Florentina Terholli is one of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Eagles from our March 2021 cohort. Florentina was placed within Allen & Overy as a Pro Bono and Community Investment Assistant within their Pro Bono and Community Investment Team. Florentina has, since completing her internship with A&O, gone on to complete internships with Barclays and the Government Legal Department, and has now secured a training contract with CMS. We are thankful that Florentina was happy to write about her experience for us:
Tell us a bit about your background, your education and what you wanted to do as a career
I was born in Kosovo and came to the UK as a refugee with my parents seeking asylum because of the Kosovo war in the late 1990’s. My background is something I am very proud of. I come from a working-class background, was educated at a non-selective comprehensive state school and college and had free school meals. I then went on to attend a non-Russell Group University and studied Law LLB. As the first generation of my family to attend university and the first generation of my family to be interested in becoming a lawyer, I took the risk of self-funding the Legal Practice Course and Masters in Artificial Intelligence in Mergers & Acquisitions. The risk certainly paid off as I secured a CSR role through ELBA with Allen & Overy (A&O), a top, international, magic circle law firm and have now secured a training contract with CMS starting in February 2024. Considering my background, I would say I was not ‘supposed’ to become a lawyer on paper but I am very proud that I maintained my resilience and kept on going.
My favourite aspect of the Eagles programme
For the CSR Eagles March 2021 cohort, I think we definitely had it very tough in terms of having to complete the training and recall days, and all of our work, from home from the outset. Although I did not get to physically meet my cohort, there were definitely sessions that stood out and allowed us to collaborate and share ideas with each other. My personal favourite session was the personal impact training with the National Theatre. Confidence has always been a challenge for me and to have the help of Adam Russ in gaining that newfound confidence but also learning how to present to large audiences in a Ted Talk style was definitely the highlight for me. In the final week of the training, we had to present a 10-minute presentation on accent bias to all of our prospective managers from companies such as A&O, CMS, Bank of America and NatWest. At first, it felt as though it would be a really intimidating task to do, however with the training sessions on confidence and public speaking as well as the practice sessions with the National Theatre, we absolutely smashed it and received stellar feedback from top global organisations!
My experience as a PBCI Assistant Intern at Allen & Overy
Being a Pro Bono and Community Investment (‘PBCI’) Assistant at A&O has been one of the most rewarding and positive experiences. This role was to provide marketing, communications and administrative support to the central PBCI team based in London. The PBCI initiatives I have been involved in have allowed me to see the work we do first hand at A&O by addressing structural racism, inequality and lack of inclusion, helping disadvantaged communities and individuals around the world to access their rights and to fulfil their potential. Over the last year and a half, I have developed professionally and grown in confidence more than I could have imagined when I first started. My manager, Emma Turnbull, has been the best manager I have ever worked with, she has been such a great teacher and leader since I have started. She always pushed me to achieve my goals, strive for opportunities and proactively take on responsibility for tasks.
A highlight for me was working alongside Emma on the launch of the Social Mobility Network at A&O. She allowed me to take responsibility in the running and delivering of the entire marketing campaign, including all aspects of communication for in-person and virtual responses, responding to individual responses and providing updates throughout. This opportunity allowed me to liaise with many teams working within A&O such as the Events Team, which was great as I was able to see how different teams cross over in a global law firm. Coming from a socially mobile background, it was very rewarding being part of such a key project in helping the firm take steps forward in being open and transparent in what they are doing and where they are in the right for equal opportunities.
My time at A&O has been instrumental to my personal and professional development. I couldn’t have imagined how driven my team, my manager and my colleagues at the firm were to see me succeed and excel. Since working at A&O, I have gone on to complete internships with Barclays and the Government Legal Department. My team were aware that I aspired to become a solicitor in the UK and when I say they went above and beyond to help me … they really did go above and beyond! My team opened up opportunities for me to meet several lawyers and partners in the firm, having mock interviews and building my confidence for the next training contract process.
After years of applying for vacation schemes, I was delighted to find out that I had secured one with CMS for July 2022. I am absolutely excited and proud to share that I have been offered a training contract with CMS and will be training to be a solicitor in February 2024. A very exciting legal career ahead! It has been a genuine pleasure to work with everyone at A&O, especially my manager and team. My time at A&O has been a life-changing experience for me, both personally and professionally, and I am very grateful to have formed many great and lifelong relationships at A&O. I am excited to see what the future holds.