Ropes & Gray LLP - The Inside View

You can’t beat this Boston-based behemoth for health and funds work. Promoting a “high-quality” lifestyle, work/life balance is far from ropey.  

We won't beat about the bush, retention is one of the big issues in BigLaw. At Ropes & Gray, associates told us, “the mentality is that in BigLaw you’re not going to do better than Ropes in terms of the caliber of work, or how people treat you. Ropes tries to make the lifestyle as high-quality as possible. The mentality is that if people are leaving, it’s to do something completely different. It was a common refrain. If you’re interested in the best of BigLaw and are looking for a firm where “everyone is helpful,” you might be looking for Ropes & Gray.  

Ropes is at the top end of BigLaw, breaking into AmLaw’s top 10 in 2022. Chambers USA reflects that prestige, and points to a firm that’s growing, awarding the firm 71 rankings (up from last year’s 65) across California, DC, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Nationwide. 21 of those are at the very top of the table, across transactional and contentious practice areas. Another indication of a flourishing firm is the number of juniors it has taken on recently. Last year there were nearly 140 second-years. This year there are nearly 210 second-years. The firm’s two biggest offices, Boston and New York, were responsible for most of that growth and take on by far the greatest number of juniors each year, with around four-fifths situated in those two offices. Its other five offices in Chicago, DC, LA, San Francisco and Silicon Valley snaffle up the rest. Internationally, the firm boasts six outposts in Hong Kong, London, Dublin, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo

Being Boston-based, it’s hardly a surprise that the firm is renowned for its life sciences and healthcare work. The firm’s earned four rankings for the former and nine for the latter. However, Ropes isn’t just a life sciences and healthcare type of firm. The firm is renowned for its funds, private equity, capital markets, corporate M&A and litigation work, securing top rankings in Chambers USA in Massachusetts for all of them. It was this prestige, along with “the firm showing a lot of interest in me,” that drew people to the firm. 

The Work  

The firm’s main areas of expertise are, unsurprisingly, also its biggest practice areas, with funds (Asset Management), litigation (Litigation & Enforcement) private equity (Private Capital Transactions) and corporate M&A (Strategic Transactions) taking on three-quarters of all juniors on our list. The firm has a central staffing system, which, we heard, “is there for the entire time you’re at the firm. If someone asks for you specifically, the staffing team will act as a go-between.” The attorney development managers (ADMs) reach out to attorneys who indicate their capacity through a traffic-light system. Overall, feedback on the system was positive, with the majority feeling it worked well. 

Of course, as a Boston-based firm, life sciences is part of the DNA. In fact, for one giddy junior, “Ropes has the best life sciences licensing practice.” Juniors in the practice group overwhelmingly enjoyed the work. Across our survey, life science-rs scored above the market average for responsibility, interesting work, client and partner contact and autonomy over work allocation. In addition, Ropes’ life sciences juniors were well below market for levels of stress, with around one in three reporting being stressed compared to nearly half across all firms. Part of the reason for that is the humane hours our survey respondents reported, with respondents pegging the average at just below 50 hours a week, and our survey indicated high levels of satisfaction with the practice group’s work/life balance.  

Life sciences clients: Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Novalis, ImmunoGen. Assisted Pfizer with over $20 billion worth of acquisitions in 2022.  

Over in litigation, litigators work as generalists. “You do a bit of everything at Ropes,” sources said. “At no point are you told you’ll be put into a box. But your practice will, inevitably, narrow naturally as you become more senior.” Sources said, “in the first year, it’s hard to choose your own matters” and “for the most part, you go where you’re needed.” Insiders were kept busy with everything from anticorruption work to white-collar crime, and due diligence on private equity and M&A deals: “We also do a lot of busted deal work.” Which means? “We have so many clients on the corporate side of the firm that come to us when things go wrong.” Right. Sources said that with government cracking down “we’ve had some significant antitrust matters this year.”  

With high-stakes matters the norm, “Juniors usually get the less interesting tasks.” For example? “I know juniors who did back-to-back doc reviews for eight months, and others who were doing deposition prep and substantive motions. It depends on who you’re working with.” Sources felt the investigations side lent itself to “less doc review and more writing,” where juniors spoke about “doing witness interview outlines and summaries on what we found.” 

Litigation clients: Morgan Stanley, Tor Asia Credit Master Fund LP and UMass Memorial Health Care. The firm defended 30 clients, mostly public and private pension plans and funds, accused of fraudulent payments made to shareholders in a leveraged buyout of the Tribute Company.  

“We have very sophisticated, big-name clients.” 

On the transactional side, asset management work broadly concerns private and registered funds, derivatives and commodities,” sources explained. So, is funds work private equity work? “Funds are for buying things,” a source kindly explained. “A private equity firm is the management company that runs the fund,” but the fund itself is its own separate entity. What this means for lawyers depends on the type of fund. Ropes’ practice is split into registered funds (officially called investment management)and private funds. “In asset management you could be advising limited partners on investing in private funds, reviewing limited purchase agreements or negotiating side letter provisions,” sources told us. “On the general partner side,” sources continued, “you could be doing fund formation, drafting underlying fund docs and coordinating closings. We have very sophisticated, big-name clients.”  

