Boston headquartered Ropes & Gray has been expanding in the UK in recent years, and is now offering 12 training contracts annually in its London office, including a recently launched 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). 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).” Trainees, too, say you need to be prepared to hit the ground running.
One newbie describes the rookie life at Ropes & Gray: “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.”
With this supposedly PQE level work, trainees find the tasks they take on pretty stimulating. One transactions-focused trainee told Legal Cheek about how the “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”. Others told us about their experience in the big leagues. “I am regularly staffed 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”, says one, whilst another newbie notes “the big deals they are increasingly getting are very stimulating and I’d consider it to be high-quality work up there with any other leading firm”.
The focus of training remains on its (by and large) very approachable partners assisting trainees on the job. The small and personable nature of the London office apparently means that you will get a fair bit of direct contact with the partners and senior associates. “Nobody is going to shrug you off or make you feel like their time is worth more than yours. An open-door policy does reign at this firm,” explains one trainee. Another reports that all Ropes & Gray’s London partners are “highly approachable and down to earth normal people. Always feel very comfortable asking them questions etc…”
The firm’s transition to working from home has apparently been a success, with the firm stating that they don’t expect that they’ll ever mandate a five-day a week in-office environment. Provided with a “hefty technology allowance” which accommodated all the essentials, trainees were able to kit out their desks with office paraphernalia to their hearts’ desires. Additionally, members of the firm have enjoyed the 24/7 IT support line, which is reportedly “excellent and highly responsive”. One content rookie even told us how on one occasion when they were without Wi-Fi, the firm couriered an independent Wi-Fi modem to their house all within a couple of hours.
Snazzy home-working kit is all very well, but not being in the office can threaten to tip an already precarious work/life balance into the red. “Working from home makes you constantly reachable and has further blurred the lines between work and private life,” cries one sleep-deprived worker bee. Another maintains that “I am constantly getting slammed with work”, with the private equity department being a common factor that has caused some to “sacrifice sleep and social life”.
Opinions on workload vary though. One junior lawyer we heard from told Legal Cheek “don’t make any mid-week plans, expect some all-nighters. With that being said, there is no presenteeism, weekend working is not too common, and supervisors are amenable if you have commitments”.
This thoughtful insider report seems to sum things up: “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).”
The tough nut who told us that “normal finish time is midnight-2am” is likely in one of those extra busy departments. The old adage that you’ll get by with a little help from your friends, however, seems to be particularly true at Rope & Gray: “Some of my best mates are people I’ve met at Ropes. We work long hours so spend a lot of time together — it’s a massive help that we get on well and are always down for drinks after work (when we can actually get out at a decent time)”. And if you do find yourself frequently pulling some all-nighters, just remember: the NQ pay is £130,000.
Happily, the office 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.” Another survey respondent jokes, “I’ve only not scored it ten out of ten because the coffee isn’t great”. However, there is no canteen. A £25 Deliveroo allowance for those working late partially makes up for this, although apparently it isn’t available to those working from home. Perks also include transport home past 8/9pm and “great socials” (or £50 Deliveroo credits during the pandemic for online socials), as well as budgets for playing sports with other associates and gym allowances.
Another Ropes & Gray attraction is the decent international secondment opportunities which are “regularly offered” to juniors. Around a quarter of rookies do one, with Hong Kong a popular destination.
Financially, the firm is in a strong position, with revenue reported to stand at $2.19 billion (£1.53 billion), and profit per equity partner a whopping $3.37 million (£2.45 million). The London office has also been snapping up big name partners from rival players like Linklaters and Kirkland & Ellis in recent times.