Boston's Ropes ties a pretty bow around its finance-heavy training contract by providing some attentive coaching.
Finance if you want to
“I wanted a small trainee intake where I would be known, rather than simply being trainee number 53.” This statement could be the catchphrase of trainees populating the small intakes of American firms in London. Finance wizard Ropes & Gray's trainee cohort of 14 fits the bill – but what advantages come from being a part of Ropes' select crew? “You have this two-year opportunity to build your reputation, your brand – and because Ropes has that smaller feel to it, you will be known throughout the whole department by the end of your time there.” The small teams bring obvious training benefits too. “Being aware of the dialogues that go on between partners and associates, and with clients, and working with senior people on a personal level, you can really see how they operate. You can leverage that for your own development.”
The 153-year-old Boston-born firm is big in the States in a heap of areas, but its international private equity expertise survives the trip across the Atlantic in the best shape. No, the funds never stop in the London office: it has represented both BlackRock and Bain Capital, probably the two most recognisable names in the business, and London lawyers recently teamed up with their international colleagues to advise Bain on its $18 billion purchase of Toshiba's semiconductor business. Chambers UK nods approvingly, handing out rankings for its private equity and investment funds work, while also recognising the firm for banking and finance, capital markets and restructuring.
Trainees also picked up on “a certain energy that comes from trying to grow in the London market.” But recent times have been a little tempestuous. Amid a spate of departures throughout the firm, London lost eight in 2017. “Obviously it's hard when partners leave,” said one trainee. “But Ropes has done a lot to balance the people who have left with the people coming in." Sure enough, the first half of 2018 saw the London office nab a Clifford Chance white-collar partner, as well as a finance partner from Goldman Sachs.
O capital, my capital
Trainees' first seats are selected for them. A mid-seat email lets juniors know what's available to them for their next seat, and sources found that the process worked well. "As there are so few of us, HR are very good at understanding what it is that you want to do," said one insider. A finance secondment in Hong Kong is also available each rotation.
"I love the adrenalin!" enthused one newbie about their time in the private equity department. "I've negotiated over 30 non-disclosure agreements already! Just from a development perspective it is amazing – I'm happy to just call a client and speak to them about transactions." But trainees' roles also involved plenty of heavy lifting: "I was reviewing documents, and putting them into a due diligence report; I was in charge of the documents list, all the post-completion filings, and the signing; you also draft loan note instruments. Basically you are exposed to everything in the process.” The team advises sponsors on a slew of private equity buyouts, and given the office is "very much connected to the private equity industry in the US," trainees may see clients such as Boston-based Bain, and New York-based Oak Hill Capital Partners during their time in the seat. Having already advised British-based Intermediate Capital Group on the $5.3 billion buyout of software company Visma, the team again advised ICG on a £1.3 billion joint investment into IRIS, an accountancy, education and business software provider. It also cemented its status as a cereal (cough) deal-maker by helping Baring Private Equity Asia on the $1.8 billion sale of its interest in Weetabix to US-based Post Holdings.
“There are a lot of PE funds looking to finance acquisition."
The banking and finance department covers both lenders and borrowers. “There are a lot of PE funds looking to finance acquisition,” pointed out one source, but investment banks and alternative capital providers (basically any lender that's not a bank) also line up on the lender side. Meanwhile plenty of telecoms clients line up on the borrower side. Private equity firm Hellman & Friedman received advice on the financing of its acquisition of Allfunds Bank, a funds distributor, while Virgin Media used the firm to help with a term loan totalling £865 million. Other clients include Virgin Media's parent company, the TV and broadband giant Liberty Global, as well as Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Macquarie, Australia's largest investment bank. As "partners look at the highest level of the deal, the trainee is expected to know what's going on from the bottom, what documents are missing and what the deadlines are." So again, though trainees also drafted “generic share purchase agreements or credit agreements,” they could manage certain parts of the process (usually the signing).
The enigmatically named 'special situations' department "deals with restructuring and insolvency, and corporate work which involves minority investments that are a bit more bespoke." The firm's restructuring and insolvency work centres on investors, rather than those suffering financial difficulty. Clients include Goldman Sachs' European Special Situations Group and TPG Sixth Street Partners, the special situations arm of private equity house TPG Capital. The firm acted for the latter as it acquired $1.27 billion worth of Credit Suisse's portfolio of distressed credit. It also advised the UK-based Global Loan Agency Services as the restructuring agent in the €4 billion restructuring of Spanish energy multinational Abengoa. “The work is definitely diverse,” recalled one source, “and I was given the opportunity to explore the different aspects of it.” Another continued: “You will be working with finance documents, but you'll also need corporate knowledge and awareness of those procedures – it's a combination of everything.” Trainee tasks included researching financial instruments and drafting board minutes and resolutions.
