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Life at a Magic Circle law firm, our woman on the inside

Hannah Pye, Current Trainee – Allen & Overy LLPI studied German at St Hugh’s College and didn’t think about my career options until relatively late in my degree. I applied to a number of law firms during Michaelmas term in my final year following a finance internship which turned out not to be my cup of tea! I went through the classic career panic the majority of my friends also experienced and attended a mix of law and consultancy evenings to get a feel for different careers. Being a humanities student, I decided that my skillset leant itself towards a career in the legal profession and so focussed my efforts on legal applications. As I was a final year student, I mostly made direct training contract applications. A&O was one of the few firms that accepted fourth years/finalists onto their vacation schemes. After attending several open days, recruitment evenings and law fairs, I sent off five applications to a mixture of firms. I then was invited to interview at A&O, and subsequently accepted a place on their summer vacation scheme. Following completion of this I received a training contract offer at the firm which I accepted. I then studied the GDL, a law conversion course, in Manchester for a year; following which I took a six month break, and then started the accelerated LPC in January 2019 in London. I’m now a first-seat trainee in A&O’s London office, sitting in Corporate. This practice area is not something which initially appeal to me, but my experience so far is one which I could not recommend more. The clients are high-profile and varied, the team are approachable and friendly and the work rewarding and interesting.

Typically, the corporate department has a slightly later start to the day than other areas, with most people getting to the office between 9:30 and 10am. I share an office with my trainer who is a Senior Associate. Most of the other trainees are trained by Senior Associates; with a handful paired with Partners or Counsel. There is a female partner in my team and gender balance across different associate levels is pretty much equal. The training contract consists of four, six month rotations and most trainees spend their final seat on either international or client secondment. The Corporate team I am sitting in focuses on Technology and Infrastructure M&A as well as Equity Capital Markets (Initial Public Offerings and share issuances). However, corporate teams tend to be more fluid than other departments with the various teams often co-operating together on various deals. For example, I’m currently working on a deal with the Public M&A team (who deal mostly with FTSE 100 clients) as well as the Private Equity team. I’m actively encouraged to help out with any projects I find interesting and to work with as many people as possible in order to get the most varied work experience. Of course, the pressure can be challenging in the same way that exam periods require mental stamina, but the support at A&O is unparalleled. I was very nervous before I began about asking questions and potentially being judged but feel I can genuinely ask my trainer anything, as well as the fellow associates on the team. The impression I got from my vacation scheme was a surprisingly friendly one; and that has definitely mirrored my experience of my training contract. A partner even knocked on my office the other evening commenting on how hard I had been working. Hard work, commitment and becoming involved in the team are recognised and rewarded at the firm which is the reason why I would strongly recommend applying to A&O.

On the social side, there are a variety of things you can get involved with! The social committee organises trainee drinks and balls, as do networks such as A&Out (the LGTQ+ network) and the Women’s Network. Last week I played in a dodge ball tournament for charity dressed as Super Mario and Luigi… if that’s not really your style then informal sports teams such as the netball team meet weekly to play in City leagues. As trainees we are also strongly encouraged to get involved in Pro Bono work, such as advising at Legal Advice Centres or Social Mobility initiatives such as Smart Start. I manage to socialise with my fellow trainees each day for gym sessions (there’s one in the building!), coffees, lunch and sometimes dinner if there’s a few of us working later.

Overall, it’s been a whirlwind start to the training contract but one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I genuinely look forward to coming to work each day. The learning curve is steep but interesting, and I’m thrilled to be working in such a collaborative yet driven team.

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