Associates bring their A game to 'magic circler' A&O, where expansion plans are afoot and “BigLaw resources” are utilized in “smaller, navigable offices.”
“IT'S in the DNA of the firm to do cross-border work, and my workflow has certainly reflected that,” one happy junior summarized for us. Despite glowing reviews from associates year on year, Allen & Overy may not be the very first name that springs to mind when you think of BigLaw (unless you live in A&O's native London, or indeed any other global financial hub). However, with a slew of Chambers USA rankings in areas like antitrust, capital markets, litigation, and corporate/M&A, this magic circle member and its international reach merit attention. And while “plenty of firms list a bunch of offices on their website, A&O is a firm that's actually fluently international,” associates enthused. Their work had crossed borders into the Netherlands, India, Belgium, Libya, Germany, the UAE, Luxembourg, India and, of course, the UK.
"A&O is a firm that's actually fluently international.”
Those lucky few who managed to land themselves an offer – class sizes typically consist of fewer than 20 associates – wanted A&O’s magic combination: “BigLaw resources and smaller, navigable offices.” The firm even won over summer associates who’d previously been on the fence about BigLaw: “Understanding complex problems that cover various jurisdictions is intellectually interesting. Getting a taste of that got me excited.”
Excitement is certainly in the air at A&O right now. Juniors are hopeful since “head honcho” partnerTim House relocated from London to “make New York bigger, badder, and better” as US and Latin America senior partner. An influx of new partners wasn’t bad for morale either: “Those partners could have gone anywhere. It’s a vote of confidence.” On the finance and securities side, A&O strengthened its ranks with additions from Paul Hastings, Proskauer Rose and White & Case, while partners from Cadwalader and a white-collar defense boutique have bolstered the firm's litigation practice.
Incoming associates in New York have the option to sample two practice groups; if they decide to do so, they spend six months in each before choosing to focus on one permanently. If they are still unsure after these rotations, they also have the option to sample a third area. (In DC, things are different as the office is smaller: juniors here are assigned to a particular practice straight away, but still get to work on cross-practice matters that expose them to various areas). The main options are project finance, banking, international capital markets, corporate, leveraged finance, tax, restructuring and litigation. Across the groups work distribution involves “an open dialogue” with one or two partners, who are “tasked withassigning according to business need and everyone’s availability – it means you don't get people who are incredibly slammed while others are light on work.”
A third of the associates on our list had ended up in litigation, which meant a “50/50 split between civil litigation and investigations.” The former tends to be more domestic-focused while the latter is “almost always international; when I got here I was placed on an enormous, multinational investigation into market collusion involving one of our big ‘blockbuster’ clients.” We spoke to associates who’d done foreign bribery cases “representing either a European or US company being investigated by the government for potential corruption in Libya, Indonesia, India – any emerging market where you expect a high corruption risk.” That's undeniably interesting work, but how stuck in can you get as a junior? “Your role is to be the one who’s most familiar with the facts. Research is the junior bread and butter across investigations and disputes. Also fact-developing: reviewing documents and putting together a narrative of what’s happened on a case.” One highlight was “being able to take the lead during some witness interviews and getting those ‘aha!’ moments where you know you've got something significant.”
“Your role is to be the one who’s most familiar with the facts.”
“There’s a focus on growing” the banking leveraged finance group, and “it’s exciting to be a part of it: at least half of the work is cross-border. We often work with private equity companies looking to purchase a company or make a strategic acquisition, and therefore negotiate credit agreements and commitment papers.” If a deal comes in, “you'll spend time getting itlaunched, which involves a lot of drafting and client contact. Once it's submitted, you’ll go back to maintaining the other deals you have on your plate, by doing typical administrative matters like schedules and deliverables.” On the whole, “it’s a very precedent-driven practice – you maintain and build up a database of precedent documents to use as a basis for drafting, but also shape documents according to the nuances of a particular deal.”
Corporate associates had worked on “a couple of private M&A deals where you run the diligence processand work on the disclosure schedules that are tied to the purchasing agreement.” Smaller deals saw them “helping to mark up the purchase agreement and ancillary documents; setting uplimited liability companies and handling one-off questions from clients where you research an issue and figure out an answer.”
