Training Contract

A&O Shearman Training Contract

A&O Shearman Training Contract

Experience a career without limits

We know it isn’t always easy to find a place where you can belong, so you can excel – a place that makes sure you get the best support so you do your best work. Well, at A&O Shearman, you can join our tightly connected international community, with unparalleled strength and depth. Here, you’ll constantly learn from exceptional professionals in a friendly, dynamic culture where you can thrive and begin an exciting and fulfilling legal career. 

Throughout the two years of your Training Contract, we will work closely with you to ensure you have the support to reach your full potential and become a successful commercial solicitor.

Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)

The route to qualification as a solicitor in England and Wales is changing. Trainees joining A&O Shearman from September 2024 onwards will train via the SQE route. Please see below for further information about our SQE transition plans. Further information about the SQE is available on the SRA website.

What will you do?

Our training programme is meticulously designed and continually evolving to provide the foundations you need to find your strengths, overcome challenges and bring out your best self.

Your training will be based on four six-month rotations (known as ‘seats’), through a number of departments or practice areas. Seats are available across our practice areas and will help you to discover the full range of work we do and the expertise we have in our teams. In each seat, you will sit with a partner or an associate who will supervise your professional and personal development, showing you how to excel as a successful commercial lawyer.

Our dedicated HR for Trainees team will work with you to determine your seat choices. You will have the opportunity to express your preferences, so you can spend time in the areas that suit you best (subject to business need). Our core transactional areas of expertise are Banking, Corporate (which includes our Pensions team) and International Capital Markets; as a trainee, you can expect to spend at least two seats of your Training Contract gaining experience in these areas. You will also explore the possibility of spending a seat on an international or client secondment, which will give you the chance to grow and strengthen your network.

You’ll also gain contentious experience, either by spending a seat in our Litigation department (including Employment, Intellectual Property, Litigation & Investigations and Arbitration) or, for those who do not sit in a Litigation seat, by completing a Litigation course and obtaining contentious experience via legal advice clinics. The Litigation course is run by Nottingham Law School and consists of five days’ tuition; regular visits to a legal advice centre take place throughout the Training Contract, to help you gain practical contentious experience and provide valuable pro bono help.

Eligibility

We’re able to welcome final- or penultimate-year students or graduates from all universities with any degree. 

Please note, for our March 2025 start date, we are able to welcome applications from non-law students who have successfully completed the GDL / PGDL course. 

Application window

Coming soon

Training & Support

One of the things our trainees value most about being at A&O Shearman is the award-winning training they receive. Your development is one of our key priorities and you’ll see that every day you are with us. In each seat, you will sit with a partner or associate who will provide you with support and guidance and you will immediately take an active and practical role in the department’s work, with plenty of individual roles along the way. You can expect to take on real responsibility, with tailored support, whilst also enjoying a wider support network of fellow trainees to swap learnings and share the experience with. 

In addition to learning practical skills such as drafting, transaction management, research and legal and office procedures, the experience you gain as a trainee will develop your professional conduct, particularly with respect to negotiation and communication with clients and colleagues.

Alongside your departmental work, you will have the opportunity to work side-by-side and learn from some of the world’s top lawyers. As well as regular departmental training and updates (specific to your seat), you can attend client seminars delivered by our partners and associates on the most cutting-edge issues affecting our industry. You will also attend wider skills training and a range of seminars and talks on matters essential to A&O Shearman, which include mental health and wellbeing and diversity and inclusion. 

Training does not stop at qualification. We are proud of our position as pioneers in the legal industry and our commitment to continuous learning is a key part in maintaining it. At key points during your associate career, you will become eligible to attend the different stages of our bespoke global associate development programme, where you will be joined by colleagues from around the world. These sessions are run by internal and external experts, focusing on developing your strategic and commercial awareness and your ability to work effectively and with resilience. As you progress, the focus on managing client relationships and building a practice increases.

More reasons to apply

The best way to learn is from real-world experience. Even in the early stages of your career, you will be given genuine responsibility on client projects. That means that as a trainee, you will be making real contributions to real, globally-impacting projects.

You will collaborate with senior lawyers, benefiting from the combination of support and autonomy needed to grow quickly and sustainably. Training and guidance is always available if you’re unsure of something, but you’ll also be trusted to use your initiative to deliver innovative solutions on client matters.

With A&O Shearman, you’ll be given the support to help you excel whilst making an impact on work that matters.

Secondments

Trainees are able to apply for a secondment to take place during their Training Contract. International secondments are enriching experiences that provide you with an awareness of cultural and regional differences, which is especially important as the majority of the work we do is cross-border and international. We currently offer international secondments in up to 13 of our offices, including Dubai, New York and Singapore.

Client secondments enable you to better understand how our clients’ businesses run, offering a unique insight that comes from working alongside them.

Law School

Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL) & Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) Preparation Course (if joining A&O Shearman from September 2024 onwards)

We have selected BPP University Law School as our law school partner to ensure you arrive here with the best possible grounding in legal knowledge and skills and are ready to start working with our clients.

PGDL

As a non-law graduate your Training Contract with us will be exactly the same as a law graduate. However, your route to qualification will be slightly different, as you will have to study for the Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL) at BPP Law School.

Those who have completed a law degree in an international jurisdiction that is not recognised as a qualifying law degree by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority will also need to complete some or all of the PGDL (although no longer a regulatory requirement, this also applies for those qualifying via SQE). This includes those who studied a law degree in Scotland and Ireland and did not study the necessary modules as part of their degree.

