First A&O Accelerate residential for aspiring law students

Published: 30 Aug 2018

In the heart of bustling London, 18 Villiers Park A-level students experienced life inside a modern law firm, exchanging their hometowns across the UK for the City’s skyscrapers, and taking part in innovative and practical challenges.

The A&O Accelerate residential course is run in conjunction with global law firm Allen & Overy and Villiers Park, with the aim to improve social mobility in the legal industry.

For two packed days this August, students from backgrounds that are typically underrepresented in the legal professions were hosted at the Allen & Overy offices in Bishop’s Square. All the participating students have a passion for law, and were looking for opportunities to gain practical experience in the field.

“I enjoyed every single activity, they were all extremely useful and enjoyable,” said Catherine, a student from Belfast.

“From the workshops I’ve picked up skills such as having a good introduction when networking, that I can now transfer to all areas in my professional and personal life,” reflected student Sabiea, from Bedford.

Scholar presenting ideas during a group activity, (all photos are credited to Shaz Karim at www.mindthevision.com).

Over the two days the students took part in a variety of tasks designed to open their minds to the different aspects and roles within corporate law, as well as to develop key skills that would benefit them in their studies and during application processes for graduate schemes.

“Creating experiences which inspire, educate and build confidence in young people is something which A&O is extremely passionate about.  A&O Accelerate was designed to be an immersive experience, centred on offering insight to students who may not ordinarily have the opportunity to experience life at a commercial law firm. The Graduate Recruitment team thoroughly enjoyed creating and delivering this programme, it was a truly rewarding experience meeting so many young, talented individuals,” noted Hannah Rolph, Head of Graduate Recruitment at A&O.

“It was fantastic to see the students so engaged throughout; they left highly motivated thanks to this valuable experience that we know will help them as they progress with their careers. We are so pleased that a company of this standing has really taken a hands on approach to supporting social mobility, and we hope others can follow in their example,” said Catherine Kottritsch, Scholars Programme Director at Villiers Park.

After a busy first day, the students then took part in a two hour networking event, where they had the opportunity to speak with a variety of staff at Allen & Overy including the Graduate Recruitment Team and current Trainees. This was a valuable chance for them to ask about career paths into law, and find out what it’s really like working at a firm.

“I enjoyed all of it, especially the business game where we really had to think like a lawyer,” said Jen, a student from Chesterfield, “Meeting and learning from the grad team, the trainees and the partners was also a great and worthwhile experience”.

A running theme throughout the residential was the importance of technology in the legal industry, which is one of the ways that Allen & Overy as a firm stand out as leaders in their field.

To develop an insight into this, students were split into groups and tasked with designing a tech solution for a current social issue, before pitching their ideas to a panel made up of Partners from Allen & Overy and individuals from Fuse, the firm’s collaborative tech innovation hub.

“The Innovation exercise helped teach me how to work as part of a team and how to pitch successfully,” said a student participant.

“It was an enjoyable afternoon at Allen & Overy watching social change pitches by Villiers Park students,” said Sarah Chick, Director of Education at Villiers Park, “Speaking with Scholars afterwards revealed that despite adrenaline flowing during their presentations, the experience had increased their confidence and career aspirations.”

Villiers Park is delighted to be working with Allen & Overy to bring this incredibly valuable opportunity to our aspiring law students. The students on our courses face many barriers to success, and this residential has been an example of how third sector and commercial organisations can utilise their strengths to work together very successfully and help create a level playing field for talented young people from varied backgrounds across the UK.

This is a great step towards widening participation in the legal industry, and sets an example for others to follow to support social mobility.