“You get a ton of responsibility early on if you demonstrate you can handle it” – the Goodwinner takes it all.
LAW firm re-branding is becoming a bit of a trend right now. Mighty Baker & McKenzie dropped its ampersand; Nutter is another recently 'refreshed' firm in this guide that springs to mind. In 2016, Goodwin Procter LLP became known simply as Goodwin, as you can see for yourself on the firm's snazzy new website. Around the same time, Goodwin's huge Boston office relocated to brand new premises; comparing old to new, associates raved: “It's literally night and day. The new space is really impressive.” Hiring partner Ken Gordon reveals "it's designed to be more open and collaborative. Everyone sees the design as state of the art so people are happier to be in the office."
“Goodwin has a really low tolerance for assholes.”
Goodwin may be going through changes but it remains one of Boston's most prominent law firms. Chambers USA ranks it top in Massachusetts for an array of litigious and transactional practice areas. Happily, success hasn't gone to attorneys' heads: “Goodwin has a really low tolerance for assholes,” one junior observed. “People are willing to go out of their way to work you through the finer points of being a lawyer.” All six of the firm's US offices accommodate newcomers each year, with the majority heading to Boston or the Big Apple.
Incoming juniors join one of two “buckets,” litigation or business law, and spend their first two years as general resources before specializing. Goodwin “encourages getting experience across a broad range of areas” while you're housed in the bucket. Work is coordinated by staffing managers but associates “can 100% pick and choose what we want to do.” One provided an example: “I wanted to write a motion to dismiss, sent an email and a week or two later got a case where I could do that.” On the flip side, “there's a broad latitude to say no to stuff” if the workload has piled too high.
Business law juniors can sample a range of areas including M&A, real estate, tax and life sciences. Drawing from one or many, “the beauty of it was every day is different. Some days you get an email from a client and everything changes!” Typical tasks include “standard diligence stuff; more menial tasks come with the territory. By your second year you're pretty involved in the mechanics of a deal and not just burying your head in documents.” Most felt the process was more of a manageable learning curve than a rollercoaster: “Goodwin does a good job of striking the balance between providing education and responsibility. As soon as I know how to do something I've started doing something else, so you're always a little bit outside of your comfort zone,” and associates “wouldn't prefer it any other way.” Responsibility was dropped in juniors' laps from the get-go, leading to some unusual situations. “Before I was sworn in with the bar, on my third day here I got a call directly from a client. When I'd given my advice they said 'okay, you're the lawyer' – inside I was like 'well technically I'm not!'”
“You're always a little bit outside of your comfort zone.”
“A good chunk of the work” in litigation deals with consumer finance, but there's also antitrust, white collar, securities and other areas on offer. “As a first-year there's a lot of document review, as is normal for all firms,” but higher up the ladder comes “a lot more research and drafting motions, subpoena responses and requests for production. There's a good mix of stuff that's comfortable and scary to start with.” Client contact comes quickly more often than not, and work was broad enough that juniors “couldn't name something I'm dying to do that I haven't,” and sufficiently plentiful. “If I wanted to bill a million hours a week I could,” according to one. “If not it's pretty easy to push back and say my plate is full.” A restless colleague agreed: “I'm the kind of person who hates being bored, so I like that we're busy.”
Toward the end of their second year, associates typically pick a 'business unit’ to officially specialize in – we say officially because associates remain free to seek work from outside their chosen unit. Associates felt the bucket system worked well for “seeing different work styles. You can shape your career along the path you want,” and several took up the option to delay specializing. Others identified their niche and narrowed their scope more quickly, while laterals found it easy to build on what they'd done previously.
Training & Development
A week-long orientation at the firm's Boston office includes “talks from business folks to boost your financial literacy,” and newbies take additional “quote unquote mandatory” training sessions twice a week (“attendance peters out around four or five months in...”) The staggered approach was popular among associates, who theorized that “if you did all your training up front, it would be like reading all the rules of Monopoly in one go before playing – you need to learn by doing.”
“It would be like reading all the rules of Monopoly in one go.”
Formal feedback comes through an initial six month review then yearly evaluations, in which “the firm collects reviews from all senior attorneys who work with you, and distill a general narrative,” a system that “works well. Informal feedback is encouraged, but some of the onus is on juniors to get it.” Those who did “always had a sense of how I'm performing” and saw no surprises come review time.
