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Allen & Overy launched the Smart Start Experience in 2009 with the aim of giving young people from non-privileged backgrounds access to high quality work experience in the world of business.

They wanted to find students who were bright and ambitious but who, because of their backgrounds, didn’t consider a career in law or business an option for them – or who didn’t know how to take the first steps on that career path.

Since then, their programme has supported over 1,450 young people and become an award-winning and accredited work experience scheme – the first in the legal sector to receive City & Guilds accreditation.

The Programme

Students gain a real insight into the world of work and learn about the full range of career paths a global business like A&O has to offer – from being a lawyer, paralegal or legal secretary, through to a career in IT, Finance, Marketing or HR.

Through workshops and team challenges, students are equipped with the skills needed to succeed in these types of careers – from analysis and negotiation to presenting and team working – and provided with practical support with interview technique, CV writing and how to improve personal impact. Students also learn how to network with business professionals and start building their own network of contacts at A&O and their clients, as well as with peers from other schools.

Who is eligible?

Students applying for Smart Start must meet the following criteria:

  • In year 12


  • attending, and have always attended, a state-funded, non fee-paying school/college

In addition we are looking for students who meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Have been in receipt of Free School Meals, Pupil Premium, Education Maintenance Allowance and/or 16 to 19 Bursary whilst at secondary school

  • Would be the first generation in their family to attend university

  • Have been looked after or are currently in local authority care

  • Are, or have been, a full-time or part-time carer

  • Came to the UK as a refugee or asylum seeker

  • Have achieved a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grade 4 and a maximum of 5 at grades 9-7, that is a minimum of 5 at grade C and a maximum of 5 at grades A*-A in the old system*

Please note: The more criteria you meet, the more likely you are to be offered a place on the programme.

The Application Process

Step 1: Students complete the online Smart Start Student Application Form.

Step 2: Students must provide the contact details of a teacher at their school/college so that we can contact them for a teacher referral.

Step 3: We will contact teachers via email to ask them to complete an online Teacher Referral Form.

Step 4: Successful applicants will be invited to attend a Skills & Assessment Day at Allen & Overy’s London office in March 2020.

Step 5: Applicants who successfully complete the Skills & Assessment Day will be invited to join the Smart Start Work Experience Week in July 2020

PLEASE NOTE: Allen & Overy will reimburse reasonable travel expenses with receipts.


If you are a student applying for Smart Start please click here to complete the application form.


If you are a teacher completing a referral form for a student who has applied for Smart Start please click here.

Contact information:

If you have any queries please contact us at