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Ann-Marie Duncan-Dawson

Client Services Assistant – Front of House

What do you think sets A&O apart?

I think what sets A&O apart is the firm’s 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. They also have a great CSR 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 six years here I have witnessed several major cosmetic changes to the office space. One of the most significant was the total refurbishment of the tenth floor restaurant and we now have a very relaxing area to dine, or 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. The London office’s Head of Hospitality sets a photography competition each year and the winning photographs are featured in a calendar – it’s a really nice initiative, and the photography is quite impressive too!

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

Front of House can be quite challenging at times, but very 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 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 has 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 does 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 director of Business Services … just for the day. This role is responsible for multiple departments, so it would be great to just have a sneak preview to see 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. 

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, 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. Last year around 15,000 people took part, all funds raised support free legal advice charities in London. 

A&O supports many charities at a local level, but our global charity partnership (Hope and Homes for Children) allows us to bring together the skills and resources of the entire firm so that we can have a significant, lasting impact on the work of one charity. Hope and Homes for Children was chosen by A&O staff in a worldwide vote, in which over 2,500 people took part, with the aim of supporting the charity in tackling a hidden global crisis. The goal of our partnership with Hope and Homes for Children is to raise GBP1 million and provide the charity with significant pro bono to strengthen its work around the world. The majority of my team in Front of House have, at some point in their career, supported the CSR and pro bono team and I would encourage anyone who joins A&O to support our CSR and pro bono initiatives. It is such 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 on the front-line 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.