Katy McAteer is a human resources adviser at Ropes & Gray. She has worked at the firm for six years.
Our 2021-22 recruitment programme has started, and we are talking to students at a range of virtual events and encouraging them to apply for our 2022 vacation schemes. The deadline to apply for either of the vacation schemes is 31 January.
Members of the HR team and trainee recruitment partners will then assess every application and produce a shortlist of candidates who are invited to attend a virtual assessment day in March 2022. This will consist 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. We are hoping to hold our assessment days and vacation schemes in person next year.
Throughout the process, we treat candidates as individuals – there is no one-size-fits-all mentality. The firm has also done a lot in recent years to improve our attraction and assessment of candidates from diverse backgrounds, including the adoption of contextual recruitment in partnership with Rare and CV-blind assessment centres.
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.
Students are fully integrated into our practice groups so that they experience real trainee-level work. Just like our trainees, every student is assigned an associate supervisor to support them and offer them guidance throughout the scheme, with the results being that students’ gain an accurate insight into what working as a trainee is really like. Students also get the opportunity to network and socialise with partners, associates and trainees.
We are transitioning to the SQE in 2023. Those joining in 2023 will all be coming through the SQE route, so they will need to have started the SQE in September 2022.
We are running a series of virtual presentations for students at any university across the UK and are expanding our outreach by working with organisations such as SEO (Sponsors for Educational Opportunity) and DiversCity in Law and providing LGBTQ+ and women-only virtual skills sessions and presentations covering topics such as networking and professional profile raising.
We have also expanded our activities on social media, the firm’s trainees are producing more content for students on Instagram like our podcast and Legal Lingo series, so there are lots of ways for candidates to engage.
Soft skills such as communication and teamwork are just as important as technical ability, and I have been really impressed with the candidates I have spoken to at virtual law fairs because they have generally been excellent in terms of being courteous and showing listening skills, which can be more challenging in a virtual environment. It has also been great to see so many people coming prepared and informed.
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.
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.
We transitioned to a working from home model in March 2020. It was a smooth transition because the firm already had the relevant infrastructure in place.
Throughout the pandemic, we also had regular comms on a global management level, including email updates from the global management team – and on a regional level from the London office’s managing partner. There was also a weekly all-London meeting to discuss any updates.
More recently, we have been starting to transition back to the office and it’s been lovely reconnecting again in person with all my colleagues.
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.
I recently finished Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo.