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In the first year of my legal studies, I asked older classmates which law firms were the best in Slovakia. They answered at once and always with the same name. They did mention several international and local law firms, but they made it clear that Allen & Overy is the best.

I applied at the end of that year. Before that, however, I knew I had to do a lot of studying. I imagined that a top-ranking law firm would not engage a kid with no experience or qualifications. What was even worse was that back in those days, only legal theory, Roman law and Slovak legal history were the main subjects taught in the first year at law school. Civil law, commercial law and similar subjects would come much later. In any case, before my first interview at Allen & Overy I read the Slovak Civil Code and Commercial Code, even though those subjects would not be taught until the third and fourth years my university. I passed the interview, written tests and the second interview.

Then I was rejected!

The reasons were that although the test results were allegedly excellent—as if done by much older law student—the fact remained that I was too young and did not attend important subjects such as civil law, commercial law and European law. I was left with a vague promise that should I apply again in a one year’s time, I may be successful in obtaining a role.

During the second year, I worked as a paralegal in a different international law firm to get a feeling of a “daily advocacy”, as one of my former colleagues called it. I learned how to do proper legal research, simple legal drafting, and took part in a real due diligence. One year passed and it was time to reapply at A&O. I picked up the phone and called the office manager directly to ask for an interview.

This time, I was accepted! My years as a paralegal at Allen & Overy were incredible. I felt excitement and energy when facing projects that were likely to destroy my leisure time and plans for a couple of weeks. My fellow ex-paralegal team and I spent endless days and nights working and laughing together, and sometimes even crying over cunning logic riddles and legal questions that were hard to solve offhand.

After becoming a lawyer at Allen & Overy, I suddenly took on a higher level of responsibility. This follows from the fact that we always attempt to provide clients with best quality and added value services. And it is my belief that we have a wonderful team of lawyers to that effect: smart and clever, practical and business friendly—exactly the right dose of each. We work together as a team. No individual, even the most talented of us, can draft a perfect legal opinion or court submission on his or her own, compared to what we can do together.

That is the spirit and culture at Allen & Overy. I feel an immense sense of pride and privilege to be involved in such projects and disputes, and to work with such an excellent team of lawyers as we have here. You have to realise that working in Allen & Overy is not only about “lawyering”, you have to broaden your knowledge beyond what is directly work related to understand the clients’ needs and to understand the market. For me, it still seems like a long way to go.