Goodwin - The Inside View

Associates win good at this Boston-founded firm which has entry-level openings on the East and West Coasts.

IN 1912, the year the Titanic sank (Goodwin represented one victim's family), two old law school classmates called Mr. Goodwin and Mr. Procter bumped into each other in the street and decided to go into business together. They split startup costs equally, with each man contributing the princely sum of $500. Their investment paid off handsomely, and in 2015 Goodwin Procter's revenue was up to $865.5 million. It now has ten offices worldwide (six of which are in the US) and picks up a slew of Chambers USA rankings for its work nationwide (including corporate/M&A, REITs, venture capital, life sciences, and financial services), and statewide expertise in Massachusetts, California, New York and DC.

Goodwin's as much a fixture of the Boston legal scene as TV's Boston Legal, but in the Nineties it spread along the East Coast to New York and DC, and in the Noughties opened three offices in California. There are also branches in London, Hong Kong and, most recently, Germany's financial capital, Frankfurt.

The Work

Incoming juniors join one of two big “buckets,” litigation or business law, and spend their first two years as general resources before specializing. The firm pushes partners to go through the central coordinator, which associates appreciated. “It's easier to tell the coordinator what you do and don't like than a partner,” admitted one. At the start, assignments trickle down from on high via the work coordinator (more officially called the attorney development manager). As legal eagles become more senior, the flow of work becomes more organic. “I'll knock on partners' doors and they'll knock on mine,” a source in the Los Angeles office explained.

"They give you ownership of your career right off the bat."

“While I've heard stories where first-years are sent to a room full of documents and left there for days,” said one associate; “that doesn't happen here.” Associates told us that “they give you ownership of your career right off the bat.” Depending on the size of the deal, associates in the corporate bucket can be responsible for anything from “swapping out the names and updating dates on the ancillary documents” to “drafting most, if not all of the transactional documents” with minimal partner involvement. As deal-doers get more senior, their tasks don't so much change as fill out. “There's a lot of due diligence at the start, and that means a lot of documents,” explained a third-year. “When you get more senior, you're supervising the juniors going through them.”

The corporate cup runneth over, offering everything from “large private equity deals to tech startups to a ton of real estate deals.” Over in litigation things are just as varied, with securities litigation, government investigations, product liability and general contractual disputes to get stuck into. “I've done the standard doc review, of course,” lamented one associate, “but there's also been a significant amount of drafting.” Showing initiative is a great way to get early responsibility, litigators told us. “I didn't want to just write the memos,” said one litigator, “and because I demonstrated ability I've already had the opportunity to draft motions for summary judgment and appellate briefs.”

Towards the end of their second year, associates pick a specific 'business unit’ to officially specialize in. We say 'officially' because associates remain free to seek work from outside their chosen business unit. “You're not forced to drop the cases you're already working on,” an associate told us. Specialization is mostly an administrative matter, although it means that “if you want to drill down into a practice area, you definitely can.”


“Oh my God, I can't wait, it's going to be a million times better,” enthused an associate when asked about the Boston office's imminent move to an 'innovation hub' in the Seaport district. Our source acknowledges that there is “some anxiety about the commute” among the firm's lawyers, but is confident that “we'll work the kinks out.” Boston is Goodwin's traditional hometown and largest office. “Goodwin is largely run from here,” a Bostonian believed, “although the leadership is based in New York.” Goodwin's Big Apple branch is situated in the New York Times Building, where lawyers share a cafeteria with the broadsheet's staff. With around 100 attorneys, Washington, DC is on the small side, so its attorneys regularly collaborate with Boston and New York. The office is centrally located, with easy access to important pieces of infrastructure like “metro stations and the basketball arena.”

“We tend to represent the up-and-coming companies.”

The Silicon Valley office is located in the 'burbs rather than in downtown Palo Alto, which makes the morning commute a bit less fraught. It mainly does corporate and IP work, and most of its clients are in the tech sector. “We tend to represent the up-and-coming companies,” explained an associate in this office, “and leave the Facebooks and Googles to other firms.”  This gives rookie lawyers unprecedented client exposure. “As a junior, I get to work with a client's CEO or number-two guy,” our spy told us, “and I don't think I'd get that level of contact with a bigger company.” Just off Wilshire Boulevard, the Los Angeles office occupies a single floor opposite “a brand-new hotel that will be the tallest building west of the Mississippi.”

Hours & Compensation

Our sources agreed that it's possible to have a private life away from the firm – so long as you plan ahead. “It's easy to get sucked into cases,” one explained, “so you really have to be proactive about protecting your time.” The firm offers 20 days' vacation each year, and, provided you show a little hustle, our sources tell us it's possible to take it all. Once lawyers have managed to secure some downtime, the firm generally refrains from pestering them: “Everyone values vacation time and everyone is willing to cover for you, so long as you return the favor.”

“I don't usually work on weekends."

