Allen & Overy. Proper noun: global finance and commercial giant; UK magic circle outfit that’s growing in the US.
BREAKING into the hyper-competitive US market has always been something of a challenge for British businesses – the legal market being no exception. Short of merger (a strategy many have pursued), fewer than ten firms headquartered in the UK can claim to have successfully made the jump across the pond, all of which are also among the most profitable operating in the global market.
And Allen & Overy is no exception. An established member of the UK’s prestigious magic circle, the firm counts New York and DC among its network of 42 offices worldwide. Collectively, they have earned the firm well in excess of 200 Chambers Global rankings, including top global-wide rankings for its projects & energy, dispute resolution, capital markets, and banking & finance capabilities. Its reputation in the US is a little more modest, receiving nationwide recognition for its banking & finance, derivatives, financial services, and projects teams; while in New York its environment, corporate/M&A, commercial litigation, and white collar-crime & government investigations teams all receive commendations.
“I feel I’m in the best possible place for that kind of work…”
At the time of writing, there were 28 juniors between the firm’s two US bases. Just two juniors called DC home, while the remainder were in the firm’s much larger New York base. Unsurprisingly, most of our interviewees cited A&O’s “international outlook” as a key attraction, with opportunities aplenty to represent multinational conglomerates whose business interests span the globe. “I feel I’m in the best possible place for that kind of work,” one source positively reflected, adding: “Almost all my cases have been with international clients.”
Incoming juniors are distributed roughly equally between the firm’s four main groups: banking, corporate, capital markets, and litigation. Within each of those are further subgroups such as tax, securities, projects, and antitrust. Upon joining the firm, incoming associates join a group based on preferences and the firm’s business needs. However, juniors can also rotate, at least once, between different departments. “You do six months with a group and then you decide if you want to stay on or rotate up to three times,” one junior explained, adding that associates don't have to rotate “but it mostly happens.” While rotations and where juniors end up are ultimately decided by business need, the firm takes its associates’ preferences seriously. As relayed by one source: “One of my colleagues was rotated into restructuring despite wanting to stay in litigation. The firm, however, made efforts to move them back into litigation later.”
Work distribution is generally a free market, though some groups – such as litigation – have assignment partners “who have an awareness of your workload” and “prevent partners from going to the same associate over and over again,” cutting down the potential for favoritism and ensuring juniors are exposed to a variety of work.
Junior litigators can source “a split of white-collar and civil litigation, along with major antitrust litigation work,” sources explained. “It’s pretty typical for an associate to be staffed on a big investigation, with the remainder of their time devoted to smaller matters, which are more leanly staffed and where you can get more hands-on experience.” Our insiders didn’t shy away from the fact that “you’re going to be doing a lot of document review and legal research,” but hastily told us “that’s not necessarily a bad thing! It can be really fascinating learning an industry and all the facts surrounding a case; it means you can add a lot of value to meetings.” Sources pointed out that while “financial institutions are our core clients, there are also opportunities to represent individuals accused of securities fraud,” adding some variety to their workload.
Litigation clients: BNP Paribas, Samsung, Citibank. Represented Deutsche Bank and several of its employees in New York State Supreme Court litigation brought by Galopy Corporation International.
Within A&O’s corporate department, you can find a “core M&A team” alongside several specialist support groups such as antitrust, IP, tax, employment and an environmental regulatory team. “There’s a good mix of public and private company deals,” sources told us, spanning a variety of sectors including finance, tech, IP, pharma and retail among others. “We don’t specialize in one particular industry or client, which has been really helpful to me and my development,” one source told us. Juniors’ roles were typically more administrative in nature, drafting ancillary reports, running diligence processes and coordinating the flow of deals within the firm’s vast international network. For example, one junior detailed “recently working closely with our Tokyo office.”
Corporate clients: Hitachi, Macquarie, Associated British Food. Acted for Hitachi on its acquisition of automated manufacturing and distribution technology solutions company JR Automation Technologies, in a deal worth over $1.4 billion.
The “general focus” in banking includes “asset finance, acquisition finance, project financing, and corporate lending representing both lenders and borrowers.” Juniors here reported cutting their teeth on everything from managing completion deliverables and drafting guarantees to offering support on credit agreements and taking charge of the due diligence process. Those in the general leading team pointed out that “from a cross-border perspective, we are typically supporting one of our European offices on the US component of a deal.” However, those in leveraged finance pointed out that “though a lot of the deals are headed up by our European team, increasingly we’re taking on our own work generated out of New York – it’s much more of a balance now.”
Banking clients: Goldman Sachs, BMO Capital Markets, Jefferies. Advised diversified technology company Colfax Corporation in connection with a $3 billion financing with a syndicate of banks and financial institutions.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 target
Everyone we spoke to said that “for first years, it’s an aspirational target.” As confirmed by one junior: “I don’t think I’m going to hit it, and I’m not worried. So long as you can show you’re doing everything you can to meet that target you’d receive the market bonus.” Sources were cognizant of the fact that being a firm specializing in global transactions, “inevitably you’re working across multiple time zones, which might require long hours – it’s part of the job.” Most thought that it “probably averages between ten and fifteen hours a day,” with some weekend work on top. However, it’s worth emphasizing that despite a few grumbles, A&O ranked among the top 10% of firms for work/life balance in our associate survey.
“Inevitably you’re working across multiple times zones, which might require long hours.”
A sense of face-time culture was visible to juniors in litigation, who felt that “there is an expectation you’re in the office between 9am and 6pm,” adding that “partners want to be able to walk into your office and speak to you in those hours.” Those working in the firm’s corporate arm seemingly enjoyed more freedom, with one insider remarking: “I work from home once every two weeks depending on the time of year and have had no negative pushback.”
