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Ann-Marie Duncan-Dawson headshot
Ann-Marie Duncan-Dawson headshot

Ann-Marie Duncan-Dawson

Training Events Co-ordinator – HR

What do you think sets A&O apart?

Our astounding reputation as a global elite law firm.

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

I was drawn to A&O because of its culture – as a firm it feels compact and very friendly, which to me equals comfortable. We also have a great Corporate Social Responsibility programme too. Having previously spent ten years working in the financial sector, coming to A&O was completely different – and quite tranquil in comparison! 

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

I joined A&O in March 2014 and during my eight and half years here I have witnessed several major cosmetic changes to the office space. One of the most visual of these was the total refurbishment of the tenth floor restaurant and we now have a very relaxing area to dine, have coffee meetings, or one-to-one catch ups in. The ground floor lobby has also been totally revamped (the live moss wall is a definite show stopper!), and all of our conference rooms and first floor conference suite corridors now feature photo wallpapers which were all taken by the staff of A&O globally. I also love the change which has occurred within the last year few years regarding DE&I and all the efforts that are continuing to be made to become more inclusive.  It’s such a positive initiative from A&O and very welcomed. 

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

Working at A&O can be quite challenging at times, no matter which department you are in.  I am currently working in our HR department’s Training Events team, but I’m actually on secondment from my role of Client Services Assistant in our Front of House team.  It’s been great learning new things - and so rewarding. Maintaining a good work-life balance is very important to me, and doing so became even more critical in the last couple of years as my mother had been suffering with Dementia – and was progressively getting worse. Having the opportunity to spend more time with my mum became a priority for me.  So, after finishing my shift on the Front of House desk every Friday, I’d then travel hundreds of miles going back and forth to Sheffield each weekend in order to see her. The strain of this new routine became increasingly difficult for me, but thankfully my management team were very supportive and offered me all the help I needed. The information and services provided by the firm gave me a great sense of relief and I was able to manage my work without stress and still be able to travel to see my mum. A&O had also just recently launched Unmind and Headspace globally – these are apps that you can download to your phone and have a host of tools and resources for things like stress, sleep and focus in order to help with good mental wellbeing. A&O is a compassionate company who really do care about the overall wellness of their staff. 

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

Quite a difficult choice but I think I would swap roles with the head of Pro Bono … just for the day. This role is responsible for a multitude of different but very rewarding projects, so it would be great to just gain some insight into how much multitasking and managing it requires. Phew!

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

Definitely go for it!  It’s a superb company to work for, with wonderful benefits and warm and friendly people. There are also opportunities for structured internal and external training, scope to work on different projects, and opportunities for personal development and advancement. Oh, and the annual summer party, which is always awesome!

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

Personally I have made some very dear lifelong friends from across the firm. On a professional level I have gained many new skills since joining the firm, thanks to various training sessions I have had the opportunity to attend and put into action immediately after completing the courses. I highly recommend looking into finding a class that helps you with your personal development. The new A&O Learning Portal has just recently launched which is great.  It enables everyone to manage their own personal development and easily see all the training that is available to them. I think it’s great and I will certainly be making good use of all the on-demand training available to me.

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

I am one of the pro bono ambassadors for Business Services/HR, a role which I am very passionate about. This role enables me to give back, encourage, and engage with others. I have taken part and supported numerous events throughout the years at A&O – such as collectively encouraging others to give to a “Hygiene Bank Drive”, whereby we collected hygiene products for a women’s safe house which we then delivered to them. I also participate in the annual London Legal Walk, in which law firms across London come together and walk for charity. Around 15,000 people took part on the last walk, with all funds raised supporting free legal advice charities in London.

A&O supports many charities at a local level, and our current global charity partnership is with Street Child.  This charity works in sixteen countries, including Sierra Leone, and strives to support children in low-resource environments and emergency zones, where they are least likely to be safe, in school and learning. It seeks out situations where there are gaps between aid, assistance, and needs - and is often one of the only organisations supporting children in these circumstances. These situations include sudden onset crises such as the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal, slow onset crises such as the 2014 – 2016 Ebola epidemic in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and protracted conflict including insurgencies in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan.  From 2021-2024, Street Child pledges to make a meaningful, material contribution to increase safety, access to schooling and learning for a million children. It also pledges to make multiplier investments in the capacities and contributions of its partners to reach millions more marginalised children. I can testify the majority of my colleagues have, at some point in their career, supported the Corporate Social Responsibility and pro bono team and I would encourage anyone who joins A&O to support our CSR and pro bono initiatives. It is extremely rewarding work.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?   

My grandchildren get me out of bed in the morning … The youngest has just learnt how to FaceTime but sadly still has no concept of time!  I always look forward to each new day – being part of A&O’s Business Teams you never know who you will meet, or what new challenges you may encounter. I always have a smile on my face because I am grateful I was able to get out of bed!

What was your first ever job? 

My first ever job was at my local community centre SADACCA based in Sheffield. I worked for the Senior Citizens Advice Bureau mainly assisting the elderly fill out their naturalisation forms. It was a very busy period but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the relieved look on the faces of the people I helped when they realised they didn’t have to tackle all that paperwork on their own!  My love for helping people really began from there.