Ropes & Gray LLP - The Inside View

Where better to learn the Ropes than at this Boston-based “big player” renowned for its exceptional life sciences and funds prowess.

To succeed in BigLaw, ambition is key. Everyone wants to be with the best of the best, and “Ropes is the top choice in Boston. It always has been one of the biggest and most prominent law firms with a sophisticated and diverse client base,” an insider enthused, adding that “it is just a great place to practice.” So, when it comes to choosing where to roll up your sleeves and jump in headfirst, suffice to say if Ropes & Gray calls, you answer. According to our sister guide Chambers USA, the firm continues to reign supreme across Massachusetts, DC, Illinois, California, and New York, as well as being recognized nationwide for areas like elite healthcare, registered funds, and highly regarded international trade: export controls & economic sanctions. Moreover, Ropes boasts accolades in Chambers Global for its multi-jurisdictional expertise in banking & finance, corporate investigations, investment funds, private equity, and life sciences.

“Ropes is the top choice in Boston.”

Speaking of which, being Boston-born and bred for more than a century, Ropes has an outstanding reputation for its healthcare and life sciences expertise. “We have an enormous amount of healthcare clients, a lot of whom are born and bred in Boston. There’s also a fairly large – and growing! – number of university clients and institutions,” shared a corporate associate, “Here, we have a full life sciences group.” Case in point: the firm’s Massachusetts office stands top of the podium for capital markets, hedge & mutual funds, private equity, general commercial litigation, and securities – just to name a few!

Other than Boston, the firm has bases in New York, Chicago, DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley. Across the pond, Ropes has an international presence in Dublin and London, as well as Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, Singapore, and Tokyo.

Strategy & Future



For Ropes & Gray, it’s safe to say that with rapidly growing numbers overall – especially in terms of headcount and revenue – things are going pretty well. This is especially true given the market recession in 2023 - Ropes’ success is attributable to the firm’s breadth of practice groups. In 2023, Ropes named 20 new partners across the US and UK from a diverse range of practices including life sciences, private equity, asset management, real estate, healthcare, technology, and retail. So, when it came to talking strategy with interviewees, we heard that “the emphasis is unchanged in doing the best quality work and growing accordingly.”

The Work



At Ropes, associates are placed either in general litigation and enforcement, or in a transactional group such as funds(asset management), private equity (private capital transactions), or corporate/M&A(strategic transactions). Across practices, associates are assigned work through the centralized staffing system led by attorney development managers, supported by a traffic light system to indicate weekly availability. For “anyone building their reputation, you’re encouraged to accept all types of work because as juniors, you don’t have any experience; you might find yourself interested in something that you hadn’t expected. So, going in with an open mind has been a good experience,” an insider explained. Understandably, as associates get their footing overtime, professional relationships develop, but even so, “if someone requests me, they also have to go through staffing.”

In litigation & enforcement, junior litigators work as generalists, with the “idea being the more junior you are, the broader your practice area. The more senior you are, the more specialized you get.” Insiders outlined that “our litigation practice is very broad,” ranging from (but not limited to): government enforcement & white-collar crime, antitrust, intellectual property litigation, corporate & securities litigation, anti-corruption & international risk, and appellate & supreme court. On top of this, “we have a fair amount of deal support work and ongoing corporate due diligence that’s more corporate transactions in nature – not the same feel as civil litigation – which is more monitoring company behavior and supporting deal time in larger transactions.” On the enforcement side, in short, associates work on “government inquiries, internal investigations, and due diligence for potential investigations.” Juniors generally spoke of doing a bit of everything depending on the type of matter, including a fair amount of doc review and legal research early on as well as drafting complaints or motions.

Litigation clients: Google, Canada Goose, Goldman Sachs. Representing State Street and Currenex in a putative antitrust, RICO and fraud class action.

“…the small teams provide a great place to roll up your sleeves and interact directly with clients.”

