Allen & Overy

Allen & Overy Training Contract Interview 2018/19 (by Anonymous)
I just thought I would share my experience of my successful A&O TC interview, for anyone who may have assessments with them in the future.
The interview consisted of a case study, partner interview and HR scenario-based interview.

Case study
The case study was immensely time pressured – you are only given 30 minutes. I tried to make notes on a separate piece of paper for everything that I read, but in hindsight I should have just marked the booklet I was given and created a quick structure on a piece of paper, and noted the page numbers instead.

Stick to the brief given – there is an overwhelming amount of information and it will be difficult to even answer all the questions you are asked to examine in the instructions, so really just stick to the questions given or you will not finish the exercise in time.
You have to be familiar with balance sheets and with basic financial calculations like EBITDA. I was asked to advise on a fictitious M&A scenario. I would recommend being familiar with basic contractual mechanisms like warranties, representations and indemnities, but also with corporate boardroom mechanics, like how a minority shareholder might be protected from a majority shareholder etc.

Current commercial awareness is a bonus but not vital – at the end, I was asked to provide my opinion on the deal given my broader commercial knowledge. I was lucky enough that I had read an FT piece on the subject area a day prior, so I had something intelligent to say about the deal.

Partner interview
In my experience, the A&O interview was really unique because I wasn’t asked any standard questions like ‘why law’ or ‘why A&O’. That was just in my experience though.

The partner interview is based purely on your case study. You are given 15 minutes to make a presentation on the case study. I structured my presentation with a brief introduction, and then ran through the key points of the brief and ended with my recommendation on whether it was a good/bad deal.

It is unlikely you will have covered everything in the booklet in your presentation, and I think this is deliberate. My partner directed me to issues that I had missed – we discussed boardroom tactics in quite some detail, and although I wasn’t as quick on the ball as I would have liked, I took my time to think and ask for more clarification before eventually arriving at an answer. The key is to stay composed and confident even if you’re treading really deep water!

My interviewing partner was also a part-time Obligations lecturer, so my interview was particularly technical on the law. Questions I got included:

  • Do contractual assignments cover rights and obligations?
  • What is the difference between tag-along and drag-along rights?
  • Advantages/disadvantages of a New York jurisdiction clause vs an English jurisdiction clause?
  • What is the difference between a warranty and representation?

HR interview
This was described to me as purely forward-looking, but in reality it was a mixture of forward-looking and competency-based questions. The questions asked are similar to the SJT – ‘what would you do if X’ – and then you are asked ‘have you ever had a similar situation where you had to do X’. Again, you can take your time to ask clarification – I asked my interviewer to repeat questions when they were particularly lengthy, and made notes on a notepad before answering questions.
Questions I got included:

  • If your colleague was slacking at work because of personal issues that they didn’t want to share with their boss, what would you do?
  • What would you do if your boss removed you from a project you’d been working on for a long time?

Trainee tour
Standard chance to speak to a trainee about life at the firm and have a coffee on A&O’s stunning roof terrace. This part is completely unassessed.

From anonymous:

When was it?
Mid November 2018

What was it for?
Vacation Scheme (although the Training contract interview process is exactly the same)

First interview: Case Study
The first interview is a case study. You are given a document bundle to read through within 30 minutes. You then have to give a 20 minute presentation to a partner, who will then ask follow up questions for around 30 minutes.

The case study is typically a scenario of you as a trainee, working on an M&A deal. In the first couple of pages, a fictional partner provides some background information on a client. The client, an investment arm, is looking to acquire a target – which was a company producing [redacted] in my interview. You have to investigate the details of this deal. You are given explicit instructions by the fictional partner that you have to address 6 points. This includes questions such as: what legal issues are raised in the deal; how much the client should pay to purchase the target; and what are the shareholders rights issues (this was raised because the deal is a [redacted]).

The document bundle consists of different types of documents. There are company balance sheets, shareholder right documents; bank loan terms and conditions; and background company information on the acquirer and the target.

Note that this case study is immensely time pressured. There is about 30 minutes to read through it all. Seeing as there around 10 pages in the bundle, that gives you roughly 3 minutes per page. In fact, you probably have less time than this, because you have to factor in time to organise your thoughts and structure your presentation. It is also important to quickly discern what information is relevant to the 6 points that you are given in the briefing. Make sure you stick to the briefing instructions, and think carefully about how the information in the case bundle relates to the instructions.

Also, make sure that you do not just describe the issues at hand, but offer practical solutions. For example, in my interview, the [redacted] was being provided with automation technology by a supplier. What’s important is that you’re providing pragmatic suggestions to deal with aspecific problem you have identified.

