From its Boston stronghold Goulston offers top notch real estate work in a non-competitive atmosphere – but ambitions to grow its other domestic bases and practices show it's not standing still.
DESCRIBED as “the premier real estate firm in Boston” in our sister publication Chambers USA, Goulston earns a top ranking in Massachusetts for its expertise in this area of the law. It's a firm that draws in regional and national developers alike, as well as investors eying up the juiciest new projects. Its robust reputation also ended up drawing in many of our associate sources, who highlighted their interest in commercial real estate in particular: “I was looking for a place where I could get sophisticated commercial experience on both transactions and permitting/development work – development is not something you can usually do at the big firms.”
While real estate may be a solid foundation for Goulston, it is building upon it a reputation for work in its many other practices, which include corporate, IP, tax and private client & trusts. In Chambers USA, other practices to get a nod in Massachusetts include banking & finance, bankruptcy/restructuring and general commercial litigation, while on a nationwide scale Goulston's industry expertise in retail and leisure & hospitality garners praise. For our associates, “the fact that Goulston is a leading commercial real estate firm was just a factor and not a decision-maker.” So what swayed them in the end? Many put it down to Goulston's “small-firm feel” that comes with attractive advancement opportunities: “It’s not uncommon to see people progressing from a summer associate to making partner, and I wanted to be at a firm that genuinely invests in people’s futures.”
All of the juniors on our list were based in Goulston's Boston HQ, which is split across two buildings; the firm occupies one floor of an office on the waterfront, as well as an entire building next door: “It's a converted factory, which is unconventional” but universally adored thanks to its trendy brickwork and abundance of open spaces. Particular praise was bestowed on the firm's support staff: “There's a legal assistant for every attorney, plus we have staff here all the time – even after hours. I've never found myself high and dry.” Goulston has two other domestic offices in New York and DC, and interviewees felt that there was a good amount of interaction with them. “We're encouraged to stop by New York and DC if we're traveling,” and the firm's work allocators also staff matters across all three locations, increasing collaboration. Overseas, a 'relationship building office' in Beijing was felt to have served its purpose and closed its doors, with a string of Chinese clients to its name.
"I've never found myself high and dry."
Strategy & Future
Associates were keen to tell us about Goulston's monthly associate meetings, which involve a presentation delivered by the firm's managing directors over lunch. “Itkeeps us updated on the health of the firm and what's going on,” sources revealed, praising the firm’s transparency on “partner pay, recruitment, trends, firm financials and expansion plans.” So what had sources learned from this “open forum”? “We are going to continue expanding our New York and DC offices, and will grow our practice groups outside of real estate – we're trying to build up our size.”
Each group has two directors (partners are called directors at Goulston) who serve as work-allocators and manage associates’ assignments. “If directors think you’ll be interested in a matter they’ll contact an allocator,” sources explained, highlighting that “it’s good to have a buffer so that if you’re too busy they can go back and re-staff.” Overall, "the system tracks what you’re doing and who with to make sure that you become a well-rounded attorney with a good variety of skills.” Most associates land in the real estate group, but a few on our list were working in Goulston's litigation, corporate and private client & trusts departments.
The real estate group's “bread and butter” is commercial work, but juniors did speak of being able to do “smaller residential deals on behalf of non-profit clients, as our pro bono work is sometimes integrated into the regular assignment system.” Areas covered within the group include development, finance, construction, international investment and condominium work. “In some real estate practices you’ll go into a specific subsection, but here they let you try out everything for the first couple of years, which gives you a more global picture.” One source emphasized that “even though my focus is on development matters, they keep other transactions on my plate so that I don’t lose skills tied to them.” The geographic scope varies depending on the type of work, interviewees explained. For example, land use matters are usually based in Massachusetts, while sales and purchases have more national dimensions. “Leasings are all over the place – I’m often working on assignments occurring on the West Coast or in the Midwest.”
"...you often see projects you’re working on posted in The Boston Globe."
One source described working with “a lot of developers in Boston. I’ve been able to do waterfront work, which is very complicated, and I was able to work exclusively with a partner doing that.” On the whole, the group's clients were deemed “very sophisticated – as is the work.” Associates enjoyed working on “high-profile” matters and enthused that “you often see projects you’re working on posted in The Boston Globe.” Transactional matters in particular gave juniors the opportunity to work on “major financings involving foreign investors.” Typical associate tasks included due diligence, conducting zoning reviews, analyzing permits, and putting together first drafts of documents like contribution agreements, resolutions and certificates. “The work is challenging but I don’t feel scared to ask questions. Compared to my friends’ experiences, I think I’ve been given responsibility that they wouldn’t get until many years later,” one interviewee concluded.
