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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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