Culture & Career Development
While we heard some grumbles about “the management style of some individuals,” sources reflected overall that “everyone is super nice and really respectful.” One junior added: “I feel like everyone here really cares about me as a person. They’ll think twice about dropping something on me that will ruin my weekend.” A sense of respect and investment came out further when we discussed career development. For example, associates praised the quality of the feedback sessions with their partner mentors, highlighting that “if you wanted to improve a skill, the professional development department would go out of their way to help coach you.”
“They’ll think twice about dropping something on me that will ruin my weekend.”
Though most of our interviewees hadn’t given too much thought to the partnership track, they reported positively that “the firm is very supportive of people going in-house.” A&O's dress code is fairly business casual (apart from occasions where formal attire should be donned, like client meetings), and on Fridays associates can take it down a notch and put on their comfiest pair of jeans. On top of this, there are multiple occasions for associates to let their hair down. Highlights in the firm’s social calendar include themed monthly office parties, lunar new year celebrations and events to honor diversity and inclusion such as Black History Month and International Women's Day.
Diversity & Inclusion
As with most firms we spoke to, sources reasoned that A&O was “really trying” when it came to diversity. The firm has a number of firm-wide initiatives in place to raise awareness of the diversity gap including various ethnic affinity groups, such as the Asian group and Latin American focus group. With 13% of the US partnership identifying as LGBT+, A&O is doing well, and its solid stats are underpinned by its global ‘A&Out' initiative.
However, for one minority attorney, the continued lack of representation at the partnership level was a problem: “One of the easiest ways to envision yourself as a partner is to see someone similar to you doing it. When you don’t have that role model it makes it a little difficult. Not impossible, but difficult.” Litigation, in particular, was flagged as an area most in need to better female representation. To their credit, this year A&O reached its target goal of having 20% female partners by 2020, though they still have a way to go before they could be considered leaders in the field. The firm now has its sights set on a 30% female global partnership, and is implementing measures such as ensuring that at least 30% of partnership promotion candidates are women and monitoring the firm's pipeline of female talent.
The firm has “a 50-hour aspiration goal toward pro bono work, and you can count up to 150 toward the billable target,” sources explained, adding that “it’s especially encouraged in litigation where it’s also seen as a training mechanism.” Like many firms, there’s a “lot of immigration” work, but the firm also does a “lot of family law-related matters helping women who can’t afford attorneys with divorce, custody and child support issues,” one source highlighted. And while most of the pro bono work was litigious, there is “also plenty of transactional work such as assisting startups who are looking to get off the ground,” we were told. A&O also supports a different charity each year as its overarching theme of pro bono; this year it was it was Hope and Homes for Children, which tries to help orphaned children find new families.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 10,397
- Average per US attorney: 56
Strategy & Future
Since 2018, A&O had been in long-running merger talks with US native O’Melveny & Myers. However, talks collapsed in September – a reminder of the challenge British businesses face when trying to crack the US market. Sources reasoned that to compensate, the “firm has been busy hiring a lot of new laterals to the firm.” They identified life sciences, tech and private equity as target areas for growth, with one source adding: “We are continuing to look at international opportunities as well.”
“We are continuing to look at international opportunities.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 515 in NY and 85 in DC
Interviewees outside OCI: 30 in NY and 1 in DC
Allen & Overy conducted OCIs at 20 schools in 2019, including Harvard, Penn, UCLA, 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 Vanderbilt, Boston University, Cornell 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: 218 in NY and 33 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 lunch or 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: 65 in New York and 9 in DC
Acceptances: 18 in NY and 2 in 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.”
Becoming an environment lawyer
Becoming a derivatives and securitization lawyer
Allen & Overy LLP
1221 Avenue of the Americas,
- Head office: London
- Number of domestic offices: 2
- Number of international offices: 42
- Partners (US): 49
- Senior Counsel (US): 15
- Associates (US): 112
- Main recruitment contact: Mary Alex Hudson, Senior Officer of Recruitment and Professional Development
- Hiring partners: Sami Mir (DC); Brian Jebb (NY)
- Diversity officer: Elizabeth Leckie, Partner
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 27 (NY); 2 (DC); 3 (LN); 1 (HK)
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining 2020: 18 (NY); 2 (DC); 2 (LN); 1 (HK)
- Summer salary 2020: Pro-rated first year salary - $190,000.00
- 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 New York, London, Hong Kong and Washington DC.
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 2,800+ attorneys across 44 offices in 31 countries. 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 – which operates principally from our offices in Hong Kong, London, New York and Washington DC—is fully integrated with our offices in Europe, Asia, South America, Australia and Africa. We believe we have a special culture at Allen & Overy, which is founded on quality work, excellent working partnerships and collegiality.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2020:
• American Washington College of Law
• Brooklyn Law School
• Columbia Law School
• Cornell Law School
• Duke University School of Law
• Emory 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
• The George Washington University Law School
• University of Chicago Law School
• University of Michigan Law School
• University of Pennsylvania Law School
• University of Virginia School of Law
• Vanderbilt University Law School
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We participate in resume collects at the following schools: Albany Law School, Boston College Law School, Boston University School of Law, The UCBerkeley School of Law, Cardozo Law School, UCLA School of Law, Yale Law School, Stanford Law School
Summer associate profile: There is no such thing as a typical A&O candidate. We are open-minded and are interested in people who share that quality. We look for people who aren’t afraid 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 are given 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, 2020
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
- Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Banking & Finance (Band 5)
- Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 4)
- Financial Services Regulation: Broker Dealer (Compliance & Enforcement) (Band 4)
- Projects: Agency Financing (Band 1)
- Projects: PPP (Band 2)
Find out more at Allen & Overy's careers page.