Ropes & Gray LLP - The Inside View

R&G hails from Boston but gains international recognition for its private equity, life sciences and healthcare work.

First things first: there’s a lot more to Boston than premier lobster rolls and nice strolls around the Common. In the business world, for example, it’s a hub for the private equity, investigations, life sciences and healthcare industries in the US. Within the cluster of law firms in the city that tailor their services to this kind of work, Ropes & Gray stands out in particular. Its standing in these industries is highly regarded in Chambers USA – and not just in its home state of Massachusetts, but also on a nationwide basis. If you’re interested in all things related to investment funds, then you’re definitely in the right place.

Of course, as a vast international law firm there’s a lot more to Ropes than prowess in Boston’s key sectors. Its expertise extends to many other industries – including energy, retail and transportation – and areas of legal practice. Ropes has transactional strengths in areas like real estate, capital markets, corporate/M&A and banking & finance, as well as a large litigation practice that includes government enforcement and investigations work. With regulatory compliance in mind, Ropes recently decided to up the ante in the advice space and launch its very own consultancy service – R&G Insights Lab – that uses data analytics and behavioral science models to assist corporate clients.

Our associate interviewees knew that Ropes’ “reputation was strong” for offering “sophisticated” and “highly complex” work, but what swung the deal for all of our sources was their initial experience of the firm’s culture: “It seemed to be a respectful, team-based environment. The culture was really positive, and I enjoyed the people I got to meet.”

Strategy & Future 



"The firm is firing on all cylinders right now in terms of transactions, life sciences and healthcare, restructuring and litigation; all of the core practices are doing exceptionally well," a Ropes & Gray spokesman told us. "We've been working on a number of multibillion-dollar deals including a major investment in DIRECTV, one of the most complex deals of 2021 and the $11.3 billion sale of Dunkin’ Brands.” R&G has kept up the pace even through remote working, but plans are in place for at least a partial return to normalcy in the near future. According to a firmwide memo, September 6th is the target date for a return to the office, with flexibility for people to work from home over the summer.

The Work 



A hefty chunk of the juniors on our list were based in the firm’s Boston HQ. New Yorkand Chicagohoused the majority of the rest, while a few could be found in Ropes’ San Francisco and Silicon Valley offices. Most were learning their lawyerly craft in the general corporate and litigation practices, but some were in the firm’s tax, employment and benefits and business restructuring departments. There’s a formal work assignment system in most practices, but reaching out for work in a more organic way also happens. A corporate junior felt that the staffing system had been great for “alleviating the stress, as they work with you to make sure you’re getting a broad range of experiences. It helps you to build relationships with a variety of folks, and once they’re built, people can come to you.” A litigator, meanwhile, mentioned that the system was good from a diversity and inclusionperspective (“it means people aren’t so reliant on who they know to get assignments”), but highlighted that there’s still “some component of forming good relationships with partners to get yourself busy.”

Corporatenewbies are ‘undeclared’ for their first two years at the firm, which means they rotate through the different subgroups before choosing a specialism. The majority of corporate work goes on in the New York and Boston offices, with sources in these locations sampling work from all over the practice – assignments in the asset management, healthcare, regulatory, private equity and M&A spaces are up for grabs. We heard that there’s plenty of private equity work to go around in Chicago and LA, while Boston and New York scoop up a lot of the M&A transactions. On the regulatory side, juniors can get to grips with high-stakes work on data breaches and compliance issues: “They are a great way to learn how the business operates and why certain decisions are made. There are real-world consequences.”These matters typically involve “taking the first crack at drafting, researching any issues and understanding the regulatory background.”When it comes to private equity and funds work, juniors can find themselves “drafting contracts, coordinating with specialists and implementing comments from the client.”The corporate work is “very client-focused,” so associates can expect to eventually mingle with all kinds of clients from industries like tech, media, retail, life sciences and healthcare. 

Corporate clients:Advent International, Bain Capital, Harvest Partners. Represented Bain Capital during the sale of healthcare tech platform Waystar to Swedish private equity firm EQT Partners and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) for $2.7 billion.

Over in the litigationpractice there are four main buckets: commercial litigation; antitrust; investigations; and white-collar and government enforcement. Reports from the New York and Boston offices emphasized the amount of government and internal investigations work available, with this source enthusing about their role on “a fraud investigation in the medical industry – I was able to be on the calls with the government, take the calls from the client, gather factual data from the client and research the legal theory underpinning the matter. Basically everything!” Other tasks juniors take on in internal investigations work include helping out with witness interviews, drafting motions to dismiss and making presentations to the relevant government body. On “massive securities cases” however, “you’re five steps removed from the client, and the lion’s share of junior work is doc review and helping with responses to discovery requests. That’s about 60% of juniors’ time.”

Litigation clients:Sterling Partners, JLT Group, Akcea Therapeutics. On the government enforcement and investigations side, Ropes has been representing individuals caught up in the ‘Varsity Blues’ college admissions case.

