“The best place to do real estate in Boston, bar none – other firms advised me I should go to Goulston!”
BUSINESS in Boston is booming thanks to a thriving life sciences industry and healthy M&A environment, but the city remains “a small community which breeds professional courtesy,” according to Goulston's associates. Almost all of the firm's small intake takes up residence in Beantown, where they enjoy a waterfront location. One junior explained that Goulston “doesn't hire 50 people then aim to make five partners. Folks really believe you only get hired here if you have a realistic shot at partnership.”
Real estate is the firm's bread and butter: the practice here has baked up impressive Chambers USA rankings in DC as well as Massachusetts (our online Bonus Features on Goulston have more info on the local market). Associates suggested that real estate “drives the firm in a lot of ways,” but areas including finance, bankruptcy and commercial litigation also pick up plaudits. As well as Boston, Goulston's own properties are found in New York, DC and Beijing.
Practically all Goulston's first-years are hired into Boston, but because work-allocators staff matters across offices, attorneys may sometimes find themselves working with colleagues in the Big Apple and DC. The HQ spreads over two buildings, occupying one floor of a waterside hotel (“a more traditional space than next door, but I still like it”) alongside the “stunning” main office. Dubbed “traditional brick-and-beam Boston” by associates, it's in “a pretty awesome waterside location right near the heart of the city.”
The smaller New York base sits in midtown east; a more compact space means “there's really not a hierarchical feel.” Goulston DC's location also comes up trumps – it's just a short walk from the White House. Eager for associates to get to know the firm's own real estate, management is “very encouraging of inter-office visits. There's a big emphasis on making everyone feel part of one firm,” juniors reported.
Incoming associates list three practice groups they're interested in, and “you normally get your first or second choice.” Real estate absorbs nearly all of Goulston's six or so annual new first-years, though the odd junior may sign up with another area like litigation, corporate or private client & trusts. Every group has two formal work allocators who “check in pretty regularly to ask about our workloads.” Associates described the structured system as “wonderful – it's not an eat-what-you-kill firm so you're not rushing to cut the next person off from work.” Partners can approach juniors directly, but still run assignments past the allocators to keep everyone in the loop.
Transactions, financing, and permit & development matters make up the lion's share of Goulston's real estate work. “The bulk of our attorneys represents developers: we cover each piece of a real estate life cycle, and you won't just be pulled into a tiny piece of it.” Newbies got a stab at “some drafting, and you might take the first crack at certain agreements and leases” while also “handling due diligence. You're generally responsible for moving the deal along.” Heading into the third year “there's a transition into new aspects, like helping with loan documents.” Client contact “takes every form, it's very deal specific,” and the firm has a 2:1 ratio of partners to associates so teams are leanly staffed more often than not. “They give you the chance to take the ball and run with it,” so there's “a lot of responsibility” off the bat. Interviewees found it “a little intimidating sometimes, but you have a support network to rely on if you have any questions.”
The corporate team tackles “finance, M&A, corporate governance... as a junior you get staffed on everything: there's no strict focus.” Juniors got stuck into “drafting deal documents, taking comments from opposing counsel and vetting them with the partner. I'm not drafting the hundred-million dollar deals, but on smaller ones there are good opportunities to get my feet wet.” Part of a small team with few associates, corporate sources noted: “You can't avoid client contact: by virtue of the way we're staffed, you have to be ready at all times.” They summarized the opportunities on offer as “challenging, but really amazing.” Peers in litigation kept themselves busy with “research, drafting discovery responses and submissions for mediation – it varies a lot.” The “diverse” group spans employment, legal malpractice and general commercial litigation.
Training & Development
Newbies are assigned a mid-level associate sibling and a partner mentor: “The expectation is they'll train you to be the best you can be.” Goulston & Storrs University provides a general program for juniors who “can ask for certain things, or to not do things we already know. There's a pretty good input process.” Practice-specific training includes a once-a-month course in real estate (“an inch-deep, mile-long experience”), and quarterly meetings in corporate “to go through things we'd like to work on.” Boston associates are often joined by their counterparts from New York or Washington, DC during training sessions.
“An inch-deep, mile-long experience.”
Juniors get an official review every six months in which they sit down with two partners from outside their group, who provide feedback from partners they've worked with. “Apart from the first one,” sources noted, “the reviews are pretty substantive.” This culminates at the five-year mark in a higher-level review. Away from the formal system, “there's good feedback from partners generally. It's not like you're at school, but people are more than happy to answer questions.”
