Legal Business Blogs

Hitting your targets: A&O launches return to work pilot to meet 20:20 gender diversity goal

Allen & Overy (A&O) has launched a back-to-work initiative for women, using its contract lawyer business Peerpoint in a bid to hit its 20:20 gender diversity target.

The firm’s ‘Return to Work’ programme will encourage 12 experienced lawyers on an extended career break to return to roles in the legal profession. The six month programme is aimed at A&O’s alumni network and targets women as part of the firm’s 20:20 initiative – which aims at increasing the number of women in the partnership to 20% by 2020.

The return to work programme will start in September 2015, where participants will undertake training through A&O’s practice groups and on-the-job development, in a bid to improve core skills, including personal brand, impact and resilience. Participants will also work within practice groups and have access to a mentor.

Participants will be offered a position at Peerpoint – the firm’s contract lawyer business – at the end of the programme, or in exceptional circumstances, with A&O. ‘If there’s one thing we’re learning about the support women need to fulfil their professional ambitions while balancing commitments outside of work, it’s that there’s no silver bullet,’ said Wim Dejonghe, managing partner at A&O. ‘To succeed here as a firm, we need to come up with new initiatives like this so that we can continue to broaden our understanding to find different approaches that address the varying needs of women wanting to continue their professional careers in law.’

Richard Punt, chief executive of Peerpoint, added: ‘We have learnt we need to do more. There’s a whole series of reasons why women don’t come back to work. This programme includes a combination of training, including dealing with confidence issues. You can’t just take a blanket policy, you need to look to the individual needs.’

A&O is the first firm to try such an initiative in the UK and has also partnered with She’s Back, a start-up organisation looking to help experienced women return to work, and the University of Edinburgh Business School on a research project.