Greenberg Traurig, PA - The Inside View

It’s not easy being green, but this youthful Miami-born firm proves that hard work pays off.

FOUNDED in 1967, Greenberg Traurig has grown from a small South Florida firm specializing in real estate to a global giant with 38 offices in ten countries around the world. When we asked sources for the secret ingredient in the firm’s recipe for success, they told us: “You don’t grow from a tiny Miami firm to one of the largest in the world without having an eye for entrepreneurial people who can attract and retain work.” Associates were drawn to GT’s huge US network spanning 19 states: “They have cutting-edge practitioners in pretty much every market, and I love being able to interact with other offices.”

"They have cutting-edge practitioners in pretty much every market."

These days GT’s practice has gone well beyond real estate (although this remains the jewel in the crown if its Chambers USA rankings are anything to go by), with formidable rankings in Florida and New York for its corporate and litigation practices respectively. But the firm's offices across the US pick up rankings for all kinds of sectors it pays to take a closer look at Chambers USA.

The Work



Of 113 associates, Greenberg’s corporate and litigation practices claimed the majority: around 60%, while real estate housed another 25%. The firm’s smaller offices adopt a work assignment system that is “a little more organic,” as opposed to the larger offices, where “there’s a coordinator for first and second years and someone who oversees it all.” New Yorkers in the corporate group revealed a new system whereby “around once a week a partner will ask what your workload looks like as an extra way to monitor business.” A DC second-year told us: “It’s not ‘eat what you kill’; it’s based on developing personal relationships with shareholders.” (Here they call partners "shareholders".)

Sources in corporate said the group does “a mix of every single type of work: private equity, M&A, capital markets, debt work. Name any practice area and you’ll find someone here who does it.” We spoke to associates across a range of specialisms and offices, and most concurred: “You have months where you’re working on bigger deals, and then times when you’re working on more discrete matters rather than balls to the wall M&A.” In terms of clients the majority, we were told, were often publicly-traded companies with a largely national scope. Enjoying the level of exposure they got, juniors said: "Being able to understand how a transaction is run is a huge bonus.

"Name any practice area and you’ll find someone here who does it."

One DC recruit reflected: “On a scale of one to ten I’d say my responsibility has been around an eight. I’ve heard about people at other firms who have been in diligence basements for their first year, but that hasn’t been my experience.” Associates had, nevertheless, been dealt a generous helping of due diligence, as well as drafting memos and ancillary documents, gathering feedback and coordinating closings. Finally, those in the firm’s smaller offices felt “you get more responsibility here than in New York because there’s less of a hierarchy here.”

In litigation, interviewees had sampled a variety of matters including labor and employment, securities and bankruptcy cases. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my assignments,” one Boston resident informed us. “I got to attend over 20 hearings in my first year, which were mostly discovery but some dispositive motions too. I got to do twelve depositions and was heavily involved in everything surrounding them.” Others concurred: “As a junior you get to handle smaller claims in state court, so you get more autonomy.” Sources had been involved in “a ton of mediation and arbitration,” and listed a range of tasks including “preparing witnesses, pre-mediation memos, preparing outlines for depositions and exhibits as well as drafting motions for summary judgments.”

Greenberg’s esteemed real estate practice housed a quarter of this year’s interviewees. The firm’s huge national scope proved a hit with juniors: “The wonderful thing about us is that we have national clients even though our offices are regional. We get to work on complex transactions at a very early stage.” The range of work on offer ticked more boxes, and we heard about work involving affordable housing, public finance, developer transactions, buying dirt and construction lending. Sources explained that because of the national nature of the work “you’re constantly being challenged. There are always complex issues arising from the nuances of other states that sometimes even the shareholders haven’t seen before.”

"We get to work on complex transactions at a very early stage."

