The glitz! The glamor! But take a look behind this LA-based firm's headline-generating entertainment work and you'll find a comprehensive suite of practices and a humble culture.
'IT's the place to be,' rapper Tupac declared in his love letter to the City of Angels, To Live and Die in LA. Law firmGreenberg Glusker also has a particular affinity for this West Coast hotbed for the rich and famous. It's remained a one-base outfit in LA for all of its 60 years in the legal sphere, and has built up a robust reputation with the city's client base. “Media and entertainment is the department that most people are aware of,” one associate told us, and it's no wonder, as Greenberg Glusker represents a headline-generating mix of directors, actors, writers and producers. You'll find the likes of James Cameron, Star-Wars director Rian Johnson and the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien on the books, and the firm's recognized in Chambers USA for its expertise in the film and television industries, as well as in more modern areas like video games and digital media.
“We are the largest single-office law firm in California.”
However, media and entertainment highlights tell just one side of the story here, as managing partner Bob Baradaran explains: “I think that the public perception of Greenberg Glusker is different than our clients' perception of the firm. The reason we are well known in the media & entertainment sector is because of the public nature of Hollywood; more people know about our work in that practice over our others because the matters are simply reported on more than those that occur in our other practices. The reality is that we actually started out as a litigation and real estate firm — those areas are equally strong, but they aren’t as sexy to write about as they don't involve movie stars as much!” Alongside entertainment, real estate and litigation, Greenberg Glusker advises clients in a whole host of other areas, including IP; corporate, finance and securities; employment; sport; and private client. Chambers High Net Worth gives a nod to the firm's private wealth law expertise in Southern Cali, which draws in well-known clients in the entertainment space, but also tech entrepreneurs and international families. Baradaran describes the firm's market position as “excellent,” as “we are the largest single-office law firm in California, and we work throughout the majority of the states in the country from our one LA-based office.”
Strategy & Future
“We like our business plan and our market, so we have no interest in opening multiple offices,” Baradaran continues. “Our one-office model and our size give us the ability to be nimble. As a result, our plan is to improve and build upon what we have.” Baradaran goes on to tell us that his “number one priority is to recruit the best and brightest, both from the top law schools, as well as laterally. We're in the business of providing the best service to clients via the brightest legal minds.”
“There has been a lot of disruption in the media and entertainment space.”
When it comes to practice area activity, Baradaran explains that the “economy has been strong in the U.S. and as a result our M&A and real estate practices have been booming, while our litigation practice has also been very busy.” In addition, “there has been a lot of disruption in the media and entertainment space with the rise of Netflix and other streaming services. As a result, our practice in that area has also been very busy.”
The juniors on our list this year were working in Greenberg Glusker's real estate, litigation, employment, environmental and media & entertainment practices. After sampling life in three different departments during their summer at the firm, our sources were subsequently asked which practice they would prefer to join upon arriving at the firm as a full-time associate. Practice group allocation is “based on whether the department needs you; smaller practices are harder to get into. They do their best to accommodate your preferences though.” Once in a department, sources told us that “theoretically, the work filters through the department head.” Emails are sent out in order to gauge everyone's workload, and matters are subsequently staffed according to each person's capacity. “About half to two thirds of the work comes to me this way,” one interviewee estimated. However, in certain practices “work allocation is pretty free market; you develop relationships with partners and it's quite natural for them to come to you with work that they need help on.”
Clients: NBCUniversal Media (media & entertainment); Rexford Industrial Realty (real estate); and the Union Pacific Railroad Company (environment). Entertainment lawyers were recently able to dismiss a suit against clients Oprah Winfrey and the OWN Network, which alleged the OWN series Greenleaf infringed a treatment put together by the plaintiff. On the real estate side, lawyers recently advised clients Wolff Urban Development and Spur Side on the $140 million acquisition and development of a hotel.
