US giant Ropes & Gray is getting bigger, richer and more diverse. Founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 1865, its most recently available financials show revenue sits at around $2.6 billion (£2.05 billion). Across its 13 offices globally (Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, Dublin, London and seven in the US), it employs around 1,500 lawyers. Its Dublin office is the most recent addition in late 2022. Private equity, asset management, technology and health care and life sciences are key strengths. For those prepared to put in the hard work to reach the top of the firm, how about this as an incentive: profit per equity partner sits at around $4.3 million (£3.38 million) — a figure which is double that of some elite UK-headquartered firms.
Its snazzy London office, in Ludgate Hill at the Fleet Street edge of the City in a building boasting a stunning roof terrace, opened in 2010 and is doing well: it has a strong reputation for private capital work. In recent years, the London office has grown its asset management practice and added life sciences and health care to its practice portfolio. Its London team’s main focus in the UK is on banking & finance, capital markets, private equity and restructuring & insolvency. It also provides technology, litigation and disputes, financial crime and regulation, data protection and cybersecurity and antitrust work.
Ropes & Gray has been expanding in the UK in recent years and is now offering around 12 training contracts annually in its London office, including a London-Tokyo TC. Like other American outfits, the firm’s pitch revolves around big money and high-quality work (in return for lots of responsibility and long hours). Ropes is an enthusiastic player in the ever-escalating salary race. NQs start on a hefty £147,000 plus bonus, while trainees earn £57,500, rising to £62,500 in the second year.
All that’s required in return is you work very, very hard. It is a US firm, after all. Unsurprisingly, Legal Cheek’s insiders tell us work-life balance isn’t great. “Don’t make me laugh. I haven’t seen sunlight in three months,” one rookie jokes (sort of). Others, who perhaps have been remembering to supplement with Vitamin D, were more positive. “There are busy weeks but when you’ve got a quiet day, people don’t expect you to stay and my supervisor encourages me to leave early,” one said. “It is all about managing your expectations, I never expected to come to Ropes and be logging off at 5:30pm.” Another commented, “The expectation is for you to always be available, even on holiday. Efforts are made to protect your holiday but this isn’t guaranteed, but that’s part and parcel of working at a U.S firm.”
Trainees say you need to be prepared to hit the ground running but will be supported. The small and personable nature of the London office apparently means you will get a fair bit of direct contact with the partners and senior associates. “Some departments are better than others at training, with seniors putting in real effort to explain concepts and terminology,” says one trainee. “Others just throw you to the wolves.” Another reports that “training is mainly on the job. Significant responsibility means you develop quickly. Senior colleagues are enthusiastic about questions and discussing complex issues”. Former trainees report there is “an open-door policy” and London partners are “highly approachable and down to earth normal people. Always feel very comfortable asking them questions etc…”
For a snapshot of trainee life, how about this description? “From day one, you are treated somewhat like an NQ and are given immense amounts of responsibility and trust. It makes trainees incredibly adaptable, competent, and proactive. With that said, you are not left without support. A network of paralegals, associates, and partners are generally available to answer questions and guide you. However, our training emphasises independence and you will become more trusted the more you show you can take the initiative and act without requiring direction.”
Newbies will be given a fair amount of stimulating work, although of course, “ultimately when things are busy you do have to pick up a lot of administrative tasks which is understandable”. Nevertheless, variety is the spice of life at Ropes. There is a “huge variety of work, as a trainee you are never shoe-horned into one type of work. Breadth of institutional clients mean trainees experience transactions from multiple perspectives”. Another source tells us “partners and associates are also really receptive to letting you try things if you ask!”
Another former trainee offered this insight: “Private equity work is incredibly varied and no two deals are identical. The fast pace also ensures that you obtain a breadth of experience early in your seat. Being able to complete important tasks with minimal guidance is also a very rewarding process to go through.” Rookies have also enjoyed working on “some of the most exciting deal work for top tier clients like Bain, Liberty Global, Google and have taken a junior role on a variety of investigations matters”.
Although it embraced WFW in the wake of the pandemic, Ropes has since tweaked its policy which means lawyers are expected to be at their desks Monday to Thursday, leaving Friday as a flexible day for those wanting to work elsewhere. Employees are equipped with a “hefty technology allowance” of about £800 and enjoy a 24/7 IT support line, which is reportedly “excellent and highly responsive”.
Partners “are generally very approachable and welcoming”, although rookies are advised to “be aware of the different styles preferred by partners”. Most seniors are “very amenable and approachable”. It’s your peers you need to watch out for, according to one rookie, wryly commenting: “You get the odd few who are maybe a little more calculating and competitive than others but thankfully these are few and far between.” The people at the firm are lovely and will always offer to cover if you are away,” according to another rookie. “All the trainees I have worked with so far have been very supportive and junior associates are also excellent sources of advice and support.” Another one describes them as “generally, a great bunch”.
Another Ropes & Gray attraction is the decent international secondment opportunities which are “regularly offered” to juniors. Around a quarter of rookies do one, with Tokyo and Hong Kong appearing as popular destinations. Client secondments may also be available.
Perks, apart from astronomical financial remuneration, include “free lunches, £32 Deliveroo allowance and free lunches on Wednesdays”. The firm also provides free breakfasts and a concierge service to support life admin and bookings and free taxis after 9pm. One spy told us: “The concierge service is so helpful, holidays, present buying, apartment hunting it takes the burden off hugely.”