If you’re hoping to learn the Ropes at a private equity powerhouse then look no further than this Bostonian native.
Ropes & Gray training contract review 2024
Allured by Ropes & Gray’s private equity prowess, in addition to its proud pro bono focus, our trainees informed us that this Bostonian firm was at times everything they’d roped and dreamed of. “You’re engaged in high-quality work with Ropes – you’re certainly not merely viewed as a cog in the works,” one trainee said, while another alluded to the firm valuing everyone’s individuality: “There’s no classic Ropes & Gray lawyer. You’re encouraged to bring your own personality.” Whilst other firms may be fraught with bitter infighting, one trainee referred to Ropes using the royal ‘we’, indicating the cosy, tight-knit nature of the firm. “We’re no-drama,” they said, before adding that “everyone is friendly, outgoing, and quietly brilliant. There is absolutely no acrimony!" A good start to say the least.
"Ropes does not just say this sort of thing for clout. They really do have the credibility to back this up."
Befitting of its central London location, nestled between St Paul’s and the City, our sister guide, Chambers UK, recognises the firm’s nationwide private equity buyouts credentials, and imparts high rankings for its mid-market banking and finance work in the nation’s capital. The firm’s also earned recognition for its tax, financial crime and capital markets work. With roots (and an HQ) in Boston, and main offices across New York and London, the firm boasts an impressive degree of internationalism. The firm occupies four Asia-Pacific offices in Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo, seven in the US including Chicago and San Francisco, whilst the London and Dublin offices form its Eu(rope)an contingent. What’s more, most trainees we spoke to glowingly mentioned the firm’s female-led private equity team (it's also at the higher end of the market for female partnership more generally, at 40%). “Ropes does not just say this sort of thing for clout. They really do have the credibility to back this up,” declared one trainee.
With a small intake of twelve trainees per year, our trainees explained that seat allocation isn’t a particularly formal affair: “You just pick three choices, then have a meeting to discuss why you’ve chosen them, sometimes over coffee.” It’s worth noting that the first seat is assigned randomly. “Your first seat is just meant as a steep learning curve. It’s not necessarily about the content, but rather about learning how to manage your time, build relationships, and master some key lawyer skills,” proving that missing out on your preferred seat first time round really isn’t the end of the world. We heard the firm generally “does a very good job of balancing wants and needs, and your choices will be given greater priority the more experienced you become.”
Private equity is the biggest team in the firm, and trainees are required to spend a rotation here. Trainees warned that workflow – and hours – can be unpredictable. “It’s a very transactional seat so sometimes you’ll be slammed and sometimes you’ll have nothing on.”Daily tasks included “checking data rooms, drafting documents, collating signature pages, and keeping updated with the latest status of documents ready to update associates on where the deal’s at.” The firm recently advised private banking company American Industrial Partnerson its disposal of CR Mining to a Swedish mining equipment manufacturer. One newbie referenced the short and sharp nature of the work: “You are constantly firefighting with smaller bespoke tasks as opposed to sitting down and working on one for four hours straight.”
Finance involves “fast-paced, large transactions, with lots of moving parts,” leading one trainee to liken its similarity to a jigsaw: “You need to keep on top of things.” Bread and butter tasks at the junior end include drafting corporate authorisations and filings. Some of the firm’s clients include commercial banks, bank holding companies and thrifts. On the lender side, the roster includes a host of impressive names, like Goldman Sachs, Barclays, J.P. Morgan, BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank. On the borrower side, Ropes & Gray recently advised a French multinational telecoms and media company, Atlice Europe, in connection with a €1 billion bridge-to-bond.
“Putting together big research notes feels university-esque.”
The life sciences department works on contentious, advisory and transactional matters, incorporating slower-paced research and due diligence work instead. Dealing with questions from clients and businesses, keeping up to date with business development news, and researching content for articles on the firm’s website account for around 70% of the workload at the junior end. One source explained: “Putting together big research notes feels university-esque – the language used is more straightforward so it’s like writing an essay at uni.” Another trainee recommended this seat “as the work is broad and extremely complex.” The group recently advised Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, GIC, on its acquisition of 40% interest in The Oxford Science Park from Magdalen College, Oxford.