Newbies continued to praise the quick responsibility they’d experienced: “I get more client contact every day and I’m always involved in the process. We’re not just pushing paper.” That’s not to say diligence didn’t come up, but sources reasoned: “It’s nice to have some work that you’re comfortable with rather than spending 40 hours a week doing work that really makes you dig deep.” Interviewees had drafted title reviews, negotiated purchase contracts and “quarter-backed closings” to name a few examples of their workload. Despite the challenges that come with the firm’s “lean staffing model” we heard that supervision is still plentiful: “Shareholders are very supportive. If I’m on a loan with elements I’ve never worked on before someone’s always happy to go through it step by step.” Finally, they enthused: “The firm is so interconnected that if someone here doesn’t know the answer there are 2,000 other people who might.”

Offices



New York is the firm’s largest office, but Miami is the birthplace of GT. “It’s beautiful. I interviewed at a lot of places and this was the best, design-wise.” Sources across the board praised the “incomparable” resources, including 24/7 document services, tech help and office staff. Up in New York the office is located “right in midtown, near Grand Central,” although we heard rumors that the office may be moving. Compared to other BigLaw firms in the city, juniors felt “our office has more of a community feel because it’s a little smaller.”

"Our office has more of a community feel."

With 29 offices in the US alone, it’s no wonder how associates felt: “Being the global behemoth that it is, I think GT needs to be pretty decentralized.” While the culture varies between offices, all of our interviewees enjoyed GT’s huge national and international footprint and subsequent wealth of resources. “I don’t feel disconnected here.It always surprises me when a shareholder knows exactly who to reach out to in each office. If we need a subpoena or local law advice in another state they always know a couple of people to choose from.” Those in Fort Lauderdale agreed: “The firm projects a culture of feeling small while being so huge and I’ve really found that to be true.” When it came to working with other offices we heard “I’ve worked with 15 of our 29 offices and the depth of speciality and local knowledge is unrivaled. I’ve also worked with Korea, Poland and Shanghai.”

Culture



Sources reflected: “When you like what you’re doing and the people you’re working with it just breeds success. I think that’s something our clients really admire.” Other reports chimed with this sentiment, with juniors describing the firm as “fairly flat in structure” and “a well-oiled machine rather than a sweatshop.” One Philly newbie felt that “there’s the expectation here that people stick around longer than at other firms. There’s no point investing energy if people are going to leave anyway, so there’s an interest in your career and making sure you’re happy.” The firm’s relative youth added a sense of entrepreneurial spirit according to one source: “If you’re working at a high level it’s recognized immediately. GT is only 50 years old and I don’t know if you’d get the same opportunities as a junior if the firm was 200 years old.” Florida recruits told us: “GT had a nasty reputation here, but we’re actually known for being one of the friendliest offices with the highest morale. We’re all close, in and out of the office, and people are very understanding when it comes to having a personal life.”

"When you like what you’re doing and the people you’re working with it just breeds success."

Many sources across offices praised the work-life balance at GT, describing a “family-friendly” culture. We heard about monthly happy hours and holiday parties, but overall the social side of things was fairly casual. We did hear that a number of shareholders are involved in various charitable events, and that “it’s common for people to hang out outside of work. People are close enough to invite each other round their houses and so on.”

Hours & Compensation



GT doesn’t operate an official billable target, although juniors told us 1,800 hours was the minimum requirement to be eligible for a bonus. “We’re told it’s based on quality over quantity, but no one really knows what the system is,” sources revealed. “It’s definitely a source of frustration. If you get to the end of the year and have a great review you still don’t know what to expect in terms of compensation.” Others said: “From my perspective it’s not something the firm takes lightly. It’s on a case-by-case basis and I’m fine with that.” On the compensation, which matches Cravath in New York but varies elsewhere, associates felt: “even making $5,000 less than someone over the street can be annoying. It’s not a deal-breaker for me but it’s something people should be aware of.”

Most interviewees reported regularly leaving work between 6.30 and 8pm, with one enthusiastic associate lamenting the fact that “the culture is less full-on than you’d expect from a BigLaw firm. The office is usually pretty dead by 7.” Some New Yorkers in corporate said there were rare occasions where “I haven’t gone to bed until 4am and then had to go straight back into work that morning.” Most associates agreed “people usually go home and then work from there.”

