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Sabiah Khatun

Associate – ICM – Derivatives & Structured Finance 

What do you think sets A&O apart?

A&O recognises the changes in the legal industry and starts capitalising on those trends from an early stage. The word “innovative” is the buzzword here but I do think it really applies to A&O. The firm likes to stay a cut above the rest and it does it very well.

Tell us about your journey – what initially drew you to A&O?

I was a Smart Start student in the early years of the initiative when it was aimed at A-Level students in London. It was one of the first times I visited a law firm of this magnitude and I mainly loved the glamour of the office… I went on to do the vacation scheme and it was my favourite placement of the summer. The lawyers I worked with seemed brilliant at their jobs and they all enjoyed what they did enough to sit down and walk through their field of expertise. At the same time, everyone was super approachable and friendly. It was the type of place I could see myself grow professionally as well as personally.

How long have you been at A&O? How do you feel it has changed over the years?

I’ve been at A&O for two and a half years now. It’s now a place that is recognising that it has some way to go on the diversity front and is playing its part more as the years go. The firm’s BAME society has brought with it fantastic events, including a talk from Trevor McDonald during Black History Month, and a delicious New Year’s lunch for Chinese New Year. The society also offers mentoring and pairs BAME mentors and mentees together. Diversity on this front has also been a wider focus around the firm in terms of recruiting new hires and promotions within the firm.

How do you balance your career at A&O and your home life?

I live at home with my parents and am the oldest of my siblings. I make it home for most dinners and usually take a day every other weekend or so to spend time with my younger sisters. There are odd weeks where I’ll have late nights but everyone at home has got used to this (even my very worrisome mum who will call me to make sure I’ve had dinner and will wait up for me until I get home!).

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

The plant keepers that visit A&O every so often to tend to the plants we have around our office! We have beautiful foliage at A&O and I enjoy it very much. I love seeing the plant keepers walk around with their plant misters and watering cans. I look forward to retiring one day and looking after a garden house (yes, I do realise that is a very long way off though…).

What advice would you give for people considering joining A&O?

Make sure you’ve done your research on the firm and where it sits in the legal market. Try to show that you haven’t just used one application to apply to all the Magic Circle firms – each has its own expertise and business strategy.

What do you think you have gained both personally and professionally from your time at A&O?

I worked hard at university to secure a training contract so doing well once I was training at A&O was important to me. It definitely wasn’t an easy feat but I did complete it with a great sense of pride in respect of my resilience and confidence in myself. Throughout my time at A&O the lawyers around me have always made a huge effort to teach me and now, being on client secondment, I’ve been able to see how much I’ve learnt while I’ve been at A&O.

What extracurricular activities have you become involved in since joining A&O (Sports teams / music / pro bono etc)?

I didn’t get a chance to learn an instrument growing up so I’ve taken up piano lessons as I’d love to play an instrument while I sing. A&O is partnered with a music school that comes in to the office to teach instruments if requested and they also manage the A&O choir. My piano teacher comes in to A&O once every week / fortnight and we practise in one of A&O’s music rooms for one hour during the day. It’s been so much fun and I can’t wait to force everyone to listen to me play and sing an Ariana Grande song one day.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

My general morning routine – I love picking an outfit to wear for the day and I love spending time getting ready. While I get ready, I tune in to BBC Radio 4, sometimes listen to a podcast, watch YouTube videos and listen to music. It may explain why I don’t get into the office earlier than I do.

What was your first ever job?

I worked at my aunt’s post office as a clerk at the counter. Safe to say it was the first high pressure and fast paced environment I worked in and, contrary to popular belief on slow post office service, we did actually try to get through the queues as quickly as possible!

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