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 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”. A further reports: “I don’t think people are able to maintain a great work-life balance working for a US firm. Once again, this varies a lot from department to department. Transactional seats will inevitably have a lot of back-to-back late nights, but you never know exactly when a new deal will come through the door and so it’s very difficult to manage a social life. In general, there isn’t a lot of coming into the office on the weekends, which helps. Non-transactional seats seem to have more of a steady stream of work and it’s less stop-start (unless you are advising on a transaction with a tight deadline).”
According to the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2019-20 figures, Ropes & Gray has pretty reasonable working hours for a US firm, with an average arrive in the office time of 9:28am and an average leave the office time of 8:59pm. So not far off a 12 hour day. But the NQ pay is £120k.
Happily, the office — which R&G rookies see plenty of — is lovely. It’s located on Ludgate Hill at the Fleet Street edge of the City in a new building with a stunning roof terrace. 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 decent international secondment opportunities. Nearly a quarter of rookies do one, with Hong Kong a popular destination.
Financially, the firm is in a strong position, with revenue rising by 10% in the most recently released financial results to $1.75 billion (£1.44 billion), and profit per equity partner growing by a similar percentage to reach $2.55 million (£2.1 million).