In the presentation, you are being marked for the organisation structure of your answers. Make sure you have a clear and coherent structure – and, again, remember to offer practical solutions. The partner will probe you on various details you have missed. I think the best thing to do is engage with what the partner is asking you, to not be worried about looking over documents again (they expect you to do this), and to try and think on your feet.

Second interview: scenario based
This is the first time Allen & Overy have changed their second interview for years. It used to be competency and commercial. Now it is scenario-based. This means you’re extremely unlikely to be raised questions like: ‘what commercial news story interests you?’ You’re also unlikely to be asked firm-focused questions, like ‘where should Allen & Overy open its next office’ etc.

Instead, you are given a set of scenarios, and you have to answer what you would do in those circumstances. These scenarios were clearly pre-prepared by the interviewer and are testing specific skills, like adaptability. One example is: ‘you’re a trainee, and you have been working really hard on a specific task. But then, an associate says that you need to take a completely different approach and scrap what you’re doing right now. How do you react to this?’

These scenarios will be interwoven with related competency questions. So, with that scenario about taking a different approach, the interviewer would then ask: ‘has something like this ever happened to you in real life – when you worked really hard at something, but then had to completely change your plans? How did it make you feel?’

Some general advice:
The case study is considerably harder than the second interview. The latter will feel quite relaxing after the former. It is really hard to prepare for the case study, because it is such a unique task given the time pressure. Perhaps read some shareholder rights issues and do some basic balance sheet calculations (ebidta etc.)

But the most important things I would say is just relax, do your best, and try and engage with the partner and get into a conversation. The partner is not expecting you to retain all of the information. The case study is designed so that it is impossible for you to raise every issue and know all the ins-and-outs of it. So stay calm, listen to what the partner is asking, and engage with this as well as you can.

“For my A&O case study I received great feedback for my structure. Before the end of the reading time I managed to spend a few minutes planning what to say, and had a clear structure (introduction of the case, main points of the documents, and conclusion answering the questions). I also managed to finish my presentation exactly after 10 minutes so that was good.

The main problem with my case study is that I spent too much time reading the documents that I tought were important and based my conclusion on those, while one of the other documents had an important detail (about confidentiality if I remember well) that changed the answer to one of the questions. I don’t know what would be a better strategy to make sure you don’t miss important details in the short time available. However, when I realised I missed that important detail (because the partner pointed it out) I could have reacted better thant I did: I should have quickly read the document and explained the key argument as well as its consequences on my recommendations to the client.

Overall, I would say that if the interviewer points out something you missed, you should use it as an opportunity to show how you can identify your mistake and correct your reasoning in light of the new piece of information.”

For the case study – I found it very legally technical, typical M&A transaction. Make sure to base whatever you say on the actual documents given out, I was told in my feedback not to incorporate what’s actually going on in the markets irl (e.g. don’t talk about how the tariffs would affect the automotive industry). Make sure to know how to manipulate things like warranties, indemnities etc to protect a client or to achieve the goal. Skim read everything but pay more attention to the part on the shareholder’s agreement, think the partners love discussing that. Basically, assume there is something wrong with pretty much every line you read, and then think about what the problem could be/how to fix it. A good way to present the case study is to simply follow the questions that are asked (there are around 6-7 if I remember correctly) on the case study, that should give you at least 10 minutes… and any leftover time you can pinpoint certain issues that they might not cover in the questions and cover it yourself.

Also not sure if they ask everyone to run through valuations there on the spot, but do actually brush up on valuations, balance sheet basics (although they didn’t seem to like just describing the trends on the BS). You will also be asked to give judgment on whether the valuation of the company (in the case study) is fair or not – that doesn’t involve calculations but just general judgment from what you read. Other questions I remember include what kind of law should the transaction be based on, and if Brexit would affect that.

For the second interview (mix of competency and situational), that was fairly straightforward and shouldn’t trip you up, just go prepared with examples for common topics such as resilience, teamwork etc.

When was your Allen & Overy interview? 

November 2017

What was it for? 

Vacation Scheme

Please describe the interview process at Allen & Overy.

I was greeted by very nice grad rec people, then taken to a little room with other applicants, with other rooms coming off it. We were made to feel welcome and offered snacks. The day was explained to us clearly. We each had a room allocated to us that we would sit in for the interviews, and it felt nicer compared with other experiences where you enter a room that the interviewers are already inside. I had half an hour to look over a case study about a potential merger, with several documents (about 7 or 8) related to the transaction. Once that was over, an interviewer came in to discuss what I had read and act as the ‘client’. it started with a quick pitch that I had to make, about whether I would recommend the merger, an outline of the key issues etc. But it was fairly informal. After the pitch, the interviewer discussed what I had said, and brought up some issues that I hadn’t covered, either because I didn’t have time or because I had forgotten them the first time.

