Spotlight on Ropes & Gray's new social mobility programme

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Ropes & Gray is bridging the gap between a career in the City and underserved students

For many, the thought is that unless you speak like a broadcaster from 1950s, a career in law is inaccessible. Seen predominantly as the purview of the rich and connected, a career in law, particularly at the top City firms, has looked like an unattainable pipedream to those who haven’t trod Oxbridge’s hallowed halls. It is this perception that Ropes & Gray’s BRidge To The City looks to change, and this obstacle it looks to traverse with its new social mobility programme, BRidge to the City. We spoke to Ropes & Gray to find out more.

Chambers Student: What is BRidge To The City?

Beverly Sorsby, director of human resources and associate talent, Europe: BRidge to The City is our new social mobility programme. We’re running it in partnership with SEO London, our social mobility partner, and Bloomberg, one of our clients. The programme offers twelve first-year university students – with any type of undergraduate degree - the opportunity to explore a career in law, finance and tech.

Ourselves and Bloomberg both offer a one-week consecutive placement, giving candidates experience in both corporate and private practice firms. At the end of the inaugural programme, which ran in August 2022, two outstanding students were awarded scholarships, comprising £20,000 bursaries, long-term mentoring, and vacation placements. In addition to the two scholarship winners (one joining Ropes & Gray’s vacation scheme, and the other joining Bloomberg’s summer internship programme), two other students have also won vacation scheme places at Ropes & Gray. If these students perform well during the vacation scheme, there is potential to gain a training contract with us afterwards. Those that didn’t win a scholarship still applied to the firm.

CS: What can successful candidates expect to do during the programme?

BS: The two-week programme is filled with content designed to provide students with the necessary skill set to successfully apply for future graduate positions, as well as offering students the opportunity to explore options in law and business in parallel. The first week is spent at Ropes & Gray, where each student is allocated a supervisor and a buddy, who they can work shadow and ask any questions. The students attend practice group sessions, masterclasses and panel events. The second week is then spent at Blomberg, where the students attend sessions informing them about the work Bloomberg does.

CS: What made you decide to set up this initiative? How did the programme come about?

There were a few factors which contributed to BRidge to the City coming together when it did. We had been keen to set up a social mobility programme for some time, and – concurrently – our trainee recruitment principal was interested in partnering with his client on a CSR initiative. The two propositions seemed to be a natural fit.

We were also hearing from first year students that many of them had not yet decided whether they wanted to go into business or law, so we thought they would be the perfect target audience for a scheme that was a blend of private practice and corporate experience.    

CS: How do candidates go about applying for a place on the programme?

BS: Students apply via an online application form. They’re asked to share their academic qualifications and answer one question. We chose to only ask one question as this allows us to fairly compare the answers whilst giving the candidate freedom to demonstrate their individual talent and commercial awareness.

CS: Moving forward, what are you hoping the outcomes of the initiative will be?

BS: We hope the scheme will help make applying for jobs in the City exciting, rather than daunting. We also hoped to encourage participants to build a peer network of like-minded students. Prior to BRidge to the City, there was nothing on the market combining work experience at a US law firm with work experience at a business. Ultimately, the quality of the talent the scheme attracted was beyond our wildest expectations and we are excited to watch these students thrive in the future.

Feedback from the inaugural cohort suggests the programme was successful on both counts:

The insight gained has been invaluable for boosting my confidence and ambition in becoming a City lawyer! I can’t wait to see how this scheme grows and develops in the future.

A huge thank you to both Ropes & Gray and Bloomberg for organising such an incredible two weeks! It has been an invaluable experience. We have met some amazing people who have given us the opportunity to get first-hand insight into the business world. I cannot wait to see what the future brings for us all!

We are about to launch the 2023 programme and look forward to meeting this year’s talented students.