Culture 



“The firm has a reputation for being welcoming, gentle and nice,” one source stated. “There’s an element of self-selection when people come here, and I’d say 80% of people fit that mold of being willing to work with you and respect your time.” This respect manifests itself in people’s consideration of deadlines: “If I receive an assignment on a Friday afternoon, senior associates will often tell you that you don’t need to look at it until Monday.” Pre-pandemic, there was also a lot of flexibility over lawyers being in the office, as this Bostonjunior explained: “There’s not much of a facetime requirement. Some juniors would go home at 3pm to avoid the traffic and get the rest of their work done from there.”

“There’s an element of self-selection when people come here...”

Interviewees felt the firm had gone the extra mile to support its staff during the pandemic. “Since we’ve been working from home, all junior associates in my group have been paired up with another attorney to keep us connected and give us an opportunity to meet new people." Each office offers its own array of socials but sources across the network agreed that things really heat up in the summer, when most of the big events – such as the annual BBQ or the softball tournament – take place. Juniors had bonded over a drink or two (now over webcam) and had previously enjoyed a pre-pandemic tequila tasting, ay caramba! One interviewee concluded: “People here are always up for socializing.”

Career Development   



“There's a lot of formal training when you start out at the firm, including a bunch of great programs throughout the summer,”one junior told us. Litigators get an orientation and a week-long training camp, for which all associates gather in one office. Corporate juniors go through a similar program “with your office cohort,” before getting more specific sessions on the distinct “corporate groups we’re interested in.”On the mentorship side,each associate gets an associate development partner and a manager they can meet and discuss personal development with.

“There's a lot of formal training when you start out at the firm, including a bunch of great programs throughout the summer."

Ropes has a program called GO fellows, which allows a handful of associates each year to work in another office for a period of time. The application process kicks off in the fall – third-years and above in good standing are eligible to apply. However, it was felt that broader transparency over office moves could be better, with this interviewee telling us that “it’s not been clear why some people were approved while others weren’t.”While sources weren’t entirely sure just yet about becoming a partner at Ropes, they were enthusiastic about staying for the long-term. “I see myself staying through the mid to senior associate levels,”said one, adding: “If I do want to be a partner then I would want it to be at Ropes.”Another, who was weighing up their options, mentioned that “if I’m going to stay at a large firm then I’ll work here. As far as BigLaw goes, this is probably the firm I’d stay at.”  

Diversity & Inclusion 



Ropes has an overarching diversity committee, as well as dedicated affinity groups for women, LGBTQ individuals and attorneys of color (the latter is called the Ropes Multicultural Forum). This source summed up the feeling among associates by stating that “in terms of gender and LGBTQ diversity, we’re pretty good,”while another emphasized that “there’s still work to do on the racial and ethnic diversity side. They are making a push." One junior explained that the firm has brought in “a couple of speakers to discuss racial diversity, and I’ve really enjoyed those sessions.” 

"When I entered the firm, I noticed a lot of women in the partnership who I felt could mentor me throughout my career."

With regard to gender, we heard that in New York’s litigation group “the representation of female associates is much better,”while this source in Boston felt that “the policies geared toward families are welcoming and beneficial to working mothers. The primary caregiver leave is generous, and if you take it you still get a bonus.”Over in Chicago a junior commented: "When I entered the firm, I noticed a lot of women in the partnership who I felt could mentor me throughout my career."The firm’s diversity and inclusion director, Kia Scipio, was praised for being accessible: “I’ve been able to connect and talk with her and see her perspective.”In addition, juniors were happy to tell us that as of 2020 they can now count 100 hours of diversity-related activities toward their billing target. All of the firm’s lawyers are expected to complete at least 20 hours of D&I activities each year.

Hours & Compensation 



Billable hours: 1,900 target

All pro bono and other non-client billable hours can be counted toward the 1,900 target. The target was deemed “very achievable”by a corporate source, who highlighted that “there’s still been a lot of work to go around, even in this strange year.” For another corporate interviewee, the actual hours worked to get there involved “logging on at 8am until around 66:30pm, and then doing another two to three hours after dinner if it’s a busy time.”Those in litigation had worked similar hours but noted the odd early-morning finish at 2:30am. “The biggest thing is the unpredictability of it,”one commented, adding that “if a client’s business is raided that morning, you have no control.”On the whole, “in the scheme of law firms the work/life balance is quite reasonable,” concluded this litigator, with another one adding that “they do a good job of acknowledging you worked late the night before so can take some time [the next day].”Interviewees also confirmed that the firm has no qualms about vacationand will generally "leave you to it" while you're catchin' some rays.

“...there’s still been a lot of work to go around, even in this strange year.”

