Greenberg Traurig, PA - The Inside View

This GT may be a newer model than some other firms its size, but it's quickly covered a lot of ground.

AT Chambers Associate the letters ‘G’ and ‘T’ usually signal gin and tonic – when we're finished researching law firms, of course. But in the world of law firms, GT can only be Greenberg Traurig; and in the world of Greenberg Traurig it’s the slogan ‘go-to’. The firm was founded in Miami just over 50 years ago, focusing largely on real estate. Most of its offices are in the US – number 30, Minneapolis, opened its doors in early 2019. Nowadays the largest is New York, but the firm still “has a big footprint” in Florida thanks to its seven bases there.

Corporate, litigation and real estate are Greenberg's largest practices today; the latter remains “premier” and “respected” according to its juniors, who thought of it as “the bedrock of the firm.” The practice picks up a top nationwide Chambers USA ranking, as do retail and gaming and licensing. GT also sits among the greats in banking and finance, bankruptcy, M&A and private equity, environment, labor and employment, Latin American investment, litigation, real estate and tax in the Sunshine State, and earns plaudits in eight other states. Worth raising a G&T to, we're sure you'll agree...

So why did our sources go-to Greenberg? “The opportunity to do interesting and complicated work,” they told us, with some admitting “I didn’t want to feel lost in a huge firm.” Employing 2,000+ lawyers working in 39 offices over ten countries, GT is no microdistillery, but any associates initially wary of the firm’s sheer enormity were soon won over. A real estate source suggested “when you’re working on deals with properties in other states, you can just call up people in the firm right away and ask for help.”

The Work



Work allocation is a fairly informal process, “it's mainly about where we need bodies.” Larger groups have assigning partners on hand but associates said that what you end up working on is still “very much based on your relationships with shareholders” (partners are ‘shareholders’ at GT).The associate/shareholder ratio is almost one to one, “so you often work directly with them.” Some juniors emphasized “it’s really, really, really on you to communicate. Oftentimes shareholders want to monopolize your time.” Others desired “more freedom” to decide their path, but could express their interests in weekly reports. Corporate and litigation housed the majority of the juniors on our list – together they accounted for 60% of second and third-year associates. Different offices have different specialties: Northern Virginia does lots of immigration law, for example. California'soffices are a dab hand at IP, technology and media & entertainment matters, while Latin American transactions are easy to find in Miami.

Corporate handles a broad array of domestic and international M&A, private equity, finance, capital markets and investment funds. M&A came with “research and pulling and drafting SEC filings – for the most part it’s finding precedent.” As well as domestic deals, team Miami handles matters for “strategic buyers looking to expand into Latin America” or businesses looking to break into the US market. Bilingual associates were able to help with “diligence in Spanish” but associates clarified they “haven’t been stuck in the monotony of signature pages” – there was drafting to be done too. Many corporate juniors also praised the level of client contact they’d been exposed to: “I’m listed on client memos, so I’m often the first point of contact for company counsel.”

Corporate clients: Sun Capital Partners, AMC subsidiary RLJ Entertainment, MEDNAX. Represented chemical production company Element Solutions in the $4.2 billion sale of its Agricultural Solutions business.

“It’s hard to give any limitations on what we do! We have experts in every field.”

GT’s litigation team handles commercial disputes and white-collar matters. Juniors are generalists for the most part and “it’s hard to give any limitations on what we do! We have experts in every field.”Atlanta is a hub for products liability litigation; real estate and construction litigation are key in Miami, and Los Angeles leans more towards IP disputes. We spoke to associates across the firm who’d done negligence suits, arbitrations, contract disputes and breach of fiduciary cases. Document review and case management were common and “discovery responses are something juniors get tasked with a lot.” They’d also drafted motions for summary judgment and responses to pleading. Several interviewees got to either second-chair depositions or even take them – “I deposed a medical physician. I never thought anyone would let me do that!”

Litigation clients: Everest Capital, Samsung, Hyundai. Represented artist Ross Bleckner when actor Alec Baldwin brought fraud allegations against art dealer Mary Boone after he'd purchased one of Bleckner’s paintings from her.

The generalist trend continues into real estate – “the group handles the full spectrum of what it takes to be a real estate attorney.” That meant lender and borrower side financing, purchase and sale agreements, joint ventures, dirt work, acquisitions and dispositions, land use... our interviewees had dug into the lot. Thanks to its “prestigious reputation,” GT's clients include “some of the biggest companies in the real estate industry.” When the group is busy,tasks get more menial: “I’ll be putting out signature pages and compiling documents to distribute to clients.” But associates also “got to do a ton of drafting” in the quieter periods. “Yes I’m drafting organization documents, but there are also letters, loan documents, and purchase and sale documents,” one explained.