“There are very few seats where you’re plugged in to the world,” but antitrust is one of them. One trainee recalled transaction filings in South Korea, the US and the UK, collaborating with different teams in different time zones: “The global scale of the seat is incredible!” Speaking of which, the team acted as international counsel to Google in a six-year abuse of dominance investigation conducted by the Competition Commission of India. One insider was pleased to report that “your opinion genuinely matters and you are rewarded with a high level of responsibility,” but caveated this with the fact that “partners will sometimes present you with a problem, which is kind of nice but doesn’t suit every personality.”
Ropes & Gray usually offers an international secondment to Hong Kong, though we heard from most trainees that this has been firmly put on hold due to the ongoing effects of COVID. In the meantime trainees can enjoy client secondment opportunities, depending on market need. There's also a Tokyo secondment on offer to trainees who speak Japanese.
The trainees we spoke to felt that Ropes & Gray was characterised by an open-door culture: “We have a very non-hierarchical environment – you can pop into anyone’s office with questions, have lunch on the terrace together, and talk about whatever, including things like the cricket and Love Island!” We’re rooting for Zach and Molly.
"... including things like the cricket and Love Island!”
At the time of our research, trainees were expected to be in the office three days a week, which was usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, though from November onwards, the firm plans to ask trainees to be in four days a week. To help with their WFH days, trainees are given a generous home office kit which includes a desk, a monitor, and a fan. “One of the things that stands out about the place is the ability to just have a chat or a coffee with someone,” one interviewee said. Many praised the office space provided by the firm: “The office’s centrality within the city is noticeable. I enjoy basking in the sunshine on the terrace when the weather’s good!” There’s even a Formula 1 car in the lobby.Although social events are limited, the firm does host annual summer and Christmas events.
Hours come in peaks and troughs, with the exact degree of intensity dependent on the seat. For example, “it’s very rare to have immediate deadlines” in life sciences. In transactional seats, “deal flow reigns supreme,” meaning things really ramp up around closing. In private equity, “you can leave at 5pm, or you can do all-nighters.” It should be noted that Ropes’ trainees work around three hours more a week compared to the market average, which is similar to other US firms.
Perhaps due to its US heritage, “pro bono is a big deal at the firm - to the point that you are actively expected to get involved.” There’s an annual 20-hour target, but the rookies we spoke to explained it’s common to exceed that. We heard those who meet the target even get a sticker for their office door! Whether it’s working on the Windrush compensation scheme for those denied British citizenship, aiding Afghan or Ukrainian refugees on immigration matters, or working on climate change-related Resting Reef, our sources agreed lots of effort is put into pro bono work.
“The firm openly asks, ‘What can we do to better connect with your communities?’”
Ropes & Gray recently launched BRidge to the City, a social mobility programme, which the firm “takes great pride in.” Supported by media giants Bloomberg, the project is designed for first-year university students from diverse and lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Find out more about the brand new scheme here. It’s also worth noting that, with 33% female equity partnership, Ropes is one of the best-performing firms when it comes to gender parity at the senior level. We also heard “the firm openly asks, ‘What can we do to better connect with your communities?’”
Each department runs its own training sessions. For example, private equity hold fortnightly sessions for trainees on things like aspects of a deal. In addition to this formal training, newbies were also pleased to find guidance with soft skills, “like how to draft an email in a way that the client doesn’t panic, or how to deal with client dinners.” Another source was pleased to report that “supervisors truly care about your development. We can chat with them in the pub – or over a game of cricket at Lord’s!” Although the firm runs the usual mid and end of seat reviews, “you don’t have to store everything up for three months, you have constant conversations throughout the seats.”
We heard that “it’s on trainees to lead the qualification process,” which translates as reaching out to the practice group you’re interested in – “Keep going out for coffees” was one insider’s advice. Partners will then decide whether or not to offer a role, with interviews only occurring if there’s competition for an NQ position. Whilst trainees thought the process could be a touch more transparent, our interviewees agreed that qualification is a smooth affair.In 2023, the firm retained10of15qualifiers.