The PGDL is an eight-month full-time course designed to teach you key skills and the foundations of law before you join those who already have a law degree. The PGDL is also available part-time, but we ask that you complete the full-time course, unless agreed otherwise.

For details on financial support during the PGDL, please see our rewards and benefits section.

Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)

As above, a new approach to qualification for all prospective lawyers in England and Wales took effect from  September 2021. Trainees joining A&O Shearman from September 2024 onwards will train via the SQE. 

We have worked closely with BPP to design our new SQE preparation programme. This is a 12 month course which will provide trainees with the optimum preparation to pass the centralised SQE1 and SQE2 assessments (which are run on behalf of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) by Kaplan). The course includes a bespoke ‘Essentials for Practice’ programme, giving you the opportunity to gain the legal knowledge and skills required to best prepare you for the SQE assessments and beyond. In addition, although it’s no longer a regulatory requirement, we will still require non-law graduates to study the PGDL in advance of the SQE preparatory course. Further information is available here

Further information about the topics assessed in SQE1 and SQE2, and a detailed breakdown of how the exam and its assessments are structured, is available on the SRA’s SQE assessment website here.

Rewards & Benefits

Our reward and benefits package is designed to provide you with everything you need to develop a truly fulfilling career, support your clients and enjoy a lifestyle where you’re proud of what you achieve in work and beyond. Together with all the support and encouragement you need to reach your full potential both personally and professionally, you can look forward to receiving:

Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL)

We will pay your course fees and provide a maintenance grant of £12,500. If you only need to study part of the PGDL, we will pay the necessary course fees and a pro-rated maintenance grant. If you accept your Training Contract after commencing the PGDL, we will pro rata your maintenance grant and your course fees will be refunded in full.

SQE 

We will pay your course fees and provide a  maintenance grant of  £20,000. If you accept your Training Contract after commencing the SQE preparation course, we will pro rata your maintenance grant and reimburse your course fees in full.

Benefits

As well as financial rewards, we offer excellent benefits that can adapt to meet differing or changing needs of the people who work here. These benefits include insurance (life, permanent health and private medical); a pension scheme; an interest-free season ticket loan; access to health and wellbeing apps (such as Unmind, Help@hand and Headspace) as well as a range of on-site facilities including a gym and sports hall; medical and physiotherapy services; a beauty treatment centre; dry cleaners and two restaurants.    

Interest-free loan

You can apply for an interest-free loan of up to £2,000 (or £2,500 for those undertaking the SQE preparation course, to reflect the course duration), which you will repay by the end of your Training Contract. You may decide how to use this, for example – you may like to use this to complete a language study course, to undertake a pro bono or community initiative, or as additional financial support while you are undertaking your studies.

What's law got to do with it?

You don’t have to study law to be a lawyer. Hear from some of our people as they explain how their degree skills transferred to a career in commercial law. 

These videos, originally produced under the A&O legacy, authentically showcase the experiences and opportunities synonymous with A&O Shearman.

What we look for

We look for individuals with potential. Skills like open-mindedness, innovation, collaboration and critical thinking will differentiate your application from the competition and set you up for success. There isn’t one ‘type’ of person we’re looking for: we welcome applications from all graduates who are passionate about commercial law and innovation, regardless of the university they attended and the degree they earned. With the right mindset, anyone can excel at A&O Shearman and build a future to be proud of. 

Our clients rely on us for more than just outstanding legal advice – they trust us to guide them through uncertain times, deliver business growth and advise them on the future. If you have the ability, ambition and determination to make that happen, then you will be a strong candidate for a Training Contract offer.

Our academic requirements are AAB (136 UCAS points) or equivalent at A-Level and on track for/achieved a 2:1 in any undergraduate degree. We do take into account mitigating circumstances, including those relating to a disability, which may have affected your grades either at school or university and there is a space on the application form to include these.

Application Process

The application process is designed to give you a platform to show us what you’re capable of and to set you up for success at A&O Shearman.   

1. Online Application

You will be required to submit an online application which details your work and education history. 

You will then be prompted to complete an interactive assessment which includes verbal and numerical reasoning items and two short motivation questions to complete via video. The interactive assessment is untimed and should take around 45 minutes. The interactive assessment is designed to provide a realistic preview of what you may experience as a trainee at A&O Shearman as well as give us an insight into your motivations.

You will need to complete your application and interactive assessment ahead of deadline. 

You can read our preparation tips to Situational Judgement Tests or take a practice test.

2. Interviews

If your application is successful, the next stage will be an Assessment Day comprising of two one-on-one interviews and one written assignment. 

The first interview is based on a commercial case study, where you’ll have time to work through a brief and prepare a short presentation to deliver to your interviewer. This will be followed by a discussion on the key points from the case study. Following your case study interview you will have 25 minutes to complete a short written exercise.

In the second interview, you will be asked a series of questions based on scenarios you may encounter as a trainee.

3. Offer

After your interviews, we will review your performance and aim to get back to you with a decision as quickly as possible.

Regardless of the outcome, we’re committed to providing constructive feedback on your interview performance.

And of course, if it’s good news, the Early Careers Recruitment Team will be on hand to support you in your decision-making process.

Life Experience

At A&O Shearman, we value real life experiences just as much as work experience. It’s not something to shy away from on your application. It makes you who you are. Here’s how some of our people have brought their life experiences to a career at A&O Shearman.

These videos, originally produced under the A&O legacy, authentically showcase the experiences and opportunities synonymous with A&O Shearman.