Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP - The Inside View

The spotlight rightly shines on Greenberg Glusker's showbiz successes, but that's not all folks: this La(w) La(w) Land starlet rolls out the red carpet for non-Hollywood clients too...

THERE may be no business like show business, but the law can get you closer to Tinsel Town's glitz and glamor than you might think. How many law firms can boast of being regularly mentioned in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, as this one is? (Click here and here for examples.) LA's small but influential Greenberg Glusker is famous in Hollywood circles for assisting the likes of Paramount, DreamWorks, Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, James Cameron, and that music-to-movie (and back again) chameleon, Madonna. Speaking of the music industry, over the years, GG has literally helped rock-star clients including The Beatles, Britney Spears, members of Guns N' Roses, plus the estates of Bob Marley and Ray Charles.

Chambers USA hands out the legal equivalent of Oscar nominations to the firm's media and entertainment litigators in California. Outside this industry, the directory also ranks GG's environmental practice and lists the real estate team as 'recognized practitioners.' Meanwhile, the new Chambers High Net Worth guide applauds Greenberg's full-service work for wealthy individuals. Entertainment, then, isn't the whole picture; this all-singing, all-dancing law firm also has a rich local pedigree in areas like corporate, finance, IP, bankruptcy, and general litigation. Associates were drawn both by its “great” reputation in the City of Angels and the “combination of high caliber work and lifestyle opportunities in a 90-lawyer firm where you can get to know everybody's name. Greenberg checked all those boxes.”

The Work



Litigation work comes from “a mix of high net worth individuals, A-list entertainers, and companies both mid-market and Fortune 500, a junior associate here explained. Newcomers typically get a taste of as many types of disputes as possible. Allocation is handled by the head of department, who discusses associates' availability with them via weekly emails before distributing tasks. Interviewees said “they're excellent at making sure everyone always has something to do. I've learned so much from working with almost everyone in the team and I'm never worrying about hitting hours targets.” Cases span from copyright and contract breaches to employment, real estate litigation and even trespass matters. Given “as much as responsibility as I feel comfortable taking without being left to flounder,” sources had been in direct contact with clients “literally right off the bat.” Motion writing, research, frequent court appearances and defending depositions formed a typical associate work diet.

“They do throw you in the fire a bit, in a good way.”

Greenberg Glusker's smaller corporate team also has a work allocator, but we heard that it operates on a looser free market system in practice. Associates “really like how it works. You can tailor your career to what you're interested in, and I haven't had to say no to too much work.” The practice's three main buckets are “predominantly sell-side” M&A, early-stage venture capital financing, and outside general counsel. Associates get stuck into “everything from forming a company to selling it off,” with clients including “a lot of companies involved in entertainment or technology. We're not representing Google or Facebook, but doing more mid-market stuff worth up to $100 million.” Although we heard that “they do throw you in the fire a bit, in a good way,” on the plus-side “the firm doesn't hide associates from anything.” A colleague agreed: “One thing Greenberg is great about is getting juniors a lot of responsibility,” including on “heavily in-demand” entertainment-related deals involving LA-based production companies.

Real estate associates also got a glimpse of the Tinseltown lights via “working with individual entertainment clients on their property matters too.” Think lavish mansions in the Hollywood Hills, although the practice's more mainstream work is in the purchase and sale of commercial real estate. Institutional clients bring in a sizable chunk of business, and associates had worked on a range of deals spanning “anything from a big insurance company acquiring $200 million of property to a couple buying a home.” Work allocation is again co-ordinated by the department's head, who interviewees felt is doing a good job: “I am definitely happy with what I've got so far. You see the whole timeline of deals.” They suggested “the workload ebbs and flows a lot” but were generally busy reviewing titles, drafting agreements, preparing closing documents and taking the lead on smaller issues – once they'd got their foundations steady.

Training & Development



All associates get “relatively informal” twice-yearly reviews with their heads of department, who solicit feedback from across the firm as a whole in June and December. There are also informal assessments, “in that when you turn something in, partners are good about saying what you could improve; everything's quite constructive. Some are also big on emailing the managing partner thanking everyone on the deal for their help.” Greenberg Glusker has also recently introduced an “outstanding” formal Associate Training and Development program, divided between firmwide logistics tutorials and practice group training on more discrete legal topics. “It's a lot more structured than before; the firm is willing to invest a lot in training associates,” the scheme's guinea pigs happily declared. “There are always people there to ask questions without worrying you'll be laughed at.”

