Katy McAteer is a human resources coordinator at Ropes & Gray. She has worked at the firm for four years.
My most memorable day this year has to be Ropes & Gray’s inaugural insight day in partnership with Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), a charity that supports students from diverse ethnic minority and socioeconomic backgrounds. It was fantastic to see students engaging with the firm and for us to provide them with a valuable experience and advice.
We run a vacation scheme in the spring and another in summer. In both schemes, students are fully integrated into our practice groups so that they experience real trainee-level work. Just like trainees, every student is assigned an associate supervisor to support them and offer guidance through the scheme, with the result that students gain an accurate insight into what working as a trainee is really like. The vacation scheme is also a chance for the students to get a feel for the culture of the firm. Students also get the opportunity to network and socialise with partners, associates and trainees.
We recruit 100% of trainees through the vacation scheme and make decisions about training contract offers based on candidates’ overall performance at the assessment day and on the vacation scheme.
Members of the HR team and trainee recruitment partners assess every application and produce a shortlist of candidates who we then invite to attend an assessment centre.
The day itself consists of a negotiation exercise, a written exercise, a presentation and an interview, as well as a critical thinking test which is taken prior to the assessment centre. The assessment centre includes a lunch with the firm’s trainees, which provides a great chance for candidates to network with the people they could soon be working alongside. We’re very fortunate that our partners and associates are always keen to get involved in trainee recruitment whenever they can as they really appreciate the importance of the program.
Throughout the process, we treat candidates as individuals – there is no one-size-fits-all mentality. Over the past year we have also done a lot to improve our attraction and assessment of candidates from diverse backgrounds, including the adoption of contextual recruitment in partnership with Rare, and a CV-blind approach to our interviews.
Underpinning the firm’s culture is collaboration and communication, so the ability to work well in a team and communicate effectively, as well as build solid working relationships are essential. A sense of humour is also important!
Commercial awareness is vital. A passion for business and a deep understanding of the client’s commercial needs are key. To get into the commercial mindset it is well worth regularly watching the news and reading business focused publications, such as the Financial Times and Bloomberg, to start building your awareness.
Sometimes students struggle with adopting the appropriate language and tone when writing their applications. The commercial language you will need to write in as a lawyer is not the same as that in an academic essay. Corporate communication is clear, to the point and well structured.
We organise a number of targeted talks at different universities which students can attend to learn more about Ropes & Gray. We also participate in a number of external events in partnership with other organisations. Students can find details further details and general information about our trainee program on our website.
Before you apply, it is important to be able to articulate a strong motivation for a career in law at Ropes & Gray. That means doing your research so that you can identify specific aspects of the firm that distinguish us from our competitors and explain why you think you and the firm would be a good fit.
South Africa – including going on safari, of course.