A new LA office is all the buzz at Allen & Overy, which associates say is O-so-very “far away from the white-shoe Manhattan stereotype.”
Juniors at Allen & Overy were dropping heavy hints when they told us “there’s an eye toward the West Coast.” Shortly after our interviews took place, A&O opened its first Cali office in LA with a renewables and project finance team from Akin Gump. The firm’s new base joins New York and DC, bringing the number of A&O’s US offices to three. It looks like a modest spread on the map until you zoom out and see that A&O actually has over 40 offices spanning every continent. Associates were enticed by this “second-to-none international presence” and the prestige attached to the firm’s name – Allen & Overy is one of only five law firms that make up the UK’s prestigious magic circle.
It’s picked up well over 200 (!) Chambers Global rankings for its work in pretty much every practice under the sun, with particular kudos for banking & finance, capital markets, corporate/M&A, dispute resolution, projects, and tax on the international stage. In the US, the firm’s made a name for itself in the projects sphere, and in New York, Chambers USA bestows rankings for its environment, corporate/M&A, and litigation work. Most associates took a bite out of the Big Apple: 90% of juniors were based here, while one or two join in DC each year. It's yet to be confirmed if the firm will hire newbies in California, but long-term the chances look good.
Strategy & Future
A&O’s move to LA makes it the second magic circle firm to go west after Freshfields opened its Silicon Valley office in 2020 (none of the magic circle firms had ventured west since Clifford Chance closed its West Coast offices in 2007). “Our US operation is in a rapid growth phase,” associates said. “It’s the number-one priority globally.” In addition to setting up in California, associates said the firm is seeking to expand its presence on the East Coast. In early 2021, the firm welcomed partner Jake Mincemoyer from White & Case to its New York office to lead its leveraged finance practice in the US.
About a quarter of newbies join A&O’s international capital markets (ICM) and banking groups, while corporate was the second most common destination. The remainder were split between litigation and tax, but first-years can rotate at least twice between different departments. Work allocation varies by group. Litigators, for example, have an assignment partner “who knows about our interests and capacity.” Juniors thought “it’s great because we don’t have to go knocking on doors to find work,” unlike their colleagues in corporate and capital markets might have to. There isn’t a set system in these groups, “so partners just ping you if they need assistance.”
Litigation work involves a fair amount of antitrust cases, but white-collar matters, civil litigation and commercial disputes all crop up too. “It’s harder to staff juniors on civil litigation matters because there are lots of senior associates,” one noted, “but I’ve still had amazing drafting experience.” Such drafts included discovery motions and appellate briefs. On larger antitrust matters, juniors handled more low-key, “nitty-gritty” elements like relaying emails to clients and handling discovery, “which isn’t fun but it’s got to be done!” The investigations portion typically involved dealing with pre-litigation issues and working with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (an independent government agency which regulates the derivatives market). Junior litigators got a taste of A&O’s international reach. “I had a call with our legal services center in Belfast,” one shared. “I’m managing a doc review team there for a case.”
Litigation clients: Bank of China Hong Kong, real estate developer Hidrock Properties, International Car Wash Group. Defended Samsung against allegations of price-fixing for cathode-ray tubes (which are used for older display monitors and televisions).
“I’m on a massive global diligence project with our Paris office at the moment.”
Corporate rookies get to work with their international colleagues too: “I’m on a massive global diligence project with our Paris office at the moment.” The team handles both public and private M&A deals “with many types of clients and industries,” including finance, tech, IP, pharma and retail. There are also several specialist support groups within corporate, such as antitrust, IP, tax, employment and an environmental regulatory team. Juniors described an “extremely diverse practice, which means we get a broad cross-section of skills.” Day-to-day tasks for them included coordinating specialists, conducting diligence and drafting ancillary documents. Juniors may get to play lead associate on smaller deals (around the $5 million mark), which means direct client contact. Interviewees found this “really exciting,” clarifying that “they don’t throw us to the wolves. We get partner support.”
Corporate clients: Champagne maker Louis Roederer, Apollo Global Management, market research firm Nielsen. Advised pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline on the £125 million sale of assets connected to the Physiogel brand to a South Korean cosmetics company.
ICM is divided into general securities, securitization, and derivatives and structured finance. If you’re not familiar, the latter concerns asset-backed securities and collateralized loan obligations (CLOs). The generalists, meanwhile, deal with more run-of-the-mill securities and private equity matters like bond offerings. “I research companies’ obligations for SEC reports, prep memos for clients, and update old agreements with new terms so it’s consistent with the particular deal,” one associate outlined.On the securitization side, an interviewee explained the work behind a CLO: “When we offer notes to investors we have to draft memos, so on a typical day I’ll look at comments from other parties then discuss them with clients.” Sources said their superiors “don’t shy away from giving juniors work which requires some thinking!” We heard “the securities world comes with a whole slew of agreements,” so even first-years get opportunities to put pen to paper. Some juniors were also in direct communication with clients. “Lots of them have my phone number,” one said. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad!” ICM associates work with colleagues in Asia, Europe and South America.