Office & Culture



Reassuringly, the Hollywood sign is visible from the firm's “pretty typical” sole office, located on Avenue of the Stars in Century City where there's “more of a relaxed vibe than downtown LA: it's a lot less crowded.” The marble lobby and ocean views drew no complaints, though some were less impressed by the kitchen's “burnt orange counter tops,” leading most to conclude “it's not the best office, but it is nice!” Questionable color choices aside, the only other issues we heard about were “the placement of the fruit bowls, and poor wifi keeping us from accessing Instagram.” Both problems, you'll be glad to hear, were brought to the associate committee and solved.

Several interviewees pointed out that having just one office means “everyone you work with is in the building and you get to know everyone, even attorneys in different practice groups. It's small enough that there's a sense of community and common respect.” People felt that management is open about the firm's financials and future direction – the managing partner and associate committee meet every couple of months to run through recent developments. They also explained that a higher ratio of partners to associates than other firms means “there's less hierarchy and more opportunities for people at different levels to interact, either in work or socially.”

“There aren't too many crazy 24-hour-working people here.”

Summer is the peak social season, when the California sun is at its hottest and “there's a festive atmosphere” as summers and current associates alike partake in parties at partners' houses, associate dinners, and trips to the Hollywood Bowl. The firm also runs an annual ski trip, Christmas party, fantasy football league and social retreat “with no work component – it's all playing golf and getting massages.Each week attorneys come together for lunch on Monday and 5pm Friday drinks, providing “lots of opportunities to bond with people, and you do get the chance to as Greenberg respects work/life balance.” Sources revealed “there aren't too many crazy 24-hour-working people here,” but also appreciated “not feeling pressured” to dive headfirst into every social occasion.

Get Hired



“The three things the firm is looking for at interview are academic performance, emotional and intellectual maturity, and being able to speak well to clients.” That's one associate's summary of the Greenberg Glusker creed, with the added proviso that “they're really trying hard to consider diversity as well.” There are no set questions you can expect to come up at interview, as the process is geared more toward “conversation and finding out if you'll fit the culture. There are no trick questions.” Come callback time, grades and qualifications will be a foregone conclusion – at that stage personality is key. Sources advised “we're looking for people with decent social skills who won't put their foot in their mouth.”

“Greenberg is looking for people who could join a big national firm..."

Ties to California are basically essential, although the firm does dabble in out-of-state hiring for the right candidates. Commitment is key, as “Greenberg is looking for people who could join a big national firm but appreciate what we're doing here and will stay,” rather than using the firm as a stepping stone. “Having an interesting background you can talk about” will make your application stand out. Despite having nothing to do with law, necessarily, it “came up in a lot of interviews and was a good jump off point for conversation.” Sports, art and theater are examples of useful interests to have.

Managing partner Bob Baradaran recommends that wannabe lawyers “look at factors beyond firm size and compensation statistics” when making their applications, as “the people and culture at a firm are probably more important than anything else. A large contingent of our firm is very high-caliber former students who've spent a few years at other firms before realizing that's not where they'd like to build a career.” Associates agreed: “Pay attention to who you're going to be working with. It makes a big difference to know who's going to supervise you and who you'll be forging relationships with.”

Diversity



“We're fairly good in terms of gender balance,” both female and male associates agreed. “There are more men than women overall but all firms have a problem with female representation at the top.” There were worries that “there's less ethnic diversity, and we're maybe not reflective enough of Los Angeles in that sense.” Some even felt “the firm talks about diversity a lot but that doesn't seem to be having much of an effect on the demographics.” Greenberg's diversity committee hosts Bar Association dinners and collaborates on external events. Hiring partner Brian Kang tells us: “The firm actively participates in LA law schools' diversity fairs. Candidates' qualifications are what's most important, but we definitely take diversity into consideration.” Associates suggested some departments are doing better than others at diversity –those in real estate, for example, felt their team was “very diverse” but concluded that the firm (and profession as a whole) still has room for improvement.

Pro Bono



“Getting opportunities to do pro bono work all the time” via regular emails, associates were relieved to find “it doesn't feel like a taboo, and I've never been told I'm doing too much. It's a great opportunity to get to run the strategy of a case.” The firm regularly collaborates with local non-profits Bet Tzedek and the Los Angeles County Bar Association on small claims: our interviewees had taken on a range of eviction defenses, injunction requests, adoption cases and other small projects. 100% of pro bono counts towards the hours target for associates.

