How to get an Allen & Overy training contract
When asked how and why they chose A&O, several interviewees told us: “Honestly, getting in made my decision. I felt I was quite lucky.” The firm seeks high-flyers, no question. Nearly everyone we spoke to had received offers from comparable firms. “Obviously,” said several trainees, you are going to have Oxbridge-dominated intakes at a magic circle firm, but there are plenty of people at A&O who went to other universities. In our random sample of interviewees we also came across people from a few of the Russell Group unis.
A&O is not a place for moaners. It’s also not really a place for slackers. “If you’re happy to sit back and not take on too much responsibility that can be catered for but you won’t be rewarded for it.”
The recruitment process
In recent years, vac scheme selection has become a much more rigorous process. “The first interview is competency-based generic stuff about why you love the law,” we were informed. It is conducted with a partner, senior associate, or member of graduate recruitment, and is an opportunity to discuss the candidates’ skills and qualities, as well as their motivation for a career in commercial law.
The second interview centres on “quite an intense case study. It was a set of documents that you got 30 minutes to read, so obviously you couldn’t digest all information.” “I’ve heard people get annihilated in there,” said one source, perhaps touching on hyperbole a little. “They don’t go easy on you, but – and I don’t know if it’s the interviewers or the style they’ve adopted – it’s not so confrontational as at other firms. They want you to succeed, and they want you to do well.” It still sounds a bit intense to us, but trainees advised that “to prepare for it you just do the normal things you’d do for any interview. Read the news and take an interest in what’s going on in the banking world, and really think about why you’re applying here.”
Our sources had done their vac schemes pre-credit crunch, “right at the height of corporate gluttony.” That meant “they absolutely peppered us with dinners, drinks and fun things to do. I had three weeks living in London pretending to be a grown up and drinking champagne.” Halcyon days! In less decadent times, schemers are also required to do some work. This side to things usually means sitting with a qualified lawyer and getting involved in the day-to-day activities of the different departments.
Outside of this supervised work, there are also workshops and talks on all the different practice areas and key skills, as well as other negotiations and presentations. Some lucky summer vac schemers will even have the opportunity to spend a week in one of A&O’s international offices.
Vac scheme advice: “Get out there and talk to as many people as you can.” Interested students might also consider attending an A&O open day, which is “kind of like a vac scheme in a day.” Students can attend workshops, shadow trainees and, perhaps most importantly, get tips on the interview process.
Interview with Richard Hough, graduate recruitment partner at Allen & Overy
Student Guide: Are there any highlights from the past year that you think readers would like to know about Allen & Overy?
Richard Hough: This isn't an article to showcase a whole list of deals. We're an ambitious organisation and the last twelve months reflects that. We were involved in high profile work, such as the Greek sovereign debt crisis, where we advised the steering committee of private creditors. A big corporate deal was advising Virgin Money on the acquisition of Northern Rock.
We also continued to invest in our international network, for example opening offices in Morocco, Turkey and Vietnam.
SG: We heard from trainees that you'll have an increasing global focus in coming years. What is the firm's strategy?
RH: We have a by-word, which is 'global reach, local depth'. Our strategy is one of globalisation, so we're always exploring new offices. We've opened 42 offices now. When we opened in Istanbul earlier this year, that marked 12 new offices in the last three years. That's a 30% increase. In the context of a recession during which other firms have decided not to expand, we followed globalisation, and it's reaping dividends.
The new offices have each contributed significantly in terms of revenue in their first year of operation. We've been opening in selected parts of the world with emerging economies, where we can identify or team up with the best lawyers. It's a template for us to expand our geographic focus, so we have a global reach.
Local depth involves not spreading ourselves too thinly. We want the quality and quantity of offices that can provide the services clients want. They won't all be full-service. Morocco doesn't have every practice area – only banking and corporate, and that will be built up over time.
