From London’s Spitalfields to Cali’s Silicon Valley via the East Coast, this Brit-born megafirm is building up its magic circle brand across the US.
“It’s one of those magic circle firms with all that history,” one interviewee quickly summarized. “There’s a story about the founders being lawyers for the royal family.” It’s true that Allen & Overy’s stellar reputation for handling the most significant matters of the time does have ties to royalty – name partner George Allen advised King Edward VIII when he relinquished the throne to marry American socialite Wallis Simpson. Maybe it was then that Allen & Overy’s UK-US special relationship was formed. Today, the firm conducts “exciting cross-border work with sophisticated clients – we get such interesting opportunities to work with different offices around the world,” an associate enthused.
“There’s a story about the founders being lawyers for the royal family.”
This international focus gains A&O too-many-rankings-to-count in Chambers Global(let’sballpark it at ‘over 200’) for its work in almost any practice area and jurisdiction you could think of. It’s particularly noted for its top-notch work across the globe in banking & finance, capital markets, corporate/M&A, dispute resolution, projects & energy, and tax. Closer to home, A&O is noted nationwide in Chambers USAfor work in areas such as corporate crime & investigations, derivatives, environment, renewable power projects, and public-private partnerships (PPP). The DC office picks up a ranking for its white-collar crime & government investigations work, and New York gets noted for areas such as banking & finance, highly regarded corporate/M&A, environment and litigation. The newly expanded California offices already pick up a ranking in technology transactions. Speaking of California…
Strategy & Future
2021 saw Allen & Overy open three more offices – San Francisco, Bostonand Silicon Valley – bolstering its nationwide presence. With the LA office only established in 2020, it’s clear that the firm “seems to be in a really aggressive growth mode,” not just in California but “across the US, across all sectors,” as this associate asserted. Interviewees told us that A&O is “taking the horns and focusing on expansion.” This growth includes key lateral hires, with the firm nabbing eight partners from White & Case in 2021 alone. All these moves are helping A&O on its quest to “take on big, challenging matters that touch different areas around the globe and involve teams everywhere working together seamlessly.”
Almost half of the juniors on our list were found in the bankingpractices, with litigation, corporate and capital markets splitting most of the rest between them. The remaining two juniors were working in the tax group. New York was home to most associates, but DC took on a handful and a few were split between the LA and Silicon Valley offices. Work allocation varies by group. Litigators and banking associates get their work from an assignment manager who “keeps track of what everyone wants to work on and gives them those opportunities.” Corporate juniors, on the other hand, experience a more free-market system where partners approach associates directly.
“It’s really interesting to explain certain concepts that are only in US law to colleagues in other offices.”
Most junior associates in the corporatedepartment can find themselves doing public and private M&A, though others find a niche in areas such as competition and antitrust, environmental, regulatory and even employment work. The system was recently changed so newbies get to do a “general rotation so they can trial work from all the different areas. But if they only want to do one kind of work, they can do that too.” Across the department, cross-border work is unsurprisingly common – “pretty much everything I’ve done has had an international element. It’s really interesting to explain certain concepts that are only in US law to colleagues in other offices.” Work can arrive from many sectors, including tech, healthcare, retail and finance. Trainees work on typical diligence tasks, reviewing corporate contracts and marking documents up after negotiations. They also run checklists and “make sure no deadlines slip – it makes you nervous at first, but you build confidence and you have to stay really organized and check in with everyone.”
Corporate clients: Apollo Global Management, Unity Software, NMC Healthcare. Recently advised Thai Union Group on its acquisition of Golden Gate Capital’s 49% stake in the Red Lobster restaurant chain.
Banking work at A&O is split into areas such as general lending, leveraged finance and the large and prestigious projects team. Though associates are siloed into their sub-group, “they want junior associates to be generalists within that.” The projects side of things encompasses infrastructure, energy and natural resources work, as well as public-private contracts and concession agreements – “if there’s a project to be developed, whether that’s a solar field, an airport development or a toll road, we handle everything from beginning to end.” Juniors in banking projects can expect to work on joint ventures, special purpose vehicles and financing deals. Oil and gas matters are dealt with here, and sources noted that a renewables team recently moved to the firm. There are also upcoming expansions into satellite and construction work. Juniors in banking can “get as much responsibility as you want to take on and are capable of doing.” We were told the “classic” task is running checklists, “keeping track of where everything is – it’s administrative in nature but very important.” They also get “plenty of chances to do drafting,” bagging corporate resolutions, guarantees and sometimes even sections of a loan agreement.
