Ropes & Gray launches London-Tokyo training contract

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US firm is latest to offer UK-Asia rookie programme

Ropes & Gray has launched a route for London trainees to work upon qualification in the firm’s Tokyo office. Trainees start at the firm’s London office with a guaranteed Tokyo seat, before returning to London. Upon reaching two-years PQE the lawyer will be permanently based in Japan.

The position is pretty niche, in that it’s only open to graduates with Japanese language skills and an interest of working in Tokyo.

But, while international secondments to far-flung locations during a two-year training contract are not a new concept for law firms, there does seem to be a pattern towards London training contracts with a uniquely Asian focus. Freshfields, for example, has a London-Asia training contract for graduates fluent in English and a native in an Asian language (Mandarin, Korean or Indonesian). Rookies spend their first year in London and second year in Asia. After the two-year training contract, the trainee qualifies into one of the firm’s Asian office as an England & Wales qualified solicitor.

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Similarly, Linklaters has China-London and Singapore-London training contracts. For the China-London training contract, trainees spend two seats in London and two in China (Beijing, Shanghai) or Hong Kong. Once qualified newly qualified (NQ) associates start their careers in one of the three offices. For these roles, native Mandarin and a good command of English is a must. For those wanting to make the move to Asia but without language skills, the Singapore-London training contract has no language requirements. Once qualified, those who follow this route will work as an associate in the firm’s Singapore office.

For students not ready to make the commitment to qualifying into a firm’s Asian office, many other firms offer six-month Asia training contract secondments. Firms offering secondments specifically to Tokyo are rarer, but include Ashurst, Herbert Smith Freehills and White & Case.

Speaking about the London-Tokyo training contract, Ben Morris, Tokyo-based finance partner at Ropes & Gray, said:

“We’re very excited to be able to offer this unique training contract programme, which guarantees successful candidates a seat in our Tokyo office and a route post-qualification to working with us in Tokyo full-time. We only launched the programme last year, so it is still relatively new, but we are already attracting high-quality candidates. Although it is niche, it presents a brilliant opportunity for those with Japanese language skills and an interest in working in Tokyo.”

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Good luck with that. Nobody is leaving this island any time soon.



It’s shocking discrimination that Freshfields and Linklaters require “native” Mandarin. This is essentially an ethnic preference. If somebody speaks the language fluently, why do they need to be a native speaker?



It does seem pretty restrictive. Considering it takes 4 years before you even move to Tokyo, that should be enough time for any applicant to improve their Japanese to N2.



Pleases the ladies 😉


No discrimination here

There is no discrimination…
They are not asking for ethnic Mandarin speakers. “Native” refers to the fluency of the speaker and is a common standard of referring to the highest level of language proficiency – i.e. equivalent to a native / bilingual. It’s to distinguish from the hordes who put “fluent” on their CV / Linkedin but who, in reality, have only just downloaded Duolingo.



Upon reaching 2 PQE? So you have to qualify into a specific area that travels i.e. finance/corporate. What if you find you hate those areas and really like tax/employment?

Seems a bit restrictive on your career.


Older gent

When I was training I wanted to be a litigator. Now I’m a general commercial lawyer of several years vintage. Advice to kids, if you are a standard AAA and 2.1 from Redbrick candidate, qualify into finance and corporate. This gives you the most options to rise and you can go inhouse also. These are the most transferable.



General corporate is the most transferable because you end up learning a bit about everything (IP, employment, data protection, commercial etc.). If you end up in a niche finance practice (i.e. asset finance) then it’s not particularly transferable.


Global lawyer

Pretty phat. I’d move to work in Tokyo in a heartbeat, expat life is the dream fuarkkkkk


I think I'm turning Japanese

How easy is it to learn? Midway through the LPC self-funded but might give this a shot.


no thanks

why would anyone want to work in that insular and stagnant culture



Lmao you ever been to Tokyo? 😂😂😂


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