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Clare Patel

Senior IT Support Manager – IT Technology Services

What do you think sets A&O apart? 

I think it is the people at A&O and its values that set it apart. I cannot compare it to anywhere else as A&O is the only place I have ever worked but do realise that the people are key to its success. There is a strong sense of belonging and everyone is working towards very clear goals.

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

I was fresh from college having completed a legal secretarial course and knew that I wanted to work in London. A&O was one of the first interviews I had and the recruitment agency did a very good job of selling A&O to me but I knew nothing really about A&O when I went for the interview. I joined as a legal secretary and was part of the Float Team (secretaries who covered for other secretaries when they were away). I then went to work for one of the partners in the Private Client Department. I remained working with that team for many years before being given the opportunity to move into Business Services in a newly created role of Account Manager. I spent several years in that role before becoming IT Service Desk Team Leader. From there I progressed to Senior IT Manager within the London office. 

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

I started at A&O in July 1988 as a secretary, straight from Barnfield College in Luton. Technology has been one of the biggest changes I’ve seen along with the office growth globally.

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

I’m lucky enough to only have to work the very occasional weekend but do keep an eye on my emails. My work is driven primarily by what people need and want from an IT side of things. Some days will be much busier than others but on the days when it is quieter I make sure I head home and spend time with my family. I also make time for the gym classes and time to go out running as I feel that is important for my health and wellbeing.

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

I would have liked to have been around at the start of A&O so either George Allen or Thomas Overy. It would have been a very different place then, I am sure. 

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

There are so many opportunities within A&O, be that progression in the same team/department, moving to other roles or secondments both in your home office and internationally. You will meet some great people and may even become good friends. Be prepared to be challenged, to work hard, to learn a lot, to have fun along the way and to be part of one of the most prestigious law firms in the world.

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

I have made some great friends whilst at A&O, and had the opportunity to progress and work with some interesting people. I’ve learnt something different from everyone I’ve worked with and hope that I have helped people in their careers along the way. Personally, I met my husband through A&O as he also worked here for a while. 

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

I have been involved in the SmartStart programme and am always amazed at the confidence and enthusiasm of the students who attend the sessions. Most of them come into A&O not knowing any other students, or having travelled far from home, but they adapt very quickly and very soon make new friends. I know I wasn’t that confident at their age. The gym and the classes offered are something I love to use especially when it is very busy for me at work – the gym is a great place to let off steam.

What gets you out of bed in the morning? 

Knowing that every day will be different – I have no idea what will come my way but do know that the day will be challenging and fun at the same time.

What was your first ever job? 

My first ever weekend job, if that counts, was working in a café by Bedford river. I absolutely loved it – got to meet lots of people and despite being on my feet for over 12 hours a day it was always good fun. A&O was my first “proper” job and I liked it so much and have been given some fantastic opportunities, I’ve stayed here ever since.