The firm has a billable hours target of 1,950 hours. “We're really busy,” a source told us, “so it's definitely doable,” but hitting it will involve putting in the legwork. “I don't usually work on weekends,” one lawyer told us, “but at the same time I work 11 or 12 hours a day.” The hours target really is just a target, however: “You can get a very strong review and still get your bonus, even if you haven't quite hit your hours.” Salary follows the market, and “Goodwin waits for the Cravath scale to come out,” and adjusts its bonus accordingly. The firm recently upped its starting salary to $180,000 in line with the Cravath jump, which now fixes Goodwin among a more elite group. 


Long hours are inevitable in BigLaw, so it's best if you don't spend that time “sitting next to people who are going to yell at you.” Fortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case at GP. “Lawyers are lawyers, and they're always going to be competitive,” admitted a source, but at Goodwin “you really can't be a jerk.” HR actively looks for “people with personality who are fun to be around,” and “people understand that you have a life outside of work.” Overall, our impression was of a “more laid back and cooperative” firm than most. Each office had its little quirks: according to someone in LA, that office “has a very teaching-centered culture,” while those in DC thought that that branch was “more geared toward work/life balance” than the others.

"You really can't be a jerk."

“They try to be more sociable than the big-firm norm,” said one source, “but the billable hours model of business gets in the way.”  As a result, “you sometimes have to choose between spending your free time with co-workers and spending it with your family.” Others were more optimistic, with one lawyer describing the firm's social life as “a happy medium,” with regular lunches and happy hours serving to “make sure people aren't just shut inside their offices working all the time.”


Last year we said that, despite its best efforts, Goodwin still had a lot of work to do on the diversity front. Well, it seems like someone at the firm has taken notice, because our sources all told us that it's high on new chairman David Hashmall’s list. Goodwin already has a long-running 1L diversity fellowship which provides a stipend for diverse law students to do public interest work over their 1L summer. Lately the firm has partnered with the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity on its 'pathfinder program,' and it also works with headhunters to bring in diverse candidates.

"Not just a bunch of white guys.”

Sources on the West Coast were particularly impressed with their offices' diversity efforts. At a firmwide level “diversity is something that comes up all the time,” and there are both firmwide and office-specific diversity committees. Our interviewees thought that Goodwin did an OK job of attracting ethnically diverse talent, but that that there was a lot of work to do on the socio-economic diversity front. “It's definitely not just a bunch of white guys,” said a Bostonian, “but I don't see many people from the less fortunate parts of Boston.” Sources also highlighted that Goodwin was one of the first firms to elect a female chair, but acknowledged that “we still need to improve” the number of women at the top. At the junior level the firm's intake is split roughly evenly between men and women.

Pro Bono

"Working hard to build up its business pro bono offering."

“I had a prior commitment to pro bono work,” one source told us, “and at Goodwin I got to fulfill that commitment alongside my billable work.” Goodwin offers the usual panoply of pro bono projects, including immigration and asylum cases, landlord and tenant work, First Amendment matters and advising nonprofits on their corporate governance. “A year or two ago, they changed the rules,” a Goodwinian explained, “and now every pro bono hour counts as billable.” This means that attorneys generally don't have to choose between paid and unpaid work, although one source acknowledged that “you might raise a few eyebrows if you're only doing pro bono work!” There's a perception among lawyers that pro bono is a litigator's game. “They have a skill set that we don't,” acknowledged a deal-doer, “but the firm has been working hard to build up its business pro bono offering.”

Pro bono hours 

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 65, 120
  • Average per US attorney: 68

Hiring & Training 

OCIs are a fairly traditional one-on-one affair, and Goodwin tries to make sure that “litigators interview people who are interested in litigation and so on.” Callbacks involve meeting four to five interviewers, who are a mix of partners and associates. The latter “were much more casual,” recalled a survivor of the process; “they said things like 'tell me about yourself.’” From what our interviewees told us, the partners and senior associates didn't sound too much more awkward: “They certainly didn't make us do some crazy business school-type logic puzzle.” Instead, applicants fielded questions about resumes, prior experiences and law school.

"Convey a genuine interest in your chosen practice area."

While the old favorite 'why this firm?' made an appearance, our sources didn't recall being asked 'why here?' at any of the firm's different branches. “It's more important to convey a genuine interest in your chosen practice area” than demonstrate prior links to a particular locale, according to someone in San Francisco. This is especially important in the smaller offices which are, by their nature, specialized. Los Angeles has a heavy real estate emphasis, for example, so “candidates should show evidence of a desire to do real estate work.” Across all offices, lawyers who had been involved in recruiting all agreed that they were looking for “bright people who will work hard and people we'd want to be in a foxhole with.”

There's a week-long orientation at the firm's Boston HQ, and newbies take additional training sessions twice a week. After that, well, they're launched right into it, which our sources thought was “the best way to learn.” New associates are reviewed midway through their first year, and once a year thereafter. Goodwin is a broad church, and hiring partner Ken Gordon tells us: "If you asked ten people what makes a good Goodwin Procter lawyer, you'd get ten different answers," he admits. So long as you're willing to "literally and figuratively roll up your sleeves and get stuck in," and "can translate your intellect into practical advice for clients," you should be welcome here.