“It's a great opportunity to get to run the strategy of a case.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 2,220
  • Average per US attorney: 26

Hours & Compensation



1,850 represents a “nominal” billable hours target, but “the firm is explicit not to worry too much about it as a first-year: they understand we're still getting our feet wet.” Most associates found this requirement “pretty realistic” anyway. With an average day running 9am to 6.30pm, and weekend work a rarity, all those we spoke to had plenty of time to get out and enjoy the Cali sun. It's also important to note that “discretionary” bonuses are no longer tied to number of hours billed; they're now based on a range of factors including work quality. A $160,000 starting salary might not quite be A-list money, but associates felt “the trade-off of having manageable hours makes it fair. We're not at the very top of the market but it's in line with firms of our size and it's a pretty generous wage.” The firm also provides 15 days of vacation a year.

Strategy & Future



Quizzed on Greenberg Glusker's place in the market, managing partner Bob Baradaran explains: “Greenberg is uniquely situated as a 90-plus attorney single office firm, with the culture of a small firm and the quality and sophistication of work that you typically find at the top law firms in the country. Also, clients value the fact that our lawyers stay here long term and serve on client teams that learn and understand each client’s business and objectives.” Entertainment is a particularly lucrative area, and “around a quarter of the firm is somehow connected to that space;” a proportion that's still growing.

Clients value the fact that our lawyers stay here long term."

Get Hired



“The three things the firm is looking for at interview are academic performance, emotional and intellectual maturity, and being able to speak well to clients.” That's one associate's summary of the Greenberg Glusker creed, with the added proviso that “they're really trying hard to consider diversity as well.” There are no set questions you can expect to come up at interview, as the process is geared more toward “conversation and finding out if you'll fit the culture. There are no trick questions.” Come callback time, grades and qualifications will be a foregone conclusion – at that stage personality is key. Sources advised “we're looking for people with decent social skills who won't put their foot in their mouth.”

“Greenberg is looking for people who could join a big national firm..."

Ties to California are basically essential, although the firm does dabble in out-of-state hiring for the right candidates. Commitment is key, as “Greenberg is looking for people who could join a big national firm but appreciate what we're doing here and will stay,” rather than using the firm as a stepping stone. “Having an interesting background you can talk about” will make your application stand out. Despite having nothing to do with law, necessarily, it “came up in a lot of interviews and was a good jump off point for conversation.” Sports, art and theater are examples of useful interests to have.

Managing partner Bob Baradaran recommends that wannabe lawyers “look at factors beyond firm size and compensation statistics” when making their applications, as “the people and culture at a firm are probably more important than anything else. A large contingent of our firm is very high-caliber former students who've spent a few years at other firms before realizing that's not where they'd like to build a career.” Associates agreed: “Pay attention to who you're going to be working with. It makes a big difference to know who's going to supervise you and who you'll be forging relationships with.”

Interview with hiring partner Brian Kang



Chambers Associate: What’s the scope of your recruiting drive? How often do you recruit outside of California?

Brian Kang: Most of our recruiting is done in California. As we're based in Los Angeles, the two schools we most frequently draw from are the University of California, LA and the University of Southern California. We also go to Berkeley, Stanford and University of California, Davis, as well as out of state every once in a while. Generally we tend to limit recruitment to within California as candidates are more likely to be able to commit to staying here. It's a gamble if we hire someone who's more likely to move East. One of our most recent summer associates was from Harvard, however, and we do take submissions from all the top law schools.

CA: What does the firm do to encourage diversity in recruiting?

BK: The firm's diversity committee focuses both on ethnic and gender diversity. There are no strict quotas; we hire on a merit basis. As well as collaborating with minority bar associations, the firm actively participates in LA law schools' diversity fairs. Candidates' qualifications are what are most important, but we definitely take diversity into consideration.

CA: What questions do you ask during OCIs and callback interviews?

BK: Grades are of course a big indicator of quality for us and other firms, but we also want to look at people with diverse life experiences who will bring something to the table not only from a work perspective, but will also represent the firm well with clients and in the legal area in general. No attorney spends their whole day in their office working everyday. We want somebody who will represent Greenberg Glusker well in the community.