Banking clients: Barclays, J.P. Morgan, RBC Capital Markets, Goldman Sachs. Recently advised Bank of America along with another leading bank on a loan facility, a secured note offering and a revolving credit facility totaling over $3.2 billion.
Juniors can credit 150 hours of pro bono, DE&I, and community investment activities toward their billing target with a target of 50 hours to complete each year. “You have autonomy over how much you get to do. It’s understood that pro bono is just as important as your other work,” a source confirmed. However, the onus is on the associate to “make sure you have time to do it before you take it on. If there’s client billable that needs to be done you need to not let it slip through the cracks.”
"Our global network really helps."
We heard of associates taking on immigration, asylum and child custody cases, as well as working with Her Justice, an organization that helps women living in poverty to seek legal advice. “It’s quite emotional and intense sometimes,” a source noted, but the rewards of such work were clear, and interviewees found it “great to see how everyone gets together and contributes to these projects. Having our global network really helps with that.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 10,886
- Average per US attorney: 29
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 target
The 2,000 hours target, which includes the 150 pro bono hours mentioned above, was described as “not a hard rule. Plenty of people do hit it, but no one’s constantly on your back about it.” The general attitude is that “people aren’t stressed about it. There’s plenty of work to go around anyway.”
The focus on international work means juniors can find “dealing with time zones difficult. I get 7am and 9pm calls.” Interviewees found working from home made the potential long hours easier as “at least I can get chores done in my downtime.” Though there’s always the dreaded Teams panopt-icon: “No one’s making you but I’m always making sure there’s a green icon next to my name!”
Vacation time is “respected – people try hard not to bother you. We handle each other’s work without bothering anyone.” Associates also praised the firm's compensation (“It’s pretty standard to the market across offices”) as well as the ‘special bonus’ widely issued due to COVID.
Formal senior associate and partner mentors – as well as informal mentors – give juniors a “perspective that is great for your development.” Formal mentors schedule quarterly meetings on “how we’re progressing and what we should be doing for our career.” Partners tend to be “hands-off” on a day-to-day basis, but they “give time for you to ask questions and give feedback. If I mark up a document and they go in and change it, they take the time to explain why it needed to be different.”
“A&O is a firm where making partner is a real possibility.”
Career trajectory is something partners “really care about. I feel that they want me to succeed and they want me to stay.” And those that want to stay are apparently in the right place: “A&O is a firm where making partner is a real possibility.” In general, there’s a “decent mix of people wanting to stay a long time and some people going sooner. But A&O has a focus on making it a place where people want to stay.”
Our sources described a culture of “collegiality and communication between the international offices” at A&O. Day to day, the atmosphere was “not nearly as intense as I thought it’d be. There’s no competition for who bills the most or who gets to be on the biggest deals.” The firm strikes the right balance of being “challenging but super supportive. Even when you’re busy, if someone needs help, you want to help them. And likewise, someone will always try to cover for you if you’re swamped.” This way of working led interviewees to tell us that A&O is “chill to be honest. It’s got a down-to-earth attitude and is less judgy and snobby than other BigLaw firms.”
"We went to a Mets game, had a ping-pong tournament, did a cooking class and went to a driving range on a pier in Manhattan.”
No office had a requirement to come into the physical base at the time of interviewing, with people being able to “come in as much or little as they want.” Those in New York (at the time of writing) found that there are “very few people in every single day.” Pre-pandemic, juniors all shared an office (and technically still do), while those at a more senior level nabbed their own offices. Due to COVID, the social lifestyle at A&O had mainly been experienced by our current interviewees during their summer at the firm: “It was a fun environment. We went to a Mets game, had a ping-pong tournament, did a cooking class and went to a driving range on a pier in Manhattan.” Social life post-pandemic has been limited to “happy hours on Zoom and the occasional in-office drink for people that want it.”