ICM clients: BNP Paribas,JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America.Represented French investment bank Natixis as arranger of a $439 million CLO managed by financial institution Owl Rock.
Hours & Compensation
- Billable hours: 2,000 target
“The international aspect of the firm, which is the reason I came here, has practical challenges when we’re working across time zones,” an ICM junior reflected. “It can mean getting up very early, which is exhausting after a while.” Others agreed “the workload can be grueling, no matter how collaborative your teammates are. Work/life balance gets blurred out.” A corporate associate also said “I’ve had dealings with the printer overnight, but I’m always thanked for my efforts.” On the plus side, corporate work follows a fairly strict cycle, “so I can predict what my days will look like.”
There’s a soft 2,000 hour billing target, but those who’d billed less still got a bonus – “we’re not stingy!” Some BigLaw firms canceled bonuses due to COVID-19, but A&O paid its usual bonus rate and dished out an additional bonus this year to thank associates for working through the pandemic.
Attorneys have a 50-hour pro bono target and can credit 150 hours toward the billing target. Interviewees had worked on matters ranging from divorce to immigration. The presidential election also saw A&O helping with voting rights issues. Like many firms in New York, A&O partners with Her Justice, which helps disadvantaged women get legal advice. The nature of pro bono is litigation-centric, but transactional associates managed to get involved with Legal Outreach, a legal education nonprofit based in Queens. “We’re matched up with high school students from underprivileged, minority backgrounds and mentor them for three years,” a juniors told us. “We also coach constitutional law debates.”
“You’re respected for your abilities irrespective of how junior you are.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 6,250
- Average per US attorney: 27
Interviewees agreed that getting to do work they’d specifically requested showed the firm invests in its junior talent.Most associates we surveyed intended to stay at A&O indefinitely. “You’re respected for your abilities irrespective of how junior you are,” one felt. Globally the firm promoted 29 attorneys to partner in 2021 – 3 of these were in the US.
Associates have quarterly check-ins with their partner mentors, who’re “tasked with helping you accomplish your goals each quarter.” Associate mentors are also on hand to answer more day-to-day questions. Associates praised senior figures for “really taking the time to walk juniors through legal issues, as well as taking the time to get to know their juniors.”
For one, this meant that “I don’t have any angst over receiving a visit or a phone call from any particular partner or senior associate.” Another felt that “A&O does a great job of mitigating the challenges of BigLaw, like client expectations. It comes down to how everyone interacts. There’s no pressure to outdo anyone.” In fact, associates were impressed with a “polite and respectful” atmosphere at A&O from the off. "There was a sense of collegiality among the interviewers at my OCI and a personal touch to our conversation,” one recalled. “It is thankfully very far away from the white-shoe Manhattan stereotype!”
“My colleagues in London reached out asking how they could help.”
Those who joined new practice groups mid-pandemic were pleased to find that “lots of people called me to get to know me because I obviously couldn’t meet them in person.” The firm has also hosted virtual happy hours to keep everyone connected. “They understand that people have been stuck in tiny apartments while the city’s on total lockdown,” one said. “They’ve encouraged us to take vacation and I’ve seen several emails about mental health.” During Mental Health Month, A&O put on talks about mental wellbeing.
Diversity & Inclusion
The international shockwaves in the wake of the killing of George Floyd were keenly felt at a firm like A&O: “My colleagues in London reached out asking how they could help.” In response, A&O set up a diversity taskforce “which meets regularly to discuss how we can show support both financially and through programming.” The firm recently agreed to sponsor Catalyst, Seizing Every Opportunity’s (SEO) new program that supports Black, Hispanic, and Native American pre-law students as they undergo the law school application process.
“I really appreciate the firm’s candidness about its shortfalls,” one associate shared. “It’s lagging on hiring Black and Latino attorneys but it’s working hard to improve that.” We heard one change that’s come out of these talks is amendments to the firm’s interview process: “It’s now more scenario-based rather than talking through résumés.”
On the retention front, “the firm’s made visible progress since I’ve joined.” In 2020 it achieved Mansfield Certification Plus status, meaning at least 30% of leadership roles are held by individuals from minority backgrounds. One person raised the point that “there are zero female litigation partners in the US, which is a point of contention,” but on the whole associates were encouraged to see “A&O has recently hired several diverse partners.”
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: 3
- Number of international offices: 39
- Partners (US): 68
- Senior Counsel (US): 15
- Associates (US): 130
- Main recruitment contact: Mary Alex Hudson, Manager, Recruitment and Professional Development
- Hiring partners: Sami Mir ; Bradley Pensyl
- Diversity officer: Elizabeth Leckie, Partner
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 27 (NY); 2 (DC); 3 (LN); 1 (HK)
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining 2021: 18 (NY); 2 (DC); 2 (LN); 1 (HK)
- Summer salary 2021: 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 2,950+ 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 – which operates principally from our offices in Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, 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 2021:
• American Washington College of Law
• 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
• 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, 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, Brooklyn Law School, Cardozo Law School, University of Chicago School of Law, Fordham Law School, Antonin Scalia Law School (George Mason), Vanderbilt University Law School, Yale 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, 2021
District of Columbia
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (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)
- 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.