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The times they are a-changin’

Sounds simple, and for some it is. Take David Morley, A&O’s recently retired senior partner. An interviewer once asked him how old he was when he knew he wanted to become a lawyer. “When I was 13,” he replied. Sure enough, David spent 35 years – all of them at A&O – in the profession, retiring in 2016.

That’s not unusual in the upper echelons of the legal profession. But the chances are a group of millennials, asked if they saw themselves staying with the same organisation – or even the same profession – for that length of time wouldn’t have that expectation.

With a globalised economy and greater flexibility in how, when and where people work, the career lifecycle looks different from what it was 30 years ago. For many, joining A&O remains a career highlight but it may not be forever. So today’s employee lifecycle is about building relationships that last; being forward-looking and equipping people with skills and experience to set them up for the future, whether they spend it with A&O or move on.

Ten people from A&O’s past, present and future talk about their expectations and reflections on careers at the firm and beyond.

Entry Level Lawyers 

Alexandre Holvoet - Future Trainee, Brussels

Alexandre received offers of a training contract with several top firms, but chose to join A&O following a positive experience during his summer internship in 2015.

“I chose to study law as I’ve always been intrigued by the notion of justice as a fundamental element of society. While studying and undertaking internships, I became fascinated by corporate and financial law, so decided to pursue a career in this field.

“Internships helped me become acquainted with different Belgian and global firms, but it was during my summer internship with A&O that my knowledge expanded immensely. I was welcomed by a friendly and enthusiastic team and quickly felt at home. Among the firms I applied to, A&O stood out for its dynamic and agile approach in responding to changes in the industry. Its modern way of working in general makes me feel A&O is the right fit.

“In my view, great lawyers are characterised by a thorough understanding of clients’ issues and the business environments in which they operate. They cooperate with businesses and create opportunities. I hope to grow into such a lawyer.

“At A&O, I expect the opportunity to work on complex transactions that will be personally challenging. From what I have seen, trainees receive rapid and honest feedback and take a lot from the examples of their seniors.

“In five years’ time, I hope to have become a reliable member of A&O’s Corporate team – able to contribute to the positive atmosphere surrounding the team. I also hope to take part in pro bono work to deepen my understanding of human rights. Regardless of how unpredictable a career in law may be, I hope never to stop learning and gaining valuable experiences, both on a professional and a private level.”

Jackub Cech - Trainee, Prague

Jakub joined A&O as a paralegal in 2008 and began a training contract in 2012.

“I decided I wanted to become a lawyer during elementary school while watching the U.S. TV show ‘Matlock’. The guy was smart, helped the disadvantaged – and wore amazing white suits! On a more serious note, I liked history, philosophy and political science, so law seemed the most practical and rewarding career path.

“While studying, I gained experience with Clifford Chance in Prague. When I started to look for longer-term roles, A&O took a chance with me, even though I was younger than most paralegals. I really appreciated it.

“What surprised me about A&O was the level of support and trust I received soon after joining – and the fact that the doors to anyone in the firm are always open. Such a level of collegiality and openness is very unusual for law firms in Prague, whether local or foreign. “I hope law will be a challenging and ever-changing field. I enjoy working with colleagues on new IP cases and contributing ideas. It’s exciting to see an interesting instruction land on my table, and I savour those occasional moments of epiphany when I finally find a solution to a complex problem.

“My career goal is to build an IP practice in Prague over the next five years. I do believe there are challenging times ahead for the legal profession, though. In the next 10-20 years, technology and the rise of artificial intelligence will change the work of lawyers substantially, so I think it’s hard to predict a legal career beyond 5-10 years.

“At the end of my career I would like to be able to say, hey, you built something successful. But what I am trying to focus on right now is giving my clients good legal services and having a good work-life balance.”

Professional Assistant

Faye Cobb - Legal Professional Assistant, Dubai

Faye joined A&O as a PA in London in 2007. She is now a Legal Professional Assistant and transferred to the Dubai office in 2014.

“After completing a Legal Secretary diploma, I was offered jobs at A&O, Freshfields and Hogan Lovells. Being 17 and oblivious to firm status, I chose A&O because it meant I didn’t need to get the Tube! It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

“The transition from college to a global law firm made me grow up quickly. I knew standards would be high, but I learned that if you’re willing to work hard and focus on your goals, A&O really does give you the opportunity to go far. I’ve seen many colleagues change not only roles but their whole area of work at A&O, and the amount of support they’ve received through those transitions has been amazing. High-quality training for support staff is such an advantage, particularly on softer skills which help in life whatever role you pursue.

