International report

Ropes & Gray began life in 1865 in Boston, Massachusetts. In the 140-odd years since, it has grown to 775 fee-earners – of whom almost a third are equity partners – and opened offices in New York and San Francisco.

In January 2001 the firm merged with New York IP outfit Fish & Neave, adding 160 lawyers to Ropes & Gray’s 580 and giving the firm a presence in Palo Alto in California.

As well as IP, Ropes & Gray specialises in investment management, life sciences and ‘government enforcement’ (government-led investigations, particularly in the areas of financial services and, more recently, healthcare, says managing partner John Montgomery).

Ropes & Gray also sees itself as one of the top three US firms for private equity work. The 172-lawyer private equity group was founded by firm chairman Brad Malt in 1980 and advised the consortium that acquired Sungard Data Systems for $11bn (£6.5m) in April, on one of the world’s largest private equity deals.

The firm has no office outside the US but does have a conference centre in London. This is used to support the firm’s work in the insurance market and provide a base for visiting lawyers from the corporate team.

Pressed on the possibility of a full-scale office in London, Montgomery says it is “a question of whether and when”.

“We’re evaluating whether we can provide the depth and quality of service there that we can provide here,” he explains. “We’re not interested in growth for growth’s sake.”

Montgomery says either hires or a merger are options and that Ropes & Gray would look for firms with “core competencies that match our own, quality of legal services consistent with our own and the potential to generate profitability consistent with ours”.

The firm would also consider opening in Asia, he says, although he is reluctant to specify where exactly that might be, adding that the firm undertakes extensive IP work in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

The firm is managed by a nine-member policy committee comprising Montgomery, Malt and seven other partners. Members sit on the committee for a set term of 12 years and new members are elected by the sitting ones following consultation with the partnership as a whole.

Montgomery was elected as managing partner two and a half years ago and has been a litigation partner at the firm since 1985. Malt was made chair of the firm at the same time as Montgomery’s election and has been a corporate partner there since 1987.

The firm’s strategy is essentially to expand on its existing areas of strength, Montgomery says. Although there is no plan for new practice areas, he does not rule anything out, adding that he does “not preclude the conclusion that, in future, to adequately serve our clients, we may move into new practice areas”.

Managing partner: John Montgomery

Turnover (2004): $405m (£223m)

Total number of fee-earners: 775

Total number of partners: 247 (all equity)

Main practice areas: Investment management, life sciences, private equity, government enforcement (civil and criminal investigations)

Key clients: American Express, AstraZeneca, Bain Capital, Ford, Genzyme, Harvard University, Putnam Investments, Sanyo

Number of offices: Four

Locations: Boston, New York, Palo Alto (California), San Francisco