After this hour, another interviewer came into the room for the usual kind of interview, covering motivation, competencies, some commercial awareness etc. The questions were all pretty standard really, and the interviewer was very open about the fact that he has to check certain things off, and shows appropriate levels of recognition that it wasn’t an ideal system. Some questions included things like ‘how will the role of a lawyer change in the next ten years’, we discussed emerging markets geographically, I of course had prepared a few commercial awareness points to discuss.

After the interviews were finished, a trainee came to take each of us individually for a tour of the offices and then a chat in the office cafe about whatever we wanted to discuss, going through questions I had. The trainee was of course very friendly, just trying to help where they could, and by this point I was very relaxed, having finished my interviews.

What advice would you give to future applicants for the Allen & Overy interview?

Make sure you’re familiar with company balance sheets, working out profit, understanding sales data and trends. Think about mergers and what kinds of issues there will be – think about all of the different departments that will be involved in the transaction, and the roles of lawyers in each. Think about how you would take data and turn it into advice for a client, ie the best strategy for the business.

Prepare commercial topics to discuss, read financial and business news, be prepared to discuss your competencies, like times you have failed and how to come back from that.

When was your Allen & Overy interview?
Summer 2015

What was it for?
Training Contract

Please describe the interview process at Allen & Overy.
Case study: From what I can remember, it is very commercial – it’s more about what’s important to a business and how lawyers can help. I think it would be helpful to know things like how to calculate market cap, general contractual terms e.g. confidentiality clauses, employment, litigation etc.

What advice would you give to future applicants for the Allen & Overy interview?

There’s quite a lot to get through in a short time for the prep so probably make sure to read through the whole thing at least once and don’t panic if you don’t know the answer – they just want to know how you think.

Whenever people told me that all case studies are common sense and all I should do is use that common sense, it felt too abstract a piece of advice. Until the Allen & Overy case study, which required knowledge (so thank god it wasn’t my first AC!), but which really also needed you to be rational. I would say that what helped lots was: investopedia (for terminology + any maths I needed to know how to do), the FT (to build up a “database” of what companies focus on when pursuing a deal/fending off a bid/facing antitrust issues) and consulting interviews case study prep. With the latter, you do have to be careful to not only prep for what a consulting interview would be like – but it was the only way I could think of to practice forming a proposal. Nevertheless, I think I made the mistake of trying to have thought of allllll the possible issues that could come up in a deal or whatever case study and I think that made a bit too rigid, especially at Allen &Overy. It is also worth noting that you never know what the case study will be, which I know you know but, again, I think that for many science grads who have spent a long time in academia: you really try to predict what it will be because this part of an AC is so much out of your comfort zone.

When was your Allen & Overy interview? 

February 2018

What was it for? 

Training contract

Please describe the interview process at Allen & Overy.

The assessment centre is split into two interviews – the first is a case study, then a competency interview. Before the case study, you’re given half an hour to read through a huge number of documents, and to prepare answers to a number of questions. You then present your findings to the partner for the first 15 minutes of the interview, and then they’ll probe and ask further questions.

The second interview felt very structured – it was clear there was a list of questions prepared, and it was very much so back and forth. The second interview was pretty standard and easy to prepare for, but the first was a lot more challenging because it’s quite unusual and extremely (extremely!) time pressured.

What advice would you give to future applicants for the Allen & Overy interview?

For the case study, you don’t have time to read anything properly, only to skim read. Try to prepare before hand by reading a number of articles in a set amount of time and summarising what they said after skim reading them. I think this would help prepare for you thinking clearly and organising your thoughts under pressure.

For the competency interview, prepare model answers and practice them with friends or family, or to yourself in front of the mirror so that you know what you’d say. But definitely don’t memorise them – it’s a structured interview but you want to make your delivery as natural and conversational as possible. Also, prepare questions to ask at the end of both because my interviews had quite a lot of time at the end for both.

Allen & Overy (vacation scheme interview)

I believe the case study was rather chunky. I think it was designed so that there was no possible way you could get through all the documents in time. There were various issues – IP, client contracts, governing law issues, an ongoing dispute I believe. I think where I fell down was that I ha a banking partner interviewing me who obviously wanted to focus on a loan agreement that was part of this document pack. I believe he wanted me to talk about the different securities they had or would take and the possible issues that could arise as part of it and link this back to the facts we had been told. The loan agreement was quite substantial but if I were to recommend a document to spend an extra few minutes on, it would be that. Apart from that it was all rather straight forward.