“This firm has a reputation as the good guys – they're ethical, uphold a high standard and treat people fairly.” Taking a break from a massive group hug (probably), Goulston juniors told us they were “amazed how cohesive a group our class were” and boasted: “We're a firm that's never merged. We take community very seriously when hiring.” Though some remarked: “Most young associates don't find families too challenging,” others detected a cultural shift – “from what I've heard it was strongly family-friendly, and now there's a lot of young, single associates who want to be social.” Chances to do so include “holiday and summer parties, and cocktails and hors d'oeuvres at partners' houses. It's always nice to hang out and get to know each other.” New York and DC attorneys are encouraged to head up the coast for firmwide events but “there's no pressure” to be at every party.
The day after each monthly partner meeting, associates are kept in the loop through a lunch with the firm's managing partners at which “there's a run down almost to the bullet point of what the partners discussed.” The frequency of open forums lead juniors to conclude: “We have a more transparent management than I'd expect there to be at other places,” and they were happy to note: “It doesn't feel like there's a class structure where associates are lesser than partners.” One credited this to the low ratio of associates to partners; another simply declared themselves “very pleased with the lack of hierarchy.”
Pro Bono & Diversity
Good feeling at Goulston extends to pro bono, “a very robust part of what the firm is all about” according to interviewees – “they're extremely committed, there's an expectation everyone will do it.” As all pro bono hours count the same as billables, there is little need to keep track of which is which, and as cases often come through the allocation system “you might not know it's pro bono until you're doing it!” The firm's diversity committee also invites associates to take on pro bono cases which deal with minority issues and communities in Boston. Other opportunities include immigration and asylum cases, and “if there's a cause you feel strongly about you can raise it with the committee.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 11,843
- Average per US attorney: undisclosed
“You might not know it's pro bono until you're doing it!”
There's more to the diversity committee than organizing pro bono matters; a speakers' program, social events and community outreach projects are all on the cards. Associates noted “a desire to continue to diversify and be a true representation of society” on Goulston's part, one source telling us: “It's one of the main reasons I chose this firm. They were really intentional about making that a priority.” The firm put its money where its mouth is with an entirely female summer class in 2015, four of the six coming from a diverse ethnic background. Confident “that was simply because they were the best candidates,” associates concluded that “gender-wise it feels very balanced, though racial diversity does need some work,” especially at partner level.
Hours & Compensation
Some associates seemed surprised when asked about the hours they work, having “never been in a conversation where the numbers were brought up.” Goulston doesn't stipulate a billable hours requirement, though associates get anonymous reports “to see where we fall compared to other people.” Some admitted that “even without a requirement, I don't want to be the person with the lowest!”
So why isn't there a target? “Not having one allows for a lot of flexibility,” juniors explained. “If you get stuff done on time there's no expectation for you to just be here.” The flip side is Goulston's bonuses are non-existent – “it goes hand in hand with the lack of hours target.” Associates were generally pleased with the system, one reasoning that “I much prefer the flexibility of being able to have a personal life without stressing about hours.” Compensation is lockstep through the third year; thereafter salaries are more merit-based.
Strategy & Future
The Boston real estate market is healthier than ever, and Goulston's heritage in the city makes it well placed to capitalize. Co-managing partner Barry Green explains: “Boston has a remarkably dynamic economy with a highly educated workforce. Pretty much everything you look at in the city will have the Goulston stamp; we take a lot of pride in that and our position in the market.” Like its home city, the firm is in the driver seat for steady expansion in the future. According to Green the priority is “growing our footprint in New York and DC. The associate ranks in both offices are continuing to grow, which we're delighted about – it's not expansion at the pace you might see at a larger firm, that's not our style, and we've been very pleased with the progress.”
Interview with co-managing partners Barry Green and Marty Fantozzi
Chambers Associate: What's been the most exciting thing that Goulston & Storrs has done over the past year?
Barry Green: We tend to plan things long term. In particular we're growing our footprint in New York and DC, and in both cases we’ve added members to the team so that the offices continue to thrive. Wendelin White joined us in DC, a great addition...
Marty Fantozzi: …highly rated by Chambers USA!
BG: We've also just been joined by a premier tax attorney in New York. The associate ranks in both offices are also continuing to grow, which we're delighted about. That's not expansion at the pace you might see at a larger firm, that's not our style, we've been very pleased how it's progressed. The other thing too look at is how we've continued to be at the forefront of important deals, and our brand in real estate, private client, middle market M&A and the niches of litigation we work in are all continuing to do remarkably well with premier transactions and cases we're delighted about.
