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Welcome to your 2023 Alumni Yearbook

Change is becoming one of the few certainties at Allen & Overy as it adapts to the ever-developing consequences of globalism, technology and human resources. As a responsible business at the forefront of innovation, we have much to celebrate.

It may just be my advancing years, but at this year’s Global Alumni Reunion in London, I was struck by the noticeable shift in the makeup of attendees. The gathering was visibly more diverse than in years gone by – a positive illustration that efforts to change A&O’s makeup are bearing fruit.

It’s obvious, when you look at the history of A&O and the legal profession, that there’s been a demographic sea change. Those of us with long memories will recall how groundbreaking it was in 1985 when Clare Maurice was made the first woman partner. Today, A&O is making steady progress towards our goal of parity between men and women in the partnership globally.

Having a wealth of diversity, in all its forms, and different ways of thinking bring huge business benefits and make A&O a more dynamic place to work. It’s absolutely right for A&O to reflect society, and we’ve made huge strides, albeit with work still to be done.

At the core is the need to have a robust business. To achieve that, the partnership and its leaders have taken stronger action. With women in law, for example, although for many years women have made up more than 50% of trainees, for reasons that we understand much better now, too many were leaving at the mid- and senior-associate stage. I’m pleased to see that changing, for other under-represented groups as well.

Understanding the issues we need to address, particularly at a local level, is helping us take the right actions and achieve progress. As Stephanie Camilleri describes in her interview, by understanding the barriers and challenges a particular demographic may face, steps can be put in place to enable those within it to achieve their full potential.

That’s part of being a responsible business, which is the theme of this year’s yearbook. Guided by our key values – diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), environment/sustainability, wellbeing and social impact we explore what responsibility means.

Guided by our key values – diversity, equity and inclusion, environment/sustainability, wellbeing and social impact – we explore what responsibility means.

It’s good to see steps in the right direction to cutting A&O’s carbon footprint. Moving to new offices at 2 Broadgate in 2026-27 will undoubtedly have a huge impact. The new building will mean a step-change in energy performance and wellbeing provisions for everyone. The way it’s being built and operated will support local businesses and help preserve biodiversity in the area while reducing the London office carbon emissions by an estimated 80%.

Firm-wide initiatives are featured in our article, "Environmental sustainability is everyone’s business", as well as individual actions which, together, can make a difference.

Being responsible extends to how we manage advances in technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI) tools like Harvey, and automated documents. As our article on Responsible AI notes, it’s a question of navigating the risks and embracing the possibilities

A&O’s new global charity partner is Women for Women International, whose focus is on helping women survivors of war and conflict. We meet them in our article, "Making a positive social impact", where we also reflect on the impact of our work for our previous partner, Street Child, and learn why it was time to rename our Pro Bono and Community Investment (PBCI) team as the Social Impact Group (SIG).

In addition to these advances by A&O, the latest news is the outcome of the partner vote in support of merging to create A&O Shearman, working towards a final close date of the transaction in or before May 2024. Amid the excitement, there’s a lot to think about during the integration planning period for clients, colleagues and alumni of both firms. Shearman & Sterling does have its own alumni network, albeit newer and smaller than ours. We expect the two to fully integrate, giving members access to an even larger, even more diverse professional community. Stay tuned!

Member benefits, notably our mentoring programme and advisory service, are important parts of our network activities. The mentoring programme is a particular success. Numbers fluctuate, but we currently have more than 70 active pairings worldwide. So highly regarded is our programme that we’re approached regularly to share best practice internally, as well as with peers. This is mainly thanks to the sterling efforts of Stella Ekkeshis and Jenny Enever, our Global Alumni Managers, who have led the charge on it from the beginning in 2014. They really are the engine driving your network, ably assisted by Cara McKinstry.

This year, your yearbook is going ‘greener’: for the first time we’re using recycled paper and packaging; previously it was printed on paper from certified sustainable forests. As this is the only piece of alumni communications that is still printed – 44% of respondents to our survey prefer a hard copy – we’re committed to making it as sustainable as possible.

Thanks to everyone who completed the 2023 survey. We’re listening and, where it’s possible, taking action. You asked for more local events, for example, and mentioned Asia Pacific and New Zealand. We’re delighted that our Global Alumni Reunion took place in ten locations this year: Amsterdam, Auckland, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Jakarta, London, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo and Zurich.

The survey showed that engagement with the A&O Alumni Network is high and positive, with events, newsletters and the Alumni Yearbook in particular all helping to achieve this. Again, I would like to thank Jenny, Stella and Cara for all their hard work in continuing to make the Alumni Network the success it is. Finally, I hope you enjoy this year’s edition of our yearbook as I extend greetings from the whole team with the hope that 2024 will bring peace and health to us all.

 

Boyan Wells

Chair, Alumni Network

An extraordinary and transformative year

An interview with our senior partner

Senior partner Wim Dejonghe reflects on a game-changing year for A&O, culminating in the transformative merger with Shearman & Sterling, record full-year revenues and progress across many other strategic areas.