That's the strategy really. Africa is an exciting economy. Our foothold in Morocco is a stepping stone for expansion and further development in due course. We've also expanded in Asia, and opened in Australia two years ago.
SG: Are any of your practice areas currently getting bigger or smaller?
RH: I think we've seen steady growth across the board. I suppose, from a student perspective, we hold ourselves out as a transactional law firm. Banking, Corporate and ICM have all enjoyed a good year of deal activity in the past 12 months. In terms of trainee recruitment, those departments take on the majority of new people. However, litigation and restructuring are also busy in terms of growth, and especially popular in economic downturns.
Corporate had a good year despite the state of the market – for example, we advised Virgin Money on the acquisition of Northern Rock. We were heavily involved with News Corp, not just in terms of the offer for BSkyB but also with internal governance issues.
Banking was also very busy, and the lending market became more active. The restructuring team sits there too, advising on refinancings of companies like Thomas Cook and eircom. Litigation is always busy in a recession with people suing each other more readily. We have a very strong litigation practice, both for court and arbitration work. Due to convenience and cost, arbitration is increasingly popular.
SG: Are you considering any new mergers at the moment? The legal press suggests you're looking into Singapore.
RH: We are looking to expand in Singapore, but with organic growth rather than a wholesale merger. We're not a firm that's desperately married to the merger concept. We have a strong culture and ethos, and we'd only merge with a firm sharing the same values concept.
We are taking on lateral hires as we build up specialist areas of our practice – for example we now have plenty of US regulatory expertise in our Washington DC office.
SG: There are a number of firms in an emerging global elite who are becoming bigger than they were – Norton Rose, SNR Denton, and Lovells, for example. Has this had any effect on your global practice? Do you see them as a threat?
RH: Let's take Australia – Norton Rose opened over there. We have a competitive legal market in London so our business is becoming increasingly international as the marketplace becomes more global. We were in Australia as a global firm before anyone else, but the honeymoon period only lasts so long. I think having other firms in these markets mean you have to be ever more polished in what you do.
One thing we're doing, or we're always seeking to improve, is to be more client facing in our approach. I suppose the impact of growing competition has been to reinforce the shift from being a deal driven business to one that is much more focused on relationships and the business that flows from that. If you focus on deals too much, it is more difficult to embed the relationships through deal-doing.
So, I think it has affected us in a healthy way. We are as much business advisers as we are deal execution lawyers.
SG: How do you feel about your reputation as 'the friendly face of the magic circle'?
RH: I regard it as a compliment. I wouldn't say we market ourself by choice as a friendly City law firm. We are friendly in terms of having an inclusive culture. It's certainly important everyone is treated with the same level of respect, and there's no professional or social hierarchy within the firm. But, above all else, we're an ambitious, utterly professional, global legal practice. That doesn’t happen automatically – it takes a lot of effort. The people we recruit are the people we think will operate to this standard in an inclusive environment.
We are friendly, but if I was asked to market the firm I wouldn't put it on the banner. We don't want to attract the wrong type of candidate. We're friendly and yet we're honest, in terms of appraisals and objectives. Also, we're quite candid on campus when speaking to students. We need them to know that there is a hard-working culture here. I'm honestly flattered by the 'friendly' label, but it should not be mistaken for complacent or easy. It might attract the wrong sort of candidate and put off the really hungry, focused, ambitious young lawyer who wants to be at the top of the profession.
SG: What qualities make a candidate at A&O really stand out?
RH: Being enterprising is what makes them stand out. It's no longer the case that excellent academics are sufficient. They're necessary to be in the mix, as it were, but I go back to what I was saying about a client relationship-driven culture. We need early indications they'll be good with clients and that they're capable of driving the business forward.
I'm not trying to downplay the significance of academic results, but they're not sufficient on their own. You need to be client facing, confident enough to deal with people and develop relationships.
SG: You recruit quite a few people straight from law school. How do you feel about candidates with previous experience?
