Maya Shah is an early careers specialist at Ropes & Gray, and is based in the firm’s London office.
Making someone a training contract offer is the best part of my job. The initial offer is extended by the trainee recruitment partner but I get to follow up with a congratulatory call. Knowing that we’re giving someone a job that could ultimately be life changing for them is very satisfying. It’s also very rewarding to help make the firm even stronger through our diversity efforts. I was part of the team calling our BRidge to the City scholarship winner this year. When we told the candidate she’d won the scholarship, she was so excited and happy – it really made me love my job even more.
We run two vacation schemes: one in spring (April) and one in summer (June/July). Both schemes will be in person again this year. We believe having a high office presence adds to the vibrant culture we’ve created at Ropes & Gray and it’s really important to us that the vac schemers get to experience that.
We recruit trainees exclusively from our vacation schemes. This is because we believe it’s important to have one consistent route of entry that allows us to rigorously assess our future trainees. The candidates also get the opportunity to see whether Ropes & Gray is a place they’d like to work. We have a small intake of around 12 trainees each year. We work in lean teams and our trainees are given a lot of responsibilities from day one, so it’s important we make the right decision when selecting our future trainees.
The vacation scheme is designed so candidates can truly experience what it’d be like to be a trainee at the firm. This means getting involved in real-life trainee tasks, attending practice group insight sessions and masterclasses, or networking and socialising with people across the office. There are a couple of assessments built in, including an interview and a blog post.
We look for talented and diverse students from all backgrounds who are interested in pursuing a career in commercial law. Candidates must be collaborative and enjoy working as part of a team, as well as entrepreneurial. We want people who are intellectual, curious and detail orientated.
Future trainees must now qualify via the SQE route only. We offer full sponsorship of the Postgraduate Diploma in Law and SQE1 and 2, in addition to an annual maintenance grant of £17,500 per year of study.
Diversity, equity and inclusion is central to us as an office and has been since our inception. This is evident in our statistics, particularly our percentage of female partners, which is among the very highest of law firms in London. Most recently we were recognised as the UK firm with the most female partners in law.com.
Achieving a diverse partnership requires a diverse pipeline, so a consistent slate of talented, diverse trainees and associates is always a real focus for us.
With the trainee pipeline, taking social mobility as an example, law firms have historically tended to overlook candidates from less privileged backgrounds. Our programme BRidge to the City, in partnership with our client Bloomberg and social mobility organisation Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), explicitly encourages diverse talent to consider applying to us. By providing a two-week placement for 12 social mobility students (one week spent at Ropes & Gray and one with Bloomberg), the students learn critical negotiation and drafting skills, as well as participate in panel events, workshops and socials. At the end of the scheme, two students will receive a scholarship, consisting of a £20,000 bursary, a vacation scheme place and long-term mentoring.
We also run targeted events for female students, LGBTQ+ students and Black students, which we find very useful – we get very good feedback about these events.
To remove any recruitment bias, we run a blind assessment process during which none of our interviewers or assessors have details of an applicant’s background.
We also use a contextual recruitment system, which further helps us understand the context in which applicants’ experiences have been gained and to identify outperformers.
We also work with SEO, which helps us wider our student talent pool and introduces us to talented diverse students who’ll hopefully apply to the firm.
Typos, grammatical errors and getting the firm name incorrect are the most common way candidates let themselves down in applications! You should proofread your form because it’s an integral part of the application process. If you can, ask someone else to read the application form too. Alternatively, print a copy to read – it’s always easier to spot errors on paper than on screen.
Our application form doesn’t ask you to share work experience. Instead, you’re asked to provide your grades as well as answer a commercial question. However, during the assessment centre interview, the partners will want to get to know you as a person, so this is your opportunity to share what work experience you’ve gained, along with any other interests you have outside of studying.
It’s very important. A good candidate should know about our key practice areas, clients and the work we’ve done for them. Having knowledge on our clients and deals we’ve done is exceptionally impressive.
Commercial awareness is extremely important. We assess students’ motivations to not only be a lawyer, but also a commercial lawyer. On your application, as mentioned above, you’ll be asked to answer a commercial question. It’s important that you can show what you know about the economic and legal world, as well as how it relates to Ropes & Gray.
Yes, we do. Our assessment day is intentionally rigorous. It’s a full-on, one-day assessment centre comprising an interview, written exercise, negotiation exercise and presentation. The assessments are designed to assess the attributes we’re looking for. Students should prepare by researching the firm and preparing for the obvious questions at interview, it’s also worth trying to gain experience of the skills we’re assessing you on, so you can practise beforehand. If your careers service is running mock interviews or negotiation exercises, I’d take advantage of those.
We attend on-campus fairs to access as many students as possible and to encourage them to sign up to our presentations. The latter is an opportunity for students to learn more about the firm’s culture and life as a trainee, as well as the opportunity to network with our colleagues.
I do believe it’s different. First years should use law fairs as an opportunity to discover which firms interest them the most, whether they want to be at a UK firm or a US firm, or the type of law they want to practice. Second or third years should use law fairs to identify which firms they’d like to apply to and come prepared with questions to help inform their decisions. The fairs are a great opportunity to make a good impression on the law firm representatives, ahead of submitting your application. They’re also a good way to source information to include on your application form.
My top advice would be to ensure a career in commercial law is what you truly want. Ropes & Gray is a corporate law firm specialising in providing advice to private capital clients. Therefore, an understanding and interest in this is paramount before applying for a vacation scheme at the firm. I’d also recommend having an application strategy and breaking down why you’d like to apply to the law firm you’re choosing, so you can create careful, bespoke applications to law firms you’d genuinely like to train at.
I love dramatic shows like Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty! They’re great escapism. Plus, with Netflix and Disney+, I can binge watch and never have to deal with a real cliffhanger that lasts more than a week!