“The things I love most at A&O are the people and diversity of my role. Moving to Dubai, I was worried the office and people would be different – less friendly than London – but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Being in a smaller office away from home, you really do feel part of one family. I speak to many partners, associates and support staff around the network and I can honestly say the A&O ‘family’ culture is global.

“I believe you get out what you put into your career, and to work hard in the early stages pays off in the future. I hope to continue progressing at A&O, perhaps supporting more of the management team.

“Over the past nine years, I’ve learned the importance of job satisfaction and what a difference it can make to your life as a whole. I do believe this contentment plays a massive part in making your career successful. I would love to look back in years to come and know I made a difference to the workplace and to the people I worked with.”

Peerpoint Consultant

Graham Martin - Peerpoint Consultant, London

Graham joined A&O as a trainee in London in 2010 and moved to Peerpoint in 2015.

“I was initially attracted to A&O because of its global presence. I had previously studied and worked in the U.S., Sweden, Geneva and Paris and, when I applied, only a handful of firms could match the breadth of international opportunities available at A&O. It also stood out for the diverse group of approachable, similarminded people I met at the open day and interview, who clearly genuinely enjoyed working at the firm.

“I decided to move to Peerpoint to allow time to develop my painting practice. Before law, I’d studied art in Edinburgh and continued to paint in my spare time. I began exhibiting work three years ago and decided to pursue painting more seriously then.

“Becoming a Peerpoint consultant allows me to spend six months of the year in my London studio. I’ve now exhibited work at the Royal Society of British Artists, the New English Art Club, the Royal Scottish Academy and the ING Discerning Eye, as well as being shortlisted for several international art prizes.

“My first Peerpoint assignment was with A&O’s Banking team; my second was with Barclays’ Investment Banking division. The quality of work is the same as when I was an A&O associate; the major difference is that being a consultant gives me the autonomy to choose the type and duration of assignments I undertake.

“A&O has a huge amount to offer junior lawyers, so my advice would be to take advantage of all the opportunities, whether they’re pro bono initiatives, client secondments or international secondments. As a junior lawyer, I worked with different partners and associates to gain experience on a wide variety of deals. This gave me a breadth of experience which I’ve benefitted from during client secondments.

“As the legal market develops, I see remote and flexible working options becoming more common. This way of working allows me to continue to gain experience at the top of the legal profession, while also developing my painting practice – ultimately giving me more control over how I manage these two quite distinct aspects of my life.”

Senior Associate

Cliff Chow - Senior Associate, Hong Kong

Cliff joined A&O as a trainee in 2008 and is now a Litigation senior associate in Hong Kong.

“In my undergraduate days, the importance of the rule of law – especially in a small territory like Hong Kong where it has helped to attract so much wealth, talent and culture from around the world – was instilled in me.

“While studying for my LLB in London, I applied to A&O because of its reputation as an employer in Hong Kong. A&O really sets itself apart in the summer internship interview – a half-day programme which included a presentation to a Hong Kong partner who had flown in especially. The collegiate culture drew me into the firm: people worked as a team and seemed to enjoy it even when they hit some ungodly hours. I saw a supportive working environment where people helped each other.

“A&O’s international network was another major draw. Even as a student, it was clear to me that A&O was serious about developing an international practice across all areas. That’s not just about opening new offices, it’s about putting in the effort to build a network of people who know each other on a personal level, through programmes like the mandatory international trainee secondment (I went to London), numerous off-sites around the world, and the business skills training where you fly to another location to mix with peers from different offices.

“Joining A&O, I expected to learn from some of the best lawyers in their fields, and to learn from the clients, too. I hoped for high-profile work and intellectual challenges.

“I expected to work hard and to be smart in balancing my personal life with work. But I also expected to share laughter and jokes and to grow professionally. All these expectations have been borne out during my time at the firm.

“The highlights of my career have been working on investigations and litigations with a large team across the globe. These are the cases that showcase A&O’s strengths. I also enjoy doing what I can to help junior members in the team develop their careers and benefit from their time here. I get a lot of satisfaction out of that and it makes work more fun. My overall advice – what I tell the summer students every year – is help each other out. That’s the A&O culture.”


Andrew Rhys Davies - Assistant Solicitor General for the State of New York

Andrew joined A&O as a trainee in 1997. He worked as a Litigation associate before joining New York firm Milbank in 2001. Andrew re-joined A&O in 2003 and became a partner in 2007. He retired in 2016 and now serves as Assistant Solicitor General for the State of New York.

