First Year Programme

Our First Year Programme

Our First Year Programme

Exceptional begins here

If you think a career in commercial law could be for you and are keen to find out more, there’s no better place to learn about the legal world than our First Year programme, in our transformational global firm. 

Our First Year programme is more than just work experience. It’s a programme with various touch points across the year and gives you access to a global support network designed to give you all the information, contacts and experience you need to decide whether a legal career at A&O Shearman is right for you.

The programme is packed full of insights, experiences and exposure to the work we do through work-shadowing and networking. During the scheme, we will help you boost the skills we look for in future trainees, such as technology and commercial awareness. You will see first-hand what it’s like to be part of our supportive community and get a sense of what we could help you achieve when you join us. 

As part of the scheme you will have:

  • Advice and guidance from our graduate recruitment team 
  • A two-day insight scheme in April and an assessment centre masterclass in September where we will immerse you in the firm and all our offerings
  • Ongoing support from a trainee buddy
  • Peer support – you will get to know students from other universities and degree disciplines also on the scheme
  • The opportunity to be fast-tracked to assessment centre for either a Vacation Scheme or Training Contract


We’re able to welcome students in their first year of a three-year (or second year of a four-year) undergraduate degree from any degree discipline.

Application window

Coming soon

Life Experience

At A&O Shearman, we value real life experience 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 here.  

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’ll be looking for your drive and commitment to thrive in a legal career, alongside curiosity to find out more about the firm, our culture, the clients we work with and the sectors we operate in. If you’re prepared to tackle every challenge that comes your way, we’ll provide you with all the legal knowledge you need to excel.

Our academic requirements are AAB (136 UCAS points) or equivalent at A-Level and on track for/achieved a 2:1 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

1.    Online Application

The online application form is your first opportunity to show us what you’re capable of, so be sure to pay attention to detail and think about the examples you use and whether they demonstrate the skills and attributes we are looking for.

You will then be prompted to complete an immersive, video-based Situational Judgement Test (SJT) which includes verbal and numerical reasoning items. The test is untimed and should take around 30-40 minutes. The SJT is designed to provide a realistic preview of what you may experience as a trainee at A&O Shearman.

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

2.    Video Interview

If your application is successful, the next stage will be a video interview, which should take no longer than 30 minutes and will include a brief commercial case study. Following this, we will be in touch to let you know if you’ve secured a place on the scheme.