Pro Bono



Greenberg has recently introduced a minimum pro bono requirement of 25 hours, and associates told us they frequently get “robust newsletters” advertising opportunities. Those who had done pro bono had worked on a variety of matters, including a free Estate Planning Clinic in Fort Lauderdale for Holocaust survivors, which was “a truly great experience,” according to interviewees. Boston sources told us about an initiative which helps juvenile immigrants gain asylum in the US, while those in Philadelphia had worked on a “pretty cool” project which aims to bring an affordable energy loan initiative from New York to Pennsylvania.

"A truly great experience."

A number of sources, however, told us: “I’ve been trying to get pro bono but I haven’t been successful,” while others simply said: “I haven’t had the time or the inclination.” These reports came mainly from sources in corporate, who added: “I’m not even sure how a transactional attorney can get pro bono work. Pretty much all of us in corporate were floored by the new requirement because we haven’t heard about any opportunities.” Others were more encouraged by the new initiative: “I think it’ll incentivize people to do more by removing the perception that it’s optional.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 25,622
  • Average per US attorney: 16

Training & Development



Following orientation, associates receive “constant ongoing training, sometimes to an annoying extent.” Litigators praised GT’s “amazing skills training series that’s offered nationwide.” They elaborated: “Each year they host a few programs and 30 to 40 associates are invited from across the firm to take part. If you’re training to do a deposition you get a packet of information and they hire real judges to enact it. It’s a great program and great way to meet associates and shareholders from other offices, but getting onto it is hard.” On the transaction side there’s a corporate boot camp, although some felt the training was “a bit piecemeal.” Many CLE’s are available on the firm’s intranet, “which is a great way to tailor your own training, as well as identifying people who work in specific practice areas.” 

When it comes to feedback, associates get one formal evaluation per year, where there’s also the opportunity to provide upward feedback. Some suggested: “It might be better to have semiannual evaluations because informal feedback throughout the year can vary wildly from shareholder to shareholder.” Those who had lateraled over from other firms felt: “Here it’s a little more transparent compared to other places where people sometimes brush you off and say everything’s fine.

Diversity



Sources typically agreed that “the firm does a pretty good job of making an effort. Looking around you can see people from different backgrounds.” We didn’t hear much about initiatives although corporate insiders assured us “we’re run by a bunch of women who have female leadership development training.” When it came to recruiting, we heard: “There’s a good mix of men and women in our summer group, although they could do a better job of hiring more African American people.” In New York we heard: “Our office is incredibly diverse and inclusive. Traditionally New York firms have had an issue but GT is really on the forefront of making sure that diversity is an important part of our firm’s character.”

Strategy & Future



We heard: “Due to the nature of being at such a big firm, when major decisions reach associate level it’s already been in the pipeline for months.” Despite this, sources described “associate meetings where managing partners and shareholders go through numbers and their vision going forward,” adding: “We get given a lot of information I wouldn’t expect, like financial statements and billing hours. It’s nice to get a peek behind the curtain.” Associates across the firm revealed: “Management has been pushing something called associate development training where you learn how to make a pitch and how they decide who makes partner.” Finally, juniors in certain offices told us about all associate dinners that happen once a year, where “we get the opportunity to voice any grievances we might have, and a lot of times these suggestions are implemented.”

Get Hired



When we asked what GT looks for in its new recruits, we heard: “The most important thing is being down to earth. We’re not flashy.” Others agreed: “We’re obviously a really hardworking group of people but no one has a ‘holier than thou’ attitude. There aren’t a lot of egos.” Entrepreneurialism is at the forefront of the firm’s ideology, as we learned in interviews, and it’s helpful to keep this in mind when applying. “You don’t need to do this right away, but there will come a time when you need to bring in business. If you’re not geared toward building your own network you probably won’t succeed here.”