CA: What experiences will help a candidate to stand out at interview?

BK: Candidates who've taken time out of school before applying for a position at a firm can often be more well-rounded—it's not always the case, but they'll often have more experience of the real world, which we like. The firm isn't looking for cookie cutter candidates focused only on grades, we'd rather someone with experience of the real world of work. Previously, we've had a summer associate who was an actor and another who was a truck driver—drawing from a broader pool of people from various backgrounds adds to the diversity of the firm, and helps us find candidates who can relate to clients better.

CA: Talk me through your summer program. How many summer associates do you take each year?

BK: We look to take two or three summers per program. The summer operates on a rotation system, and summer associates will rotate through subdivisions of each department for periods of a few weeks at a time, so they get to see the whole firm and get the opportunity to work with as many attorneys as possible. This not only benefits the summer associates, it helps us to get a fuller picture of their capabilities and it means that all our attorneys will get to know them either through work or social events. That makes it easier for us to assess if we want to make them an offer or not.

CA: How can a summer associate get the most out of the program?

BK: What we're looking for aside from great writing skills and legal research abilities is the skill of assimilating into the firm, getting along socially with everybody and showing initiative—the latter in particular is one of the biggest things I consider. The Greenberg Glusker attitude is one of striving to get better and be better. No matter what level they're at, we want our attorneys to feel ownership of the firm, whether that's through involvement in committees, the recruiting process or administration. What's important is that new associates come in feeling like they have a career ahead of them here.

CA: What makes Greenberg Glusker unique?

BK: The firm is unique as a mid-size, one-office firm in Los Angeles, as a lot of our competitors have merged into bigger national firms. Every partner here could probably make more money if we merged but we jealously guard the culture we've established here, where we can do top class work but aren't pushing associates to bill 2,200 hours every year. This isn't a place for people who want to stay two or three years then leave. We hire people with the expectation they'll stay here for the rest of their career. A large number of our partners were summer associates here or came in as very young junior laterals. We even have a running joke that people come to Greenberg Glusker from bigger firms to spend the rest of their career here. It's important that attorneys' voices can all be heard. There are no satellite offices, so you can walk into the managing partner's office and talk to him directly. At the same time, we have the resources of a big firm. Greenberg is in a very good sweet spot in the market.

CA: Is there anything else our readers should know about the firm?

BK: I'd like to emphasize that we're very distinct from almost every other firm in California or even the U.S. For over 60 years we've crafted a very distinct identity, which we're proud of. Associates can feel ownership of the firm from day one, and there's only a hierarchy in terms of work allocation. Because everyone feels like a valued member of the firm, everybody feels comfortable having a say in how it is run.

Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP

1900 Avenue of the Stars,
21st Floor,
Los Angeles,
CA 90067
Website www.ggfirm.com

  • Head Office: Los Angeles
  • Number of domestic offices: 1
  • Number of international offices: 0
  • Worldwide revenue: Undisclosed
  • Partners (US): 61
  • Associates (US): 27
  • Main Recruitment Contact: Brian Kang
  • Hiring Partner: Andrew Apfelberg
  • Recruitment website: http://www.greenbergglusker.com/careers
  • Diversity Officer: Wendy Lane
  • Summer Salary 2017 
  • 1Ls: $3,077/week
  • 2Ls: $3,077/week
  • Post 3Ls: $3,077/week
  • Split summers offered? Yes
  • Summers 2017: 2

Main areas of work
Bankruptcy/Insolvency, corporate, employment, entertainment, environmental, intellectual property, litigation, private client services, real estate, and taxation.

Firm profile
Greenberg Glusker, founded in 1959, has held a unique position in Los Angeles as a full-service law firm. Committed to providing clients a wide range of services, the firm combines the personal attention of a boutique firm with the strength and breadth of services customarily found in a multi-office, international firm. Results-oriented client service is how the firm continues to distinguish itself today.

Recruitment details
• Number  of 1st year associates: 3
• Number  of 2nd year associates: 1
• Associate salaries: 1st year: Give in $160,000    • 2nd year: Give in $165,000
• Clerking policy: No

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2017:
UC Davis, UCLA, UC Berkeley, USC, and Stanford

Summer details
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: (a) litigation/employment/entertainment; (b) real estate/environmental/trusts and estates; and (c) bankruptcy/business and 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.