Ropes & Gray LLP - The Inside View

There’s no gray area when learning the ropes at this Boston-based health and funds fiend: “They understand we’re going to make mistakes.”

“Ropes is humble,” one source put it simply, when asked the ever-pertinent question: ‘why this firm?’. “This firm felt the least uptight.” While other firms didn’t make the best first impressions (“I interviewed at one place that asked me why I didn’t go to a better law school. I definitely wasn’t going to start my career there…”), sources noticed that at Ropes “people seemed to like their job and were willing to take the time to get to know you.”

Of course, it certainly helped that the firm’s reputation precedes it: giving a shout out to our sister guide, Chambers USA, we were told: “I looked at the firm’s rankings in the practices I was interested in.” Ropes has earned a whopping 65 rankings across the locations it has offices in, plus the nationwide category. It’s most highly regarded for its antitrust, banking and finance, corporate,capital markets, employee benefits and executive compensation, litigation, private equityand tax, alongside more niche areas like e-discovery and information governance, and SPACs.

The firm is considered among the crème de la crème for healthcare and life sciences, earning ten separate rankings for this work alone. It’s hardly surprising for a firm that was founded in Boston– the epicenter of America’s healthcare technology industry. Given this is still a relatively new industry, Boston has also ended up becoming something of a hub for private equity investment activity – luckily that’s an area that Ropes excels in too.

The Work



This could be the reason more than half of the associates on our list chose to join the corporate group. Litigation was the second most popular group, followed by tax and employment and benefits, while a couple joined the business restructuring group. The vast majority of associates joined either the New York office or the Boston HQ, while the remainder were spread among Chicago, DC, San Francisco and Silicon Valley. As for work assignment, there’s a formal system in most practices, but associate can also reach out for work in more organic ways.

“I can get several hundred emails for just one deal, but it’s fun to talk to people.”

Corporate newbies are placed directly into subgroups including include asset management, life sciences, healthcare, private capital transactions, and strategic transactions. Where M&A is concerned, the firm mainly works with public companies on the buy side. Juniors were pleased to take a client-facing role: “We also coordinate the specialists at the firm to make sure everyone’s doing their bit, then write the due diligence report and negotiate the agreement with the other side.” The teams are usually a bit bigger than elsewhere in corporate, but sources were happy nonetheless with their level of responsibility. On capital markets deals, the team usually represents the underwriters – usually investment banks who are dealing with nontraditional offerings like SPACs [Special Purpose Acquisition Companies] and BDCs [Business Development Companies]. “I’m usually the go-between between the two parties,” interviewees reflected. Juniors initially handle the due diligence, then edit, comment on and draft the main transaction documents: “I can get several hundred emails for just one deal, but it’s fun to talk to people.”

Corporate clients: Blackstone, Dunkin Brands Group, and Novanta. Represented Pfizer in its $2.2 billion acquisition of clinical-stage immune-oncology company Trillium Theraputics.

Life sciences work sees rookies work with their counterparts in the UK and China: “I’ll analyze the US law and they’ll analyze the law in their jurisdiction, so we talk a lot.” Associates will look at regulatory issues around medical products, especially where IPOs and marketing are concerned, and also provide regulatory counseling for clients. Sources were surprised by the number of private equity clients on the books – “they’ll often be investing in some type of company that’s regulated by the healthcare industry, but I’ve also worked with biotech companies, device manufacturers and cosmetics companies.” Our interviewees cited the intellectual element as their favorite part of the job: “I’ll often be thinking about constitutional issues like the First Amendment, which I didn’t anticipate. I thought it would be all about mergers at this type of firm.”

Life sciences clients: Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Acceleron Pharma, and NeoGenomics. Represented Novavax in negotiations of various agreements to do with the development and supply of its COVID-19 vaccine.

Under the wider litigation umbrella, a large portion of juniors head for the general litigation & enforcement group, while a handful join the dedicated IP litigation group. Ropes no longer does any patent prosecution work but sources didn’t feel they were missing out: “I mostly do patent litigation, but I’ve also done a bit of trademark and copyright work and dealt with litigations before the International Trade Commission.” Interviewees reckoned they got more substantive experience than their peers with a more general litigation practice. For instance, one noted: ”Since day one, I’ve been asked to do higher-level tasks like draft motions and analyze the strength of clients’ patent portfolios.” Although direct client contact is low, associates found they had plenty of opportunities to interact with their more senior colleagues. Associates appreciated getting to see matters through from start to finish, while others enjoyed the problem-solving element: “The issues are challenging and fun to work through. I also like winning, so that’s pretty fun too!”

IP litigation clients: Dolby Laboratories, LG Electronics, and Altice USA. Defended software company SAP America against patent infringement claims filed by Express Mobile concerning customizable website technology.

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 1,900 target

Putting in roughly 55 hours a week, juniors at Ropes and Gray are working longer days than the average associate in the US: “The reality is you have to be available most of the time, which can be taxing. I’ll get an email at half 5 on a Friday and they’ll expect me to deal with it, although they recognize it sucks.” Others told us they’re at their computer for 15 hours a day: “Burnout is a concern, but if you tell people you need time off, it’s generally okay. They understand we’re humans first and lawyers second.” Corporate practices are particularly notorious for their demanding workloads: “Sometimes I wish I was on two IPOs rather than four, but the firm is very receptive to the pressure and I’ve had lots of help in prioritizing matters.”

