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Allen and Overy Application Process

Allen and Overy Application Process

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Founded in 1930, Allen & Overy LLP is an international law firm headquartered in London and operating in more than 30 countries.

It is one of five London firms known as ‘magic circle’ firms, denoting the most prestigious firms in London with the largest revenues and profitability.

A&O says that it is ‘a pioneering, forward-thinking business; the only one to have topped the Financial Times Innovative Law Firm ranking four times.’ Clients include ‘87% of Forbes’ top 100 public companies’.

Core departments are banking, corporate and international capital markets (with trainees spending at least twelve months in two of these areas).

A&O offers a five-day litigation course in association with Nottingham Law School to fulfil the contentious requirements of the training contract (which means A&O trainees do not automatically have to complete a contentious seat).

In this article, we'll cover the opportunities A&O offers graduates, what it looks for, and the application process in detail, with tips.

What Graduate Opportunities Does Allen & Overy Offer?

A&O recruits 80 to 90 trainees a year across two intakes.

Applications for the Allen & Overy London Vacation Scheme and training contract follow the same application process. Candidates can only apply for either a training contract or a vacation scheme place in each twelve-month period.

All those who complete a vacation scheme placement will be considered for a training contract. Candidates can also opt to apply directly for a training contract without completing the vacation scheme.

Applications for the Open Day are by application form only. Applications for A&O First is a similar but simplified version of the training contract application.

A&O First

Aimed at first-year undergraduates (or those in their second year of a four-year course), A&O First is a year-long work experience programme. It runs alongside the second and third terms of the first year of university and also the first term of the third year.

Applications open at the start of January and applicants must have achieved at least AAB or equivalent at A-level.

The actual programme includes a two-day workshop in April, work shadowing, legal and business skills training and an office visit in September.

Once training contract and vacation scheme applications open in the autumn, there is the opportunity for A&O First candidates to be fast-tracked to the assessment centre stage of the application process.

Other benefits include being assigned a current trainee as a ‘buddy’, access to an online network of peers, recruiters and trainees, as well as networking opportunities.

Application is by online application form, followed by an online situational judgment test. Successful applicants then progress to a 30-minute telephone case study interview with a member of the Graduate Recruitment Team.

On-Campus Events

Allen & Overy runs events at more than 30 UK universities where you can meet members of the graduate recruitment team, find out more about working at Allen & Overy and network with current members of staff and trainees.

Dates and information are released on the website at the start of the academic year and on A&O’s social media pages.

Open Day

The Allen & Overy Open Day is aimed at second-year undergraduate students (and above), as well as graduates from any degree discipline.

Applications open in January for a month.

The day itself includes talks, presentations, networking opportunities and advice on the application process for vacation schemes and training contracts at Allen & Overy.

Vacation Schemes

Allen & Overy offers two vacation schemes each year, in the winter and summer. The schemes are aimed at penultimate or final-year undergraduates, and graduates of any discipline.

There are around 50 places across the two schemes. Pay is £450 per week and candidates gain experience in one department.

All vacation scheme candidates are considered for a training contract place upon successful completion of the scheme.

International Vacation Scheme

Candidates who complete the London Vacation Scheme are offered the opportunity to apply for the International Vacation Scheme, where they will spend an additional week in one of A&O’s international offices.

Training Contract

Students can apply for the Allen & Overy training contract in the penultimate year of their law degree. Applications are also welcomed from final year non-law students and graduates of all degree disciplines.

There are two recruitment intakes per year and applicants must have or be on track for a 2:1, with a minimum of 136 UCAS points or AAB at A-level.

Those who are offered a training contract will go on to study the Allen & Overy Legal Practice Course (LPC), with LLM qualification at BPP Law School after graduation from a qualifying law degree.

This bespoke LPC lasts seven months and starts in either July or January, depending on which intake you have been allocated.

Non-law candidates must take the Graduate Diploma in Law qualification before completing the A&O LPC.

Training Contract Benefits

When you accept an offer of a training contract from Allen & Overy you will not only be entitled to a top job and good salary but also financial support for ALL law school studies.

Allen & Overy will pay your course fees for the PGDL (Postgraduate Diploma in Law). They will also pay for all course fees associated with the LPC (Legal Practice Course).

Allen & Overy also provide students with a maintenance grant of £10,000 if you are studying for the PGDL or LPC.

If you accept your training contract after commencing the PGDL or LPC, Allen & Overy will pro rata your maintenance award and your course fees will be refunded in full.