MF: From a client-facing perspective, we were delighted to be involved in a number of high-profile transactions in the past year. We represented our longtime client the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in acquiring a highly sought-after area of Kendall Square, a several-hundred-million dollar acquisition. That's the kind of project we thrive on, and have got several of those underway in each major city.
CA: How does having two co-managing partners affect how the firm is run?
MF: Because we have two managing partners, we're able to bring people into leadership positions earlier in their careers, as under our model the two of us continue to practice part-time. There's also an inherent benefit to collaboration, as opposed to one person deciding everything. I believe collaboration leads to better decisions.
BG: We've had a number of consultants tell us the structure is brilliant, as something they find is managing partners become isolated in their thinking when they have no colleague to share ideas with. That's not an issue here.
MF: It's now quite common in Boston, a number of the top firms in the city have the same two co-managing partner structure.
CA: The Boston real estate market has been very healthy as of late: why is that, and how has the practice group capitalized on it?
BG: Because supply is constrained by the relatively small city core, getting new projects done is very difficult, it's a high barrier-to-entry market. On the other hand, Boston has a remarkably dynamic and diverse economy with a highly educated workforce. That makes the city very attractive on the real estate market, particularly for foreign investors given its proximity to Europe and the European scale of the city.
MF: I'd add that though our firm has its origins in Boston, today our practice extends across the US – though the core remains the DC, New York and Boston corridor. Some of the largest projects our clients complete are outside of Massachusetts.
BG: We're active on a regular basis in all 50 states – I'm very involved in Montana, of all places. But right now we've got three or four remarkably large Boston projects we're taking a leading role in, including projects encompassing million of square feet of real estate in Cambridge and the Seaport district. Pretty much everything you look at in the city will have the Goulston stamp, we take a lot of pride in that and our position in the market.
CA: How will the new presidency affect the legal market? Are there any particular practice areas that you think we'll see a lot of activity in?
BG: Most people feel a tremendous uncertainty. A lot of our practice is very interest rate-sensitive, though that can be affected primarily by factors outside the president's control. We don't have a heavy regulation-based practice, though we do a tremendous amount of bank work and have seen some pullback as the banks wait to see what's going to change.
MF: If the infrastructure initiative that's been promised materializes, that would have a substantial positive impact on the real estate market and our practice as we do a significant amount of development work. Beyond interest rates, if there's a major tax reform that will also impact our business. We'll need to wait and see how it plays out.
CA: So what do you think defines the firm's culture, and makes it stand out from the culture at others?
MF: We pride ourselves on taking a long-term view of everything, starting with entry-level hiring. We don't hire nearly as many lawyers out of law school as other firms of a similar size, as we always want to offer new hires the potential to stay here for their entire career. We don't hire three people with the expectation that one will still be here a decade from now, and in our turnover is relatively low when compared to the market. People here get to know each other over the long-term and there's a high degree of collaboration as a result.
BG: There's no minimum billable target, we don't have a rigid rotation system, and people aren't pigeonholed here. Because we operate a reverse leverage with more partners than associates, newcomers get the chance to work directly with partners from day one and get a lot of chances to interact with clients.
CA: If you could give advice to a student looking to go into law, what would it be?
MF: My view is that all firms have a cultural DNA, and it's not easy to figure that out from the interview chair at an OCI, but it's real. Firms also have particular practice area strengths, and it's important for students to figure out whether their goals intersect with those and determine if the firm's environment will match their skills.
BG: Once you join a firm, you need to be inquisitive and thoughtful, and recognize that as a young associate you're serving the partner as you are serving a client, so think about ways to make the workload easier for them. It's important to anticipate how you can help beyond solely reacting.
CA: Is there anything we haven't already talked about that our readers should know about Goulston & Storrs?
BG: We put a big focus on how to retain talent as the demographics of the law change. We've established a parenting group run by associates with no partner intervention, and remodeled our flexible working arrangement to recognize that someone who's working 80% of normal hours might merit getting paid higher than 80% of the salary. The firm promoted three new partners this year, two of whom have been here since they left law school. We continue to be successful with home-grown talent, and don't rely on laterals.
The content of OCIs “very much depends on the interviewer, there aren't stock questions,” but “whether you'll fit in is always an important consideration.” Don't underestimate the value of being able to hold a conversation as “one thing the firm finds very important is whether a person can be put in front of a client, and that comes down to professionalism and how they carry themselves, as well as tact.” It also helps to think geographically, as like at many firms “a lot of emphasis is on 'why here?' We hope the associates we hire end up staying here.” When it comes to callbacks, “more than anything it's getting to know you, there are a lot of questions aimed at finding out if you can handle the rigors of practice.”
