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Ropes & Gray: Partnering for Excellence at Future Lawyer USA

We are honored to have Ropes & Gray as our Event Partner for this year's Future Lawyer USA.

Renowned globally, Ropes & Gray is entrusted by many of the world's leading companies, investment funds, and institutions with their most complex legal and business challenges. The firm boasts approximately 1,500 lawyers and legal professionals who serve clients in major centers of business, finance, technology, and government. With offices in prominent technology hubs such as Boston, New York, London, and Tokyo, Ropes & Gray stands as a formidable force in the legal industry.

In 2022, Ropes & Gray was distinguished as The American Lawyer's "Law Firm of the Year" and achieved the unprecedented honor of being ranked No. 1 on The American Lawyer's A-List and International's UK A-List in the same year.

We had the privilege of speaking with our In-House Conference Chair, Edward G. Black, Senior Counsel and Technology Strategy Leader at Ropes & Gray, to gain insights into current industry trends. His interview covers topics such as supporting aspiring lawyers, fostering an innovative culture, managing client expectations, and the firm's strategies for maintaining a competitive edge.


As event partners for Future Lawyer USA, what expertise or insights does Ropes & Gray bring to support aspiring legal professionals in navigating the evolving legal landscape?

Of course, the starting point for our support of young legal professionals is our widely recognized internal training program for young attorneys, which is one of the best in the country.  But legal does raise additional questions, and, in addition to our traditional training program the firm has developed a number of specific support programs for legal tech.  These include (1) tech training programs run by our in-house tech team (for both younger and older attorneys—we are all on a learning curve with new tech), (2) the technology strategy program the firm has adopted this year, aggressively reaching out to attorneys to make sure their views and voice plays a leading role in how the firm adopts tech and shapes its forward tech strategy, and (3) strong support of attorney initiative in the area of tech, including budgets that support tech adoption and attorney participation in tech oriented conferences and events.


How does Ropes & Gray foster collaboration and innovation within its global team to deliver exceptional service and results to clients across various industries and jurisdictions?

In a global law firm collaboration across industries and jurisdictions around the world is something that cannot be informally assumed or taken for granted.  Informal hallway conversations can work to coordinate a small group, but in a large global organization affirmative goals and programs are needed.  Our principles and programs directed at firmwide integration operate in many ways, but let me provide three examples.  First, Ropes has a ‘one firm’ culture.  Clients are clients of the firm as a whole, no person or group ‘owns’ a jurisdiction or client, and professional advancement and compensation (at all levels of seniority) is focused on the performance of the firm as a team, and not the client credit or jurisdictional credit ‘owned’ by certain attorneys or groups.  Second, to the extent practical, matters are staffed across offices and jurisdictions on a national and sometimes international basis, and practice groups targeting various legal services and industries are organized globally with attorneys interested in, say, securities litigation, or public company mergers, and other service groups, organized and meeting in one group globally.  Third, the firm provides budget and resource support for a reasonable amount of travel to allow attorneys to make direct in person connections across offices and groups.  This includes reasonable support for associates to visit and work in offices other than their ‘home’ office and retreats and gatherings for senior attorneys.


How does Ropes & Gray integrate legal technology and innovation into its practice to enhance efficiency and client service?

Our new technology strategy process is laser focused on this issue.  Building shiny new tech just for the sake of keeping up with the market or for just for the sake of having shiny new tech can produce some benefit (and can be fun for the tech afficionados) but the true promise of legal tech is only delivered if a substantial investment is made in working with attorneys across the firm (including those non-afficionados who don’t immediately come forward) to identify the specific use cases that integrate tech with work of the practicing attorneys.  To have the hundreds of conversations necessary to identify—in the granular context of those practical legal services—opportunities to use tech to improve legal services.  While committing substantial resources to making sure we remain current on what the market has to offer, the firm has engaged in a tech strategy process that embraces practicing attorneys from every practice group within the firm to identify, at the granular level of specific legal services, use cases where legal tech is and will continue to improve efficiency and client service.  The deployment of tech to meet these use cases is also supported with product testing and deployment management to ensure the sought benefit is being delivered.  Candidly, we are finding through this process that the potential efficiencies and benefits of legal tech are greater than initially anticipated, and there are more opportunities to use tech than we originally anticipated.  This will stretch our tech resources, but having more opportunities to improve things than expected is, in the end, a good problem to have.


From your perspective, what are some emerging trends in legal technology that are reshaping the industry, and how is Ropes & Gray adapting to stay at the forefront?

The new GenAI tools do have some capabilities that prior tech did not have, but the real legal tech revolution is not a tech revolution, but a cultural revolution.  The way GenAI has captured the attention of clients and firms has focused the legal service world on tech generally, and we are all waking up to find that there are lots of ways tech can be used to improve legal services including improvements made with tech that has been around for a while and that maybe—if we are candid—we should admit we might have made sooner.  These include improvements to the process of document drafting and management, improvements to client/firm collaboration and project management, tools for summarizing and analyzing large document sets and other large data sets, among other improvements.


How do Ropes & Gray's clients perceive the role of technology in the legal services they receive, and what are their expectations regarding its integration into their matters?

Clients expect Ropes & Gray to take the same approach to legal tech that we have historically taken to the delivery of legal services generally.  The firm is a premium provider of top tier services, often in connection with large complex projects.  Mastery and deployment of the right legal tech is now one skill clients expect us to have in connection with this service.  We have made the resource commitments to accept this responsibility and to be in a position to ensure our clients continue to receive top tier service that reflects the improvements to that service that can be made with legal tech.  Indeed, we believe our approach to legal tech leads the market in its focus on delivering tech-based improvements in a fashion that is integrated with and serves practical client goals in real world projects, and is not tech just for the sake of shiny new tech.


Secure your Final Release Ticket today to hear more from Joy and our other amazing speakers at Future Lawyer USA!

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