Longtime Ropes & Gray finance partner Thomas Draper has joined Foley Hoag in Boston as co-chair of its debt finance practice.

Draper’s decision to join Foley Hoag last week came on the heels of his 65th birthday, which is also the mandatory retirement age at Ropes & Gray.

“The firm cooperated with me for a long time [and] they were actually very supportive in assisting me,” Draper said. “It’s a happy departure.”

Draper joined Ropes & Gray, one of Boston’s oldest and largest firms, in 1980 following a clerkship with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He made partner at the firm nine years later and served as head of Ropes & Gray’s finance group for close to 15 years.

During his time as head of the firm’s finance practice, Draper worked to expand the group from a 10-lawyer team based in Boston to nearly 100 lawyers across Ropes & Gray’s offices in Boston, Hong Kong, London and New York.

Thomas Draper

As the date of his retirement approached, Draper said he spent several months looking at opportunities at other firms and in-house positions, but he eventually felt that Foley Hoag would be his best landing place, since it is similar in many ways to his life at Ropes & Gray.

The 240-lawyer firm was founded in 1943 in Boston by former Ropes & Gray lawyers Garrett Hoag and Henry Foley. (Two years later, with the addition of former U.S. Rep. Thomas Eliot, it became Foley, Hoag & Eliot, until 2000, when the firm adopted its current name.)

They kept a lot of the same culture,” Draper said of his new firm.

Over the years, Draper has advised a variety of companies and private equity sponsors on an array of acquisition finance deals, including asset-based credits and large syndicated term loans. He has also worked with borrowers on a variety of debt transactions, from bank credit facilities to high yield bonds.

As the new co-chair of the debt finance group at Foley Hoag, Draper said he’s looking to expand that practice to complement the M&A work the firm has been increasingly involved in for its private equity and investment fund clients.

“They’ve had such growth [in the area] and need to develop debt finance to catch up,” Draper said. “We would like to get the debt practice moved up so Foley Hoag can have a complete offering [to clients].”

Draper is the second longtime Ropes & Gray partner to find a new home at another Am Law 200 firm this year. In January, after roughly 40 years at Ropes & Gray, commercial litigator Harvey Wolkoff retired from the firm’s partnership to start a Boston office for Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. Wolkoff and former Ropes & Gray associate Brian Shaughnessy, now of counsel at Quinn Emanuel, have helped that new outpost get off the ground.

“At Ropes & Gray, partners hitting mandatory retirement have been increasingly looking for full-time work,” Draper said.

Boston, in particular, has been a busy battleground for lateral hiring in Big Law this year, as noted in a recent feature story by The American Lawyer. In recent weeks, firms such as Choate Hall & Stewart, Proskauer Rose and Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr have made key hires in the city.