My training contract at global law firm Allen & Overy

An Allen & Overy NQ on being a graduate at a top City and global law firm
Law school and training contracts

The training contract on offer at top City and global firm Allen & Overy is a great example of the training contracts these firms offer. Here newly-qualified lawyer (NQ) Claire Balchin explains why she chose Allen & Overy's training contract, how she found the experience, and how it's helped her in her legal career.

"Doing different seats is an excellent way of getting to grips with the broad range of practice areas at the firm and helps you become a well- rounded lawyer able to appreciate the various angles to a deal."

The training contract

"At Allen & Overy we do four six-month seats. Everyone says you should keep an open mind when you're choosing your seats, which I tried to do.

The HR team were very helpful, but I also found it useful to talk to partners and associates, who were all happy to chat to me about their departments. I spoke to other trainees too.

Most of the graduates going to the firm do the legal practice course (LPC) together, so even before I started I knew lots of people at my level and further on in their training contracts."

My work

"I started off in Corporate, specialising in cross-border energy mergers and acquisitions.

I then moved to Restructuring, advising lenders and companies who were in financial difficulty before spending six months in Arbitration, where I worked on investment disputes between investors and states.

Finally, I was lucky to spend the last six months of my training contract in Hong Kong, where I sat in Litigation and was involved in both financial and property-related disputes.

My trainers were a mix of partners and associates, and it was interesting to see lawyers in both roles up close - how partners manage the practice and how associates managed their transactions.

But, even though you share an office with your trainer, I worked with many of the other partners and associates in the group I was in and learnt a huge amount from them."

The skills I learnt

"The most important thing I learnt during my training contract was that as a lawyer you have to understand what your client's concerns are, both from a legal and commercial point of view, and respond proactively to those concerns.

I also learnt how important it is to write clearly and concisely, in everything from notes of advice to emails."

The support I've had

"As you progress through the training contract, getting feedback is vital to improving as a lawyer and making the step from a trainee to NQ.

People were always willing to sit down with me and discuss both the background to the matter and tell me what was good about the work I'd done and, importantly, how I could improve it. I also had some longer feedback chats with my trainers over coffee or lunch as well as end of seat appraisals.

In terms of formal training, I did the Professional Skills Course and attended departmental inductions at the beginning of each seat.

Departments also run training sessions for all their lawyers that trainees are encouraged to attend, which keep you up to date on the developments in that practice area and help you to feel part of the team."

The future

"I enjoyed all my seats and deciding where to qualify was a hard decision. But I had a lot of help from lawyers in the departments I was interested in and even had chats with some of them over the phone from Hong Kong, trying to work out where I'd fit best, and hearing about opportunities and available roles.

In the end, I chose Restructuring because I found the work a fascinating mix - there's a transactional element to the matters, but there's also court and advisory work involved.

After finishing my seat in Hong Kong, I was given six weeks unpaid annual leave and went travelling - to Borneo, the Philippines and Vietnam, which was great. I've now been in Restructuring as a qualified lawyer for a month and am already involved in several fascinating matters.

My transition into a qualified lawyer has been smooth - as I progressed through my seats, I was gradually given more responsibility.

And now that I'm qualified, I've noticed I already have more client contact and responsibility. But after two years of training, I feel ready for, and am enjoying, this step up."