On the transactional side, asset management is the “catch-allterm that deals with all types of investment funds.” Described as “a one-stop shop, we do all aspects of the fund formation process” split between private and registered funds. “Most will pick one or the other, but you get to experience both in the beginning,” a junior detailed. Sources spoke of being tasked with lots of doc review to ensure that the fund documents comply, reviewing investor subscription documents, attending Zoom meetings to negotiate with investors, collaborating with specialists, reviewing and helping clients update documents, and providing regulatory advice: “You might not take the overall lead, but you take the first drafting efforts.” Insiders also pointed out that “more generally, you’re the boots on the ground, keeping your team informed as to where projects stand which is valuable.” When speaking about the level of responsibility handed to juniors, one enthused about “working with sophisticated clients and some of the biggest household names. In private funds, the small teams provide a great place to roll up your sleeves and interact directly with clients.”

In private capital transactions, Ropes does “a lot of private equity work on the buy and sell side of M&A, with a lot of co-investment work.” Unsurprisingly, clients include “a ton of private equity firms. But there’s also a lot of work in the healthcare space, as a lot of them are buying into that area,” one source let us know. So, what are juniors expected to do on a day-to-day basis? Prepare those project management skills, because “keeping everyone organized, running checklists, and drafting diligence reports” is a key part of the job, the benefit being that “it makes sure that associates understand their work and the mechanics of the deal,” a junior commented. Here, co-investment work was a highlight, “as the smaller teams are normally with just a partner; so, as a junior, you get a lot of responsibility working on those matters.”

Over in strategic transactions, “it’s a mix of corporate governance and deal work.” Associates work on public and private M&A transactions “across different clients such as solar panels, construction, biotech, consumer brand companies, as well as ongoing corporate governance clients. It really is the full gamut!” Working on a “multi-billion-dollar IPO (initial public offering)” was a high point for one interviewee, as “I’ve learned a lot about the process, and I’m excited to close the deal after seeing it from start to finish.” As a junior, “you’re often working on some of the simpler ancillary docs, assisting with main documents and coordinating with specialists, which gives you a good sense of the deal. I’m hoping to draft more complex purchasing agreements when I become a mid-level,” an insider relayed. A key takeaway for associates across all transactional groups was that “we often get staffed on client teams. It’s a good way of having client touch points early on and building relationships there.”

Transactional clients: Pfizer, ImmunoGen, Blackstone. Represented Eversource Energy and its subsidiaries in numerous debt offerings worth an aggregate of over $3.8 billion.

Culture & Career Development



“It is very hardworking of course,” an associate quipped, “mid-levels and seniors seem apologetic or understanding if you have to do something over the weekend. It isn’t taken for granted,” but to really sum up Ropes: “There’s a supportive culture that’s strong on teamwork. I’ve been able to express my thoughts and not feel uncomfortable asking questions on a deal. People are protective of the culture; it’s what a lot of people like about the firm,” and this rang true for most of our interviewees. When it came to discussing career development, “without a doubt, the firm is invested. Aside from formal training – which doesn’t stop, it’s ongoing throughout your first few years – seniors and partners have been willing to explain substantive matters to me, so you can bring value to the table. I know that people above me are happy to train me, as people above them have done the same.” Moreover, “the feedback is constructive – they’re aware that as juniors out of law school, our experience is limited.”

“People are protective of the culture; it’s what a lot of people like about the firm.”

Some felt that further changes to the hybrid policy meant that “the firm’s culture has taken a hit in the past couple of months since the four days in the office has been mandated.” But in instances when there is a need to work from home, “it just takes an email expressing your situation. It’s easy and the firm is accommodating of that.” Plus, because “everyone is super friendly and glad to grab a coffee with you, it makes coming into work enjoyable!”

Pro Bono



With an unlimited amount of pro bono hours to count towards its associates’ billable target, Ropes “strongly encourages you to do at least 20 hours.” How long is a piece of string – or rope in this case? While “there’s no limit on how many hours you can do, you have to be aware of the balance you’re striking between client billables and pro bono.” Juniors expressed feeling comfortable taking on matters, and we heard that “there are corporate opportunities, so if you don’t have litigation experience and don’t feel comfortable, you can do corporate matters. But they will be less common” understandably as per the nature of pro bono. Interviewees described a constant flow of emails from their pro bono coordinators, with lots of immigration and asylum opportunities to get involved with. In addition, corporate governance as well as veterans’, housing, and voting rights matters were popular amongst our associates. There is also potential for involvement with local legal clinics which take on a variety of issues like sealing criminal records, name changes, and family matters. What's more, the firm recently hired a dedicated pro bono lawyer to oversee the firm's immigration and asylum pro bono work.

