Allen & Overy
Magic Circle incumbent Allen & Overy is not only one of the UK's most prestigious law firms, but also one of the largest in the world in terms of revenue. With 39 offices across 27 countries, the firm employs over 2,500 lawyers worldwide.
The best training contract in the City.
- Top quality work and high-profile deals
- A great name to have on your CV
- No pressure for face time
- The training is amongst the best in the City
- Good compensation and perks for a UK firm
- Very friendly atmosphere and ‘incredible support staff’
- Hours can be long and unpredictable
- Not a great deal of client contact for trainees
- The unpredictability of your workload
- Not that flexible when it comes to seat choices, though there is a wide range of overseas seats
- The ladder to making partner is steep
Representing one-fifth of the Magic Circle, Allen & Overy is one of the UK’s oldest and most prestigious law firms. A&O spreads its wings across 39 offices and employs approximately 2,500 lawyers worldwide, including more than 500 partners. Best known for its banking, corporate and international capital markets practices, A&O is home to the largest number of American lawyers outside of the US, creating a niche in advising American clients overseas.
Founded in 1930 by George Allen and Thomas Overy, the firm rose to prominence when, in 1936, it advised on the abdication of King Edward VIII. Since then, A&O has rarely been out of the legal limelight. The firm advised on the first hostile takeover in the so-called Aluminium Wars, and in 1963 really staked its claim as a City brand by drafting and developing the first Eurobond for the Italian company Autostrade.
The early 1980s saw investment banks branching out and opening offices all around the world; the law firms that represented them soon followed suit and Allen & Overy was no exception. In 1978 the firm opened offices in Dubai and Brussels, in 1985 it arrived in New York, and 2002 saw the opening of its Shanghai office. In 2010 A&O opened two Australian offices in Perth and Sydney, and more recently established new branches in Casablanca and Belfast, expanding its global reach even further. The firm is now represented in all the major financial centres across the world and has one of the largest US presences of any UK firm. In fact, 60% of A&O’s income now comes from outside the UK.
Over the past few years, Allen & Overy has not stopped growing and expanding in London, the city where it all began. In 2005, A&O became the first Magic Circle firm to convert to a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), meaning, among other things, that the firm now has to periodically publish its accounts. The following year, A&O relocated from its iconic London headquarters, opposite St Paul’s Cathedral, to new purpose built offices near Liverpool Street. Not to be outdone in the green-stakes, A&O’s new digs were installed with 494 solar panels on the roof, generating enough power for more than 200 laptops a year.
Although built on a foundation of banking and finance, A&O’s lofty position is reinforced by well established and reputed capital markets and corporate law practices. As such, the firm’s client list includes many of the world’s top financial institutions. A&O’s banking and finance solicitors advise over 800 corporate and financial institutions. Other areas of expertise include litigation and dispute resolution, employment and benefits, tax and real estate.
Allen & Overy also casts a wide net in pro bono and corporate responsibility matters: the firm’s solicitors regularly act as trustees for local charities, help primary schools in numeracy and literacy projects, and mentor secondary school pupils. The firm has even formed a global alliance with the Red Cross, and is helping them to promote new laws that can speed up the international response to natural disasters.Read all 535 employee quotes
Allen & Overy is keen to emphasise that while it demands a strong academic background, it’s not just focused on the Oxbridge elite. A look at its graduate pool paints a colourful picture of candidates from a wide range of academic institutions and diverse backgrounds. Trainees say ‘good academics, social skills and business awareness are all key’, but equally you should be ‘hard working, organised and proactive’. A&O is known for its ‘work hard/play hard’ culture and the firm only takes on trainees that can keep up with its fast-paced environment. If this sounds a little intimidating, don’t be put off. All of the trainees in our survey agreed that A&O ‘is a genuinely friendly firm’ and most trainees ‘are quite fun’.
A&O trainees tell us how ‘there is a wide variety of departments to sit in’, such as real estate, litigation and employment; but keep in mind that you will have to complete two of your four six month seats in the firm’s core departments – international capital markets, banking and corporate. The training at Allen & Overy is described by trainees as ‘absolutely fantastic’ and one of ‘the best offered among UK law firms’. In addition, there is a ‘huge range of client secondments and secondments in overseas offices’ available. The firm gives its trainees the option to go abroad for their final seat, to locations such as Sydney, Dubai, Paris, New York or Budapest.