“Originally I wanted to become a journalist because I liked writing, but my school guidance counsellor advised me that journalists aren’t very popular so I should become a lawyer instead.

“Two years after qualifying, I decided to leave A&O and join a New York firm where I could do more advocacy. But when I was offered a job by the people setting up A&O’s U.S. Litigation department — Pamela Chepiga and Michael Feldberg – I accepted. It was an exciting prospect to be back at A&O building a practice group in a new market for the firm.

“There was no way, when I joined A&O, that I thought I’d become a partner in New York a decade later. But I was fortunate to find a practice area that I love and to have a number of mentors who helped shape my career. They gave me opportunities to take on challenging work, encouraged me to stretch myself and gave me candid feedback and advice.

“Being a partner at A&O means you’re operating at the top of the profession, helping the most sophisticated clients in their most important work. It’s fascinating, stimulating, demanding and occasionally exhausting. But the firm’s culture compels everyone to work cooperatively. People can spend their time focusing on clients, rather than competing with one another.

“Most of my career highlights have been about the clients: getting to understand their aspirations and concerns, working with them to devise a strategy and delivering on it. I still have a letter from an A&O client whom we helped through a custody proceeding to extract her grandchild from a bad home situation. She wrote that she truly believed we’d been the answer to her prayers. It’s not every day we can have that kind of impact, but I still think about that client and her family.

“After being a partner at A&O for eight years, I was offered an exciting opportunity to be an Assistant Solicitor General and represent the State of New York in the appellate courts. This has given me a great opportunity to focus on appellate advocacy, something I’d enjoyed while at A&O. And that’s the best piece of advice I could give somebody starting out today: find something you really love doing. Your career will be much more rewarding and feel much less like hard work if you do.”

Head of Operations

Winmama Aye - Head of Operations, Myanmar

Win worked for Save the Children in Myanmar and Sri Lanka for six years before joining A&O’s newly opened office in Yangon in 2013.

“A&O found me through a mutual friend when I returned to Myanmar. I was unsure whether to continue working in the development sector or to try the private sector, but the A&O people in Yangon and Bangkok made such a good impression. They are intelligent, nice people and I had a good feeling I could work with them.

“Being aware of the fast-changing and complex political context of Myanmar, A&O was keen to have a Myanmar national on board, and it was an exciting opportunity for me to set up a new office in my country with such a prestigious firm.

“I wanted a challenging job and this absolutely is. My remit is almost everything: HR, recruitment, government relations, research, pro bono and community investment, knowledge management, tax, finance, business development… the list goes on but the job is extremely satisfying.

“Since A&O opened in Myanmar, there have been so many highlights. We worked with the Supreme Court on the Arbitration Bill which became law in 2016, and were able to ensure the bill is up to international standards, which will boost investors’ confidence. For this, Myanmar received the Global Arbitration Review award for making the most progress as a jurisdiction. I’m so proud I was part of the team that helped my country achieve this.

“As such a small office, we are very close to each other and have a ‘one office, one team’ spirit. When someone leaves or moves to another office, it’s as if we’ve lost a family member! But at least the alumni programme helps us maintain our relationships with colleagues.

“We work very closely with A&O’s Singapore and Bangkok offices and are always thinking of how other A&O offices can add value to our work in Myanmar I believe we are well integrated in the wider A&O network. We had visits from Wim Dejonghe and David Morley soon after we opened the office and it was motivating. We’ve also had so many other A&O people visit us during their holidays in Myanmar – in fact, I think we must be the office most visited by A&O people!”


Mark Robilotti - Managing Director and Deputy General Counsel, TPG Growth, New York and San Francisco

Mark was a senior associate at A&O from 2003 to 2005, then Programme Officer at the U.S. Department of State, before re-joining A&O as Senior Counsel in 2007. He left in 2011 to become Executive Counsel at General Electric (GE) and recently accepted a position as Managing Director and Deputy General Counsel of TPG Growth, the venture capital and growth equity fund of private equity firm TPG.

“I originally joined A&O because the firm had made a strategic decision to build a world-class U.S. Corporate practice to complement its Finance practice in the UK, Europe and Asia. A&O was a big firm but with a small presence in New York – the biggest legal market in the world – so it was an exciting opportunity to help build a practice here.

“The best thing about A&O was the global scale of the client base and the complexity of the work. Of course, that was also the worst thing because the only universal holiday was New Year’s Day – every other holiday was potentially another working day for A&O clients around the world!