RH: I'm quite excited about that. We're certainly interested. A few associates in my practice group have had a previous existence. What they may lack in legal experience, they may gain in maturity. They can be impressive in their commercial outlook from a different business background. We're not put off by a previous career.
We have more flexibility these days in our recruitment coverage. When I joined, the only people who applied would've been second year undergraduates. Now, because people have done something else or postponed their career, we get applications from ex-bankers, those who have done an MBA or a variety of overseas candidates. It has made us more versatile in terms of who we consider. The pool of people is more varied than ever.
SG: How do you recruit your 'trainers' [the A&O term for supervisors]? Do you choose those who you think would be appropriate, or do they volunteer themselves?
RH: A mixture of thoughts go into this. It's always important to have partners involved, and a good number of trainers are partners. I have a trainee sitting with me. It helps me with my workload, but it's also important that trainees have a good chance of sitting with at least one partner.
There's a slightly different dynamic to sitting with an associate, and trainees appreciate it. If they sit with associates, they'll be at least four or five years PQE. Of that group, we don't just give someone a trainee as they've hit a certain level of qualification. We need people who are good team players, and who will take the time to give clear and accurate instructions. They'll be people who will review work carefully – it's important from a development perspective but is also protecting the business. People who are prepared to give honest feedback, so it's not just 'yes, you've done a good job' but genuinely constructive criticism. In our appraisals we focus on development points. It's more difficult to tell trainees what they need to improve than it is to discuss their strong points. But it is important that we do.
SG: How do you feel about qualification? Do you hope to retain all of this year's qualifiers?
RH: Yes, we'd like to do that. As graduate recruitment partner, it's a very useful statistic to take on campus. It also sends a positive message out onto campus. That said, we're a business and we wouldn't take on 100% of trainees if the business couldn't sustain them. What's important in qualifying is that you keep the numbers right so you can give people quality work and a good training. We see what the business need is and look at the figures from there.
SG: Is there anything else that you think our readers should know about A&O?
RH: One other thing to mention, is that we've opened an office in Belfast this year. It's largely to carry out support functions, but it also has a legal service centre with about 20 lawyers doing transactional support work for the London office. It's due diligence work mainly.
Some trainees have asked, does that mean there's less work for us? We're actually finding that by putting that more repetitive work out to Belfast, it frees up our trainees to do more drafting, have more client contact and experience more legal research. It's a positive development.
Some secondments with A&O
If you fancy switching Spitalfields for Singapore, A&O might just be the firm for you. According to this year's trainees: “There's a big emphasis at A&O on being an international firm. While there have always been opportunities for travel, these would now perhaps be better described as obligations.” Of course, “the firm wouldn't cart you off to Abu Dhabi against your wishes,” but a curiosity about the world definitely has the nod of approval from this global giant.
So, which locations are on offer? The list varies year by year, but in 2012 lucky A&O-ers could choose between Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Bangkok, Beijing, Brussels, Budapest, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, New York, Paris, Prague, Rome, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo. There are also a handful of client secondments available. “This year there were 38 overseas secondments, and almost ten secondments in the UK.”
The HR team lend a hand in helping trainees choose their destination. “There's a presentation, followed by a fair with representatives from each foreign office,” we're told. Ultimately, though, selecting an office is a game of strategy. “You have to think about qualification. If you know where you want to qualify, you have to go somewhere with that work.” Project finance is hot in Dubai or Tokyo, for example. Hong Kong, Singapore and Prague are known for their litigation work, while Paris is big on competition law.
Trainees submit a list of preferences, with reasons for each, and HR does a pretty good job of allocating offices accordingly. Of course, “the more glamorous locations are always popular.” If 100 trainees are vying for one spot in Sydney it won't always work out – “I know of one person who put Sydney, Hong Kong and other popular places, and ended up in Bucharest” – so some we advise being realistic with your options.
