Our alumni programme was launched in 2005 with the aim of strengthening the relationship between staff and colleagues who have moved on from Allen & Overy (A&O). Since then, the programme has attracted more than 2,000 members from more than 50 countries around the world.
As the alumni chairman I lead the programme, supported by a team of two and an advisory board of current and former staff. Our programme reflects the firm’s international coverage, with active programmes around the world, including New York, Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris and Hong Kong.
Alumni are primarily kept up to date online through a dedicated website that features news, a careers section, a directory of members, details of upcoming events, access to the members’ benefits section and a selection of profiles on members’ lives after leaving A&O.
In addition, for the second year the alumni team has produced an alumni yearbook. It is a coffee table book that has won a number of awards and has a strong focus on the lives of former and current staff around the world, with profiles, interviews and details of alumni events from the past year. The subject matter is very broad, but has recently included a profile of three of A&O’s office managers in Asia, a city guide to Moscow, a guide to how to set up a home office and an art appreciation piece on different European landscape paintings.
For us, the programme is very much a way of spreading goodwill. We always wanted people to feel that leaving the firm does not mean you have to leave behind the friends you have made. In setting up the programme we have given current and former colleagues a chance to spend time together doing the things they enjoy. Last year we put on a production of The Pirates of Penzance, which featured many alumni, staff and their friends and families.
We have also worked hard to create benefits for our alumni. We have an office space in our Bishops Square building, which alumni can use when they are in London on business. One of our alumni is now in private practice in Poland, so he regularly uses the alumni office when he is in London. Alumni are also able to take advantage of discounts and benefits that are available to our staff. Throughout the year the alumni team organises a number of social and sporting events, including an annual drinks reception, a golf day and a musical. Such events work as much in a social capacity as an opportunity for business networking. Last year, a training programme for alumni was launched that covers hot topics and key legislative and regulatory updates. In addition, the programme hosts a round table discussion each year on a commercial or social issue affecting the firm and our alumni.
Clearly, there are also commercial benefits for us. We want people to feel that leaving A&O does not mean that they have to leave the A&O family. The strength of the relationships our alumni have with one another and with the firm has meant that some have returned to work with us again or have become clients or suppliers. These benefits, while not the driving force behind the programme, have come as a welcome benefit and are testament to the strength of professional relationships that our alumni and staff enjoy.
Since it was launched the programme has received complete support from the partners, and having their buy-in has given it real momentum.
Being the first law firm in the UK to open up our programme to all staff has also meant we have benefited from a really diverse range of relationships. We want people to feel good about A&O, whether they still work here or have left, so to have such a wealth of goodwill is tremendously positive.
The programme is gathering a lot of momentum and we are working hard to give people the opportunity to stay in touch with those they no longer work with. To do this we will continue to listen to our members to ensure that we are providing a positive experience and creating more opportunities for them to reconnect with old and new members of the firm.
Alex Pease is a partner at Allen & Overy and chairman of the India group