The changing legal landscape was the theme of our 2018 Alumni Yearbook. This year, we look back on how Allen & Overy has been at the forefront of changes in the past and how it continues to grow and develop in this new and evolving environment.
In the past 25 years, A&O has transformed itself from a London-based law firm practising English law into one of the world’s most successful international legal services firms. This innovation has centred on globalisation, the best use of resources and a pioneering approach to new technology. It’s been a fascinating journey so far. We’ve chosen 1994 as our starting point because that was the year when A&O decisively moved to providing a dual English and New York law offering as well as opening an office in Frankfurt – Germany being the largest economy in Europe. This was a key milestone in our journey of almost 90 years to where we stand today.
As our feature article, Blazing a trail, shows, A&O has always sought to be innovative and progressive: it’s part of what makes us who we are; it’s in our culture. Much has been made of this ‘A&O culture’ and how it’s been crucial to the firm’s ongoing success. But what exactly is it?
A&O is frequently described as being collegiate and all-welcoming while always seeking the highest standards – attributes that have helped attract the most talented people. That’s certainly part of it, but there’s more.
We would suggest – as a past and a present partner – that the firm’s success owes a great deal to the spirit of adventure and entrepreneurship in A&O, which encourages partners and staff to be bold and ahead of the game. That spirit needs the support of leadership and, throughout its history, A&O has been fortunate in its choice of leaders. But while strategies set by senior management have been pivotal in developing our global reach and expertise, as well as encouraging diversity, it would be wrong to credit senior management alone with drawing the map that has guided A&O.
This is where our culture comes in. A&O has always encouraged its people to bring forward ideas about how we move forward as a firm, including what new products we should introduce, how technology can improve the way we work and deliver services to client, and how we should promote equality and diversity.
One example of this is our derivatives practice, arguably the world leader in its area. The establishment of this standalone practice wasn’t the brainchild of either senior management or the ICM partners, but of two associates: Simon Haddock and Ed Murray (now The Honourable Mr Justice Murray). They believed that if they presented a sound business case, A&O would listen and support them. Nothing was certain and there were risks – but the rest is history.
Stories like this find their way into our feature article as part of a snapshot of our development over the last 25 years. Such has been the tremendous change that we don’t have space to record all the highlights, but hopefully it will give you a greater understanding of what a fantastic journey it has been.
Elsewhere you can read about how A&O is continuing to adapt and evolve in this constantly changing environment. Our Advanced Delivery & Solutions toolkit is featured with its expansion into A&O Consulting as well as the innovative scheme that offers graduates training in the kinds of technologies, solutions and resourcing models that increasingly shape the future of legal services.
We also talk to two of our alumni: Carly Martin shares her career journey so far at Amazon; and Ricky Cohen recently joined Nivaura, a fintech start-up that he helped earn its spurs in Fuse, A&O’s tech innovation space.
Building a diverse and inclusive organisation is one of A&O’s strategic priorities – both because it’s the right thing to do as a progressive firm, and because it’s how we create a resilient and future-focused business. Bringing together people from diverse backgrounds, who think differently, drives innovation and means we can relate better to our clients. It’s the responsibility of everyone at A&O to build an environment where we all feel supported and comfortable in being open. Our diversity and inclusion networks around the world play an important role in this, and we have extended several to our alumni – you can read more in Making progress with diversity and inclusion.
A&O’s global charity partner Hope and Homes for Children (HHC) has put itself at the forefront of a growing global movement to eradicate orphanages. Jenny Enever and Stella Ekkeshis in our Alumni team, along with 13 A&O colleagues and two alumni – Jane Gibson (A&O: 1992-2003) and Jody Smith (A&O: 2011-2018) – visited Romania in September 2019 to take part in a four-day fundraising trek across the Carpathian Mountains and to see first-hand the work of the charity. Collectively, the trek team raised GBP46,000. You can read more about the work of HHC and their future goals in our article Ending the institutional care of children.
Meanwhile, the Alumni Network goes from strength to strength. In 2019, we surpassed 15,000 members spread across 80 countries. The Alumni team hosted 20 events globally, providing more than 1,500 members with the opportunity to catch up with friends and former colleagues, and to grow their own professional networks. To help us plan for these events, please ensure that your details on the Alumni Network website include a city or country. We’d also be delighted to hear from you if you’re interested in assisting with alumni events in your region.
We hope you enjoy this year’s edition and would like to wish you all the very best for 2020.
Mahmood Lone and Boyan Wells
Co-Chairs, Alumni Network