Culture and Diversity
“In law school you don't meet many normal people. Goodwin's filled its halls with people who are funny and pleasant to work with.” Whether they agreed with this one colleague's view of law students or not, associates concurred: “We're not viewed as tools for work. There's a much better work/life balance than other firms.” Californians trumpeted their offices as the most “laid back. People elsewhere are pretty envious of the West Coast culture.” They also asserted: “We don't feel like satellite offices. We're continuing to grow, who knows where the expansion will end!” Even away from the Cali coastline, juniors described partners as “pretty relaxed – I'm not going to barge into their office whenever I want but doors are usually open.” While there was “a certain level of deference,” that didn't prevent “constant interaction with higher-ups. There's no palpable divide.”
“There's a much better work/life balance.”
When not talking business, partners and associates were hanging out at the bar. “There are senior attorneys I feel I can work with 60 hours a week then go for a beer with them on Friday night,” said one, while another described “themed Thursday get-togethers – we've done pie for Thanksgiving, a soup and salad event in winter, and a beer and pizza night.” Not all social events were alcohol-fueled: sportier juniors took to the basketball court for “games every Tuesday. We'll play for two hours and invite clients to join us.”
Associates appreciated that “events aren't just old white dudes telling us how great law is.” The firm's affinity groups include a women's initiative, an LGBT group, and the Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity (CRED). Attempts to emphasize diversity through hiring are “starting to show in the partnership.” Clear openness to increase LGBT diversity also impressed interviewees. One credited this to Massachusetts' history as the first state to legalize gay marriage: “Diversity has been a focus here longer than at other firms because they're based here, and having that reputation has drawn diverse people to the firm.” Though “every firm could do better,” Goodwin juniors “can't knock them for trying.” 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.
The glass walls and modern design of the firm's new Boston digs have encouraged “more ad hoc interaction than the old office,” but associates noted a trade-off. “It's definitely not as good a location as previously, but it's less bad than everyone expected.” Bostonians agreed: “It is a much better office overall.” San Fran lawyers also moved to a new space recently. Big Apple-based juniors reported theirs is in “a fine building. We're expanding and picking up more space.” The team is situated in the New York Times Building, where lawyers share a cafeteria with the paper's staff.
“More ad hoc interaction than the old office.”
Washington, DC is on the small side, so its attorneys regularly collaborate with Boston and New York. They described the building as “nice enough, though I've seen nicer,” but the downtown location was popular. LA lawyers likewise appreciated their “very central location: we're directly across the street from the tallest building in California,” unlike those in the “restaurant wasteland” of Silicon Valley. Associates tended to see more inter-office communication with their coastal neighbors than the US as a whole.
There's no cap on pro bono counting toward hours targets, so the firm “incentivizes you to do it and get more of a leadership role. It makes life so much easier that pro bono is weighted the same as billables.” 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 – “the firm is flexible about what people take on.” Every year it dedicates some training to how to get involved in pro bono, and “they bring in a panel to explain how it enriches your practice.”
“Nobody bats an eyelid about billing a lot.”
Congratulatory paperweights landed on the desks of those who went above and beyond; these top-billers found “pro bono clients are treated no differently to paying clients. You shouldn't bill 500 hours every year, but nobody bats an eyelid about billing a lot.” The ensuing conclusion was that “there is a real transparent commitment on the part of the firm. It's not something they encourage then push you back on.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 59,877
- Average per US attorney: 67
Hours & Compensation
The firm has a billable hours target of 1,950 hours, and “unlike at other firms, where you can get a pro-rated bonus if you don't hit hours, here you either hit it and get the bonus or don't and you don't,” although contrastingly “if you bill more you usually get above market.” Juniors we spoke to were all confident that Goodwin will consistently match the New York market for compensation, and looked back on the Cravath-led salary jumps with the view that “as long as we got bumped up it didn't matter how long Goodwin took.” Starting salaries increased to $180,000 for associates in all the firm's US offices.
“Everybody's done all-nighters, but that's definitely rare.”
Most agreed that “in first year you may have trouble getting up to speed, but we've been really busy as a firm so it's hard not to hit 1,950.” Busy interviewees described an average ten hour working day with some catching up on the weekend, and while “everybody's done all-nighters, that's definitely rare.” Particularly in the business law bucket, “the workload is cyclical so if you're slammed one month you're not busy the next.” Associates get four weeks of vacation a year, and as partners “know you're grinding throughout the year” they mostly let their charges enjoy the time off. One interviewee who'd had a filing to do while vacationing “talked to other associates, and they were astonished I had to do anything.”