Training & Development
“There are regular on-site CLEs tailored to your practice group,” juniors reported. There are other formal programs to get stuck into: second-years take part in “'make your mark' training, which gives you an introduction to how things operate and the firm's strategic focuses.” In addition, most practice groups run global 'universities,' which bring together associates from across the network for a couple of weeks' training in London: “We learned about joint ventures, the diligence process, accounting – things that gave us a foundation and framework to refer back to.”
A&O recently switched to an 'ongoing feedback' system called 'Compass,' which sees associates meet with an assigned partner once every quarter to discuss their progress. “It's basically formalized something that already happens a lot here – rolling feedback that's useful. If I didn't understand an assignment (or if my seniors felt I didn't understand it) then a partner puts time in the calendar to help me see where the disconnect was and how I can do better.” The firm has also recently launched an app which allows attorneys to submit regular feedback as well.
“Gender diversity is a big priority,” associates relayed, pointing to the firm’s global initiative to boost the percentage of female partners to 20% by 2020. “We're very close to hitting that figure in the US.” In New York, a new women’s committee hosts quarterly events. “The head of the entire firm spoke at the first women’s cocktail hour, and the committee also held some training as part of the 'make your mark' series.”
Juniors also highlighted a “fairly large contingent of LGBTQ individuals. When I was in London there was an 'A&Out' event, and in New York there was a gala in the city and the firm paid for anyone who wanted to go.”
Hours & Compensation
Associates aim to hit 2,000 billable hours each year. “During your first year they don't really expect you to hit it as it can take a bit of time to get ramped up.” Our sources mostly found the target achievable in subsequent years. If associates fall short of the 2,000 hours “the firm generally doesn't penalize you for it, as long as you've been actively seeking out work when things have been slow.” Juniors didn't have “the greatest clarity” when it came to bonuses, but did say it was still possible to get one even if the 2,000 hour target isn't reached.
“...everyone has the time differences in the back of their mind.”
Juniors had this to say on dealing with multiple time zones: “Everybody knows how to deal with other offices, so from the beginning everyone has the time differences in the back of their mind – if you know something is due in Europe, you’ll know when it needs to get finished in New York.” But no amount of planning can completely combat potentially long hours – this is BigLaw, after all. Those in leveraged finance spoke of short bursts of being “very, very busy for five days, where you're working round the clock,” but also of “not coming in before 10.30am” during quieter periods. Busy times can mean up to 12 hours in the office, but in generalthe firm's stance on facetime was appreciated: “You’re allowed to work outside the office on an ad hoc basis as long as you can recreate the working environment.”
Culture & Offices
Just over two thirds of the associates on our list were based in A&O's New York digs. “The office is really convenient – it's close to the Rockefeller concourse, so there's easy subway access and lots of places to grab lunch.” The rest of our sources were based in DC, not far from the White House. “We have a vista of the Washington Monument – the rooms with the best views aren't partner offices, but client meeting rooms, and anyone can book them. I think that says a lot about our culture.”
And on the subject of that culture: “It’s never felt competitive, and any competition would be healthy competition, not ‘this is my piece of the pie and no one else should touch it.’” Others elaborated on this side of A&O: “I wouldn’t think twice about calling someone I didn’t know in another office to ask a question. On my first assignment I just called someone in Germany and he walked me through the issue.” Associates who’d spent time in overseas offices noted: “The culture isn’t completely homogeneous but it’s well integrated. People know all the other associates within their practice area, whether they're in London or Hong Kong.”
Being “plugged into an international network” doesn't mean associates forgo “the benefits of a more intimate office environment.” A&O's US bases are still comparatively cosy next to some of the nation's domestic heavyweights, and at the time of our interviews, associates in New York were getting stuck into the fall spirit: “Yesterday there was a trick or treat event for people’s children, and someone brought in a fall-inspired cake. It’s a warm and happy place to work.”
Strategy & Future
“This is a very exciting time for A&O,” says senior partner Dave Lewis, who tells us that the firm's US strategy is focused on “absolute growth.We are not nearly the size we need to be to complement our size, scope and breadth around the world. So we're looking to make our US offering considerably larger going forward.”