Allen & Overy recognise high-achieving students by offering a cash award of £500 for anyone who collects a first class degree and/or a distinction in the LPC after accepting a training contract offer.

LawTech Graduate Programme

This is a tech-focused graduate programme offering the same standard of training as a training contract, but combining project management with legal technology.

Aimed at non-law graduates with an interest in tech, the programme offers experience in the Legal Project Management Office, Legal Technology Team and the Markets Innovation Group, alongside financial economics and the professional skills course.

A&O specifies that applicants should ideally have science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) degrees, or economics degrees, though law graduates can still apply.

The programme is based in the Fuse Hub in the London office. It is not a legal qualification and those completing the programme will not be qualified lawyers, rather achieving a recognised qualification in project or process management.

LLM Students

A&O has a dedicated recruitment process for LLM students.

When Can I Apply?

Applications for the vacation scheme and training contract open around mid-September and A&O calls candidates forward to interview on a first-come, first-served basis.

Those applying for a Winter Vacation Scheme place, which occurs in December, need to apply by 13 October; otherwise, the deadline for applications is 15 December.

What Qualifications and Skills Are Sought?

All applicants must have or be on track for a 2:1 or higher and will need to provide degree module grades on the application form, even where they don’t count towards the degree.

At A-level, the AAB (or 136 UCAS points) must have been completed in the same academic year (and excludes General Studies).

Almost half of A&O trainees are from non-law backgrounds and there are no preferred universities.

Mitigating circumstances and disabilities will be taken into account; applicants are advised to email to discuss their circumstances on a personal and confidential basis.

Across all elements of the application process, candidates should bear in mind the key skills that Allen & Overy look for:

  • Mental Agility – critical thinking, intellect, numeracy

    ‘Applies a sharp and insightful mind to work challenges. Accurately analyses information, including numerical data.’

  • Change Agility – innovation, adaptability, intellectual curiosity

    ‘Thrives on change and actively instigates innovative improvement. Is passionate about learning and keen to develop skills and knowledge to enhance performance.’

  • People Agility – collaboration & emotional intelligence

    ‘Builds consistently excellent working relationships with clients and colleagues. Uses a deep understanding of others, from all backgrounds, to adapt influencing style. A supportive colleague and team player.’

  • Solutions Agility – organisation, technology awareness, drive & motivation, resilience

    ‘Highly energetic with a keen focus on results. Persists to overcome obstacles. Delivers work in an efficient, effective, timely and technology-savvy way. Meets deadlines and has a fine-tuned detail and quality radar.’

The Application Process

All of the various schemes require the completion of an online application form.

For the A&O First scheme, vacation schemes and training contract, this is then followed by a video-based situational judgement test.

For the A&O First scheme, the interview for successful candidates is carried out via telephone.

For the vacation scheme and training contract applications, the interviews are carried out at an assessment day.

Application Form

The application form is completed online once applications open. After registering, candidates will need to complete basic questions such as contact details, academic grades and work experience.

It is recommended that candidates include as much information as possible at this stage so that the graduate recruitment team does not have to chase for the information.

There are then five questions to answer (250 words each) which may include variations on the following:

  • What are your main interests, activities and pastimes? Include related position of leadership and responsibility.
  • Describe a recent major challenge that you have faced and specifically how you responded.
  • Why do you want to pursue a career in international commercial law?
  • Why Allen & Overy?
  • Tell us about a current issue or news article that has interested you and how you feel that subject matter is relevant to Allen & Overy.
  • Provide an example of a change in the legal sector which interests you, one which has happened or is yet to happen, and discuss the impact it has had or could have.

When answering, you need to demonstrate your interest and motivation for a career in international law, your commercial awareness and understanding of how businesses work, and also showcase how your skills match A&O’s identified ideal skill set.

You should highlight your work experience and avoid mentioning remuneration as motivation in itself. Focus on demonstrating business aptitude and an understanding of client services.

You should also show an interest in legal technology and demonstrate a good understanding of the growing benefits of the technology to the commercial sector.

Remember that your answers should have consistency. If you are attracted to A&O because you are impressed with their pro-bono stance and projects, then you should demonstrate an interest and involvement with charity or pro-bono work in your work experience or extracurricular activities at university.

Try and find a current issue or news article that you have an interest in, so you can talk about this should you reach the interview stage. You do not have to pick something that affects A&O directly. It could be something that might affect or benefit a client or a group of clients. You will need to be able to accurately summarise the scenario and relate that back to the issue or benefit to A&O.

