Starting your career in Big Law as a summer associate can feel like the beginning of your freshman year at college. The excitement of embarking on a new stage of life is exhilarating. Each new face you meet is a potential lifelong friend or acquaintance. And the get-to-know-you events are endless … socials, dinners, ballgames, boat cruises!
But it can be intimidating, too. Everyone except you seems to know what to do and where to go, and the possibilities of what to learn and which clubs to join are virtually infinite. Worst of all, you feel the pressure of having to figure it all out now—pick your major or practice area and set yourself on a course that will determine the rest of your college experience (or your career in law).
It’s not that way at Ropes & Gray. At Ropes, we recognize that your career in law is a discovery process. We know that you don’t start on day one having figured it all out. In fact, only a tiny percentage of second-year law students know exactly what kind of law they want to practice. And that’s why our summer associate program is built to encourage learning and discovery—by providing training in a wide range of practice areas and offering flexibility in your work.
Here’s how it works: Ropes & Gray has several legal departments, including corporate, litigation, and tax, employment & benefits. Before your summer begins, we ask you to fill out a survey to indicate your general practice area interests. Are you leaning toward private equity transactions but also want exposure to a public M&A deal? Does asset management sound intriguing? Are you interested in seeing what tax work is about? Do you want to find out what it’s really like to be a litigator?
When you start your summer at Ropes, we give you a work assignment in the department you expressed interest in. But these departments are big, and each contains a wide range of more specialized practice groups. As a summer working in the corporate department, you might start off supporting a private equity matter and work next with attorneys in our asset management group. If litigation is your department, you may help on an enforcement matter and, later in the summer, on a securities litigation matter.
While we take note of your initial interest and set you up in a related practice area to start, you are by no means locked in to that specific practice area. The ability to learn about different specialties is an intrinsic part of our summer program, and we provide both formal and informal training to give our summers a taste of the various practice groups within their department.
Our formal trainings are not only best in class, but immersive and fun, too. Summers take part in mock transactions where they negotiate against one another, with partners and counsel serving as advisors. Our litigation summers participate in deposition workshops and conduct mock depositions. This past summer, the firm ran its first-ever cryptocurrency bootcamp, a nine-week program that included readings, discussions and simulations related to all things crypto. We also offer a range of online and in-person practice-specific trainings. These trainings enable summers to experience the full breadth of practices within their department.
Summers will also attend practice group overviews where lawyers at different seniority levels—from first-year associates to seasoned partners—talk about how they chose their field and what their day-to-day life is like. On a more informal level, we provide plenty of opportunities for lunches or happy hour connections with lawyers in a variety of fields, offering our summers a chance to really get to know the people behind the practice and how they arrived there.
We also encourage our summers to simply talk to people, either over lunch or coffee or as part of a mentorship group. These conversations are often where new interests are sparked and previously unexplored avenues are discovered. In her first week at Ropes & Gray, Lisa Richmond, a 2022 summer associate in the firm’s Boston office, got coffee with a litigation associate and was immediately looped in on a pro bono matter involving an area of the law she had never considered.
Eddie Ahanmisi, a 2022 summer associate in Ropes & Gray’s New York office, joined a “mentor pod” consisting of summers, associates and partners during his summer at Ropes and gained valuable insight on the variety of work available as a corporate attorney. “Having that initial contact with people in different practice groups and at different levels in the firm was huge,” Eddie told us.
Through the Ropes Multicultural Forum, Eddie also developed a close relationship with a second-year associate who served as an invaluable mentor and helped to organize lunches with associates and partners in various practice groups. “One-on-one contact with an associate who knows what you’re interested in and can look out for those interests was very important to me,” said Eddie. “He helped me meet the right people so that I was able to see work related to those interests.”
By participating in trainings and making connections, our summers get a sense of the variety of practice areas within their department. Then, at the end of each week, they touch base with our Legal Recruiting team to let us know if and how their interests have evolved. Through this process, Eddie was able to explore both asset management and private equity transactions work during his summer at Ropes. Lisa had a similar experience, exploring the many sides of litigation at a big law firm, beyond just trial work.
For Lisa, the open assignment process at Ropes helped her solidify her interest in litigation while setting her up with the right contacts to pursue future work in several different specialty areas. Most of all, she was grateful that Ropes & Gray fostered an environment that allowed her interests to lead the way. “Everyone at Ropes—from the recruiting team to the attorneys—encouraged me to try a bunch of different things. I really appreciated that approach, as opposed to linking up with a partner and working with them exclusively on every job. It relieved a lot of the pressure as I begin my legal career and made the summer not only very fruitful from a career perspective, but a lot of fun, as well.”
To learn more about Ropes & Gray’s summer program, visit https://www.ropesgrayrecruiting.com/en/US/Law-Students.
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