The number of pro bono hours that can count toward the billable target recently increased from 50 to 150 – a welcome jump, from our associates' perspective. Juniors can also devote 50 of those allotted hours to firm-sponsored community investment projects, like those conducted in association with the charity War Child. Another development saw “a pro bono associate and partner appointed to spend a portion of time keeping track of who's doing pro bono and who the contacts are at organizations we work with, as well as sending out weekly emails that list opportunities.”
All associates are expected to reach a target of 50 pro bono hours each year, and many of our interviewees had devoted time to this noble pursuit. Examples included a contested divorce through Her Justice; an asylum matter tied to LGBT discrimination; an immigration case for children seeking special juvenile status; and a brief composed for international organization Redress.
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 8,745.3
- Average per (US) attorney: 51.5
Our associate sources had plenty to say on who A&O is looking for in the recruitment process: “People who are interested in cross-border work, other cultures and traveling – those are the people that thrive at A&O.” What's more, “understanding what the firm can offer in an international sense is always important; if you can’t articulate ideas around what it means to be at an international firm, you’re probably not going to make it through the interview process.” It therefore helps to “highlight any international experiences or useful skills you may have, like periods where you've studied abroad or other languages you can speak.”
Throughout the interviews, our sources performed “a tricky dance between being formal enough and relaxed enough. I’ve seen people dance the line far too close to the latter and say slightly inappropriate things. For example, I never want anyone to reference another interviewer or firm for me. If the hour goes fast, then that's a good sign that the balance has been struck and we've got on well.”
Juniors also had some tips on what to consider before even getting to the interview stage: “Consider the size of the office and the impact that has on work allocation and the social aspect too. The smaller size is good for some people and not for others. If you’re the type of person who likes getting your hand held and receiving constant affirmation of your work product, you’re probably better off at a firm with more people. For me, the small size and the responsibility it comes with keeps me motivated and engaged.”
OCI applicants interviewed: 650 – NY & DC
Interviewees outside OCI: 6
Applicants invited to 2nd stage interview: 244
Chambers Associate interview with Allen & Overy's New York managing partner, Dave Lewis
Chambers Associate: What’s the strategy when it comes to Allen & Overy’s US practice?
Dave Lewis: It’s absolute growth. We are not nearly the size we need to be to complement our size, scope and breadth around the world. So we're looking to make our US offering considerably larger going forward. In terms of geography, it’s not always easy to know for certain if or where we will open new offices – as of right now we have no immediate plans to open up beyond New York and DC, but that can change. Really the focus at the moment is on lateral and organic growth in both of those markets.
CA: What would you say are the US operation's core practices?
DL: Our strengths can be found across the board, but right now we have a specific emphasis on private equity, M&A, and commercial/general litigation, as well as investigations. I think that gives a good indication of what we’re looking to do in the US.
CA: The firm recently brought in three new leveraged finance partners. Why?
DL: That was an initial foray into the leveraged finance side of things for us – it was a statement of our intent in the US market, but the hires also supplemented and complemented our European leveraged finance practice. What we’re seeing more and more in our practice is that leveraged finance is becoming truly global; you can’t just be a leveraged finance practitioner in one jurisdiction. You need to be able to provide your clients with all the financing options available to them, whether they're in Europe or the US, or within the typical lending or capital markets – you need to be able to offer all of those options with equal capability.
CA: How would you describe the culture at the firm?
DL: I think the culture in the US is not dissimilar from our culture globally. I think it’s naturally collaborative and truly collegial. Those are the buzzwords people like to use for their firm, but in our case it is 100% true, and it’s just a natural result of how we operate. A&O and other UK-based firms were some of the early 'embracers' of the global practice of law, and have maintained multiple offices in multiple jurisdictions for a pretty long time. We’ve now got 2,800 lawyers in 31 countries, and three quarters of our matters this past year have involved at least two of our offices – almost everything we’re doing involves multiple offices and colleagues working together across multiple jurisdictions. That environment breeds natural collaboration; you can’t exist in that environment without it.
CA: What advice would you give to our student readers?
DL: They need to be thinking about and researching what firms are doing and what their clients are doing. They don’t have to have a detailed understanding; a general understanding of what the firm they want to work for does on a day-to-day basis is helpful. I think that in this competitive industry walking into a firm and having a sense of what its individual lawyers do, the types of matters they work on and being able to talk about that helps to make candidates stand out.