Pro bono hours 

  • For all (US) attorneys: undisclosed
  • Average per (US) attorney: undisclosed

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 1,900 target

The 1,900 target was seen as “very reasonable and achievable,” inclusive of unlimited pro bono, firm development, and up to 100 DEI hours. Despite this, we were told that associates generally start work around 9am and finish at 7pm, often having to log on after dinner: “Depending on how things are going, I log on for a few hours at home and when things do heat up, I can work over the weekend.” As explained by a transactions associate, “it’s an expectation working with a sophisticated client base that things need to be done and work product comes back after the traditional business hours. It just comes with the territory.” In terms of compensation, “you know, it’s just the same as Cravath. I appreciate it given how hard everyone works.”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion



“Each year, a more diverse class comes in.”

Ropes “has one of the highest women partnership rates,” – 32.5% in fact – interviewees were quick to point out, “When you look at the partnership, you can see the firm has made a great effort to make sure they’re keeping it diverse, moving with the times instead of sticking with the old-school.” When we spoke to insiders about inclusive recruitment, it was highlighted that “there is an effort made to be diverse across all levels,” and that “each year, a more diverse class comes in.” Sources highlighted the various forums (the firm’s affinity groups) to get involved in, such as First-Generation Professionals; Women's Forum; a Black Women's Lawyer Group; LGBTQ+; the Multicultural Forum; and a Jewish Lawyers Group.

Alongside other resource networks which hold monthly meetings, happy hours, mentorship circles, there are opportunities to talk to one another and discuss firm improvements: “It’s good to see people across different levels being involved. I’ve seen partners who are really invested in the Multicultural Forum. They attend the events and want to create touch points for us to get the most out of the forums as we possibly can.”

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

Ropes & Gray visits more than 40 law schools and jobs fairs as part of its recruitment campaign, and most interviewees are taken into consideration for all seven of the firm's US offices. Finding the best potential associates is part one of the process, and which team they'd best fit into follows that.  

Who's got the best chances of making the cut? Well, Ropes is “looking for students who have shown an early mastery of the practical skills of the legal profession and who embrace the firm's priority of working as part of a team.” They realize that most candidates won't already have practical legal experience, so academic records and enthusiastic participation in extracurriculars are taken into consideration. Interviewers will also encourage candidates to learn more about the practice and people at Ropes & Gray.  

Top tips for this stage:   

“Ropes very much emphasizes team players and working together, so a super-competitive person without a collegial approach wouldn’t fit in well.”– hiring source at the firm 

“To make a good first impression, think about why you're passionate about the law and about the environment in which you want to practice it. Make it clear you've really thought about why you want to come here.”– hiring source at the firm 

Callbacks 

Applicants invited to second stage: undisclosed  

Four to six interviewers will assess the applicants who make it to callbacks, focusing on five key criteria: intellect; personal drive; problem solving; and interpersonal skills. The baseline for successful candidates is a genuine interest in business and law, a demonstrated progressive record of achievement and intellectual curiosity. 

There might also be an informal meeting with junior associates, where these criteria will be further assessed. It's important by this stage that candidates have picked up on certain elements of the firm's strengths and character, and can take that knowledge to ask pertinent questions.  

Top tips for this stage:   

“Ropes looks for a level of professionalism and maturity which is a big factor in who I consider would be a good fit.”– hiring source at the firm 

Summer program 

The summer program gives prospective associates the chance to engage in meaningful commercial work with practicing attorneys. Work assignments come from both the centralized system and interactions with practicing attorneys. Feedback comes through informal channels, as well as mid and end of summer reviews. Spread throughout are the social events that give summer associates exposure and opportunities to socialize with attorneys at all levels. 