Strategy & Future
Layoffs a couple of years back left some juniors feeling wary. “It was a weird year, and it made me feel uncomfortable at the time.” However, interviewees believed “since then the firm has tried to be more open and honest, so we aren't freaking out.” Most agreed “formally or informally you get the sense of direction in which the firm is going,” though some felt “more transparency would always be a good thing. But things seem to be running smoothly, and people tend to be happy.” They felt “it's hard to tell the chances of making partner, but there are multiple upward career trajectories." New York business law leader Jennifer Bralower confirms: "This is a great place for people who want to actively manage their career. We give our lawyers a lot of flexibility."
“There are multiple upward career trajectories.”
Interview with hiring partner Ken Gordon
Chambers Associate: How has the Boston office move gone? What are the advantages of the new location?
Ken Gordon: It'll be a big advantage when we're recruiting in Boston. We also just finished moves in Paris and Germany, and we're also moving in Silicon Valley to a much better space next year. Our London office is state-of-the-art, but Boston is probably the crown jewel and will be for a while! We moved at the end of June last year, so 2016 was our first recruiting season with the new office in play. The space is truly incredible, we've had a lot of publicity over the past year and I think students will consider it pretty hip.
The physical space is designed to be open and collaborative; we've created more space to promote interaction between lawyers. We have an amazing cafeteria so we can eat meals on site, and we've set things up so that unlike previously where everything was a bit clustered, now each floor has a different practice area. Improving that has provided a boost to collaboration. The offices themselves are still a good size, but we've shifted things so there's more public space, and we've heard no complaints resulting from that. Everyone sees the design as state of the art, and because of that people are happier to be in the office regardless of work demands.
CA: What does the firm do to encourage diversity in recruiting?
KG: That's a great question, and we've spent a lot of time thinking about the subject. We've done a lot over the past year, hosting nearly 40 events covering every angle of diversity you could think of. We also have pretty innovative fellowship opportunities – historically we've offered six students a 1L fellowship, offering them $7,500 for public interest work. The idea is to give back to the community and fill our recruiting pipeline with diverse candidates. This year we expanded the program to offer eight students $10,000, and two of those eight will be eligible for an additional $10,000 for law school expenses if they agree to work for us. Those changes have resulted in more than double the number of candidates applying, and it's hard to measure quality but I think it's far exceeded what we've seen in the past so we feel good about the program's redesign.
Another brand new initiative we've introduced for 2Ls is a fellowship for four diverse candidates who will get $15,000 dollars to join our firm. We're strongly encouraging applications to that and talking to law schools about it, and I expect a very positive yield. Finally, for the second year running we're running an Asia-track program designed to attract native Mandarin speakers. They'll be trained in a US office for two to three years before moving to Hong Kong, it's a logical way to grow there. We've seen that happening organically, with one senior associate advancing to partnership and moving out there, and wanted to formalize the process.
CA: Last year you talked about how it's important for candidates to drive interviews – how should they prepare for the process?
KG: Students need to familiarize themselves with different firms and get to know them through as many events and opportunities as possible, but not at the expense of their academic achievement. A lot of students benefit from mock interview programs, and we participate in those at various schools. We stay in character through the interview then tell them how to improve. Making use of your school's alumni networks is another way to learn about the recruitment process.
CA: What makes Goodwin's summer program distinctive from other firms?
KG: Based on conversations with students, two things make us distinctive relative to other firms. Firstly, some require future summers to say up front whether they want to do corporate or litigation – we recognize it's okay to be unsure, and it's hard to know what you want to do before getting the full summer experience. My favorite story to tell is about one summer associate who was certain they wanted to do technology M&A, then by the end of the summer had chosen to work in labor and employment litigation. A big point for us is letting students know they can explore options here.
The other big thing is we really don't give summers make-work, we replicate the experience of a junior associate. I used to joke when I was an associate that summer was my favorite time as summer associates would take work off my plate, and that's still very true at Goodwin. Juniors are excited not only to get new peers, but see some of their workload reduced over the busy summer period. The worst thing that can happen is summer not being representative, as new associates need to know what they're getting themselves into. Yes, there is a social side but that's not everything.
CA: What sort of person thrives at Goodwin?