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Inclusion is “something everyone’s focused on – it’s always on our minds,” a source asserted. The firm hosts internal events and external recruiting events that junior associates are “encouraged to attend.” There are also active affinity groups whose “presence is known – they’re important to the firm.” While some sources praised the presence of "some strong female partners," many also agreed that overall visibility needed to improve. On the other hand, our data shows that the firm ranks highly for partners of color.
When it comes to mental health, we heard that although it’s “something people focus on,” the firm needs to “support attorneys who aim to have a good work-life balance in order to promote diversity at the partnership level.” Helping combat this are both formal and informal mentorships, where partners and senior associates “tell you to make sure you do certain things for your mental health. They give tips on how to cope.” In general associates felt that their colleagues “focus on you in a way that’s genuine – they care about you and your life.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 250 in NY and 45 in DC
Interviewees outside OCI: 16 in NY and 3 in DC
Allen & Overy conducted OCIs at 15 schools in 2021, including Harvard, Penn, NYU, Chicago, Georgetown, Howard, and Columbia. The number of students interviewed at each school varies. Outside of the OCIs, A&O also attends job fairs like the Northeast Black Law Student Association and Lavender Law, and participates in resume drops across campuses. The firm encourages interested students from schools outside of those it attends for OCIs to submit their application to the recruitment department.
The OCIs are typically conducted by a partner or a senior associate. Hiring sources at the firm explain that questions are geared toward understanding “the candidate’s strengths, interests and whether they would be a good fit with A&O. We look for intellectual curiosity, good communication skills, a collaborative nature and international interests.” Interviewers will also be trying to pinpoint candidates who are honest in their responses, as opposed to those who “give a prepared sales pitch.”
Top tips for this stage:
“The best candidate has researched the firm and the interviewer, knows how to build rapport and asks thoughtful and tailored questions.”– hiring sources at the firm
“I think what A&O focuses on is how affable someone is and whether or not they can get along with everyone, because we have such an international base.” – a third-year junior associate
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 109 across US (87 NY and 22 in DC)
Those who impress during the OCI are invited back for two 45-minute interviews, each conducted by a partner and associate pair. This is then followed by a virtual coffee with a couple of junior associates, which associates said “really helps students to get a good sense of the firm.” At this stage the firm’s interviewers want to get a sense of “a candidate’s skills, knowledge and motivation for a legal career at the firm,” hiring sources at the firm explain, adding that questions “help to determine the key qualities most valued in our junior associates, such as resilience, organization, motivation and innovation.” Candidates are asked future-focused questions “based on scenarios they could encounter as a junior associate at the firm.”
Top tips for this stage:
“The candidate should ensure that they give equal attention to both interviewers, and to ensure that they ask the junior associates about their practice.” – hiring source at the firm
Offers: 31 across US (4 DC and 27 NY)
Acceptances: 18 in NY and 2 in DC 12 across US (9 NY and 3 DC)
The firm tells us that its summer program aims to allow summer associates to get a taste of everything. The work allocation committee, which is made up of associates, is on hand to meet with the summers to discuss ongoing projects and practice area preferences to make sure everyone gets to explore their areas of interest. The program also includes “formal training programs, including weekly practice area briefings,” legal writing courses, and panel presentations covering topics such as working with in-house counsel and women in law.
A&O associates assure us that the summer vibe will be kept alive with “one big social event a week, alongside more informal events such as happy hours.” Previous highlights have included concerts from Billy Joel to Beyoncé, sailing tours around Manhattan, cooking competitions and rock-climbing adventures. We’re told it’s rare for A&O summers not to return to the firm as first-year associates, but those who choose not to return may do so because they’re “joining another one of our offices, or doing a clerkship.”
Top tips for this stage:
“The summer program is catered to the individual getting as much diversified experience as possible, so make sure you try different things and listen to your feedback.” – a second-year junior associate
“The summer program is a great time to start building your network, so take advantage of the many social opportunities. On work assignments, be proactive, eager, and willing to work hard.” – hiring sources at the firm
The firm says: “Don’t hesitate to contact us! Our attorneys love talking to students about the work we do and our firm in general.”
