PMO GraduateA&O: 2018-present
Legal Tech GraduateA&O: 2018-present
Katie Grace Matthews
MIG GraduateA&O: 2018-present
The first three graduates on Allen & Overy’s groundbreaking Advanced Delivery training scheme are taking a challenging alternative path into law – and helping shape the future of the industry.
Given that A&O is the first firm in the legal industry to offer graduate training in the technologies, solutions and resourcing models that will shape legal services delivery in the future, Georgia, Katie and Daniel are trail-blazers.
The scheme they’re pioneering is expected to become an important route into law at a time of massive change caused by ever-increasing technological developments.
The scheme also supports the firm’s leading role in developing a suite of Advanced Delivery options which, after more than a decade of investment, now includes familiar names that have become a cohesive client offering. They include Fuse; the PMO; Peerpoint, the consultant lawyer platform; aosphere, the online subscription service; the Legal Services Centre in Belfast; the Legal Technology Group; A&O Consulting and the Markets Innovation Group (MIG).
Rani Oliver, head of the PMO, describes the impetus behind starting the graduate scheme. “Advanced Delivery is still a brave new world so it can be hard to find people with the relevant experience to work in these areas,” she says. “Part of the thinking was, ‘Let’s grow our own talent – if we can, why wouldn’t we?’.”
In the first cohort, Daniel was assigned for the first year to the PMO while Katie and Georgia worked with the Legal Technology Group, led by Kevin Oliver. They rotated for the second year, continuing to work across A&O’s practice groups on some of the firm’s largest and most innovative matters.
A new cohort of trainees, who started in August 2019, includes Emma Johannes, a lawyer trained in South Africa and the U.S., and Joseph Sandham and Matthew Westby, respectively a Chemistry graduate from Cambridge and a Computer Sciences and Economics graduate from Durham.
In 2019, a third seat was added, with trainees also spending eight months with MIG, which brings together a collection of partners working on tailored tech solutions for clients. Rani says she wouldn’t be surprised to see A&O Consulting added as a fourth seat in the future.
Reflecting on the first year of the scheme, she says: “The three graduates have been fantastic, becoming an integral part of the teams. They’ve excelled. They’re super-bright and very driven.”
And they need to be, she adds.
“We’ve set the bar very high academically, expecting the same educational achievement as we want to see in our legal trainees. This isn’t an easy route into A&O. It’s absolutely as tough as the legal pathway.”
Diverse and inspiring
So what part of their experience stands out for the graduates themselves?
For Daniel, it’s been the diversity of projects. “From Day 1, I was playing an active role in supporting on live matters, often in direct contact with partners and clients,” he says. “It’s naturally been challenging. But everyone has been very supportive in terms of mentoring and the training programmes equip you with the necessary skills.”
What’s struck Georgia is the breadth and depth of training. As well as learning “totally from scratch” what she needs to know about legaltech to manage highly complex projects, there have been modules on understanding finance, developing client value propositions, storytelling and presentation skills.
She is looking forward to working on projects with MIG, which she sees as a kind of lab for intensive, focused tech development whose work is hard to understand unless you’re on the inside.
Katie had already had a spell with the MIG team and found it inspiring. “It was the first time I could contextualise the size of A&O and understand that the work A&O engages in is all about seeking solutions to the world’s largest economic issues,” she says.
In the first year, Daniel was predominantly London-based. But his work has mostly been global in nature, including helping to coordinate multiple A&O offices on a Brexit-related project and managing the due diligence on a multi-jurisdictional property transaction. His time to travel started during 2019 when he moved to the Legaltech Group.
Georgia and Katie have already completed month-long secondments to the Singapore, Hong Kong and Sydney offices. Katie says: “I’ve worked alongside fee-earners and clients to produce efficient tech-enabled solutions. If that alone wasn’t worth travelling for, the food in all three places certainly was!”
Georgia’s highpoint was a trip to New York in January 2019 as part of Fuse U.S. week. She was involved in roundtable discussions with clients designed to identify their pain points and how the firm could help them. “It really opened my eyes up to the other side,” she says. “I’m so used to working internally, so it was great to be given the chance to talk directly to clients about how we can help.”
In the summer of 2020, the three pioneers hope to find a permanent position in the firm, graduating from the scheme as legal project executives and then being fast-tracked to full-blown legal project managers within a year.
“The intention is to offer them a role in their preferred areas, if one can be found,” Rani says. “I can see all of them having careers with us.”
It’s early days for the training scheme: it remains an unusual route to a career in the legal profession. But as the importance of technology grows and as the scheme develops, it could become an increasingly common way for bright graduates to make their way into the industry.
Georgia Barrow was the only one of the first cohort on the scheme not to have studied law. She took Politics and Social Anthropology at Cambridge and had her sights set on a career in PR, with a political bent. But after noticing how many of her friends were considering a career in law, she thought she should find out more.
She looked for paralegal opportunities – not usually open to people with no legal qualifications – just as A&O’s fast-growing Project Management Office (PMO) decided to take on a trainee.
In a sense she was the testbed for the Advanced Delivery graduate scheme and when it was launched a year later, in mid-2018, she applied successfully to move across.
“That year as a legal project assistant allowed me to understand what life in a big law firm was like while working in a project management role that complemented my skills and personality,” she says. “I wanted to boost my skills by learning about legaltech and found myself loving the tech side as well.”
For Daniel Francis, a fascination with legaltech grew after he completed an LLB at Liverpool University and a masters in Law and Finance at Oxford. As part of his MSc, he explored how technology and economic theory could make legal processes more efficient.
Though he started his career as a Capital Markets assistant for Freshfields in Manchester, A&O’s two-year graduate scheme caught his eye and he applied.
Daniel says: “The scheme offered the opportunity to develop skills and experience in the emerging areas of legal project management and legaltech. Fuse, A&O’s tech innovation space, was a major attraction, proving A&O wasn’t just talking about technology but was actually committed to investing in legaltech.”
Katie Grace Matthews
Katie Matthews well remembers when she began to question if a conventional route into the legal industry was for her.
It was during a six-month internship at a global firm in her native Republic of Ireland, where she had the opportunity to work with two teams. One was pursuing a mostly paper-based trial; the other was running an e-discovery exercise using a legaltech platform.
“With such a stark contrast between the old and the new ways of working, I couldn’t help but think how much more efficient the tech-enabled way was,” she says.
Back at the University of Limerick where she was studying Law and Economics, she immersed herself in what tech-based modules were available. She also worked with Neota Logic in a legal apps ‘hackathon’ sponsored by another Irish law firm.
When it came time to apply for training contracts, Katie says she was “less than enthusiastic about spending two-plus years working on paperbased cases”. “Through intense research, I landed on A&O’s Advanced Delivery (AD) graduate scheme – and here I am,” she adds.
Find out more about the Advanced Delivery graduate scheme at aograduate.com.