CA: Anything to add?
DL: From my perspective I am very excited about what we’re doing in the US and what our trajectory is. This is a very exciting time for A&O, and we're the right firm for those law students looking to have a career at a truly global operation.
Chambers Associate interview with Allen & Overy’s New York hiring partner, Laura Hall
Chambers Associate: How does A&O’s recruitment process work?
Laura Hall: On campus we go to around 20 to 24 schools and fairs, and we also welcome submissions directly to the HR team. We begin to get some of those submissions over the summer before the OCI process begins, and if folks happen to be in New York over the summer, we’re sometimes able to bring them in. Otherwise we have our folks doing the screening interviews on campus. We try to get back to people within a day with callback offers, then the callbacks take place during August and early September.
At the callback stage, candidates meet six people – four during in-office interviews with a mix of partners, associates and counsel. It gives us a chance to match candidates to lawyers in their practice area of interest, or people who went to the same school. We also want them to get a well-rounded picture of people's personalities and what the office is like. I personally think practice groups have a personality, so a chance to see that is helpful. Then candidates have lunch or coffee with two junior associates; it gives them a good chance to ask questions in a more informal setting.
We make decisions together as a recruitment committee. We meet weekly and try to consider everyone. For various reasons, offers after an in-office interview can take longer depending on scheduling. If we’ve only seen some of the candidates from a school, we might hang on to see everyone from that school. After we've done that we make offers and give people four weeks to decide. Usually we do an event for people after they get an offer, such as a cocktail evening. It’s a chance for people with a few offers in their hands to compare.
CA: And how many students do you interview?
LH: We see hundreds of people on campus and at fairs – probably around 450 people by my very rough math! Back in the office it really varies school to school and year to year. We might think we’ve seen so many fabulous people, so we’ll bring in more for callbacks, but on average we probably see 125 to 150.
CA: What are your entry-level recruitment plans for the next year or two?
LH: We increased the size of our summer class this past recruiting season. We had 13 students in the office during the summer of 2017, and we will have 17 in 2018. We have hired a lot of additional partners over the last two years, so we’re scaling up our summer program to match. We’re flexible because we do plan to hire additional partners, but we'll wait until July to see how much junior support they will need. The size of the summer class will be in the 15 to 20 range over the next couple of years.
CA: What can students do now to increase their chances of impressing in interviews?
LH: Talk to people who’ve worked for us. We have had summers who are currently 3Ls at schools, so talk to them, or even reach out to associates through their website profiles to learn more about us.
We’re a bit different to other US firms in terms of the things we do, so learning about the specifics of our practice helps people to ask better questions in the office. If it’s not the first time they’re hearing about the work we do then they can be a bit more targeted in their questioning. I appreciate the candidates who take extra time to learn about us.
CA: What are you looking out for in candidates during the interview?
LH: Certainly an interest in the firm and an idea of which practice areas they’re interested in. It doesn’t have to be the practice area of the interviewer! We have a rotation program in the first year, so we understand that people are still figuring it out, but in general it's good to have an idea of the kind of practices we have. Other things we look out for include thoughtful questions, experience handling a large project and evidence of taking initiative. We give a lot of responsibility to junior associates, so people who want that are important to us.
CA: What kind of questions do you ask at interviews?
LH: I always ask candidates to tell me a bit about how they made the choice to go to law school. There’s no right or wrong answer – I’m just looking at their thought process, as it shows how they've come to make a significant decision. Also – particularly during the callback stage when there's more time to spare – I like to talk about something they've researched or written, especially if it enables me to understand how they've applied legal reasoning to a real world problem or scenario.
CA: What does Allen & Overy offer that is unique?
LH: It’s not just that we have lots of offices (44 to be precise). We work very closely day in, day out, and often the people you work with aren’t sitting in front of you. They’re in London, or Hong Kong, or Paris, and that’s really rewarding. We’re in a broader world so we have a lot of get-togethers internationally in person. I was at one last week and I’m going to another next week. Someone gave me their name at one recently, and it turned out that I'd been on a ton of calls with him but never met him in person! We give our new associates the chance to integrate across the global network; to immediately get staffed on international projects; and develop expertise in the local market.