Allen & Overy LLP
1221 Avenue of the Americas,
- Head office: London
- Number of domestic offices: 5
- Number of international offices: 39
- Partners (US): 89 as of May 27, 2022
- Senior Counsel (US): 25 as of May 27, 2022
- Associates (US): 199 as of May 1, 2022
- Main recruitment contact: Daniel Vatanaviggun, Senior Manager, Law Student Recruitment
- Tel: (646) 344-6775
- Email: Daniel.Vatanaviggun@allenovery.com
- Hiring partners: Sami Mir; Bradley Pensyl; Patrick Pearsall; Beth Troy
- Diversity officer: Elizabeth Leckie, Partner
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 29 first-year associates hires in September, and 31 first-year/grade 12 lateral hires outside September
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining 2022: 14 (NY), 7 (D.C.), 3 (Silicon Valley)
- Summer salary 2022: Pro-rated first year salary - $215,000
- Split summers offered? We allow splits between our offices with US capabilities on a case-by-case basis
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes, we run parallel summer associate programs in London and Hong Kong
Main areas of work
Anti-bribery and corruption, antitrust, asset management, banking and finance, commodities regulation and enforcement, corporate and M&A, derivatives and structured finance, employment and benefits, environment, financial services regulation and investigations, leveraged and acquisition finance, litigation, projects, energy and infrastructure, real estate, regulatory compliance, restructuring and insolvency, sanctions, national security and international trade, securitization, and tax.
Allen & Overy is an elite global firm with a network of 2,950+ attorneys in over 40 offices across the world. This network makes us one of the largest and most connected law firms in the world, with a global reach and local depth that is simply unrivalled. Over half of our transactions involve three or more jurisdictions, and nearly three-quarters of the work we do draws on the resources of two or more of our offices. Our US practice is fully integrated with our offices in Europe, Asia, South America, Australia and Africa. Our culture at Allen & Overy is founded on quality work, excellent working partnerships, and collegiality.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2022:
• American Washington College of Law
• Boston College
• Boston University
• Columbia Law School
• Cornell Law School
• Duke University School of Law
• Emory University School of Law
• Georgetown Law School
• Harvard Law School
• Howard University School of Law
• New York University School of Law
• Northwestern University Law School
• Stanford Law School
• The George Washington University Law School
• The UCBerkeley School of Law
• UC Davis School of Law
• UCLA School of Law
• University of Michigan Law School
• University of Pennsylvania Law School
• University of Virginia School of Law
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We participate in resume collects at the following schools: Albany Law School, Antonin Scalia Law School (George Mason), Brooklyn Law School, Cardozo Law School, Fordham Law School, Stanford Law School, UCLA School of Law, University of Chicago School of Law (on campus for London), Vanderbilt University Law School, Yale Law School (on campus for London)
Summer associate profile:
We seek candidates who are unafraid to go beyond their comfort zone, and want to work at the forefront of their profession. Candidates should be ready to embrace change, have a talent for problem solving, and strive to develop broad commercial awareness.
Summer program components:
A&O’s summer program is a great way to experience our cutting-edge work and collaborative culture, and to work on top-quality transactions across a variety of practice areas. Summers receive considerable responsibility on matters and gain real and valuable experience from day one working alongside partners and associates. We take mentoring, training, and development seriously, and all are fundamental aspects of our program. We offer formal training programs that provide broad exposure to our practice areas and supplement the summers’ day-to-day work. We also want our summers to have fun and build their network within the firm so there are plenty of social events to integrate them into our firm culture.
Recruitment website: www.allenovery.com/careers/united-states/en-gb/Pages/default.aspx
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022
- Technology: Transactions (Band 4)
District of Columbia
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 5)
- Antitrust (Band 5)
- Banking & Finance (Band 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 6)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
- Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Banking & Finance (Band 5)
- Capital Markets: Securitization: ABS (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Securitization: CLOs (Band 2)
- Corporate Crime & Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Derivatives (Band 2)
- Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 2)
- FCPA (Band 5)
- Financial Services Regulation: Broker Dealer (Compliance & Enforcement) (Band 4)
- Projects: Agency Financing (Band 1)
- Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 2)
- Projects: PPP (Band 2)
- Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 2)
Find out more at Allen & Overy's careers page.