Despite past speculation over a US tie-up, Allen & Overy has stuck to being an independent transactional titan. And global managing partner Gareth Price alongside senior partner Wim Dejonghe have not disappointed in sorting the firm’s US strategy: over half of A&O’s revenue growth for its 21/22 financial results came from the US. With six US offices, with Boston, San Francisco and Silicon Valley being the most recent additions, the firm has caused quite a stir across the Atlantic with 24 partners lateralling to their cause. The Magic Circle firm has also performed well in its latest financials with revenues rising 10% to £1.94 billion, while profit per equity partner grew more tamely by 3% to £1.95 million.
Under the bonnet, A&O remains a traditional Magic Circle law firm. Like its four global peers, it’s huge (with 43 offices in 29 countries); has a longstanding reputation for representing the establishment (the firm’s co-founder, George Allen, famously advised King Edward VIII during the abdication crisis of 1936); and offers great perks. The free on-site gym, physio and rooftop bar are a highlight, as is the top-rated firm canteen (featuring “incredible live cooks who prepare fresh breakfast, lunch and dinner”). Flu jabs are also offered to help lawyers stay healthy and should any still succumb to health problems there’s an in-house doctor and dentist.
There’s more: A&O’s eclectic perks list also include one of the most generous pension schemes in the business, an on-site beautician, music rooms (?!), a dance hall (??!!), a sauna, an in-house bar and the jewel in the crown: two stunning roof terraces overlooking the City where delightful corporate law barbecues are held in the summer. But note the firm recently announced it will relocate to new and more “sustainable” premises at 2 Broadgate in early 2027. Expect to receive a couple of large screens, camera, headset, mouse, keyboard and so on for when you’re not in the office, making it easy to move home and the office. On top of all that, those that stay on to qualify at the firm can expect a base salary of £107,500, though this rate is now less than some of its Magic Circle contenders.
There is a price for all of this, of course: billing targets are set at a chunky 1,750 hours annually. Our latest survey records A&O’s average leave time as just before 8:30pm — meaning the firm’s lawyers work not far off 12 hours a day. But as with any top law firm, hours vary wildly — with some late nights/early mornings and weekends standard in the run-up to closure of a deal.
What’s clear is that across the firm it varies hugely. Hours can be antisocial — “when it is busy, you work very hard,” says one rookie adding, “but normally because you are absolutely integral to the deal, so you don’t mind as much.” That said, it is usually possible to flag any specific social events. One musical-loving source confesses that their trainer “even let me book a half day off with a couple of days’ notice so I could watch Hamilton”.
Trainees don’t enter a Magic Circle firm unaware of this reality: “You know what you’re signing up for, particularly with the firm’s top tier practices, and so it’s naive to expect anything other than full commitment to work during the week. That said, weekends have been fairly sacred, and on the occasions I’ve made it out in good time midweek, you make the most of it!”. But there’s no ‘always on’ culture, with one insider noting “If you put down boundaries, they will be respected. As long as the relevant deadlines are met, no one minds if you leave the office at 3 PM”.
The good news is that those seeking a break from the London grind have a good chance of bagging an international secondment. Popular destinations include Dubai, Paris and Singapore but there are a plethora of other options that have apparently been growing in number in recent times. There are some decent client secondments too, at blue-chip clients like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
You can also expect top-notch training, as one trainee boasts: “The training on offer is exceptional – the firm really does go above and beyond to make sure trainees are confident and prepared in all aspects. Each of my trainers has also been outstanding”. Support is also there when needed: “There was continuous training throughout my seat, which was really helpful given I was working on a particularly niche bit of structured finance”.
Trainees get lots of hands-on experience too. One recalled, “during my time at A&O, I have consistently been tasked with running small transactions on my own. Trainees are encouraged to take the lead on matters wherever they can. The real difference, therefore, is that trainees are simultaneously given both responsibility AND support.”.
There is also “a culture of openness and friendliness” at A&O which extends to even the most senior partners bar one or two odd-balls. “I felt very welcomed into what is a very close-knit team” said one. Though it can vary: “Some departments have excellent support systems in place (junior associates, trainers and other support staff), whereas others expect you to deal with things on your own and figure it out as you go”.
At the end of the day though, A&O trainees are always there to help each other out. “I love my trainee cohort and we frequently spend time together outside of work. It is very easy to reach out to any of them for help or advice”, says one enamoured rookie.
Meanwhile, A&O enjoys a reputation as one of the City’s most innovative firms, so expect some slick legal tech. “Obviously 10/10,” says one trainee when asked to rate the firm’s tech credentials, while insiders speak highly of the firm’s start-up incubator, Fuse, which is hosted on the first floor of the firm’s swish Spitalfields offices.
In summary, long hours, good remuneration, excellent perks. It’s a Magic Circle law firm.