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Helen Lightfoot

AD&S Practice Lead for Global Litigation, in the Practice Transformation Team, Advanced Delivery & Solutions

How long have you been at A&O and what were you doing prior to joining us?

I have been with A&O for 14 years, previously as a Senior Associate in the Litigation & Investigations team and then as a Senior Legal Project Manager in the Project Management team.

What initially attracted you to A&O and what did you feel set us apart?

The culture – A&O has a reputation as the best place to train as a lawyer – with amazing opportunities for the type of work and clients we work for. This has certainly been true of my time here and I have had the opportunity to undertake client secondments and witness first-hand how we can support and work with clients to grow their business.

How do you feel A&O has changed since you joined?

A&O is a very inspiring place to be. It makes you ambitious as a person for the way you work and where you would like to be. I have always been organised but A&O’s investment in technology and tools has enabled me to work more efficiently, save time, and plan better.

What was your first ever job? Was working in the legal sector always your ultimate goal?

I was a tennis coach as a student and loved being outside. I guess in my role now I get to talk to people and problem solve which is really what playing tennis is all about – working out point by point the best way to navigate through a match to a successful outcome, staying calm under pressure and ultimately striving to succeed in everything we do.

We are proud at A&O to offer an environment where people can be themselves … What gives you a sense of “belonging” at A&O? 

It feels like home and not just because I spent most of my 20s/early 30s in the office but everyone really is so friendly and welcoming – from the staff on reception to my team and peers – everyone always says hello and is happy to help.

What’s the best thing about the team you work in?

We are all looking to the future and helping the firm’s practice groups improve the way they work. We share ideas of what works well and what doesn’t and have a great “can do” attitude to the wide variety of projects that we work on together and individually.

What three things have enabled you to excel during your time at A&O?

The training here is amazing – from ‘networking training’ to knowhow briefings, to learning how to use new legal tech tools. You are always able to learn something new or improve how you perform. Furthermore, I think the people at A&O are genuinely amazing and collaborative – I work on lots of projects with people in different areas of A&O and it is great to see everyone with different skillsets come together to change or improve how A&O operates. A&O is always evolving as a business and also in what we’re striving to achieve, meaning that you have to evolve with it. As a result no one day is the same – it is always exciting and if you are interested to try new things it is a great place to be.

Which networks, extra-curricular activities, and/or pro bono and community investment initiatives have you become involved with since joining A&O (such as DE&I/sports teams/music etc.)? What have you valued most about these opportunities?

Whilst working in the Litigation department I used to advise as a volunteer at Toynbee, Battersea and CAB and I really enjoyed it. It was so nice helping people through what can often be viewed as “the complex process” of litigation or simply understanding – and explaining - someone’s legal rights. I was also a member of the A&O tennis team and enjoyed matches against PWC and other law firms.

If you could spend some time in any of A&O’s international offices, where would you most like to go and why?

I really enjoyed a recent roadshow we did in the Madrid office so would love to spend more time there. I would also like to visit our new US offices. It would be amazing to meet the new lawyers and hear from them about their vision for A&O going forwards.

If you could switch roles with anyone else at A&O, whose job would you want and why?

Our Senior Partner, Wim – but only for a day! I would love to be part of those strategic conversations he has about how to maintain A&O’s culture alongside growing the business and our reputation as the law firm of choice. There must be so many elements to balance and to have that 360 degree view would be fascinating.

What advice would you give to anyone considering joining A&O?

Apply now! It’s an inspiring place to work where you can develop your skills and work alongside people who strive to be the best at what they do. Although it is a big organisation it is also very friendly and people genuinely do support each other to progress and develop in their chosen area.