Multiple sources suggested “the firm takes a holistic approach to recruitment, there isn't one experience that will automatically get you a callback.” Internships “help a ton,” but one suggested “the best way to impress is to start meeting lawyers at the firm ahead of time. Establishing connections is important, and we know candidates can be apprehensive about doing so.” The advantage is “when interviews start, people will have already seen your personality, which will help you stand out.”
Those who followed this advice “came back a number of times, so by the end I'd spoken to most people in the office. Things have since been pretty true to my initial interpretation, they weren't hiding anything.” When thinking of your own questions, perhaps consider “the jump from law school. A lot of people want to know about that, because in law school you might get a couple of weeks to write a paper; here work goes a lot faster.” Remember also to consider the small class sizes: “We're a commodity, so they need to invest in us!"
Real estate in Boston
New York may be the traditional home of BigLaw, but 300km up the coast there's a burgeoning market that's expanding fast. Though its gross metro product of $177.5 billion may be dwarfed by that of the Big Apple, Boston's net inward migration is on the up (unlike that of New York). With a rising population comes both job growth – Boston's unemployment rate of 4% is significantly lower than the 4.9% average – and a growing need for housing and commercial real estate.
Few cities in the US have as frothy a real estate market as Boston does currently. Though house price growth has generally mirrored the national average in recent years, the 5.5% increase in 2015 was higher than market analysts predicted. Meanwhile, in an increasingly global world, foreign investment has become one of the biggest rising trends, and Boston is the third biggest market in the US for investment in real estate by overseas proprietors after New York and LA. In the first three quarters of 2016 alone, foreign buyers purchased close to $1.25 billion worth of real estate in the city's central business district. Goulston co-managing partner Barry Green tells us “Boston is particularly attractive for foreign investors given its proximity to Europe and the European scale of the city.”
All this means a lot of real estate work for law firms in Massachusetts: according to Chambers USA, the three biggest hitters are DLA Piper, Goodwin and Goulston & Storrs. The Goulston real estate team has worked on local projects including the development of Patriot Place, a shopping center adjacent to the New England Patriots' stadium; the luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel; and recently the Pierce Boston tower, set for completion in 2017. One of our Goulston associate sources “came in looking for a real estate firm based in New England, and I knew Goulston was top of the field. They do a good job of allocating resources so everybody sees a bit of everything.”
Goulston & Storrs
400 Atlantic Avenue,
- Head Office: Boston, MA
- Number of domestic offices: 3
- Number of international offices: 0
- Worldwide revenue: $167,000,000
- Partners (US): 113
- Associates (US): 68
- Summer Salary 2017
- 1Ls: $3,400 per week
- 2Ls: $3,400 per week
- 1Ls hired? Yes
- Split summers offered? Case by case basis
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
- Summers 2017: 7
- Offers/acceptances 2016: 6 offers, 6 acceptances
Main areas of work
Real estate, litigation, tax, private clients and trusts, capital markets, bankruptcy, corporate, employment, banking and finance, environmental, intellectual property.
Goulston & Storrs is an Am Law 200 law firm, with offices in Boston, New York and Washington, DC. With nearly 200 lawyers across multiple disciplines, Goulston & Storrs is nationally recognized for its real estate practice, leading-edge corporate, capital markets and finance, litigation, and private client and trust practices. Our lawyers employ a proven team approach that values client outcomes over individual recognition. The firm’s dedication to providing prompt, practical legal advice, cost-efficiently and tailored to our clients’ business needs, has resulted in Goulston & Storrs being acknowledged for excellence by Chambers USA, BTI’s A-Team for Client Service, Best Lawyers in America and other leading industry rankings.
• Number of 1st year associates: 6
• Number of 2nd year associates: 6
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $180,000
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2017:
Harvard, Georgetown University, Columbia University, Northeastern University, New York University, Boston College, Boston University, Suffolk University
Summer associate profile:
We attract and hire people who: seek a sophisticated and challenging legal practice; are concerned about team success; are willing to work hard.
Summer program components:
As a summer associate, you have a unique opportunity to learn about the legal profession and the Boston area. Expect to live the law firm experience with direct partner and client exposure. Work assignments are substantive and include research and writing assignments, client meetings, conference calls, depositions and attending hearings. Your summer with Goulston & Storrs offers amazing work opportunities throughout several practice areas, assisting the firm’s attorneys.