One of the main functions of the summer is to give associates a chance to learn as much about Ropes & Gray as they can, so they “get a real feel for the pace, environment and culture of the firm.” As at every firm, the process is as much about summers getting to know the firm as vice versa.  

And finally...  

Summer associates get to sample a few of the firm's practice areas during their time at Ropes & Gray – the final decision of where they'll end up is agreed by both applicant and the firm at the end of the process. 

Ropes & Gray LLP

Prudential Tower,
800 Boylston Street,
Boston,
MA 02199-3600
Website www.ropesgray.com

Main areas of work
From the boardroom to the courtroom, Ropes & Gray represents the world’s leading companies on their most critical matters. Named “Law Firm of the Year” by The American Lawyer in 2022, the firm has been widely recognized as having top-ranked practices in private equity, M&A, finance, asset management, business restructuring, healthcare, life sciences and intellectual property, privacy & cybersecurity, among others. The firm has a strong litigation practice, recognized for its successful track record, including in antitrust, appellate, litigation, government enforcement and white collar criminal defense, and IP litigation.

Firm profile
Ropes & Gray, an international law firm with more than 1,500 attorneys in 14 offices in the United States, Asia and Europe, provides comprehensive legal services to leading businesses and individuals around the world. Clients benefit from the firm’s unwavering standards of integrity, service and responsiveness. The firm is ideally positioned to address its clients’ most pressing legal and business issues. Our lawyers, paralegals, summer associates and other professionals worldwide donated more than 688,500 hours of legal services from 2019–2023.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2024:
American, Berkeley, Boston College, Boston University, Brooklyn, Cardozo, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Northeastern, Northwestern, Notre Dame, NYU, Penn, Santa Clara, Stanford, Suffolk, UCLA, UC Irvine, USC, UVA, Vanderbilt, Washington University in St. Louis, Yale. The firm also attends various job fairs.

2L Trimmier Scholarship:
Award:
This scholarship provides a $50,000* award to second-year law students and includes a paid summer associate position following completion of the second year of law school. The program started in 2015. Since then, 60 law students have received scholarships. *payable in installments, less all required income and payroll taxes

Eligibility requirements:
Outstanding undergraduate and law school academic achievement; member of a historically underrepresented group in the legal profession; 2L, enrolled in an ABA-accredited law school; US citizen or authorized to work in the United States. To find out more about this scholarship, please visit: www.ropesgray.com

Additionally, Ropes & Gray’s 1L Trimmier Scholarship offers a select number of highly qualified and diverse first-year law students the opportunity to participate in all aspects of the firm’s Summer Associate Program.

Summer associate profile:
Ropes & Gray chooses summer associates based on academic performance, personal skills, motivation, work and leadership experience, practice area interests and the ability to work well in a highly collaborative environment.

Summer program components:
Our goal is to provide summer associates with a realistic sense of what it is like to work at the firm by having them work on actual client matters and by giving them opportunities to get to know our attorneys through a variety of social events, activities and lunches. Our attorneys provide meaningful and timely feedback on work assignments and offer additional perspective through an end-of-summer formal review. Summer associates also benefit from our highly regarded training program.

Social media:
Recruitment website:
https://www.ropesgrayrecruiting.com/
LinkedIn: ropes-&-gray-llp
Twitter: @ropesgray

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 4)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Hedge & Mutual Funds (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Life Sciences (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 1)
    • Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 5)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 4)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Technology (Band 4)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 5)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Issuer Counsel (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Manager Counsel (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: High-Yield Debt (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Securitization: Whole Business (Band 2)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • False Claims Act (Band 1)
    • FCPA (Band 2)
    • Healthcare: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Hedge Funds (Band 2)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Investment Funds: Investor Representation (Band 1)
    • Investment Funds: Regulatory & Compliance (Band 1)
    • Life Sciences (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences: Regulatory/Compliance (Band 2)
    • Privacy & Data Security: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 1)
    • Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 5)
    • Registered Funds (Band 1)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 4)
    • Securities: Regulation: Enforcement (Band 4)
    • SPACs (Band 1)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 3)

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