Another thing to note is that we’re very focused on teaching associates not just about how to be lawyers; we do a lot of training on business, on how to develop relationships with clients, and on how to build a profile in the market. This comes back to what we’re looking for at the associate level: people who understand how the whole firm works, not just one part of it.
Notable pro bono opportunities (schemes, client affiliations etc.)
Overall, Allen & Overy’s pro bono and community affairs programs have continued to grow and expand at a steady pace. Currently, there are between 40-50 pro bono matters active in the New York and Washington, D.C. offices. In response to the interest of our U.S. associates across Allen & Overy’s network, the firm has continued to grow the Global U.S. Practice pro bono committee, fostering collaboration and coordination of pro bono activities for U.S. associates across the globe.
In 2015 and 2016 we added other organizations to the list of pro bono partnerships including Asia Catalyst in 2015 and Immigration Equality in 2016. However, the firm does not rest there; the active partners regularly solicit associate input on how to enhance the pro bono process in terms of new matters and involvement of additional colleagues. This includes contributing to the current committee initiatives and the firm’s pro bono philosophy as well as integrating efforts with those of the firm worldwide to further office initiatives.
- Her Justice
- Innocence Project
- Immigration Equality
- Agudath Israel
- Waterkeeper Alliance
- Minority Rights Group
- Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund
- Human Rights First
- Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice
- Amref Health Africa
- Center for Reproductive Rights
- Lawyer’s Alliance for New York
- Legal Aid Society
- Start Small, Think Big
- War Child
Allen & Overy LLP
1221 Avenue of the Americas,
- Head office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 2
- Number of international offices: 42
- Partners (US): 45
- Senior Counsel (US): 12
- Associates (US): 128
- Main recruitment contact: Erin Manna, Manager of Lateral Recruitment
- Hiring partners: Charles Borden (DC), Laura Hall (NY), Brian Jebb
- Diversity officer: Elizabeth Leckie, Partner
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 21
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 2Ls: 22, 3Ls: 0, SEO: 0
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: NY: 1 Summer salary 2018: 2Ls: $ 3,500/week
- Post 3Ls: $3,500/week
- Split summers offered? Occasionally, summer associates have spent time in other 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 New York, London, Hong Kong and Washington DC.
Main areas of work
• Albany Law School
• Brooklyn Law School
• Cardozo Law School
• Columbia Law School
• Duke University School of Law
• Fordham 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
• UCLA School of Law
• University of Chicago Law School
• University of Michigan Law School
• University of Pennsylvania Law School
• University of Virginia School of Law
We interview law students during on-campus interview programs and job fairs in late July and early August. Find out when it’s time for us to come to you.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
For a full list job fairs and resume collects we participate in please visit: www.us.aograduate.com/Meet-Us/In-Your-Area/
Summer associate profile:
At Allen & Overy, we operate in a dynamic, challenging environment which fosters creativity as well as professionalism. Our attorneys handle the most sophisticated and complex domestic and cross border transactions and cases for our clients. The ideal candidate should possess determination, vision, creativity, strength and breadth of character. He or she should be committed to working as part of an international team. One of the best features of the Allen & Overy team is the strength of the personal and professional relationships formed between colleagues. We maintain strong camaraderie around the world.
Summer program components:
We recruit on campus for all 4 summer programs (New York, London, Hong Kong and Washington, DC). We typically host around 18-20 summer associates in New York, 3-4 in London, 1-2 Hong Kong and 4-5 in Washington DC. Summer associates are treated as full-time associates and we make a point of offering considerable responsibility, working on top-quality transactions in various areas. We place great value on feedback and go to great lengths to match individual preferences with the work we assign. Summer associates can expect to receive ample partner attention and to gain invaluable experience. We take mentoring and development seriously and both are fundamental aspects of our program. We also expect our summer associates to have fun and plan social events to integrate them into our firm culture.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
- Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 2)
- Latin American Investment (Band 5)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Banking & Finance Recognised Practitioner
- Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 3)
- Financial Services Regulation: Broker Dealer (Compliance & Enforcement) (Band 4)
- Government: Political Law (Band 3)
- Projects: PPP (Band 2)