Many interviewees kept the firm’s “humble beginnings” in mind when considering the type of person GT is likely to snap up at interview. “We’re not prestige-hungry. We value interpersonal relationships as much as credentials, if not more.” Finally, we heard: “A lot of BigLaw summer positions end up being a ten-week vacation where you party on boats, but they’re much more upfront here, which I appreciate. It’s hard work but they really do value you.”

Interview with Brian Duffy, CEO at Greenberg Traurig



Chambers Associate:Have there been any highlights for the firm over the last twelve months that our readers should know about?

Brian Duffy: We celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2017, which was an exciting time. The majority of our offices and lawyers dedicated at least 50 hours to pro bono. Chambers USA named us real estate firm of the year, so thank you for that! The new president of the American Bar Association – the largest professional association in the world – is co-president of the firm. A number of attorneys answered the call of public service, including the acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Regardless of how you feel about the current administration, it’s incumbent on lawyers to answer that call. In terms of performance, we’ve had another good year. We haven’t published our numbers yet but it’s looking good. Lastly, we’ve continued to achieve great results for outstanding clients, which is the most important highlight.

CA:We’ve heard that a minimum requirement has been introduced for hours spent on pro bono work. Is this part of a drive to increase the amount of pro bono the firm does?

BD: Yes it is. It’s an initiative that we’re carrying over. We’re trying to make more people more engaged, because it’s good for the firm and for young attorneys. We’ve set the 25-hour minimum because it can be too tempting to focus on billable hours and that can impact the professional development of an associate. Part of being a well-rounded professional is having a commitment to serving our community. We try to show that commitment through philanthropic giving and our support for Equal Justice Works. We pay for seven or eight fellows a year who work full time in public interest positions.

CA:Where do you see the firm in five years' time?

BD: Five years is a long time! I will say that within five years you’re going to see us embracing more innovation and change. The firm is strongly committed to continuously embracing technology and working together with our clients to find more efficient and cost-effective solutions and thinking outside of the box. The best ideas and solutions will come from the next generations because they’ve grown up with rapid change. We have a Communications Forum of young leadership and the millennials are already asking questions about their practice, and they’re where the most effective change comes from. I also think you’ll see us continuing to improve the quality of our talent.

CA:What does the firm offer associates that is unique?

BD: What sets us apart is that there’s an open path to leadership; it’s not a false construct where lawyers with great potential who provide amazing service need an act of God to make partner. I’m not going to prejudge the vote for elevation this month but I wouldn’t hesitate to wager that we will elevate people from associate ranks at a higher percentage than our peer firms. I go and interview on campuses every year and I want nothing more than to meet people and see them go up to partner level. In addition to the traditional associate track, we have opportunities for people who want a lower hours requirement, similar to our trainees in London. We have 15-20 first-year resident attorneys who are not on the traditional partnership track. They do lower hours but never lower performance. I always say the barriers to being a lawyer are low but the barriers to excellence are high. The last thing from an associate standpoint is that they each have an e-Notebook to track where they’re at in their professional development. The e-Notebook is cool! It gives associates a real-time interactive ability to track their development, and I think we’re ahead of the curve in bringing innovation to our associate program. My compliments to the people on that team, they’re a really fantastic team.

CA:How would you describe the ideal GT lawyer?

BD: Someone who wants to be a lawyer, has passion and has commitment to their career. I also think it’s incredibly important to enjoy the success of their team and understand the relationship between attorneys and clients. We look for people that maybe other people aren’t looking for. We want to see a person and find something unique that doesn’t fit the everyday model. We’re very committed to diversity; in our associate ranks especially we’re laser focused on improving that on both a shareholder and an associate level. It’s important for our clients and our community.

I’d love to start over at GT and do it all again. Something I remind associates of is that this is an amazing profession and this is a great law firm, so enjoy the ride. The process of becoming a trusted adviser is a wonderful opportunity and we’d love them to chase that passion and achieve that at GT. We have a phenomenal group of associates and I couldn’t be more proud.