Bang on the money
At £57,500 per annum for first-year trainees and £62,500 for second-years, Ropes & Gray offers one of the highest compensated schemes in the City.
How to get a Ropes & Gray training contract
Vac scheme deadline: 31 January 2024
The application process
Ropes & Gray hires exclusively through its vacation scheme, receiving around 650 applications each year. Director of HR Beverley Sorsby tells us that the firm has simplified its application form. “Alongside academic results, there is only one question to answer. The question has been designed to assess commercial awareness and a knowledge of the firm, whilst giving candidates the opportunity to apply their own style.”
If candidates are invited to an assessment centre, they’re asked to complete a Watson Glaser test beforehand. Five assessment days are run in March, with around 14 candidates in each. This consists of an interview, a written exercise, a negotiation exercise and an ‘elevator pitch’ scenario. “The assessments are designed to assess key competencies including motivation for a career in corporate law, commercial awareness, as well as oral and written communication and negotiation and presentation skills.” Sorsby explains. Interviews are conducted by partners, counsel and HR representatives.
Ropes & Gray uses Rare Recruitment’s contextual recruitment tool and employs a blind-selection process when screening applications and marking assessments. “Applicant’s names, personal details and school name are redacted from the application form. During the assessments the assessors do not have any information about the candidate, which means that interviewers have not seen the application form beforehand, nor have the assessors marking the exercises. This is to reduce any unconscious bias and/or affinity bias that may occur at all stages of the process.”
The vacation scheme
A two-week vacation scheme is run in both spring and summer, with around 14 students attending each. The students are paid a juicy £400 per week. Sorsby says, “We intentionally designed a separate assessment day so that we could use the vacation scheme as an ‘experience’. It gives candidates the opportunity to do real trainee work, experience the culture of the office and understand what it’s like to be a trainee at the firm”. Vac schemers are assigned an associate supervisor to “allocate tasks and offer guidance through the scheme.” There are also opportunities to network and socialise with partners, associates, trainees and business support professionals. There are also social events such as drinks in and out of the office, bowling, ping-pong and crazy golf. All of Ropes & Gray’s trainees arrive via the vac scheme, and training contract decisions are based on candidates’ overall performance at the assessment day and on the vacation scheme.
Overall, Ropes & Gray is looking for its “future lawyers” – namely people that are motivated and interested in pursuing a career in transactional law, who are collaborative and enjoy working as part of a team, who are entrepreneurial, as well as intellectual, curious and detail-focused.
Diversity in hiring
Ropes & Gray tells us that “Diversity has been part of our DNA since we launched our office, as evidenced by the fact that we are the UK’s top law firm for gender diversity according to law.com.
We are always looking for new ways to search out the best talent and this always means ensuring a diverse pool of applicants from different backgrounds, universities, and careers. As well as running a variety of events that target diverse communities, we have created our social mobility programme, ‘BRidge to the City’, aimed at first-year university students from diverse and underserved low socioeconomic backgrounds in the UK. Successful candidates receive a £20,000 scholarship, long-term mentoring, and a guaranteed vacation scheme at Ropes & Gray.”
Overall, Sorsby said, “Continuing to be amongst the most diverse firms in elite law will always be a top priority for us.”
Ropes & Gray LLP
60 Ludgate Hill,
Who we are
Ropes & Gray London is one of the largest offices in the Ropes & Gray network, and the hub of the firm’s EMEA network. We are part of a world-leading US-based global law firm and set up in London in 2010. While we are now an established presence in the UK, we’ve retained all the buzz of our start-up years. It makes us a little bit different: it means we have the stature and resources of a major international law firm combined with the pace, inclusivity and career progression of a specialist firm. Our clients like to work with us. We are, of course, always professional, but we are personal, and personable with it.
What we do
Ropes & Gray is one of London’s leading international law firms for private capital clients. We also advise some of the world’s largest companies on their most challenging issues. We act for sophisticated private capital investors and providers giving them all the legal services they need: from fundraising to transactional deal-making and financing, and from antitrust to compliance, data protection, life sciences, restructuring, real estate, financial regulation and tax. We act for leading European, US and Asian clients, and our London office regularly advises clients on global deals as well as transactions across the EMEA market, often working alongside colleagues from other parts of the Ropes & Gray network.