With regards to the actual work they were doing, our sources were largely very positive. “I've been allowed to take on responsibility,” said one. “I'm not the fax person! I've got so much experience, handling crucial legal documents, drafting depositions and objections, and preparing outlines.” Another source gushed about how much writing they'd been able to do: “I'm a bit of a constitutional nerd, and I love learning about constitutional law. For me, practicing law is more about being able to write well, and I've been able to sink my teeth into interesting, complex issues.” On the more transactional side, juniors told us there are “some smaller matters” to get to involved in, “where you get more direct involvement and a more holistic role. There are some matters where I've been the primary contact.” One junior concluded: “Greenberg Glusker has thrown me into matters and allowed me to have full-on client contact. Sometimes that can be a bit alarming (like when you're answering legal questions three weeks into practice!), but then I remember that what I was hoping for was early exposure and substance to my work.”
“The firm is interested in developing its associates,” our sources were happy to report. “We have regular training sessions – at least one per month – that are put on by a different partner each time. You can ask questions, and the sessions are very useful.” Associates were pleased with the firm's marketing coordinator's (Brandi Franzman) efforts to ensure that juniors are reaching their potential: “Last week she came in to talk about the development plan she had, and she highlighted the kinds of groups and events we should get involved in. She makes sure that I'm using the marketing budget that we each get. They want us to represent the firm and make contacts. Building our base is encouraged across the departments.” When it came to reputation, sources were confident that Greenberg's will carry them through their careers: “Whenever I mention that I work at GG, everyone knows who GG is!” All of this has led to “fantastic retention” at the firm: “The majority of people here prefer to stay. A handful may go to be in-house counsel, but I don't know of anyone who's left to go to another firm.”
“Everyone knows everyone!”
“I have literally never heard anyone yell,” one source declared. Yes, the message we got loud and clear was that the good folk at Greenberg Glusker have no time for Harvey Specter’s Manhattan antics. Instead, this a place where “most of us have our doors open at all times; you're welcome to come and discuss any issues, or even just chat about the events of your weekend.” There's also plenty of time to catch up every Monday during the attorney lunch (“we get to eat together and sit with a different person every week”) and every Friday, when a good number of attorneys head upstairs to the firm's bar area for the weekly happy hour: “It's a way for us to develop relationships. It lessens the divide between seniors and juniors, and gives us a chance to ask any questions we might have.” Interviewees frequently cited how the one-office model helps to keep the atmosphere “tight-knit: everyone knows everyone!” One emphasized that “we're a very socially active firm, and very well-connected with one another.” Meetings between the associates' committee and managing partner Bob Baradaran help keep lawyers abreast of news and developments at the firm, and give them a platform to voice concerns.
Diversity & Inclusion
“Overall, women are fairly well represented,” associates thought, but they added that the litigation side of the firm generally does better than corporate when it comes to gender balance. Beyond the firm itself, Greenberg recently showed its support for gender equity in the world of media and entertainment, by co-sponsoring the 'Power Women Summit' in November 2018.
“In terms of racial diversity, there's definitely work to do,” associates agreed. In particular, our sources highlighted the issue of retention. It hadn't escaped their attention that in the year preceding our interviews, two associates had left, and both were minorities. Sources did applaud the efforts of the firm's diversity committee though, especially when it came to assisting with recruiting and creating an inclusive feel at the firm: “I'd say we have a melting pot of cultures, and the committee's good about celebrating cultural events. We celebrate Hanukkah, Hispanic holidays... they find opportunities to highlight different cultures.”
Sources found Greenberg to be “very supportive of pro bono,” as all hours spent on pro bono can be counted as billable. “If I have to be in court for a pro bono case hearing it's treated like any other hearing,” one interviewee stated. Juniors could source opportunities from weekly emails sent out by the pro bono committee, which is formed of “three people, who focus on different types of pro bono work, so their emails cover different options.” Our sources had worked on veterans' rights and adoption matters, and also pointed out that the firm “works a lot with inner city law groups like Bet Tzedek.” Interviewees added that they'd comfortably racked up 75 hours in a year with no push-back, and that their recent efforts had received “a very positive response from the firm.”