KG: It's a given that they'll have the necessary intellectual horsepower, we can tell that before they come for a callback interview. There's a lot of scope to explore different opportunities here, so young associates with strong interests can pick and choose what they want to do. People who are self-starters and are prepared to speak up for themselves will do well here. There's great mentoring in place, but you need to be somebody who wants to forge their own path. It's also really important that newcomers are prepared to roll up their sleeves and do the less-than-glorious work to get something done – I still do that less-than-glorious work as a partner. We look for people who are prepared to work very hard and do whatever it takes to help a client achieve their goals. Similar to many firms, we define that as people with grit – intellectual capacity is critical, but so is the ability to run through walls and do what's needed while maintaining a positive attitude.
CA: Is there anything we haven't covered that our readers should know about the recruitment process?
KG: We don't have grade cut-offs, or grids to determine who we recruit, and we decide through a tight process who fill fit in here. Goodwin is a bit different to other firms in that we're not automatons in how we approach things. As I've said before, if you asked ten different people what makes a good Goodwin lawyer, you'd get ten different answers, and there's no one standard by which candidates for the firm are measured. We'll recruit smart people who fit the Goodwin culture wherever they come from.
Interview with New York business law leader Jennifer Bralower
Chambers Associate: What prompted the re-branding from Goodwin Procter to Goodwin?
Jennifer Bralower: It provided an internal opportunity to reflect on what our values are and where we're going over the next decade and beyond. The re-brand allowed us to come together around values we share and consider when recruiting laterally and considering how to differentiate Goodwin from other firms. Coming out of the process, there was a renewed focus on our business unit structure, prioritizing the practice areas we're focused on, and capturing additional market share in those areas.
CA: Beyond that, what has been the most exciting thing that the firm has done over the past year?
JB: Our expansion in Europe. Many of us anticipated synergy with existing clients and new opportunities, but nobody predicted how successful that would be and how lucky we'd be with the groups of European attorneys who have joined our platform. The new attorneys we've attracted in Paris, London and Frankfurt are all people that individual partners have known for a long time, and it's been a relatively smooth process to ingrain them into client relationships because many of those were already shared.
CA: What are the biggest priorities for Goodwin going forward?
JB: One priority continues to be making sure that the integration of new partners and associates in Europe is successful. We're going to continue to maintain a collaborative firm culture, while giving the appropriate respect to different markets. On the home front, the priority is to continue capturing additional market share in the areas we focus on – technology companies, private equity, life sciences, real estate, IP, commercial litigation and white collar.
CA: How will Donald Trump's election affect the market? Are there any particular practice areas that you think we'll see a lot of activity in?
JB: Many of our clients have been heavily investing in the healthcare sector, and the disruption there over the past five years has provided wonderful opportunities. For example, our pharmaceuticals clients have been doing interesting acquisitions pulling in attorneys from multiple of our practice areas, so we've had IP litigators working alongside M&A attorneys.
CA: How do you think the culture of Goodwin differs from that of other large firms?
JB: While there's a heterogeneous population of Goodwin attorneys with a lot of variation in personality and backgrounds, we're homogenous in terms of our core values – respecting everyone in the office regardless of their role. Sharp elbows are not appreciated here, and this is a place where aggressive personalities won't thrive. That's something that differentiates us from a lot of firms. Our structure is very flat and collaborative, which means it can take longer to do things but the trade-off is the partnership really operates as partners.
The start of cultivating a collaborative culture is with compensation. Lone wolves will not be compensated at the same level as generous collaborators. We hear constantly from incoming laterals that we strongly encourage collaborative ownership of clients, more so than other firms. If you're an associate here, you're not only allowed to join us at client facing events, it's part of the job description. Associates who tend to be successful at Goodwin are those who are not only talented legal advisers, but also emotionally intelligent and comfortable with a lot of early client contact. Learning business development skills is part of a Goodwin associate’s experience.
CA: Speaking of moving through the system, how does the firm ensure that diverse lawyers are retained and promoted?
JB: I think it's something everyone here is focused on as we believe it's instrumental to Goodwin's long-term success. The priority of our committees (many of which I'm a part of) is to reflect the client teams we work with, which are diverse nationally, ethnically and beyond. When your client-facing team is overly white or male you feel dated and behind the times.
Our very active CRED committee, LGBT group and Women's Initiative often work collaboratively to host events, and we've got a number of those lined up to encourage our lawyers to think about the value of diversity and combat unconscious bias. I assist staffing in New York, and we have to make sure not only that working hours are equal but that junior associates unanimously get substantive work. At the same time, you have to give associates as much or little mentoring as they seek. Some women will be really active in the Women's Initiative; others will find gender is not so important to them, and they want to be around people with similar interests. It's important that initiatives are available, but there's no pressure to get involved.