We have our private capital focus, but we don’t restrict ourselves. Our individual practice areas are also successful in their own right, often outside of the private capital market. In fact, they act for some of the most well-known companies in the world, particularly in the life sciences and healthcare, technology and financial services sectors.
For example, our Litigation & Enforcement team, which specialises in financial crime, global regulation, and risk has been involved in some of the most high-profile and complex cross-border regulatory investigations of recent years.
Meanwhile, our Privacy, Data Protection and Cybersecurity team has helped clients deal with the legal aspects of some of the biggest recent data breaches and cyber incidents, and our Antitrust team regularly advises on complex cases in every major European forum.
How we do it
Ropes & Gray London provides sophisticated clients with personalised and innovative legal solutions. Our clients value our entrepreneurial spirit, our innovative approach, and our emotional intelligence. They like the fact that our solutions are tailored exactly to their problems and may not be the answers they had initially expected. There is no such thing as a typical Ropes & Gray person. But we all have some things in common: we value individualism, we work well as a team, and we are great to work with.
During your training contract, you will complete four six-month seats, one of which will be in Private Equity. We also offer an international seat in our Hong Kong office. Our training contract is designed to help you reach your potential through constant exposure to high calibre work. In each of your four seats, you will share an office with your supervisor, which means you will always have someone to guide you in your day-to-day work. The small number of trainees we take on means we’re genuinely able to offer early responsibility and challenging work.
Trainees who join us receive the best training available. This is reflected in the standard of both the in-house ‘Trainee Training Programme’ and the practical training overseen by a supervisor.
We run two vacation schemes a year; one in spring and one in summer. The two-week paid schemes are a valuable opportunity for you to experience first-hand what it is like to be a trainee at the firm, and to understand the firm’s culture and expertise. During the two-week scheme you will complete practice group and client work at trainee level. You will also be mentored and supported by your trainee ‘buddy’ and will be invited to an evening event with all our trainee cohort. You can also expect to meet lawyers from each practice group, attend workshops, and you will have the opportunity to interact with our employees at social networking events. We only have one application window, which closes on 31 January 2024.
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing
Fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment is one of our most important missions. We are working to build cultural awareness and cultural competence by enhancing programming that focuses on understanding bias, discrimination and racism, and on building allyship. We have several local employee networks, including a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committee, a Black Affinity Network, a LGBTQ+ Network, Women’s Forum and a Parent’s Network. We are proud that we have the highest gender diverse partnerships of any UK City law firm, with 40% of our partners female. Additionally, 51% of our associates and 52% of our trainees in London are female. We are committed to the well-being of our people. We recognise that commercial law firms can be demanding working environments and have introduced our global programme ‘BeWELL@Ropes & Gray’ to support everyone across the firm in maintaining positive health and wellbeing. The programme is split into three pillars; focusing on mental, physical and financial wellbeing. We offer tangible resources, premier education, as well as compassionate support to enhance the wellbeing of our people.
Salary, benefits & sponsorship
Trainees start on a salary of £57,500, which increases to £62,500 in their second year, and on qualification will increase to £147,000, plus bonus. We offer full sponsorship of the PGDL and SQE 1 and 2 in addition to an annual maintenance grant of £17,500 per year of study.
How to apply
Online via our website https://www.ropesgrayrecruiting.com/en/UK
If you require any additional support throughout the recruitment process, please contact the Early Careers team to have a confidential conversation on 020 3201 1500 or at Londontraineerecruitment@ropesgray.com
University Law Careers Fairs and Presentations 2023
University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, University of Bristol, University of Exeter, University of Warwick, University of Durham, University of Nottingham, University of Manchester, Queen Mary University of London, University College London, King’s College London, London School of Economics (presentation only)
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Big-Ticket (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance: Sponsors (Band 3)
- Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 3)
- Tax (Band 5)
- Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 3)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: £500 million and above (Band 4)