Once seats are assigned, associates can kick back and leave the HR team to work their admin magic. “They sort our everything for you,” trainees say. “They put you up all expenses paid, pay all the bills on your flat in London, and move all your stuff. There's also a salary uplift – a daily supplement for living overseas. The idea is that no one should be any better or worse off than they are in London.” Pretty cushy all round!
There's no better way to hear about individual secondments than straight from the horses' mouths. We've scanned our trainee feedback from the last few years, to see where they went, and what they got up to:
“I really love it. It's been the best bit of my training contract,” said one source. “I feel quite lucky with Amsterdam. It's a very easy place to be as there's not a big culture shock. We're very well supported – not thrown in the deep end – but you do get more responsibility that in London.” Socially, we heard the office puts on borrel drinks every Thursday – that's free drinks and deep fried cheese sessions. “There was a massive party in the new office, and a nice event on a boat called In and Out for new joiners and leavers. We also have drinks every Friday, It's been great!”
“In some places like France, Germany and Spain, the language is useful,” we're told. “Although the work is only ever in English, for general chit chat around the office it's nice to be able to engage beyond 'Ciao'.” Fortunately, “the firm is really good” about language courses, providing 12 hours of lessons plus a one-on-one session before jetting off. “It's really nice having another trainee here from London who I'm good friends with,” says one Milanese trainee. “There's a really informal vibe, and everyone is super nice. A senior lawyer took us skiing last weekend, and we went to the Milan marathon.” With so many distractions, trainees could almost forget that it's time to seriously buckle down. “You're a fourth seater, and the expectation is that you're willing and able to contribute something, rather than just ask questions all the time,” we're reminded.
“I think it's smaller than Hong Kong and Beijing – we have a one floor office, and are a very close-knit group. There's a lot of interaction between myself and the partners, so it feels like there's very little hierarchy.” In terms of work, “there's a lot more back to basics research, and a few things based on Hong Kong law.” Socially, trainees tend to link up with their counterparts from other City firms. “I've met trainees from Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Linklaters and Norton Rose. I've made lifelong friends, we go out quite a lot.” If nothing else, they're a fantastic support network when adjusting to life in China –“even crossing the road feels like dicing with death!”
We'll give the last word to the wise trainee who summarised: “Wherever you go, it'll be amazing. The way they look after us is such a luxury. The whole experience really is pretty epic.”
Its very own LPC
Like its peers in the magic circle, this firm requires incoming trainees to attend a bespoke LPC. A&O’s is taken at the College of Law’s Moorgate branch in London, and is taken over six and half months. The programme focuses on A&O’s core practice areas of corporate, banking and international capital markets and uses real examples from past A&O transactions to acclimatise trainees to the type of work they will be doing once they start their contracts.
“It’s fair to say you do a lot more work than on the normal LPC, but it’s quite useful,” we were told, “and it's nice that when you start you already know what an A&O document looks like.” It also provides an opportunity for future trainees to get to know each other. “It's a good chance to make friends, so when you start you already have a support network and people to meet for lunch.”
In addition to attending tailored LPC sessions, future trainees also go to lectures and seminars delivered by A&O lawyers and visit the offices regularly to gain more familiarity with the office and its people. While interviewees found the study orientation helpful, the real advantages were social. “It was a good way to get to know your colleagues so that it’s not as daunting when you actually start.”
A brief history of Allen & Overy
Every now and again, a senior partner at a distinguished old firm is hit by a sudden flush of nostalgia. Perhaps he passes a fresh-faced trainee in the corridor and is reminded of his own youth. ‘What larks I had!’ he thinks. ‘No cares and responsibility to weigh me down. No equity points to accrue or leadership battles to fight. The whole world ahead of me. What a joyous life that young trainee must lead! If only we could swap places…’ The trainee, meanwhile, is looking the other way and thinking: ‘It must be great to be a senior partner! You can do what you like. No qualification worries, no sucking up to superiors. If only we could swap places…’
Anyway, the usual upshot of all this is that the senior partner gets to thinking about his own training back in the pre-BlackBerry age, his old supervisor ‘Spiffy’ Jenkins, the pretty secretary who became his wife, etc., and decides that it’s about time someone wrote down what life was like at the firm in the good old days before everyone who remembers it has died out. A book is commissioned and sits proudly in the firm’s library, where nobody reads it.
