Ropes & Gray International LLP

Emma Keating
Ropes & Gray International LLP

Ropes & Gray International LLP

University: University of Sydney
Degree: BEconSS (economic and social sciences)
Year of qualification: 2016
Position: Associate
Department: Special situations

What attracted you to a career in law?

I have always enjoyed problem solving and helping people reach compromises when they don’t see eye to eye. In my first job after university I worked for an employer association in Australia, assisting employers to resolve disputes with employees, unions and regulators, as well as assisting with policy reviews of existing laws. It was the legal components of the job that I enjoyed most, including using the technical aspects of the law in a practical way to resolve disputes. However, before studying law I decided to take a year out and travel to Europe to make sure studying law was what I wanted to do.

Why solicitor not barrister?

I considered being a barrister as I liked advocacy work. I enjoy watching barristers thinking on their feet to make arguments, respond to questions and developing a story when examining witnesses. However, I decided that I prefer to be part of the team behind the scenes, helping to put the case together and liaising with counsel and clients rather than leading the show!

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

I had experience in employment law and also construction law, so I initially applied to firms that had strong practices in these fields. I also didn’t know a lot about London firms, so made my decisions as to where to apply through their websites and student guides. After receiving feedback through various interviews, it became clear that I needed to take a wider view of firms and a more focused approach to understand each firm’s approach and strategy. I found the best way to do this was work experience, networking and speaking to people I knew about the firms that I was interested in. I also found the careers services at law school helpful at enabling me to focus.

How much work experience did you do? Why is it so important?

Work experience is paramount. You cannot underestimate the importance of understanding practically how a law firm works for its clients. Even if you have the best academic record in the world, if you cannot think pragmatically you won’t be a successful lawyer. I had a number of paralegal, legal clerk and commercial roles under my belt from previous work experience. I also did two vacation schemes in City firms, one informal and one more formal. They were very useful to gain insight into what firms were looking for in their graduate recruitment strategies.

What do you think made your application successful?

My interview at Ropes & Gray flowed more like a conversation and I really liked the approach of the partners and associates that I met. This made me more relaxed and I was able to be myself. They also seemed interested in my story and resourcefulness and my views on certain issues when asked. I still walked out thinking I wouldn’t get a training contract and almost fell off my chair when I received a call a couple of days later!

Which departments did you train in?

My first seat was in banking in London, where I worked on a major European bank/bond deal for an important client. The team was great and I learned a lot. I went on secondment to the Hong Kong office for my second seat, which was awesome. Here, I did mainly banking work with a little bit of restructuring and got to meet a lot of other secondees, both from other Ropes offices and trainees at other firms. The pace of life was definitely full on, but I found a great balance and had amazing weekend trips and hikes during downtimes. My third seat was in the London private equity/corporate team where I worked on lots of interesting deals, including a demerger and hostile takeover. My fourth seat was in the London special situations team, where I was able to reconnect with the Hong Kong team through work on a restructuring, among other matters.

Please discuss a specific deal/case that you were involved with, outlining your role in the matter.

In the banking team, I worked on a deal for one of our telecommunications clients, who was acquiring a leading provider of integrated telecommunication services to residential and corporate customers in Portugal. My main roles were to review and monitor the data room, manage local counsel, draft ancillary documents and proofread the loan documentation. I also assisted the high yield team to finalise the offering memorandum at the printers.

How does the qualification process work at the firm?

Qualification is relatively informal at Ropes compared to other firms. HR meets with each trainee separately to discuss preferences and discusses these with the relevant practice groups. You receive feedback throughout your seats, so have a good idea of how you have got on and what teams might be a good fit for you before you need to make a decision on qualification. You are also encouraged to speak to associates and partners informally and ask questions throughout your training contract, particularly if you are thinking that their team may be a qualification option. I found that people shared positive, honest and realistic views about how and why they ended up where they are, which was helpful.

What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?

I think two very simple rules make a successful trainee: first, be organised – make sure you file your emails and documents, as you never know when you will need to produce them quickly in the future, and being able to do so impresses people. Second, be interested and positive – attitude is key to working in a team and others will notice this; let’s face it, no one loves receiving an urgent task at 5pm on a Friday, but on the odd occasion when this happens a can-do attitude definitely helps all of those involved!

Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?

I qualified into the special situations team in September 2016; there really is no typical day in this team! We work on a variety of deals that could involve finance, corporate or restructuring work, or a combination of these. I recently finished a corporate deal which involved running a disclosure process and drafting disclosure letters, managing local counsel, drafting ancillary documents and assisting with key transaction documents drafts from auction stage to completion with the successful investor. Separately, I am also working on a litigious insolvency; typically this work involves reviewing and commenting on affidavit evidence and skeleton arguments, and discussing strategy with clients, local counsel and barristers. Part of the reason I joined this team was the diversity and exposure to a variety of work!

What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?

I love being in a great team with intelligent and awesome people who are challenged by each other, love what they do and also are a lot of fun to work with. Despite its growth in recent years, Ropes still has that extended family dynamic and it’s that positive and supportive atmosphere that I really enjoy.

How involved are you with business development and promoting the firm?

You are encouraged from day one to get involved in BD and to interact with clients. I am often invited to networking events by other members of the team and have joined associates from other practice groups at events that were informative and provided a great opportunity to meet people.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

In my opinion, Ropes & Gray offers something unique compared to other City law firms. Mostly, I think this is because of the people and amazing team dynamic that exists across its global offices. As well as being excellent at what they do, I’ve found everyone I’ve met to be friendly and great to chat to, while they also have a lot of pride in the firm. The firm is ambitious and has achieved a lot in the last six years in opening and growing the London office into a success, and that positive can-do attitude shines through every aspect of life at the firm.

What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?

Persevere – it is a competitive world out there and there are so many great candidates; no matter how great you are this means you will undoubtedly get rejection letters and phone calls. It’s important to take on board the experience and learn from each interview, assessment day and application process and implement these lessons next time.

Work experience and actually taking time to understand a firm and its strategy – including recent deals it has worked on – can often help set you apart from other candidates, so try to take a quality rather than quantity approach to applications.

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