A&O application process

As with all applications at this level, the application form is an excellent way to make a great first impression. Here are some tips:

  • Take your time, progress through the individual sections carefully and provide well-thought-out answers.

  • Do not give the recruiter a reason to reject your application with sloppy spelling or grammatical errors.

  • Your research should be in-depth and relevant.

  • Ensure that you understand exactly what Allen & Overy is looking for in its employees.

  • Use relevant examples from your academic studies, work history or achievements to back up your responses. Avoid generic or standard responses.

Situational Judgement Test

Applicants must then take a 20-minute immersive video-based Situational Judgement Test (SJT).

The test takes the form of a series of filmed scenarios based on day-to-day tasks and challenges faced by trainees at A&O.

After each one, you are invited to select your answer as to what you would do if you were the trainee.

Assessment Day

At the assessment day, there will be two one-on-one interviews – a commercial case study interview and a skills/competency-based interview – followed by a more informal meeting with a current trainee.

Commercial Case Study Interview

After consideration of a provided brief, candidates will prepare a short presentation to deliver to the interviewer followed by a discussion on the key points from the case study.

This interview is an opportunity for the recruitment team to understand how well you identify and extract key pieces of legal and commercial information.

The case study may be quite lengthy, so you will not have time to cover every aspect of it in detail. Applicants should be prepared to justify what they have presented and why they have decided to omit certain aspects.

Past candidates have been asked to prepare presentations on topics like the merger and acquisition of a company, or an issue relating to an SME.

Candidates should make sure that they are prepared and may find the following tips useful:

  • Research and learn business terminology.

  • Read the Financial Times and be up-to-date on current deals and mergers.

  • Polish your maths skills. Know how to analyse company balance sheets, calculate profit and understand sales data and trends.

  • As previous case studies have involved mergers, think about issues that might arise and who would be involved, and how the roles of the various lawyers fit into that.

  • Think about how you would turn data into the best strategy for the client, and what that would represent in terms of advice.

Competency Interview

The competency interview will assess your skills, knowledge and motivation for a legal career at Allen & Overy. Candidates should expect to be asked questions based on scenarios they may encounter as a trainee.

You will be asked for specific details of your knowledge, skills, experience and reasons for applying to Allen & Overy.

Think about your answers carefully. Make sure that you reinforce your answers with examples and read up on current issues affecting the legal industry, as you may be asked to comment on specific events.

The recruiters expect you to explain your answers properly by using the STAR Technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result). Describe the situation, outline the task that you were required to complete, the action that you took and the result.

Some of the competency-based questions asked during the Allen & Overy interview might include:

As with all interviews, thorough preparation is a must.

Rehearse answers with a friend or in the mirror until you can answer with no umms or pauses. Equally, you don’t want to sound rehearsed, so make sure you can answer the questions in different ways.

Receiving an Offer

Allen & Overy promises to get back to all candidates who reach the assessment centre phase quickly with a decision and will give constructive feedback regardless of the outcome.

No feedback is offered to individual applicants rejected at the application form stage.


Your training will be based on three or six month rotations, known as 'seats' of which you will take part in four to six.

On these seats you will learn about a number of departments or practice areas, where you will sit with a partner or an associate who will instruct you.

After joining Allen & Overy you will meet the HR Manager to form an individual seat plan, tailored to take your interests and aspirations into consideration.

Additionally you will discuss the length of your seats, and explore the possibilities of international or client secondments. You'll also nominate a "priority seat" which means you'll be guaranteed experience in a chosen department.

Allen and Overy's core areas of expertise are Corporate, Banking and International Capital Markets. As a trainee you will spend at least twelve months of your training contract gaining experience in at least two of these key areas.

As a trainee you may be able to take three or six-month seats at Allen & Overy offices in other countries. If you are able to speak the language of the country you wish to travel to, this will certainly make things easier for you.

Trainees usually apply to undertake secondments in the final six months of their training contract.

Trainees are also offered a number of client-based secondments, which enable trainees to spend time in another working environment and experience the clients' side of business, working alongside clients' staff in clients' offices. These secondments normally take place in the second year of training.

Salary and Benefits

The current salary for first year trainees is £50,000 rising to £55,000 in the second year of training.

In addition, you will be entitled to a generous benefits package which includes insurance (life, permanent health and private medical), pension scheme, an interest-free season ticket loan, as well as a range of on-site facilities such as a gym, medical and dental service, beauty treatments, dry cleaners and restaurants.

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