The six-person private investment funds team advises on formation issues for various European, UK and US funds. Trainees found that “the seat is completely different in the tasks you do. You can't compare it to a private equity transaction.” Trainees were confronted with reviewing unfamiliar limited partnership agreements, side letters and advisory agreements. Thankfully "the team is aware that partnership law is not taught at law school, so they ease you in." Supervisors diligently “copied trainees in on everything, meaning I could just learn from the emails what the issues were." The firm recently advised Jersey-headquartered CVC Credit Partners on the formation of its €500 million European Mid-Market Solutions Fund.
Ropes and dreams
On the whole, trainees observed supervisors taking a keen interest in trainee development. "It's impressive to see people teaching for an hour in the middle of their busy days," reminisced one insider, "they want trainees to learn and be supported." Mid-seat reviews allowed trainees to plan out their development, and trainees were encouraged to talk to supervisors when considering future seats, “both to find out about the seat, and to build up a connection." Sources also praised Ropes' approach to managing their workload. “It's a very collaborative culture. In one team they spread the junior-type work out across the whole team so that juniors don't have to stay on at the weekend.”
“You might not be able to make midweek dinner plans."
However, anyone interested in applying should be prepared to pull some long hours. While the odd quiet period could see trainees exiting around 6pm, 12-hour days were frequent. Early morning finishes and all-nighters also featured. Free meals and taxis home alleviate some pressure, but trainees must be "a bit flexible with their social life. Bank holidays may have to be sacrificed and you might not be able to make midweek dinner plans."
The firm's social calendar includes a summer and Christmas party which was most recently held "at the Ham Yard Hotel. We got rid of the traditional sit-down meal and had karaoke and canapés instead!" There's also an end-of-month drinks event which “is organised by a different group each month for the entirety of the office. It breaks down any separation that may arise between groups.”
Trainees who wish to stay on must fill out forms with a couple of choices – formal interviews only occur if more than one person applies for a specific role. Trainees are encouraged to talk to partners in the relevant teams before deciding on their choices. Overall, sources felt they were “very much kept in the loop about where there is a place.” In 2018 eight of nine qualifiers stayed on.
Lawyers are kept in the loop via Monday morning office-wide meetings which discuss ongoing deals, upcoming training and other firm goings-on.
How to get a Ropes & Gray training contract
Vacation scheme deadlines (2019): 31 January 2019
Apply for 2021 training contracts via the firm's 2019 vac scheme
Ropes & Gray
60 Ludgate Hill,
- Partners 26
- Associates 73
- Total trainees 15
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices 10
- Graduate recruiter: Katherine McAteer, [email protected], 020 3201 1607
- Training partner: Rohan Massey, [email protected]
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 5-7
- Applications pa: 567
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum A levels: AAB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 20
- Dates and deadlines
- Vacation scheme applications open: 26 October 2018
- Vacation scheme 2019 deadline: 31 January 2019
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £46,000
- Second-year salary: £50,000
- Post-qualification salary: £115,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £8,000
- International and regional
- Overseas seats: Hong Kong office
- Client secondments: These are available on an ad hoc basis at the client’s request
Our office features an international team of lawyers — from 15 nationalities and speaking more than 32 languages — that provides our clients with a full service of transatlantic law capabilities coupled with an in-depth understanding of the market in the UK, Europe and Asia. Our team additionally has strong and long-standing relationships with leading local firms across the EMEA region.
Main areas of work
We have a leading global financial crime team which advises corporate and individual clients on the full range of cross-border and international risk issues. We also have fully established teams specialising in special situations, private equity real estate and private investment funds. Other key practice areas include antitrust/competition, privacy and cybersecurity and tax.
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. The small number of trainees we take on means we’re genuinely able to offer early responsibility and challenging work. This is balanced by an open door policy ensuring trainees have the support to build a successful career.
Throughout the two weeks you will be assessed for a training contact, and all students will be asked to research and write a short blog post, and work together in small groups to research and present a mock pitch presentation using live client examples.
University law careers fairs 2018
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018
- Banking & Finance: Borrowers (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance: Lenders (Band 5)
- Banking & Finance: Sponsors (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 3)
- Real Estate Finance Recognised Practitioner
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
- Tax Recognised Practitioner
- Investment Funds: Private Equity (Band 3)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 4)