Boston headquartered Ropes & Gray has been expanding in the UK in recent years, and is now offering seven training contracts annually in its London office. Like other American outfits, the firm’s pitch revolves around big money and high quality of work (in return for lots of responsibility and long hours). The firm’s main focus in the UK is on banking & finance, capital markets, private equity and restructuring & insolvency.
A junior associate who has recently moved to Ropes & Gray from a silver circle firm provides an interesting insight into the work: “I have gone from ancillary docs and due diligence (DD) to first cuts of articles, Investment Agreements and SPAs (and still quite a bit of DD).” Another tells us: “Just based on correspondence I feel I am more heavily involved in matters than trainees on the other side.”
The firm has built up its training infrastructure, but as a comparatively small programme the focus remains on its largely very approachable partners assisting trainees on the job. “I can walk into the office of any partner with any (law-related/client-related or market-related, obviously) question,” one tells us. Another reports: “People give me work and I do the work. I consider the fact that they don’t ask me to re-do it as my feedback that I did it well.”
Opinions vary about the work/life balance. One junior lawyer we heard from told us that “the US firm thing is a myth” and they were working less hours that at the English City firm where they’d trained. Another adds: “Really not as bad as people make out. In four months I have had one manic month with very late nights every night and three with good hours.” However, another maintains that “I am constantly getting slammed with work”. According to the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19 figures, Ropes & Gray has pretty reasonable working hours for a US firm, with an average arrive in the office time of 9:21am and an average leave the office time of 8:10pm. Not bad given that the NQ pay is £115k.
Happily, the office itself is lovely. It’s located on Ludgate Hill at the Fleet Street edge of the City in a brand new building. According to one of our spies: “When lawyers from magic circle law firms recently came over for a closing, they could not stop commenting on how nice everything is.” However, there is no canteen. A £25 Deliveroo allowance for those working late partially makes up for this.
Other Ropes & Gray attractions include the unusually high 30 days of holiday allowance and decent international secondment opportunities. About a quarter of rookies do one, with Hong Kong a popular destination.
Financially, the firm is in a strong position, with revenue last year of $1.59 billion (£1.25 billion) this year, and profit per equity partner standing at $2.315 million (£1.8 million). But a spate of partner losses to rival firms shook some of Ropes & Gray’s confidence last year. The upside to this for associates at the firm was that they reportedly received some chunky bonuses to encourage them to stick around.