So what can you expect from the application process? It’s relatively straightforward: with no psychometric testing, verbal reasoning tests, group exercises or assessment days. Instead candidates are judged on a one-to-one basis through interviews which include a case study exercise. The initial stage requires you to fill in an online application form, quizzing you on your background and CV. Make the cut and you’ll be invited to two rounds of interviews; as you might expect for a Magic Circle firm, one trainee say it’s ‘very competitive’ to even land an interview.
The first interview is more general and will focus on your CV and business acumen. It is usually with a partner or senior associate who will want to cover your personal qualifications and experiences to assess your motivation, skills and knowledge. Make sure you can articulately explain your reasons for applying to Allen & Overy and this is important. Be prepared for questions such as ‘how do you demonstrate you're interested in business?’, ‘what have you read in the FT/Economist recently which interested you?’ or ‘what do you know about our competition?’.
For the second round, A&O trainees say to expect a ‘45-minute discussion on a case study’, which will heavily test your commercial awareness and problem solving abilities. You’ll be asked to speed read a lengthy document in 20 minutes, which you will then have to present to your interviewer. The presentation is followed by a discussion about key points from the case study. This can be ‘quite gruelling’ – you will be asked lots of detailed questions about the document. But try not to worry – questions are described as ‘fair and thought provoking’ and interviewers do their best to make ‘you feel at ease’. After you’ve finished both interviews, you will be given a tour of the offices by a current trainee.
Allen & Overy also offers vacation schemes; these often provide a springboard to landing a training contract with the firm. There are summer programmes available for penultimate year students, and winter programmes for grads and career changers, offering 65 students each year the opportunity to get their hands dirty and gain some real work experience. Summer schemes run for three weeks while the winter ones are shorter, lasting for only eight days. The firm also offers international internships to 12 lucky students who then spend their summer in New York, Hong Kong, Dubai or Frankfurt. If you fancy one of these international placements, a knowledge of the local language is definitely a plus – especially if you’re keen to go to the German office.
Allen & Overy Graduate Recruitment Info
31 July 2013 (for law undergraduates and law graduates for training contracts commencing in March 2014 and September 2014)
15 January 2013 (for final year non-law undergraduates and graduates for training contracts commencing in March 2015 and September 2015)
Winter: 31 October 2012
Summer: 15 January 2013
No. of lawyers firm-wide: 2,500+
No. of lawyers in London: 1,058
London partners: 186
London solicitors: 620
London trainee intake: 104
London trainees retained: 79% (Sept 2012), 91% (March 2012)
Approx. no. of applications per year: 2,000
ALLEN & OVERY: 2013 LAW RANKINGS
# 2 Most Reputable Law Firm (8.36/10)
# 1 in Solicitor Training (10/10)
# 1 in Career Prospects for Solicitors (8.00/10)
# 2 in Selectivity (8.94/10)
# 4 in Offices (9.03/10)
# 5 in Partner & Solicitor Relations (8.20/10)
# 5 in Green Initiatives (8.03/10)
# 5 in Pro Bono (7.60/10)
# 7 in Formal Training (8.50/10)
# 9 in Trainee Retention (7.77/10)
# 11 in Salary (7.80/10)
# 13 in Informal Training and Mentoring (7.65/10)
1st year trainee: £38,000
2nd year trainee: £43,200
Newly qualified: £61,000
1 year PQE: £68,000
2 years PQE: £74,000
3 years PQE: £85,000
Compare all Salaries for London Law Firms
Antitrust & EU
Employment & Benefits
Energy & Infrastructure
Environment & Climate Change
International Capital Markets
Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Restructuring & Insolvency
Secondment abroad - they pay for flights, language lessons (depending on where you're going), accommodation and you still get a salary uplift for being abroad.Second year traineeHelpful?
Pro bono work counts towards billable hours. The Smart Start scheme was pioneered here and has been a huge success in helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds access City companies.1 yr PQEHelpful?
Good, intensive training programmes at trainee and associate level. Additional non-legal training offered on client interaction, etc.1 yr PQEHelpful?
It's a lot less stuffy than everyone thinks!First year traineeHelpful?
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One Bishops Square
London E1 6AO
Tel: +44 (0)20 3088 0000
No. of worldwide offices: 39