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After working in corporate banking, I joined A&O in 2000 as Business & Operations Manager in the Litigation department, a role that I relished. The firm supported me through my accountancy exams, and I then moved into the Finance department, working with partners and Business Development colleagues on fee negotiations with clients and the provision of client financial information. In 2006, while pregnant with my first child, I decided to pause my career, as I wanted to give my family my full attention.

Twelve years passed, until in 2018 when I was drawn to an article in the A&O alumni newsletter on the Return to Work programme, ‘I’m Back’. The programme provides a route back to work for experienced former A&O lawyers and practice support staff who have been on a career break for three or more years.  It is a six-month programme whereby participants undertake technical and core skills training, update their knowledge and gain on-the-job experience working in one of A&O’s practice groups/departments.  At the end of the programme, participants may be considered for Peerpoint or another internal vacancy.

I registered to attend the ‘I’m Back’ workshop to learn more, and had a great afternoon at the impressive Bishops Square office (having previously only worked at New Change). I left the event convinced that I wanted to return to working life and over the next few days discussed with my husband and my mother how it could work in practice if my application was successful - thankfully, they were both extremely supportive.

Within just a few short weeks, I heard that my application was accepted, and I was invited to attend a thorough induction prior to a six-month secondment in the Finance team. The two-week induction was invaluable as I learned how to step back into the workforce while forming a bond with the four other participants in the programme.  We came from a wide range of backgrounds while at A&O and our reasons for both leaving and returning were varied. However, it was incredibly unifying to all start again from the same point, and these new friendships were an important part of my return to work experience.

I thoroughly enjoyed the secondment, relishing new challenges whilst working within a supportive environment and reconnecting with former colleagues. When asked if I could extend the contract, we agreed to trial a three-day work week, with one day spent working remotely from home. This gave me the opportunity to balance the demands of family life with my career.

During the contract extension, I caught up with a colleague I had previously worked with and he encouraged me to apply for a new role within the Securitisation team. This appealed to me, as it was a return to a fee-earning department, with responsibility for resourcing within the team along with some project management and other finance related work. I initially took a one-year contract, with the same three-day arrangement I had had previously, and the role has since become permanent.

In 2020, just two years after accepting that six-month secondment, I was shortlisted as an Outstanding Returner of the Year as part of the Women in Law Awards. Although I did not take home the award, I was delighted to be nominated and thrilled to be a part of the ‘I’m Back’ Return to Work Programme, which won Gender Diversity Project of the Year.

Not only has it been good for me professionally, but personally as well. Since my return to the workforce, the children have had to step up, which has increased their independence, and there is a greater appreciation for the time we have together. 

A&O’s Return to Work programme provided both a route back to work and the support that enabled me to quickly realise that the new challenges and opportunities it opened up was exactly what I needed.

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