Training & Development
There's “a little bit of an orientation” to welcome juniors to the firm, plus a general training program provided via Goulston & Storrs University. However, sources agreed that training is “meant to be very organic and managed through the projects that are given to you over time.” To supplement this more organic approach, we heard that partners in certain groups “host weekly hour-long sessions over lunch to delve deeper into a topic and increase our knowledge of it.”
For their first few years at the firm, 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. By the fifth year, associates can expect to receive a more in-depth review which involves “a self-reflective portion where you evaluate your skill-set and what you want to do with the next part of your career. They talk you through the opportunities that are available at the upper levels so that you're aware of your prospects.”
Hours & Compensation
Everyone we spoke to at Goulston praised the work/life balance they'd experienced, with most describing an average day that lasted between 8.30am to around 7pm. There can be occasional late nights, while weekend work was deemed “rare – when it does happen the director will also be working. It's not the type of place where working every weekend is necessary.” Instead, “there’s a focus on a family culture here,” which for our sources translated into a positive stance on flexible working: “It's not like you have to stay until 6pm just because you have to – it's perfectly fine to leave and work remotely.”
When it came to compensation we heard more good news: “We’re on the Cravath scale so I don’t have any complaints there.” Attorneys at Goulston don't receive bonuses, but interviewees made it clear that they viewed this in a positive light: “The trade in for not having bonuses is a friendlier culture. It's a self-selecting decision and it makes me a happier attorney. At the end of the day we're compensated in other ways: I've always had the opportunity to take vacation, and the firm really does respect your time off.”
“I know everyone uses the word ‘collegial,’” one associate admitted, “but everyone knows each other here, from the directors to the paralegals.” Another source agreed: “There’s a camaraderie here, and people take an interest in your personal life to better understand where you’re at with work.” When pressed for reasons why Goulston promotes such an agreeable culture, some attributed it to the legacy of “prior managing directors, who’ve passed down the message that your colleagues are so important. It means that everyone is so invested in their colleagues' success.” Others put it down to the lack of official billing targets and bonus payouts: “It doesn't encourage a competitive angle, so everyone is willing to help each other out.I can’t count the amount of times I’ve gone into someone’s office unannounced with a question and they’ve invited me in and talked me through it for an hour. It's a testament to the culture and it's a big thing that's kept me here.”
"It means that everyone is so invested in their colleagues' success."
Sources also told of monthly associate socials, as well as happy hours and firm-wide events that celebrate the holidays: “Goulston makes an effort to bring people up from DC and New York so that we can all meet.”
All pro bono hours count as billable at Goulston, which means “there’s not that hesitation to take on pro bono work. The firm really puts its money where its mouth is.” Associates added: “A lot of it tends to be included in your regular work allocation matters. Sometimes you’re given a project and you don’t know it’s pro bono until you go to log your hours!” The chair of the firm's pro bono committee is the firm's managing director, “which gives you a sense of how highly valued pro bono is.” One interviewee reflected: “It’s wonderful because you get to really dive into the material. I think it’s a real selling point of the firm and it's provided me with some of the most gratifying work I’ve done here.”
"It’s wonderful because you get to really dive into the material."
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: 14,170
- Average per attorney: undisclosed
“It's a conscious goal of the firm,” juniors declared, who were pleased to tell us that “our numbers have steadily been increasing over the years – as time goes on there are more and more diverse attorneys here.” Goulston's diversity committee helps to steer efforts when it comes to the recruitment and retention of minorities, and was praised for considering “the whole gamut of people covered by the definition of diversity.”
Associates told us: “This might sound corny, but I think the firm’s looking for someone who’s genuinely kind, smart and accomplished.” They added: “Of course applicants need to meet the basic academic standards," but emphasized the fact that: "What distinguishes us is that we're people who make the time to get together, mix and answer one another's questions.” Others agreed: “You have to be a team player, and because teams are often leanly staffed you can’t be afraid to get a lot of responsibility fairly quickly.” Meanwhile, chair of the summer committee Joshua Davis tells us that candidates “need to have some sense of Goulston & Storrs,” adding: “We want people who have thought about what it might mean to work here aside from the fact that we’re respected.”