Some years ago we procured a copy of Allen & Overy: The Firm 1930 – 1998, a 105-page history by lawyer-turned-journo Humphrey Keenlyside. It’s a lot shorter than A History of Freshfields (which you can find reviewed elsewhere on this site), because A&O is much younger. This is all to the good because it means A&O: The Firm is less reliant on centuries-old documents and instead has plenty of anecdotes and information about the founding partners and big characters from people who actually knew them. It’s actually quite entertaining.
Here’s a summary of the best bits.
Inauspicious beginnings: The founding of A&O
On the last weekend of 1929, two men dashed from their old firm, Roney & Co, with a cab full of client files. One was the darkly handsome George Allen; the other Tom Overy, who had the sort of face that scares small children. Their personalities were as different as their appearances. Allen was an austere, tidy man who “rarely smiled, and if he did, it looked like a forced smile.” By contrast, Overy was warm and approachable, had a “puckish” sense of humour and his desk was a mess, “piled high with papers.”
It’s possible that the two men left Roney & Co because they were effectively carrying the rest of the partnership (it was later claimed that the pair were doing 80% of the work for 20% of the profits), but there was little prospect of them progressing as equity partnership status at Roney was only available to family members. But that was not uncommon in those days, and a more mundane reason that they left might simply be that Sir Ernest Roney couldn’t afford to pay them their salaries.
The abdication crisis
A&O’s reputation was made as a result of George Allen’s role as adviser to His Majesty during the abdication crisis of December 1936, when Edward VIII sought to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson.
The job came about through serendipity. During World War I, Allen served in France and saved another officer, who had been wounded, by dragging him to safety from the trenches. That officer was Walter Monckton, a leading barrister and founder of Monckton Chambers, which still exists today.
Monckton and Allen subsequently struck up a friendship and it was this relationship that would give Allen & Overy its big break over a decade later. “One of Walter Monckton’s contacts from his days at Oxford was the then Prince of Wales. That connection resulted in Monckton being appointed legal adviser to the Prince in 1932. When asked by his royal client to recommend a personal solicitor, Monckton had no hesitation in suggesting George Allen. As events unfolded, the advice that George Allen was called upon to give turned out to be far more than the drafting of wills and the handling of property matters. He became one of King Edward VIII’s inner circle during the abdication crisis of December 1936.”
Allen was eventually needed to advise on the terms of possible Bills to be put before Parliament to allow the abdication to go through; to help with the drafting of the abdication speech; to help draft the agreement under which the Duke of Windsor (as he became) was to receive an income from the Crown or the Civil List; and to seek Counsel’s opinion on whether the Duke could legally be physically prevented from returning to the UK. At one point, the King was on the telephone to Wallis Simpson, and asked Allen to write on a piece of paper the exact words he should say to her. Sweet nothings were obviously not Allen’s forte. He suggested the King tell Simpson: “The only conditions on which I can stay here are if I renounce you for all time.”
Anyway, it all turned out for the best: “George Allen stood like a stone wall during our worst hours,” the couple would say later. “The story goes of the time when two articled clerks [the old name for trainees] were called upon to witness a document signed by Edward. While waiting nervously to perform this simple task, their hands became so sweaty that they rubbed them on the wall to dry them off. For years afterwards their dirty handprints remained as a stain on the wall. Even when the offices were decorated, the hand smudges were left, almost as a badge of honour.”