In keeping attorneys’ wellbeing in mind, the firm sends its employees screen pop-ups telling them to step away from the computer for 10 minutes. Ropes folks also have access to ten free counseling sessions with an on-call therapist. According to our associate survey, the benefits package at the firm helped make the workload worthwhile – Ropes & Gray scored higher than the average firm in this category.

The firm initially decided to bypass the special COVID-19 bonuses that most firms dished out last fall, but did eventually pay both the one-off and year-end bonuses at the end of 2021. Year-end bonuses are usually dependent on hitting the billing target (those whose hours are under get a lower pay-out), but this year, Ropes modified the target so that anyone who billed less due to the pandemic still got some money.

Pro Bono



"A lot of attorneys went down to the border to represent the families.”

Everyone is expected to do at least 20 hours of pro bono a year, and there’s no cap on how many hours can be credited toward the billing target. We heard “the firm was active in 2018 when the government was separating children from their families in Texas. A lot of attorneys went down to the border to represent the families.” Ropes also has a partnership with the US’s first ever women’s shelter, Rosie’s Place, and Boston’s DotHouse, a health center. Elsewhere, associates had been involved with Project Validate, which helps people to get their gender identity accurately reflected on their documents, while others ”regularly volunteer to review applications for US citizenship.” In addition, Ropes is a founding member of the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance.

Sources agreed they typically had more responsibility on pro bono projects, compared to billable work: “There will always be a partner overseeing the matter, but there’s more opportunity to take the initiative and be creative.” A lot of juniors were naturally drawn to projects related to their practice area and expertise – “I’m a corporate attorney so I’ve helped people form nonprofits” – though others were happy to work across a range of issues.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US offices: 104,000
  • Average per US attorney: 60.1

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion



All attorneys can count up to 100 hours of participation in D&I events toward the billing target. For one interviewee, this included being “involved in the firm’s antiracism alliance educational working group, so I’ve helped write a white paper about racism within the education sector.” Ropes also recently celebrated Native American Indian Heritage Month by bringing in a speaker. “We regularly hold interviews with people outside the firm. They’re scheduled during the day so it’s nice to get a break from work without worrying about billing.” All new joiners take part in D&I training during orientation, and implicit bias training is compulsory for all employees: “They make it very front and center here.”Diverse attorneys can also request a specific D&I mentor.

The firm ranks joint fourth out of all the firms we cover for representation of women at the partnership level, but doesn't do as well when it comes to the number of ethnic minority partners. Nonetheless, associates agreed the firm is trying to both recruit diverse associates, and to retain and promote a diverse array of attorneys, scoring the firm higher than the market average for its efforts here. In particular, sources highlighted the firm’s Roscoe Trimmier Jr Diversity Scholarship which awards $25,000 and a summer associateship to 2L students from diverse backgrounds.

Culture & Career Development



Although associates scored Ropes highly for nurturing future leaders, our sources agreed the firm is lacking when it comes to business development training. “They don’t tell us much about what we need to do to make partner, although I do recognize we’re all very junior still.” According to our survey, the firm performs slightly lower than its peers in terms of making partnership achievable – all in all, most associates surveyed intended to stay for five more years at most: “If I did leave Ropes it wouldn’t be because of anything Ropes-specific. The issues I have are with my job, not my employer.”

Juniors still felt “the firm fosters a teaching environment. There’s no yelling. I’ve had to reach out to people I don’t know to ask questions and they’re always very accommodating.” Some were worried the pandemic would jeopardize the firm’s collegial culture, but were hopeful that the return to office working would encourage more collaboration. At the time of research, Ropes was encouraging lawyers to go in at least two to three days a week.

“People are always up for grabbing a coffee or going to a baseball game.”

Each associate is also assigned a formal associate development mentor in their practice group: “You’re not guaranteed to work with them, which is good because it means you get a bigger-picture perspective.” Nonetheless, getting feedback on work was a bit of a mission, according to our sources: “They always seem a bit surprised when I ask for it. It’s a case of ‘no news is good news,’ but I’ve always received feedback if I’ve specifically asked for it.” Others added: “I wish there were more opportunities to ask the senior lawyers questions but they’re usually too busy.” The good news is there’s tons of work-specific training available to associates: “I’ve been to training sessions both inside and outside of my practice group.” The firm also conducts biannual reviews.

Ropes runs a number of social events, which also serve as a good opportunity for folks to network with colleagues throughout the firm. “People are always up for grabbing a coffee or going to a baseball game.” This extended to those who joined the firm remotely, who were relieved to find there were several Zoom calls to get to know people: “They also paired new associates together, so we’d order lunch and chat for a bit. That made a big difference.” 

Get Hired 



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed 

Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed 

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 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, 2022

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A: Private Equity: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 3)
    • 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)
    • 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 2)
    • 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 5)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 5)
    • 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)
    • Technology (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)
    • Capital Markets: High-Yield Debt (Band 4)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
    • False Claims Act (Band 1)
    • FCPA (Band 3)
    • Healthcare: The Elite (Band 2)
    • 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: 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)