Real estate clients: Square Mile Capital, Starwood Capital, Playa Hotels & Resorts. Represented grocery store company Albertsons in the $1 billion sale and leaseback of approximately 100 stores throughout the US.

Get Hired



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Career Development



Most of our insiders agreed that “the path from associate to shareholder is very real,” but understood “those conversations don’t come up at this stage.” A real estate associate felt their responsibilities were “testament to my group’s desire to develop young associates. They want me to become a shareholder.”

Training is in no short supply – in Los Angeles for instance “there’s a training webinar or someone comes in and we do role-playing exercises at least once a month.” Associates in the New York office told us they make use of GT’s professional development program, which was conducted by a retired partner at the time of our calls. “It’s a resource to ask questions like how to deal with office politics, or how to do a specific task.” GT also has a global chairman of professional development and integration, Bradford Kaufman, who oversees this program across the firm.Every associate has a senior mentorbut “some of them can be very busy; mine doesn’t really check in on me.” Juniors made up for this by forging informal mentoring relationships.

Culture



In a firm with over 2,000 attorneys “each office can be completely different,” but at GT we heard that “you get a small firm atmosphere with the resources and clientele of a big firm.” On the one hand, juniors got to “work intimately with the same group every day and get to know people’s schedules, tendencies, and preferences.” As a counterbalance “there are firmwide emails every day asking ‘does anyone have expertise in this?’ Within minutes people respond from all over the place whether they know you or not.” Many described Greenberg's broad network as “a huge advantage” in their day-to-day experience.

“A place where self-starters thrive.”

Associates reckoned that getting to work one on one with shareholders made GT “a place where self-starters thrive.”Los Angeles juniors went on to say it made for an “individualized” culture, “there aren’t a lot of weekly check-ins so everybody feels like they’re on their own track.” The positive spin on this is “it helps reduce anxiety because no one is looking over your shoulder and you’re not gonna be accountable at the Monday morning meeting!” However, some found the firm's environment “kind of isolating. It’s hard to gripe to other associates because they’re worrying about their own cases.” Chicago sources were however quick to describe “a real feeling of humility” among attorneys, “we're really afamily here.” As for Miami, “we treat everyone the same whether it’s the cleaning staff or the CEO.”

Strategy & Future



Real estate associates described efforts “to make sure the group stays strong and active. As someone who wanted to go to a firm where real estate was important, that’s perfect!” Miami associates noticed the firm's desire to grow its fund formation practice, and the New York team is set to up sticks to One Vanderbilt (the skyscraper currently under construction in midtown Manhattan) after it is completed in 2020. “From the plans it really looks like it’s going to be gorgeous,” juniors beamed.

Hours & Compensation



Associate pay varies by office, but associates across the firm found themselves “underwhelmed” by GT’s “secretive” handling of the 2018 market salary bump. Juniors in New York worried that “peers at other firms don’t think I'm getting paid market – but I am! Greenberg's prestige is a little tarnished.” Associates in Miami felt that “not keeping up will harm our ability to attract talent in the future.”

While there is no official billing target at Greenberg, our sources did have some notion of what they should be trying to aim for. Some suggested that reaching 1,900/1,950 hours was a broadly understood ideal. “I didn't reach that last year but still got positive reviews,” a litigator told us, and anotheragreed “there’s no penalty if you don't make it. There are people who might be as low as 1,750 with no consequences.” Sources in corporate and real estate suggested the target was more like 2,000 hours: “I haven't seen anything in writing, but that’s what’s been communicated. I’ve had no problem meeting that.”

“...shareholders aren’t actually clock-watching.”

Reaching that threshold required “challenging” hours. In corporate “there’s a lot of cross-border work, so you’ve often got early calls to Europe or late ones to Australia.” New York real estate juniors said a week of 12-hour days “was relatively heavy but not unusual.”Chicago attorneys in several groups had logged days that ran longer than 12 hours, but a litigator was convinced “it’s a good problem because you end up getting good performance reviews.” We heard from martyrs in California too, though “the only ones staying till 9pm are first and second years. Shareholders aren’t actually clock-watching so people start to wonder: ‘Why am I working this hard if I’m not getting individual attention?'” Across the firm as a whole, 7pm was the closest thing to an average finish time.

Pro Bono



We were told that Greenberg has recently doubled its associate pro bono target to 50 hours – reflecting “a huge emphasis on pro bono.” In theory, 100 hours count towards billables (potentially more, if approved by the firm), “though whether it’s completely respected when you have billable deadlines is another issue. I’ve heard shareholders say that 1,900 hours with 100 pro bono hours will look very different from 2,000 straight billables in reviews.”  It’ll take more than that to deter the firm's litigators: “It’s very normal to rack up a high number of pro bono hours. I did over 100 in my first year and someone else went all the way up to 180.” Things were different in corporate: “I don’t think anyone could really exceed the target.”