Compensation was described as being “in line with what most firms are paying.” We heard that “fall appreciation bonuses”were not handed out in 2020, but “added to our year-end bonus. Behind the scenes it’s generally understood that senior associates get the Cravath scale bonus, but if they bill less, they’ll get a slightly smaller bonus,” reported one source. Bonuses aside, associates also receive a cash contribution toward any tech equipment – like dual-monitors – to help them work from home. 

Pro Bono 



With no cap on hours, this associate felt free to proclaim that they’d “done a couple of hundred pro bono hours at this point!”While they may have been an outlier, it was clear to us that juniors thought pro bono was very important, and there's a 20 hour goal for all. Interviewees were also enthusiastic about the number of pro bono opportunities available, which are filtered through to them via a dedicated pro bono committee: “They send out emails to us listing which opportunities and longstanding projects are up for grabs, and we can then sign up.”

“You run a lot of the matter yourself.”

What was the best part of doing this work? “You get to work on substantive legal issues while helping a good cause,” summarized one.  On asylum matters, for example, “you get a lot of client contact – you can run client interviews, but also draft letters and applications. You run a lot of the matter yourself.” While asylum and immigration cases are a “big focus” for Ropes, juniors also highlighted work on environmentalprojects, transgender name change matters, voting rights issues and also cases pertaining to racial justice and police reform initiatives. Those on the corporate side can put their transactional know-how to good use for nonprofits, which “may have questions about contracts and agreements etc...”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US offices: 126,283
  • Average per US attorney: 112.7

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed

Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed

Ropes visits more than 40 law schools and jobs fairs as part of its recruitment campaign, and most interviewees are taken into consideration for all six of the firm's US offices. Finding the best potential associates is part one of the process, and which office 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 extra-curriculars 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.”

“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.”

Callbacks

Applicants invited to second stage: undisclosed

Four to six interviewees will assess the applicants who make it to callbacks, focusing on five key criteria: intellect; personal drive; problem solving; interpersonal skills; and culture and collegiality including diversity considerations). The baseline for successful candidates is being able to get on well with both the firm's attorneys and its clients.

There might also be an informal lunch or coffee 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.”

“The firm really appreciates commitment to pro bono work and wants candidates to be interested in that part of the firm's culture.”

Summer program

Offers: undisclosed

Acceptances: undisclosed

The summer program gives prospective associates the chance to sample the firm's practice and its pro bono program. Work assignments come from both the centralized system and 'off-the-cuff' interactions with partners. Feedback comes through informal channels across the course of the process and culminates in a formal review in the final week. Spread throughout are the social events you'd expect.

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.

Top tips for this stage: 

“We don't expect anybody to be workhorses and nothing else – it's a social summer and we want people to enjoy their time.”

“When I got back to the firm as a full-time associate I was looped back onto cases I'd worked in summer: when you get back people will be excited to work with you again so try to take on interesting assignments during the summer.”

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

  • Head Office: Boston, MA
  • Number of domestic offices: 6
  • Number of international offices: 5
  • Partners (US): 265
  • Associates (US): 984
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Amy Ross (amy.ross@ropesgray.com)
  • Hiring partner: Peter Erichsen
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 225
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1Ls: 14, 2Ls: 79 (we are including touchbacks), SEOs: 5
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: BOS: 31, CHI: 12, NY: 29, F: 12, DC: 9
  • Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: $3,653 2Ls: $3,653
  • Split summers offered? Yes

Main areas of work
From the boardroom to the courtroom, Ropes & Gray represents the world’s leading companies on their most critical matters. On corporate transactional issues, the firm has been recognized as having top-ranked practices in private equity, M&A, finance, asset management, bankruptcy, healthcare, life sciences and intellectual property, among others. The firm has a strong litigation practice, recognized for its successful track record, including in antitrust, appellate, complex business litigation, securities litigation and regulation, government enforcement and white collar criminal defense, and IP litigation.

Firm profile
Ropes & Gray, an international law firm with more than 1,400 attorneys and professionals in 11 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. In 2020, lawyers, paralegals and other Ropes & Gray professionals worldwide committed 155,000 hours assisting the firm’s pro bono clients.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2021:
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.

Roscoe Trimmier Jr. Diversity Scholarship:
Award:
This scholarship provides a $25,000* award to five outstanding second-year law students and includes a paid summer associate position following completion of the second year of law school. *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 Diversity Summer Program offers a select number of highly qualified and diverse first-year law students the opportunity to participate in all aspects of the firm’s 2021 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: www.ropesgray.com
Linkedin: ropes-&-gray-llp
Twitter: @ropesgray

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A: Private Equity: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 4)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 5)
    • 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)
    • E-Discovery & Information Governance (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Hedge & Mutual Funds (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • 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 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 5)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 5)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Issuer Counsel (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Manager Counsel (Band 3)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
    • FCPA (Band 3)
    • Healthcare: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Hedge Funds (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: 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)
    • Registered Funds (Band 1)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 5)
    • Securities: Regulation: Enforcement (Band 4)
    • SPACs (Band 1)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 3)