How Ropes & Gray’s Summer Program Encourages Learning and Discovery

Published: Apr 13, 2023

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Starting your career as a summer associate in BigLaw 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 groups 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 you don’t start on day one, having figured it all out. In fact, only a small 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 designed to encourage learning and discovery—by providing training in a wide range of practice areas, offering flexibility in your work, and fostering a culture of mentorship and support between summers and attorneys at all levels of the firm.

Here’s how it works: Ropes & Gray has several legal departments, including business restructuring, corporate, litigation, tax, and 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?

For an inside look into the different practice groups at Ropes & Gray, check out our Scope of Practice podcast series for law students.

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 case.

While we take note of your initial interest and set you up in a related department to start, you are not locked into 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.

Read about how Ropes & Gray is ranked #1 for Formal Training and in the top five for Informal Training, Mentoring & Sponsorship in the 2023 Vault Survey of Associates

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 also participate in deposition workshops and conduct mock depositions. This past summer, the firm ran its second annual cryptocurrency boot camp, 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 practices 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 Ropes & Gray’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. 

Crystal Liu, a 2022 summer associate in the firm’s San Francisco office, started her summer at Ropes wanting to gain experience in private equity. However, her interest in tax law was piqued after having several informal conversations with tax associates. Crystal realized that her research skills and problem-solving abilities would make tax a compelling choice for her. She was assigned a challenging project with a tax partner, who provided guidance and feedback on her work, solidifying her interest in tax law.

Crystal also received valuable career mentorship from senior attorneys at the firm. As Crystal put it, “One of the best pieces of advice I received is that a legal career is not a sprint but a marathon.” She emphasized the importance of building long-term relationships and gradually developing skills to achieve sustained growth. “By adopting this approach,” she noted, “you can alleviate short-term pressure and establish a strong foundation for long-term success.”

Crystal was a member of Ropes & Gray’s 2022 class of 1L Diversity Fellows. Learn more about the 1L Diversity Fellowship and the 2022 class.

Eddie Ahanmisi, a 2022 summer associate in our New York office, joined a “mentor pod” consisting of summers, associates, and partners during his summer at Ropes and gained valuable insight into 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 a 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.

Ropes & Gray’s assignment process—combined with our training programs and focus on mentorship—enables our summers to solidify their interests while setting them up with the right contacts to pursue future work in different specialty areas. As Lisa put it, “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