The 1930s: the firm progresses
Allen & Overy’s offices at Finch Lane gradually filled with new hires. Hours were reasonable – 9.45am to 6pm in the week, and to 1pm on Saturdays. It sounds like a pretty hard-working place all the same, though. Tom Overy’s favourite catchphrase was apparently, ‘Where would you be if I didn’t drive you?’ “The two senior partners would have their underlings carry their bags for them – exactly ten paces in front… a young solicitor, Garth Wilkinson, was dismissed summarily by George Allen for choosing to play cricket one Saturday rather than coming to work; and one drink too many at lunchtime which resulted in him being late for a meeting with a client accounted for Raymond Shingles at the hands of Tom Overy in 1939.” Wilkinson went on to become ICI’s in-house lawyer in India, while Shingles eventually became a senior partner at Linklaters.
Exclusive: Tom Overy peed in sinks
“[When future senior partner Geoffrey Sammons] did start his articles it was a further year before he met George Allen, an encounter which took place in adjoining urinals. The conversation went thus: Allen: ‘What’s your name?’ Sammons: ‘Sammons, sir.’ Allen: ‘Oh, yes. I knew your father.’ End of conversation. The opportunities for meeting Tom Overy in the urinals were even fewer; it was his eccentric practice to use the washbasin in the wardrobe behind his desk.”
There’s not a lot you can add to that really, is there?
The 1940s: post-war profitability
Billings in 1947 were £100,000, of which half was pure profit. Of that, George Allen and Tom Overy earned nearly £12,000, making them rich men at a time when you could live more than comfortably on £500 a year. The firm expanded from its original offices in Finch Lane into overflow buildings on Old Broad Street and Threadneedle Street. New royal clients came on board, among them the Duke of Kent, the Maharajah of Jaipur and the Princess of Bihar.
As Atlee’s new Labour government set about creating the welfare state and nationalising Britain’s core industries, A&O found itself negotiating for steel companies, shipbuilders, repairers and more.
The 1950s: the founders fall out
It is quite possible that George Allen and Tom Overy were never particularly close personal friends, but they got on well as business partners until the summer of 1951, when the time came to draw up the conditions of their retirement and the future of the firm. Suffice it to say that the two had very different ideas on how it should be run and disagreements degenerated into bitter and personal attacks. They made some kind of peace in 1953, but by then Allen was about to retire. He set up his own consultancy, Gallan Consultations, but died just three years later.
Five years younger, Tom Overy carried on… and on… and on. “He started behaving strangely and unpredictably.” Fellow partners started to hint that it was time for him to retire, but Tom was oblivious. In November 1960, he suffered either a nervous breakdown or temporary mental illness, was certified under the Mental Health Act and taken to St Andrews Hospital, Northampton. In his absence, the partnership deed was re-executed, removing him from the ranks of the partnership.
On his return, Overy was distraught at this treatment, writing: “I am staggered by your attitude to me having suffered three and a half months’ great cruelty. I got away from Northampton expecting to receive the help of my partners. It is not money I want, it is merely a life that will continue my association with a firm I love and helped to found.” The reality, however, was that Tom Overy was no longer fit to work: “a sad end to a great career.” He died 13 years later, at the age of 80.
By 1960, A&O was known as one of the top firms of solicitors. In fact, the magic circle as we know it today was pretty complete: Slaughter and May, Linklaters & Paines, Freshfields and A&O were considered the big four. Links and Slaughters led the way for corporate work, but A&O had a good litigation practice. After Tom Overy’s retirement, a triumvirate of partners took over, but in reality only one of these called the shots. Jim Thomson was fiercely ambitious, an incredible client-winner and widely regarded as one of the finest commercial lawyers in the City.
The age of the generalist lawyer was ending, and carving out a niche was more in vogue. The focus in this era of the firm’s history was on the corporate side of the business. Two big client wins in the 60s were Rupert Murdoch’s News Group and The Grade Organisation. A&O helped Murdoch with his first acquisitions in the UK, the News of the World and The Sun. At the close of 1969, the firm had 20 partners, a staff of 217, and five departments: commercial; conveyancing; litigation; probate and trusts; and tax.
