'It taught me I had the potential to succeed': Celebrating 7 Years of Smart Start

'It taught me I had the potential to succeed': Celebrating 7 Years of Smart Start

Thursday, 26th of May

'It taught me I had the potential to succeed': Celebrating 7 Years of Smart Start

Allen & Overy’s Smart Start has been challenging the status quo and changing lives for the past seven years. The initiative was launched back in 2009 to tackle social exclusion in the legal professions. Since then, over 773 students have benefitted from the work experience programme, which involves spending a week at Allen & Overy offices and gaining a real insight into the business world.

Smart Start focuses on supporting talented teens who are the first in their family to go to university and, in 2015, reached more young people across a wider geographical area, with students attending from 52 schools across 28 of the UK’s most deprived boroughs — including East Sussex, Portsmouth and Hull.

In 2014, following years of success, Smart Start became the first work experience placement across the UK legal sector to be accredited by City & Guilds in recognition of its outstanding quality. The work experience programme continues to set standards as an industry-leader. In this blog, students past and present share their experiences of how learning and working with Allen & Overy has helped them develop personally and professionally.

Demi Joannides - Participated in 2014

What are you doing at the moment?

I’m currently in first year at Warwick, studying Law and I love it! I’m using so many skills, and it has definitely lived up to expectations.

What are your future goals?

I’d like to work in a Commercial Law firm, which follows a natural progression. In 10 years I’d like to be working at a top/Magic Circle Law firm – hopefully Allen & Overy!

What impact did participating in Smart Start have on you?

In the short term it encouraged me to study Law at university with the goals of practicing Law in the future. It’s been a catalyst for work experience since then. When people see Allen & Overy on my CV it has a really big impact. It put me in contact with people from A&O that I’m still in touch with now, and the benefits continue! My mentor has really helped me through every step on my journey since the programme. Smart Start really prepared me for meeting people at university, as well as networking skills needed in my chosen career.

Yasmeen Hamza – Participated in 2011

What are you doing at the moment?

I’m studying at the University of Law part time and working as a paralegal and I love it!

What were your early career ambitions?

When I was younger I had that traditional image of being a young barrister, wearing a headpiece and speaking in court. It wasn’t until sixth form that I realised that it was really what I wanted to do because I understood there was so much more scope to it than I had initially thought.

What impact did participating in Smart Start have on you?

I realised that there was a lot more to Law than I had previously thought. That’s where my interest in Law really commenced. The insight into Allen & Overy heightened my expectations of working in Law as it really opened my eyes. It’s such a large firm yet all the individuals I met had personal relationships with the people they were working with.

Smart Start has a soft place in my heart because that’s how I met my best friend! So for that reason I am grateful for the experience.

Ali Skeik – Particapted in 2013

What are you doing at the moment?

I’m in my second year of Law at Birmingham University. It’s very good. I’m being pushed and it’s a new experience.

What are your future goals?

I’d like to work in Corporate Law and secure a training contract with Allen & Overy. Once I’ve qualified and while working for the firm I’d like to set up a social mobility foundation like SEO Scholars. I’m passionate about it because I’ve seen the benefits of the Smart Start experience. It’s a way of connecting with students in low performing schools that may have hardships in their families.

What impact did participating in Smart Start have on you?

Initially I wasn’t really planning on going into Law, but Smart Start really motivated me to study it at university. The exposure showed me there was more to Law than criminal and family. From Smart Start I realised I can combine learning about the Law and apply it in a financial environment. The communications skills, working under pressure, body language and working as a team were all very useful skills and I still use them day-today in my studies — as I will for the rest of my life.

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