really exciting to know that would happen even at a junior level!

The scheme also includes some skills training and a client pitch exercise which you complete in teams. This was really interesting as it gave me an insight into the profession which I’d never really thought of before.

What surprised me most was the way everyone made time for me – on the pitch exercise I asked for help from at least six people and they were all happy to take the time to explain things to me and offer their support. I had expected people to be too busy for that, but they always took the time, which made such a difference.

Sitting in on a client conference call I was struck by how the A&O lawyers were so professional and efficient. If the client had a question, they would mute the phone, have a quick discussion and then get back on to provide an answer, or offer advice.

The scheme gave me a really good chance to see day-to-day life at the firm, and I especially valued the lunch I had with my trainee buddy; everyone is assigned a buddy and mine was very great. We were very well matched – she didn’t have a law background either – and I could ask her all the questions that I might not want to put to a supervisor, for example why she joined the firm, whether those reasons had been validated by experience, where she wanted to qualify. I learned so much from her.

When it comes to interview, it’s easy to try to fit into a perceived mould but I’d advise candidates to be themselves. The firm’s not looking for clones but for independent thought, different backgrounds and perspectives that will bring something new to what they can offer.

Edward Hirst

Summer Vacation Scheme, Future Trainee

Edward Hirst

Summer Vacation Scheme, Future Trainee

My first few weeks at A&O...

Studied PPE at Durham University 

I applied for a Vacation Scheme so as to affirm my desire for a career in international law as opposed to other industries I was considering. I applied to Allen & Overy in particular due to its unrivalled global reach, the opportunities it offers for working abroad and a fantastic personal recommendation from a previous intern.

The Vacation Scheme was brilliantly organised so as to provide the greatest exposure to the firm as a whole, its core business areas and the kind of working life you could expect to lead at Allen & Overy. The Vacation Scheme provided daily morning presentations that introduced the varied nature of Allen & Overy’s international practices whilst also setting genuinely interesting work. Projects I was set across my two seats in Corporate and Capital Markets were challenging but also hugely rewarding in that they were material on final client-facing documents; this gave a brilliant insight into what to expect as a trainee. The team client pitch exercise enabled interns to work together and to get to know the finer details of both Allen & Overy and its clients so as to demonstrate ‘soft skills’, whilst two written assignments represented a more formal and objective means of assessment. In all of the work I did I received constant support and constructive feedback from trainers, partners and Graduate Recruitment alike which added huge value to the scheme.

Allen & Overy is clearly a firm that is defined by the people it employs, and the scheme was organised such that you were fully immersed in the firm’s culture and made to feel welcome in it. This was possible due to the many social and networking events that were a part of the scheme. From rooftop dinners with partners to escape games with fellow interns, Graduate Recruitment did an amazing job of fully integrating us into the firm, despite the brevity of the scheme, through a series of really enjoyable activities. The whole firm was filled with likeminded, approachable and personable individuals and this was reflected among the Vacation Scheme cohort – I finished the scheme having made strong new friendships rather than simply other networking opportunities.

Previous legal work experience I had undertaken was on a far smaller scale and therefore largely incomparable, but when comparing Allen & Overy to other city firms in different industries that I have experienced, Allen & Overy was in another league altogether. The work was complex and employees extremely dedicated yet there was no ‘closed-door’ culture or hint of an atmosphere of internal competition. Instead I was introduced to a firm that though clearly takes its work seriously, does so through a culture of continuous improvement and welcoming inclusion. The three weeks were hugely enjoyable and richly rewarding – I can only hope that any future experience I have with Allen & Overy is considerably longer!

Ghazi AbuYounis

Associate, Banking

Ghazi AbuYounis

Associate, Banking

Overview

Studied Law at City University London

I chose to apply to Allen & Overy for three main reasons. Firstly, I found the firm’s culture both friendly and diverse. A&O was always present at the law fairs/recruitment events I attended across London. I was always given the opportunity to meet trainees and members of the Graduate Recruitment team, and I realised that the firm offered a highly collegiate training environment. Secondly, being from Jordan, I wanted to work at a firm with a strong presence in the Middle East. A&O’s ability to handle complex transactions in the region distinguished it from others. Opening one of its first international offices in Dubai back in 1978 evidenced the firm’s pioneering presence and experience there. Finally, the Training Contract seemed to be a little more tailored than others I had looked at and there was more scope to gain exposure to areas that really interested me.

I have a genetic condition called Albinism, which has resulted in me being partially sighted. As a result, I need to use magnifiers and have other modifications to my desktop to support me whilst I’m working. After submitting my application for the Winter Vacation Scheme, I was invited for an interview. I disclosed the nature of my visual impairment on my application form, and specified the reasonable adjustments I require. A&O provided everything I asked for. The materials were printed in large font, and extra time was provided.

Since joining A&O, I have been well supported. Working in a fast-paced environment can be daunting at first, but learning to use the resources available, and with the right technology, I found it easy to cope. At A&O, the focus is on the quality of the work and not the speed. Initially, I had my fears that I might be taking longer to complete tasks, but with time, I was reassured that that was not the case. I never felt that anyone here regards my visual impairment as something that could stand in my way. The firm is great when it comes to me finding alternative ways of completing tasks; documents can always be accessed digitally, and so far, I have not been given a task I could not do.

I assisted on several multi-jurisdictional deals in Corporate, attended lots of client meetings in Banking and done interesting research in Arbitration. But for me the highlight has been the firm’s culture. Everyone here is so friendly – even at times of stress, people are still a pleasure to work with. You can always ask questions and get the help you need.

Vincent Liu

Summer Vacation Scheme, Current Trainee

Vincent Liu

Summer Vacation Scheme, Current Trainee

My first few weeks at A&O...

Studied Law at Oxford

One of the things that stood out most to me on my Vacation Scheme was how much pro bono work ended up on my desk. To hear about Allen & Overy’s commitment to pro bono work was one thing, but to be immersed in it was something else entirely. I worked on three diverse pro bono matters in my short time at the firm, ranging from answering legal questions for a biodiversity conservation NGO, to researching “freedom of information” precedents for a charity initiating litigation regarding the treatment of immigration detainees. However, my favourite matter was assisting on a guide being put together by the firm along with a law reform and human rights organisation to help MPs and other Parliamentarians understand important legal and constitutional issues. Holding the finished product in my hands on my last day—and spotting a modest contribution I had made just two weeks earlier—was a beautiful and rewarding way to finish the scheme.

The pinnacle of the placement was undoubtedly the client pitch exercise, which we had to present in small groups to the firm’s relationship partner for our designated client as if they were the client selecting their legal team. Having to understand a client’s business inside and out—researching not only their history, but also forecasting their future—was a daunting challenge that emphasized the exceptional commercial sense required of Allen & Overy lawyers. Help was readily given whenever it was needed, although it was not required of them. Members of the firm’s business development and legal staff offered meetings to my team to discuss our approach, and trainees kindly attended our rehearsal outside of working hours in order to provide us with their feedback. For me, this exercise was an opportunity to test the culture of the firm, and Allen & Overy exemplified its reputation for a collegial and gladly supportive environment.