Private capital transactions is essentially private equity work,sources explained, “we do M&A work, but it’s all private equity-sponsored M&A.” The firm also does the debt and equity side of private equity. According to sources, clients include “all the big private equity firms as well as the up-and-comers as well. We help them across sectors, but there is a healthcare skew, probably due to our expertise.” Unlike their funds colleagues, juniors “hardly ever do any research. It’s not the nature of our work,” one source explained. So, what is it? “It’s mostly project management, managing the checklist and drafting ancillaries like resolution.” Juniors can also expect “a lot of diligence,” from writing memos to making sure the insurers have their diligence questions answered. Sources said that in the lead up to closing, there was a surfeit of project management, which involved “so many emails! Around 250 a day is my average, and that’s when you’re not signing next week.” What’s it like then? “Then it’s 250 in two hours.” 

Over in strategic transactions, “it’s no secret that supporting private equity-backed M&A is fast-paced, demanding work, no matter the firm.” The firm’s top-ranked corporate M&A practice in New York and Massachusetts works with massive firms around the world. Survey respondents felt they had good responsibility and nearly all of them indicated that the work was interesting. Respondents noted good levels of client contact (well above market) and felt they had the ability to take on work they wanted. Areas for improvement were the level of partner contact, which was below market, and over half reported that the work had negatively impacted on their mental health at some point. 

Transactional clients: Eversource Energy, Ginkgo Bioworks, Planet Fitness. Represented McAfee in its $14 billion take-private sale to an investor group.   

Pro Bono, Hours & Compensation 

Billable hours: 1,900 target 

Despite its BigLaw status, the firm has a very reasonable 1,900-hour target, which can include 100 D&I and unlimited pro bono hours. Despite the manageable target, weekend work was seen as the norm and the firm was above market in terms of number of hours worked per week. Our survey indicated that under half thought the work/life balance was good, but were positive about the firm’s attitude to vacation time. Unlimited pro bono hours still requires common sense. As one sagacious source explained, “you can do however much you want to do. But, if you’re saying yes to three pro bono projects and saying no to a big billable matter, someone is likely to say something.” 

Associates are encouraged to do 20 hours a year and sources said there were “lots of emails with a lot of interesting matters.” Those included “asylum cases, work with the Innocence Project, appellate work and helping nonprofits with transactional work as well. It depends on what’s going on at the firm.” Sources added juniors were encouraged by their ADMs “to seek out opportunities for writing experience, which is pro bono.” 

Pro bono hours 

  • For all (US) attorneys: 98,947
  • Average per (US) attorney: 74.6

Culture & Career Development 

We noted last year that juniors were worried that the pandemic would affect the firm’s largely positive culture, with juniors being encouraged to come in two to three days a week to mitigate that. Ropes now requires people to come in Tuesday through Thursday, which was met with mixed reviews, with some resistant to losing their flexibility. The good news is “Ropes still understands if you have to be out of the office for a doctor’s appointment.” Others reckoned, “having everyone in on the same day helps the culture, but people being in on different days doesn’t make a difference.”  

"Someone described Ropes as a teaching hospital, which is pretty accurate. You get your hands dirty, make mistakes and learn from them.”

Overall, Ropes’ reputation for a culture that values growth and teaching has remained solid. “Someone described Ropes as a teaching hospital,” said one, “which is pretty accurate. You get your hands dirty, make mistakes and learn from them. No one makes you feel bad for making them.” Overwhelmingly, sources said “people generally want you to succeed and learn and grasp the topics instead of just getting work done. There’s an emphasis on really understanding what’s going on.” Sources were positive about their interactions with more senior attorneys, noting “people always have times to explain things. They’ll stop no matter how busy to they are.”  

Sources also enjoyed a collaborative environment: “I’ve heard of backstabbing at other firms. I’ve never encountered that here,” a relieved source said. Perhaps that’s what accounts for every associate on our survey feeling positive about associate camaraderie. Others, meanwhile, were pleased not to be “treated like a robot. We’re all very busy, but people do emphasize mental health. I’ve worked on good case teams where people will look after you and make sure that you’re not taking too much on.” 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 

The firm is one our top ten firms for female partners and one of our top 20 for ethnic minority partners, with sources also speaking highly of its commitment to the LGBTQ+ community. “I think in terms of initiatives, they’re doing well,” sources felt. Internal programs include women’s, LGBTQ+ and multicultural forums.These groupsmeetfortnightly or monthly to host happy hours, coffee breaks, speaker series and film screenings on topics relevant to the group. “Incoming classes are becoming increasingly diverse in terms of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity.” Of course, “at the more senior level there are a lot more white men, and that’s going to take time to change. You can’t just add diversity for the sake of it.” 

Strategy & Future 

With rapidly growing numbers, it’s fair to say things are looking good for Ropes & Gray. The current government’s approach to antitrust matters is likely to keep that part of the firm busy, and while a global recession will cool the markets, the firm’s breadth of practice areas is likely to keep things busy. 

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 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.” – 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


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,
MA 02199-3600

  • 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 (
  • 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—named The American Lawyer’s 2022 “Law Firm of the Year”—represents the world’s leading companies on their most critical matters. The firm has been 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 13 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. From 2020 to 2022, lawyers, paralegals and other Ropes & Gray professionals worldwide committed more than 560,000 hours assisting the firm’s pro bono clients.

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2023:
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:
This scholarship provides a $25,000* award to second-year law students and includes a paid summer associate position following completion of the second year of law school. The 2023 class of 12 is the largest group of recipients since the program started in 2015. Since then, 57 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:

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 Summer Associate Program. In 2023 Ropes & Gray named 13 fellows from law schools across the country including Harvard, UCLA, Cornell, Duke, Yale, Michigan, USC, University of Pennsylvania, BU, and William & Mary School of Law.

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:
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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