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: 1485
- Average per attorney: 15.6
Hours & Compensation
Associates aim to reach a 1,850 billable hour target each year, which, sources felt, enables them to have a good work/life balance. Reaching that target in your first year isn't common, so the firm takes the approach of considering a discretionary bonus for those who do hit 1,850, rather than guaranteeing it. Greenberg didn't join the rush of firms announcing salary increases in the summer of 2018. Still, associates appreciated the firm's transparency. “Rather than shut down on the topic, they've kept us updated,” said one source. "The associate's committee relays any concerns we have, so there's been a pretty good dialogue.”
Hours & Compensation
Most interviewees got into the office between 8am and 8.30am, and left between 6pm and 7pm – a daily schedule they deemed “nothing too crazy.” Of course, “working hours can fluctuate” depending on what's happening with a deal or a case, with interviewees often opting to stay in the office to get work done instead of going home to log on after dinner. Weekend work was therefore reported to be rare. Despite the firm offering flexibility to its associates to pick up work remotely, many of our sources felt it was better to be in the office during their early years of practice: “There's no pressure or fixed hours that you need to be here, but I prefer to be at the forefront of people's minds!”
Interviewees also bestowed praise on the firm's partners for their more informal efforts to develop juniors. “One of the partners I work with has now become my mentor, and we always meet up for regular feedback,” one told us, before adding: “The partners are big on trying to accelerate career development: one gave me the opportunity to sit in front of a judge so that I could experience a more substantive hearing and get comfortable being in that position.”
Interview with managing partner Bob Baradaran
Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP
1900 Avenue of the Stars,
- Head office: Los Angeles, CA
- Number of domestic offices: 1
- Partners US: 72
- Associates US: 23
- Main recruitment contact: Aaron Gafni (email@example.com)
- Hiring partner: Aaron Gafni
- Diversity officer: Brian Moskal
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 2
- Clerking policy: No
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 2Ls: 2
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: Los Angeles: 2
- Summer salary 2019: 1Ls: $ 3,077/week 2Ls: $3,077/week
- Split summers offered? Yes
Main areas of work
Bankruptcy/insolvency, corporate, emerging technology and new media, employment, entertainment, environmental, intellectual property, litigation, private client services, real estate, and taxation
Founded over 60 years ago, Greenberg Glusker holds a unique position in Los Angeles as a full-service law firm, with particular expertise in bankruptcy/insolvency, corporate, employment, entertainment, environmental, intellectual property, litigation, private client services, real estate, and taxation. Committed to providing a wide range of services, we combine the personal attention of a boutique firm with the strength and breadth of services customarily found in a multioffice, international firm. Results-oriented client service is how we continue to distinguish ourselves today.
Law schools attended for OCI in 2019:
UC Davis, UCLA, UC Berkeley, USC, and Stanford
Summer program components:
The main objective of our summer program is to provide the summer clerks with an honest and real experience of practicing law as a junior attorney at Greenberg Glusker. For purposes of the summer program, we divide the firm into three practice area subgroups. Each summer clerk will spend a minimum of three weeks in each practice subgroup.
Typically, the subgroups are organized as follows:
• Real Estate/Environmental/Trusts & Estates
• Bankruptcy/Business & Tax/Intellectual Property
Our clerks will have the opportunity to attend trials, depositions and business meetings. Also, as a part of the summer program, we plan social events in order to facilitate multiple opportunities for the clerks to interact with each of our attorneys as much as possible. Our summer social calendar includes a mix of formal events such as concerts, sporting events, theater, and cooking classes, as well as informal happy hours and dinners.
Recruitment website: www.greenbergglusker.com/careers
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
- Environment Recognised Practitioner
- Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 3)
- Real Estate Recognised Practitioner