The 1970s: testing times
It was a curious A&O policy that although it would hire female solicitors from other firms, it only took on male articled clerks. One applicant, whose first name was Jocelyn, got as far as interview only because A&O assumed she was a male Jocelyn. “She was rapidly ushered out and told the firm would put her in touch with a family law practice.”
A&O only took on its first female articled clerk in 1971, after she “sent in an application letter, simply signing her name with her initials and not putting in ‘Miss’. It was assumed that the person applying was the son of [famous banker] Sir Julian Hodge. However, once she came to interview, the panel applauded her initiative and offered her articles.”
The unexpected death of Jim Thomson in 1971 sent shockwaves through the City and caused the chairman of one bank to predict: “That will be the end of Allen & Overy.” Nevertheless, the firm carried on and the atmosphere softened under the new regime. “It no longer became out of place to continue to call a colleague by his first name after he had been made a partner.”
It’s clear the 70s was a time of transition for A&O, as many of the old guard retired and a new generation came through. It was also the decade when the firm first started its international expansion, with an office in Dubai opening in 1978 to work on the construction of many new airports springing up in the region. A Brussels office followed later that year.
The 1980s and 1990s: into the modern age
The Thatcher government’s programme played to A&O’s strengths, and it advised on many headline projects including the Channel Tunnel negotiations with the French and the development of Canary Wharf. The firm continued to prosper thanks to the boom in banking and international capital markets, and between 1976 and 1986 the turnover of the firm increased from £3m to £20m. The firm also doubled in size between 1985 and 1990 as the network of international offices expanded further.
A new senior partner, Bill Tudor John, came to power in 1994 and shook things up once again. “A four-page memo from one of the partners setting out suggestions as to how he should conduct his senior partnership and demanding a response to no fewer than 27 points was swiftly returned with the words ‘f*** off’ scrawled on the top of the page.” The success of the business became paramount, rather than the traditional character of the partnership. In short, how much money partners made became the most important thing. Five partners were shown the door and others were warned that they would follow if their performance did not improve. This was also the era when fee earners started to work longer and longer hours.
The book comes to an end in 1998. A sequel, A&O at 75, was published in 2005, but for now you’ll have to search that one out for yourself.
More fascinating facts from A&O: The Firm
- A&O lawyer ‘Gunboat’ Richmond Smith drafted the statutes of the Universities of York and Sussex.
- When they started the firm, George Allen and Tom Overy agreed that they could each bring one son into the partnership, but neither prospered. Philip Allen was not cut out for the law, only qualifying at the third attempt in 1951. He was made partner the same year but only stayed until 1955 before moving to the country to become a dairy farmer. Oxford graduate Tony Overy had a promising early career at the firm, acting for Mobil Oil and showing “astuteness and talent,” but he had a difficult relationship with his father, a painful war injury and may have been unavoidably caught up in the quarrel between his father and George Allen. He began a long and relentless slide into alcoholism. “The issue was, if not completely swept under the carpet, only indirectly tackled. The euphemism was, ‘Tony’s not in today.’”
- A&O was at the heart of the first-ever major contested takeover in the UK, the ‘aluminium war’ of Christmas 1958. The firm was acting for Tube Investments, which in partnership with US company Reynolds Metals had its eye on British Aluminium. Its initial bid was rejected out of hand, but on the suggestion of Siegmund Warburg, a merchant banker acting on behalf of Reynolds, the partnership launched the previously untried strategy of buying British Aluminium shares on a large scale in the open market. By early 1959 the partnership had bought 80% of them. A&O’s fee for the case was £25,000, then the single biggest bill it had ever presented.
- The distinctive Allen & Overy typeface has been in place for many years, but a logo designed in the 90s has since fallen out of favour.