 

Greenberg Traurig, PA

  • Head Office: Global
  • Number of domestic offices: 29
  • Number of international offices: 9
  • Worldwide revenue: $1,477,180,000
  • Partners (US): 992
  • Associates (US): 1051
  • Contacts Main recruitment contact: Janet McKeegan (mckeegan@gtlaw.com) Hiring partner: Brad Kaufman Diversity officer: Nikki Lewis Simon
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 38
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 1Ls 5, 2Ls 29, 3Ls 0, SEO 0
  • Summer salary 2018: 1Ls: $ NA 2Ls: $ NA
  • Split summers offered? Case-by-case
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Case-by-case

Main areas of work



 Banking and financial services; blockchain; corporate; cybersecurity, privacy and crisis management; emerging technology; energy and natural resources; entertainment and media; environmental; food, beverage and agribusiness; franchise and distribution; gaming; government contracts; government law and policy; health care and FDA practice; hospitality; immigration and compliance; infrastructure; insurance; intellectual property and technology; international trade; labor and employment; Latin American and Iberian practice; life sciences and medical technology; litigation; marketing, advertising, sweepstakes and promotions law; pharmaceutical, medical device and health care; private wealth services; public finance; real estate; regulatory and compliance; restructuring and bankruptcy; retail; tax; technology, media and telecommunications; transportation and automotive

Firm profile



 Greenberg Traurig, LLP (GT) has more than 2,000 attorneys in 38 offices in the United States, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. GT has been recognized for its philanthropic giving, was named the largest firm in the US by Law360 in 2017, and is among the Top 20 on the 2017 Am Law Global 100.

Recruitment



 Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2018:
Brooklyn; Chicago-Kent; Columbia; Cornell; Duke; Florida International University; Fordham; Georgetown; George Washington; Harvard; Howard; Indiana University; Loyola; Florida International University; Northwestern; Notre Dame; University of California Los Angeles; University of Chicago; University of Florida; University of Miami; University of Michigan; University of Pennsylvania; University of Southern California; University of Virginia; Vanderbilt

Recruitment outside OCIs:
We also attend a number of job fairs, meet with candidates who contact us directly from schools where do not go on campus, and identify candidates through resume collections.

Job Fairs: Cook County Minority Job Fair; IP Job Fair; Lavender Law Career Fair; Midwest-California-Georgia Consortium in Chicago; Southeastern Minority Job Fair (SEMJF)

Resume Collects: Case Western; Emory; Florida State; Georgia State; Ohio State; Pepperdine; St. Thomas; Stetson; Stanford; University of Georgia; Washington University in St. Louis; Yale

Summer associate profile:
Many of our current firm leaders started their careers as a summer associate at Greenberg Traurig. An important objective of the program is for summer associates to being the transition from law student to practicing lawyers and future leaders by including them on client matters. Key qualities we look for in our attorneys are an entrepreneurial spirit, initiative and willingness to assume responsibility and leadership skills.

Summer program components:
Corporate deal simulation Conflict resolution training Litigation training, such as oral advocacy presentation Visit to appeals court and Q&A session with a judge Firsthand exposure to in-house counsels and their interaction with law firms

Social media



 Recruitment website:www.gtlaw.com/careers/associates
Linkedin:greenberg-traurig-llp
Twitter:@GT_Law
Facebook:GreenbergTraurigLLP
Instagram: @gt_law

This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Recognised Practitioner
    • Tax Recognised Practitioner
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Natural Resources & Environment (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Immigration (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Insurance Recognised Practitioner
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Latin American Investment (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
    • Immigration Recognised Practitioner
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance: Public Finance (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment Recognised Practitioner
    • Real Estate Recognised Practitioner
    • Corporate/Commercial (Band 2)
    • Gaming & Licensing (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
    • Environment Recognised Practitioner
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Immigration Recognised Practitioner
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A Recognised Practitioner
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property Recognised Practitioner
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 4)
    • Environment (Band 4)
    • Franchising (Band 4)
    • Gaming & Licensing (Band 1)
    • Immigration (Band 2)
    • Leisure & Hospitality (Band 2)
    • Native American Law (Band 2)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 4)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • REITs (Band 3)
    • Retail (Band 1)