Strategy & Future

While the firm holds regular town hall meetings and “tries to keep us abreast of the big picture,” some thought Goodwin could do a better job at communicating with its employees. For example, in 2015 there were a number of layoffs in the litigation department as the firm repositioned itself toward transactional practices. “That was very jarring,” recalled someone at Goodwin HQ, “and it might have been easier to manage if they'd given us some understanding of how things were going.” According to head of business law Mark Bettencourt, the firm's long-term goal is to be "the preeminent global firm" in six key practice areas: "Technology & life sciences, private equity, real estate capital markets, financial institutions, securities & white-collar criminal litigation, and IP litigation." 

More about Boston's Seaport Innovation District 

Boston's always been a center for new ideas. In 1773, some locals hit upon the notion that they shouldn't have to pay taxes that they themselves hadn't been consulted on. This led, a few years later, to the radical proposition that Britain's thirteen colonies should, in fact, become an independent country. Fast forward a couple of centuries, and Beantown's cluster of top-notch universities like Harvard, and MIT mean the city's bright young things are churning out new ideas at a crazy rate.

In 2010, the city's mayor hoped to capitalize on this by launching the Seaport Innovation District. It's spread over 1,000 acres on the South Boston Waterfront, and is in a strategically advantageous location with the historic harbor, Boston airport and two major highways nearby. According to its website, since opening the innovation district has added over 5,000 new jobs and over 200 new companies. In addition, long established members of Boston's business community including PwC and, from June 2016, law firm Goodwin Procter, will have set up shop in the district.

Like many law firms, Goodwin Procter's management is becoming increasingly decentralized between its nine offices, but Boston remains the largest office, and home to “a lot of the leadership.” Sources at the firm were excited about the move. “It's one of my favorite places in Boston,” said one attorney. The Seaport district isn't without its critics. While it's seen as 'the place' for Tech networking in Boston, it's relatively difficult to get to from downtown, something that rivals are keen to capitalize on. The Cambridge Innovation Center, which claims to host “more startups than anywhere on the planet,” recently set up shop in downtown Boston.

There are also those who think the district has become a victim of its own success, with rising rents pricing out the very startups that it was supposed to attract. There is some truth to this. Goodwin Procter's new Fan Pier office is next to the Twenty Two Liberty development, a 14-floor luxury condo where a new apartment will set you back $2 to $2.5 million. That said, the Seaport still has plenty to draw in startups, including co-working space District Hall, and the Boston branch of startup accelerator MassChallenge. Whichever winds up being Boston's hub, it looks like the disruptive spirit of 1773 is still alive in the Boston waterfront.


  • Head Office: Boston, MA 
  • Number of domestic offices: 6
  • Number of international offices: 4
  • Worldwide revenue: $865,500,000
  • Partners (US): 318
  • Counsel (US): 84
  • Associates (US): 441
  • Summer Salary 2016 
  • 1Ls: N/A
  • 2Ls: $3,500/week
  • Post 3Ls: N/A
  • 1Ls hired? No
  • Split summers offered? No
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? Case-by-case
  • Summers 2016: 57
  • Offers/acceptances 2015: 65 offers, 60 acceptances

Main areas of work
Corporate-based practices: financial institutions, intellectual property transactions and strategies, private equity, REITs and real estate capital markets, tax and technology and life sciences. Litigation-based practices: business litigation, consumer financial services, intellectual property, products liability and mass torts, securities litigation and white-collar defense.

Firm profile
Goodwin is one of the nation’s leading law firms, with offices in Boston, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Los Angeles, London, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Washington, DC. Excelling at complex and sophisticated transactional work and precedent- setting, bet-the company litigation, the firm combines in-depth legal knowledge with practical business experience to help clients maximize opportunities, manage risk and move their business forward. The firm hires talented, motivated people committed to excellence, innovation, collaboration and client service and believes that every attorney and staff member deserves a supportive, meritocratic environment in which people of all backgrounds are given the opportunity to excel and thrive. Through an extensive and longstanding pro bono program, legal staff are encouraged to assist those unable to afford legal representation.

Recruitment details
• Number of 1st year associates: 59
• Number of 2nd year associates: 80
• Associate Salaries: 1st Year: $180,000
• 2nd Year: $190,000
• Clerking policy: Yes

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2016:
Berkeley, Boston College, Boston University, Brooklyn, Catholic University of America, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Loyola Law School (Los Angeles), Northeastern, Northwestern, NYU, Santa Clara, Stanford, Suffolk, UC Davis, UC Hastings, UCLA, UNC, University of Chicago, University of Connecticut, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas, USC, UVA, William & Mary, Yale

Summer details
Summer associate profile:
Goodwin hires summer associates with exceptional academic records, demonstrated leadership abilities and excellent written, verbal and interpersonal skills.

Summer program components:
Goodwin’s summer program provides summer associates with a realistic work experience mirroring that of a junior associate. We work closely with summer associates to understand their interests and provide opportunities to work on a broad range of assignments. Summer associates are encouraged to observe client meetings, court hearings, depositions, negotiations and attend practice area meetings. We provide leading litigation and business law training programs throughout the summer. Through our advisor program, each summer associate is paired with partners and associates to help integrate them into the firm.