“The learning and development at A&O is geared towards becoming a trusted adviser: being able to influence and lead teams to meet a client’s objective. The practice of law is changing rapidly and it’s not enough to be technically proficient. To be successful, lawyers have to focus on producing positive outcomes for clients faster and more efficiently. A&O runs some exceptional programmes to develop practical skills for junior lawyers, things like mock negotiations and how to lead teams effectively. The global off-sites were also valuable for bringing lawyers together to share experiences and learning across the network.

“When I decided to spend a few years in government service, A&O was supportive of my decision. And when I felt it was time to return to private practice, my first call was to Eric Shube, partner in New York. I never called another law firm. I felt a real sense of loyalty to return to A&O. It was a nice home to come back to.

“Looking at A&O from the client side, I believe it has become one of the few firms with true global scale, which appeals to clients with complex, multinational operations in need of top-quality legal services.

“The relationships I built at A&O, both within the firm and with its clients, have had a big impact on my career and have helped me grow professionally and personally through the global network of talented individuals who all have a connection to the firm.”


Sally Onions - Partner, London

Sally joined A&O as an associate in 2001 and was promoted to partner in 2009. She appeared in the top 20 in our 2014 survey when we asked alumni who was the most inspirational person during their time at A&O.

“When I joined A&O, I was looking for a change, but didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I had a friend at A&O and, when I heard they were looking for associates to join the Securitisation team, I thought why not give it a go? Although I didn’t have a clue what securitisation was!

“I had no expectation of making partner early on in my career. Initially I went to the Bar, but found it wasn’t for me. When I came to A&O, I was more focused on understanding what I was doing and getting the deals done. It took me a few years to decide I wanted to stay and become a partner.

“I do think there are more demands on our time now than 15 or 20 years ago. It can be difficult to juggle things and still maintain some kind of balance and sanity. I often feel I fail at both! However, being a partner at A&O is like being part of a supportive family: you can contact any partner and they will give you their time and assistance, which is very reassuring. It started the day I became a partner. It was really touching to hear fellow partners congratulating you and welcoming you to the partnership.

“I like my work and enjoy the fact that I’m constantly learning. I’m also fortunate to have fantastic clients. Of course the work can be demanding, but it’s much easier when you’re all pulling in the same direction. The spirit, hard-working ethic and close-knit relationships in the Securitisation group are special. I enjoy watching colleagues develop and grow, even if their paths change and they decide to pursue a career outside of A&O. When you work so closely with each other, you develop lasting friendships.

“My advice to someone starting a career today is... relax. So many young lawyers think they have only one shot at being successful, but it’s okay to change your mind about what you want to do. Your career lasts a long time, so the most important thing is to be happy in your job and ensure you’re working with people you like and respect.

“For me, a successful career means no regrets. I know not everything will be perfect but, looking back, I’ll know I gave it my best.”


Jenny Ljunghammar - Senior Associate, aosphere, London

Jenny joined A&O as an associate in 2007 and left in 2010 to join UBS. She re-joined aosphere as a senior associate in 2013.

“I was attracted to A&O because of its position as a Magic Circle firm and, equally important, for the opportunity to work alongside colleagues with a reputation for being the friendliest among the top firms but also super smart.

“The best thing about A&O is undoubtedly the people, both peers and partners. I also enjoyed being part of a team – Regulatory and Funds – that was regarded as a bit niche. The work was intellectually challenging but associates are also given a lot of autonomy.

“In my second week on secondment to UBS, Lehman collapsed! It was fascinating to work in-house during the financial crisis when huge changes were taking place in the market. When UBS offered me a permanent role, I decided to take it.

“The role I’ve come back to at A&O is with aosphere, the online legal services team. I was initially drawn to it while on maternity leave because of the opportunity to work flexibly. However, the role offers so much more than that: it’s a fantastic opportunity to build a new product within a really innovative team.

“aosphere gives me the best of both worlds: it’s a dynamic, fast-growing business but we have the backing of a big firm. The resources at A&O – document production, creative services, print room, IT, library, restaurants, gym – stand out and make it so much easier to get your job done.

“I have so many ideas for how we can grow the product I’m working on, which helps asset managers to understand international marketing rules. In five years, I believe this product can be the market leader. That’s what I’d like from my career overall – to feel I’ve been able to make an impact and shape something I genuinely believe in.”

Considering your next career move?

Are you thinking about your next career move? Come back to us and we’ll offer you challenging and rewarding work, collaborating with a global network of talented colleagues and, crucially, we will help you to grow and equip you for the future – wherever that may take you. Go to to search our career portal for current opportunities available across A&O’s global network.

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