Founded in Boston in 1865, Ropes & Gray now has around 1,400 lawyers, and 11 offices - six in the US, three in Asia, and one in London.
With a focus on corporate work and in particular transactional private capital work, its revenue reached $1.9 billion in 2020.
The London office was founded in 2010 and has 25 partners, 12 counsel, 104 associates and a trainee intake of 13 a year. Also, 44% of its partnership is female. R&G reckons its City office has its cake and eats it, too, explaining that while it is "an established presence in the UK, we’ve retained all the buzz of our start-up years".
But what do its lawyers think? They think it's great - the firm placed joint second in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2021 Survey and 7th in the RollOnFriday Best Law Firms To Work At 2023.
Like many of the US firms, salaries are regarded as "exceptional".
"Near top of the market and our billable targets (although a bit opaque) are lower than comparable firms", a junior solicitor told RollOnFriday. Plus, in December 2020 a "generous" COVID bonus was paid in addition to annual bonuses.
R&G "pays top US firm rates, with slightly lower hours", said a senior solicitor. "Historically bonuses have been a bit lower than other elite US firms, but more recently have been very good", he said.
Others agreed the pay was "excellent", with a partner adding that there was a black box system at partner level which helped it work "as a meritocracy and encourages people to collaborate".
Career-development wise, junior solicitors said there was a "Darwinian survival of the fittest contest", and that "Chances of making partner are seemingly slim". But the firm "takes associate career development seriously", said a senior solicitor: "I regularly have discussions with partners dedicated to developing my practice", he said. There was a "strong training program and opportunities for progression given the firm genuinely wants to continue growing in London", a partner insisted.
As you might expect at a top drawer US firm, work life balance takes a kicking. It's "not ideal" said one lawyer: "I understand that I am still married".
"In general very long hours are required", said a junior solicitor, who held out some hope that flexible work from home would continue after the pandemic "in order to increase work/life balance".
"In most teams the work/life balance is better than you would expect at comparable firms, although the second half of last year was pretty brutal", said a senior solicitor. "I didn't have a clear weekend for months at the end of the year, although this was often just a few hours of work not full days".
"Q3 and Q4 of 2020 were tough - but that's what you get paid for.", said a junior solicitor. "Generally hours are the same (or less) than English City firms but the real killer is that the majority of hours you clock up over the year seem to be churned outside of normal office hours and very rarely (if ever) are matters done on anything other than exceptionally aggressive timetables", he explained.
Nonetheless, "Generally the hours are manageable", said a colleague, who said "It's not a sweatshop". And the firm understands the deal, said others: "The hours can be long but the team is very mindful when people work hard. The hours are better than at comparable firms, and Ropes has excellent (30) holiday days".
"It's Big Law so we need to be responsive to client demands", said a partner, "but associates have a better time than a Magic Circle firm given we are building out a business, have big ambitions for growth and need to maintain capacity to do that".
Management of the London office and the firm was praised by respondents to the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey 2021, with plaudits for its pandemic response. "All in all, quite reasonable given challenging clients and a competitive market", said a junior solicitor. There was "excellent communication throughout COVID-19 pandemic" ,and "active pressure not to return to the office, while we were reading news about other firms trying to force lawyers in", said another solicitor.
There was a "proactive and pastoral approach through all the trials of 2020 both in the UK and US", said a senior solicitor.
As for the firm's culture, it is "generally sensible and actually much nicer than my previous top English law firm", said a junior solicitor. "I can count on one hand how many unpleasant people there are in the entire London office and the partners are (in my team at least) supportive, approachable and friendly", said a contemporary.
So, while Ropes & Gray is "full-on most of the time (time to sleep, eat, and work work work)", compensation is top drawer - and it appears to be a "really genuinely nice place to work".
The firm placed an excellent 11th in the RollOnFriday Best Law Firms to Work At 2022.