Designated pro bono coordinators are on hand with opportunities, which are listed by subject area. “If there’s a real estate matter or a false advertising case,” for instance, “those will be in a chart to make people want to jump in.” The Chicago office has connections with Lawyers for the Creative Arts; immigration work in coordination with Americans for Immigrant Justice was common in Miami.“I was able to get asylum granted for a client – they let me lead the case and I did direct examination in court.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 31,298
  • Average per US attorney: 15.6

Diversity & Inclusion



The firm’s GT Women initiative “meets monthly and we get different business development opportunities through it.” Some more promotion may be in order as not many of our interviewees knew about it, or indeed any affinity groups: “If there are any we haven't been told about them.” There were worries about “a decline in female shareholders” in Miami, “in the past year some have left. One left to start her own diversity initiative.” The office fared better at ethnic diversity – “if you’re not Hispanic you’re in the minority” – and across all of Greenberg there were sources satisfied with how things were managed. “I prefer it not being too structural,” one argued, “I don’t want to feel tokenized.”

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 717

Interviewees outside OCI: 63

Greenberg Traurig interviews at schools that are nationally ranked or well-represented with alumni in the current attorney population. It also attends job fairs and hires judicial clerks. In 2018 it interviewed at 38 law schools and had 27 resume collections.

If students do not make the interview schedule because their school uses a random lottery system, “we encourage students to contact the recruiting manager for the office in which they are interested,” says global chairman of professional development and integration Brad D. Kaufman. OCIs are conducted by shareholders (this is what Greenberg calls its partners) and sometimes another attorney. Interviewers look for top academic performance, and a balance of interests in and out of law school. Kaufman adds: “We look at why the candidate is interested in our firm and ask them about practice area interests, because that will determine who the candidate should meet if there is a callback interview.”

Top tips for this stage:

“Share something you’re passionate about, whether that’s at law school or an extracurricular activity. We really want to find that extra interesting reason for what drives someone.” a first-year junior associate

“It is critical that they show that they know the firm, the local office and the attorneys who are interviewing them. Today, this is easier than ever.” – global chairman of professional development and integration Brad D. Kaufman

Callbacks

Applicants invited to second stage interview: 323

Candidates meet shareholders and associates throughout the callback. Each interview is 20 to 30 minutes long. Kaufman tells us: “We focus on whether the candidate can thrive in our firm culture,” so candidates should expect questions about working in smaller teams and showing initiative.

Top tips for this stage:

“People who do well are people who’re comfortable and capable of cracking a joke.” a first-year junior associate

“Make sure to read the biographies of the attorneys who will be interviewing you and try and show genuine interest in their practice.” global chairman of professional development and integration Brad D. Kaufman

Summer program

Offers: 86

Acceptances: 34

Summer associates’ projects are usually assigned by an associate. These projects are based on the firm’s needs, so summers will likely get exposure to different areas of law. The exception is patent prosecution as the firm hires summers directly into this group. Kaufman says: “You should have a few projects on your plate at any given time, but do not volunteer for every project so it spreads you thin and affects the quality of your work.” Associates are given a shareholder and an associate mentor to help navigate the program.

“They do the great activities – baseball games, cocktail events – where you meet all the practice groups,” a first-year associate recalled. “That’s really fun and can be just as grueling as the work!”

The firm makes offers to specific practice areas.

Top tips for this stage:

“Take the time to learn from key professional staff, including legal assistants/secretaries, as they are often critical to the workflows of the practices.” global chairman of professional development and integration Brad D. Kaufman

And finally….

Kaufman adds: “We value diversity and individuality so be yourself!”

Interview with CEO Brian Duffy



Chambers Associate:How would you describe the firm's current market position to our student readers?

Brian Duffy: We just came off 2018 with the best year in the history of the firm, so it’s a great time to be an associate at Greenberg Traurig. This is one of my favorite times of the year. We just announced our elevated associates to shareholder this year, and it’s a fantastic class. We elevated 32 associates to shareholder. One of the things I would point out to law students is that GT is a place where they will be respected, listened to, and empowered to build a real, long-term career. This is the type of firm where someone can build a lifetime career in an environment that is supportive, inclusive and excited to have them.

CA: Are there any developments from the last twelve months you’d like to tell us about?

BD: I think it’s been exciting from a broad standpoint. Literally every practice area across the firm has been doing very well. We opened our 29th US office in the last 12 months in Minneapolis. We have a commitment to building out our world class platform. We’ve had significant growth in Europe as we continue to recognize that the legal marketplace is globalizing. Thinking about the practice of law in an innovative and creative way is a fascinating challenge, and it challenges the organization and our lawyers on a daily basis. The next generation of lawyers will take us to new heights when it comes to innovation. We need their creativity.

CA: What was behind the decision to open in Minneapolis?