Interview with Joshua Davis, Chair of the Summer Committee at Goulston & Storrs
Chambers Associate: Have there been any changes to your recruiting program over the last twelve months?
Joshua Davis: We’re not doing anything dramatically different. At the end of every summer program we have a very candid exit interview with summer associates, and we do make changes accordingly.
CA: What is the firm doing to encourage diversity?
JD: That’s an incredibly important part of what we’re doing in recruiting and in working with lawyers after they join. I’m focused on making sure our outreach to different schools is broad enough to create better opportunities for inclusion. Our outreach is part of working hard to make sure we’re meeting and talking to enough candidates.
There’s also a focus on making sure that once people choose to work here we pair them with appropriate mentors who will vest themselves in a junior lawyer's success. Law firms are by nature creatures of habit, and the only way to decode their unwritten rules is with the engagement of someone who is willing to work as a guide and as a mentor. We want to provide mentors who are good personality matches and who are willing to act as an advocate.Our firm prides itself on its community and making sure people become a part of that is vital. We have had successes but we have more to do, and over the next year we’ll continue to diversify and work to provide a universally welcoming environment.
CA: Where do you see the firm in five years’ time?
JD: I think we’ll essentially be a slightly larger version of ourselves. There’s a strong consensus about maintaining our independence, and we’ve stayed the same firm in terms of lateral expansion. We’re currently building our corporate and litigation practices, but most importantly we’re trying to do what we’ve been doing since the firm was founded, which is creating an environment in which excellent lawyers practice together. We'll have more lawyers in Washington, New York and in Boston but there are won’t be any changes in our character or essence.
CA: What advice would you give to a candidate when preparing for an interview?
JD: They need to have some sense of Goulston & Storrs. We perceive ourselves to be different, and I think that through the internet and other resources people can learn about how we’ve constructed ourselves in a different way. We want people who have thought about what it might mean to work here aside from the fact that we’re respected. Another thing is to take the time to think about the questions you really have aside from the standard ones – we want questions that reflect the candidates’ own thinking. When we sit down together we remember the people who stand out by sharing themselves as a person.
CA: How would you describe the ideal Goulston & Storrs lawyer?
JD: Intellectual curiosity, some measure of intensity, a generosity of spirit and an openness to new ideas and people.
CA: What does the firm offer associates that is unique?
JD: The first thing is that our summer program is intentionally quite small as we’ve come to believe that people who are going to join the firm are very likely to be summers. This means our investment in the hiring process is more intense than a lot of our peers. We like to think that our investment in people is noticeably different from the moment people walk in. We’re careful to make sure people have the opportunity to work with directors in their areas and help them to get a diversity of legal experience so that they can make a meaningful decision about which group they’d like to join. We ensure that the summer program feels like the associate experience so no one’s surprised when they come back. There’s a mindfulness about finding appropriate mentors and advisors for associates and providing a welcoming environment. We hire very talented people and we want to give them the opportunity to show what they can do and make them feel immersed in the firm from the moment they join us.
Goulston & Storrs
400 Atlantic Avenue,
- Head Office: Boston, MA
- Number of domestic offices: 3
- Number of international offices: 0
- Worldwide revenue: $176,000,000
- Partners (US): 121
- Associates (US): 70
- Main recruitment contacts: Karen Febeo and Jen Smith
- Hiring partner: Bill Seuch
- Diversity officers: Kevin O’Flaherty and Matt Epstein
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 6
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 2Ls: 7
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: Boston: 6, Washington DC: 1
- Summer salary 2018: 1Ls: $3,400 per week 2Ls: $3,400 per week
- Split summers offered? Case by case basis
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Harvard, Georgetown University, Columbia University, Northeastern University, New York University, Boston College, Boston University, Suffolk University
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We participate in a number of networking evnts at local law schools; invite students to our office for resume review and mock interviews. We also host a rising 2L reception every July so students from outside Boston can learn more about G&S in advance of OCI.
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.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
District of Columbia
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Labor & Employment Recognised Practitioner
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance Recognised Practitioner
USA - Nationwide
- Leisure & Hospitality (Band 4)
- Retail (Band 3)