CA: If you could give any advice to a student looking to go into the law or join Goodwin, what would it be?
JB: Take a look at how happy our midlevels and senior associates are. Their enthusiasm shows when we do recruiting events, and when you look at attrition figures, there's less here than at other firms because people have ownership over their careers. At Goodwin, associates are free agents for two years and can take any work in either litigation or corporate. Some people fall in love with an area quickly and there's the flexibility for them to specialize early in their career while others have the flexibility to dabble in different areas for two years.
When looking at law firms, my advice is to ask what clients they're working with. Each firm’s website sets forth that they do everything, but at most firms the majority of the lawyers are within a few practice groups that are the priorities of the firm. You'll hear from Goodwin lawyers how important the practice areas I outlined earlier are to the firm.
CA: Is there anything else our readers should know about Goodwin?
JB: This is a great place for the people who want to actively manage their career. We give our lawyers a lot of flexibility to work with partners they want to work with on projects they want to be involved in. That works best for newcomers who are proactively managing their career and vocal about their interests. There are staffing coordinators to bounce ideas off of, but our system works best for associates who are self-starters and interactive participants in seeking out work that interests them. The mentality that you have to take time to learn about practice areas and direct your career is pervasive in how we operate the firm – and the same people who thrive at identifying opportunities and directing their careers are the ones who will be strong at building client relationships down the line.
“Most of the questions” at OCIs “are about whether you'll fit in and what you want do.” For those with an interest in a particular practice area, knowledge of it and an understanding of why it's appealing is invaluable, as “you don't need to know what all of an M&A deal looks like, but having a handle on why you're going for BigLaw is important.”. Associates we spoke to who'd conducted interviews considered them “pretty informal, we're typically asking about things on the candidate's resumé that seem interesting. We also want to know if they can elaborate on their answers.” Interviews are also geared towards “trying to extrapolate whether we can put you in front of a client,” so being sociable helps, as does “being able to speak in coherent sentences.”
Juniors felt “grades do matter, but they're not everything. What matters is showing you want to be an attorney here.” Some saw enhancing your skills through a clerkship as a big plus, while others favored anything that shows “a genuine hunger for knowledge – it's great to be the kid who enjoyed school and went to discussion forums.” Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it will stand candidates in good stead. “It's better to be the person who doesn't know what they want to do but is looking, than someone going for OCIs because they feel they need to.”
Expressing interest in something is better than nothing, even if it's “liberal arts and classics,” which one Goodwin junior discussed at their interview. “The process is mostly about getting to know you and making sure you're nice and normal.” Perhaps the most conclusive advice then came from another associate who advocated to “just be thoughtful, and be yourself. And try not to be a jerk.”
More about Boston's Seaport Innovation District
Massachusetts' capital has 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 13 colonies should, in fact, become an independent country. Fast forward a couple of centuries, and Boston'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. Spread over 1,000 acres on the South Boston Waterfront, it's in a strategically advantageous location with the historic harbor, the 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 June 2016, Boston law heavyweight Goodwin Procter set up shop in the district and re-branded to become known simply as Goodwin. Like many firms, the management is becoming increasingly decentralized between its nine offices, but Boston remains the largest office, and home to “a lot of the leadership. Boston's definitely the hub.”
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 Goodwin associates suggested is “still kind of a pain” and 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'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 $2-2.5 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: $912,000,000
- Partners (US): 311
- Counsel (US): 94
- Associates (US): 435
- Summer Salary 2017
- 1Ls: $3,460/week
- 2Ls: $3,460/week
- Post 3Ls: N/A
- 1Ls hired? Yes
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? Case-by-case
- Summers 2017: 50
- Offers/acceptances 2016: 56 offers, 54 acceptances
Main areas of work
Corporate-based practices: financial industry, intellectual property transactions and strategies, private equity, real estate industry (REITS, real estate capital markets, M&A), tax and technology and life sciences.
Litigation-based practices: business litigation, consumer financial services, financial industry, intellectual property, products liability and mass torts, securities litigation and white-collar defense.
Goodwin is a Global 50 law firm with offices in Boston, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, 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 lawyer 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.
• Number of 1st year associates: 59
• Number of 2nd year associates: 71
• Associate Salaries: 1st Year: $180,000
• 2nd Year: $190,000
• Clerking policy: Yes
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2017:
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), McGill, 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, Vanderbilt, Washington University in St. Louis, William & Mary, Yale.
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 adviser program, summer associates are paired with partners and associates to help them integrate.