BD: Three main drivers.  One was that we have a number of clients headquartered in the Minneapolis market, so there was a significant client need. The second driver is if you look at our US platform with 29 offices, Minneapolis was definitely the city in a market we needed to be in. The third is that we found some great lawyers who shared our culture and vision. We’re very focused on the client experience, so it was timely in the sense that we found the right people. We’ve been looking at that market for over a decade.

CA: Which practices and offices have you earmarked for growth over the next year and why?

BD: I think you’ll see a lot of activity in private equity, real estate and certain segments of litigation. With offices, there continues to be a significant focus in California and in south Florida.

CA: When did you decide to become a lawyer? Why?

BD: Oh boy… I guess the earliest point was in second grade. My mother still has an essay I wrote in second grade that says I wanted to be a lawyer. I had an elementary teacher who told me I should become a lawyer.

CA: Why do you think this teacher saw that in you at such a young age?

BD: I’m a little afraid to answer that… I suspect it was because I was overly opinionated and argumentative. But that would be speculating.

CA: Looking back at your career and the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give to students who are about to enter the legal industry based on the lessons you’ve learned?

BD: One piece of advice I would give would be to seek out and identify mentors. People that you respect, and whose opinions, view of life, and practice of law you value. Find great mentors and invest in those mentors and relationships both as a mentee and as a mentor yourself. I think there’s nothing more critical to a successful legal career than having that sponsorship and mentorship. It’s so critical to become a great lawyer.

CA:Anything to add?

BD: One of our firm initiatives for 2019 is reestablishing and recommitting to our pro bono initiative. We have always been one of the most if not the most philanthropic law firm, and we want to make sure we’re also engaging with communities both because it’s good for associates and shareholders and because it’s good for the communities which we’re proud to serve. We’ve instituted mandatory pro bono for associates, and it’s very strongly encouraged for our partners. We’re excited about that – we have a phenomenal pro bono team and we think that 2019 will be a year when we’ll continue to do great things on the pro bono front.

Greenberg Traurig, PA

  • Head Office: Global
  • Number of domestic offices: 30
  • Number of international offices: 9
  • Worldwide revenue: $1,556,740,000.00
  • Partners (US): 917
  • Associates (US): 839
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Kerry Jean Moore (moorek@gtlaw.com)
  • Hiring partner: Brad Kaufman
  • Diversity officer: Nikki Lewis Simon
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 31
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 
  • 1Ls: 7, 2Ls: 39, 3Ls: 0, SEO: 0
  • Summer salary 2019: 
  • 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 and privacy; 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, telecommunications; transportation and automotive

Firm profile
Greenberg Traurig, LLP (GT) has more than 2,000 attorneys in 39 offices in the US, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. GT has been recognized for its philanthropic giving, diversity, and innovation, and is consistently among the larg- est firms in the US on the Law360 400 and among the Top 20 on the Am Law Global 100.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
Law schools and programs at: Boston College; Brooklyn; Chicago-Kent; Columbia; Cornell; Duke; Emory; Florida International University; Florida State; Fordham; George Washington; Georgetown; Georgia State; Harvard; Howard; Indiana University; New York University; Northwestern University; Notre Dame; UCLA; University of Chicago; University of Florida; University of Georgia; University of Miami; University of Michigan; University of Pennsylvania; University of Southern California; University of Virginia; Vanderbilt; Washington University

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Job Fairs:
Boston Lawyers Group, Cook County Minority Job Fair, IP Job Fair, Lavender Law Career Fair, Southeastern Minority Job Fair.
Resume Collects: Law schools and programs at: Cornell; Duke; Emory; Florida International University; Fordham; Florida State University; George Washington University; Georgetown University; Harvard; New York University; Northwestern University; Pepperdine; St. Thomas; Stanford; Stetson; Thurgood Marshall; University of California, Berkeley; University of Chicago; University of Florida; University of Miami; University of Michigan; University of Pennsylvania; University of Texas; University of Virginia; Yale

Summer associate program profile:
An important goal of the program is to help summer associates with the transition from law student to practicing lawyers and future leaders by including them on client matters. We look for attorneys who have an entrepreneurial spirit, initiative, willingness to assume responsibility, and leadership skills. Components of the program include: corporate deal simulation; exposure to innovative technology; conflict resolution training; litigation training, such as oral advocacy presentation; visit to appeals court and Q&A session with a judge; and firsthand exposure to in-house counsel and their interaction with law firms. We are proud that several firm leaders started their careers as a summer associate at the firm.

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

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (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)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial Recognised Practitioner
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance: Public Finance (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment 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)
    • Real Estate Recognised Practitioner
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
    • Environment Recognised Practitioner
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 1)
    • Tax Recognised Practitioner
    • Corporate/M&A Recognised Practitioner
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
    • Real Estate Recognised Practitioner
    • Tax Recognised Practitioner
    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • 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 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • REITs (Band 4)
    • Retail (Band 1)