Goulston & Storrs - The Inside View

Goulston's illustrious real estate practice has long made it something of a Boston big-shot – but rest assured, there’s more to this Storry...

Long a staple in the Boston BigLaw stable – over 100 years to be exact – Goulston & Storrs has picked up a reputation for its litigation, private client, corporate, and most significantly, real estate practices. And it’s one that doesn’t go unwarranted; Chambers USA gives the firm top-tier accolades in Boston for its real estate and real estate zoning/land use work, and the firm also gets two enthusiastic thumbs up for its bankruptcy & restructuring, environment, general commercial litigation, and banking and finance teams. It’s not just in Massachusetts that Goulston makes a splash, though. With offices in Boston (where most of our associates were based), DC, and New York, it has earned itself nationwide recognition for its leisure & hospitality and real estate practices, getting a nod from Chambers High Net Worth  for its private wealth law group too. Despite its presence across the East Coast, Goulston is still very much a Boston native, and its focus on the city was a big draw for the associates we spoke with. “You get that mid-law feeling at a BigLaw firm,” one mused;especially given the firm’s lean staffing model, which has led to what associates considered a good amount of facetime and experience working directly with partners.

“You get that mid-law feeling at a BigLaw firm.”

Strategy & Future

Co-managing director William Dillon tells us that in the past year, the firm has been impacted by increasing interest rates in the real estate market, citing the firm’s heavy mix of corporate and real estate practices. Despite this, at least “with regards to deal flow, our approach has been to stay the course; we think those areas are going to make a comeback, so we need to retain and attract that talent.” In addition, Dillon highlights the lateral hires made by Goulston to establish a private client practice in New York: “It will be our first foray into the space,”  but refocuses on the firm’s recent and ongoing emphasis on mentorship for current juniors: "We’re really big on in-person mentorship and development one-on-one. Your secret weapon is to stop by the office!”

Underscoring Goulston’s lean staffing model as a leverage for juniors to get involved from the outset, Dillon also brings to light the firm’s focus on developing the physical office space for associates; Goulston recently moved location in New York and is currently in the process of moving its Boston office. “The buildings we’re going to are new and full of amenities – like, and I don’t know for sure if this is the way things are going, but both will have golf simulators!” Dillon shares. Grand for golf lovers, to be sure, but Dillon assures us that even those with less-than-favorable swings (us included) will love the new offices, as they will be “more enriching and more conducive to hybrid working.”

Read more from William Dillon under the Get Hired tab.

The Work

Post-summer, juniors rank the practice areas they want to be placed in when they start; we heard they generally get their preferred placements, though this does depend on business need. The associates on our list were mostly in real estate, followed by litigation, with a couple placed in corporate and private client. When it comes to work allocation, each group has two partners – “we call them directors here!” – who act as dedicated work allocators. Partners or senior associates with assignments reach out to the work coordinators and let them know what associates they’re looking for, then the coordinators will ask an associate whether they’re available. The fact that “assignments all flow through them” was a net positive for our insiders, as “they do try to keep track of what you want to work on, and I like not having to go and find work.” One interviewee did note that because the coordinators are partners, “they’re also busy, so that can be a downside,” but the firm does try to rectify this through check-up meetings. Regardless, “if you’re busy, you’re not on the spot to say yes, so I think it really works! I appreciate having the allocators to step in between myself and the partner – it’s just another support system so you’re not being swamped with work.” All the associates we spoke with felt the coordinators are “very conscious about making sure the work is spread out among associates; it’s very intentional and I haven’t felt overwhelmed, so I think it’s a solid system.”

Real estate is Goulston’s largest practice so within the bucket, there are sub-divisions but “as a junior, you’re more of a generalist.” Juniors in the practice “do a little bit of everything” which, among others, includes leasing, zoning, financing and refinancing, development, and environmental matters. We heard that associates get to hop on matters across the full range of the group, but they can focus their practice to some extent. On the transactional side, “there’s a lot of admin but that’s the nature of transactional matters,” one junior admitted, outlining checklists and keeping track of a deal’s moving parts as central to the work. However, “Goulston is really good at getting juniors in front of client with a lot of direct contact – so work product isn’t just doc review!” We heard that engaging in client calls and directly emailing clients, without needing to check in with a partner, was part of the newbie experience. With more development-side work, associates are involved throughout the life cycle of a matter, “primarily doing a lot of due diligence for the client purchasing. Then, once it’s developed, we’re helping with oversight, permitted checklists, filings, and the works.”

Real estate clients: Morgan Stanley, Lowe Enterprises, Placemakr, Greystar Real Estate Partners. Represented Georgetown University in the approval and implementation of its 2017 Campus Plan that will see development in 2036.

“…a lot of the time it is just me and a partner.”

The firm’s litigation practice often tackles cases spun off from real estate, with one junior telling us that they’d been on a number of cases related to their large real estate clients. So, the group similarly works on matters on both a local, but more regularly, national scale. “You’re working on property management,” one insider mentioned, “typically on lease disputes where commercial tenants aren’t paying the rent,” but the firm does also have a number of long-term litigation clients, allowing the group to work on some employment cases – not all of which are necessarily real estate related. In typical Goulston fashion, the firm’s lean staffing model means that “although on big cases there’s sometimes a mid-level associate with us, a lot of the time it is just me and a partner.”  Consequentially, juniors we spoke to in the practice felt that, alongside the expected bulk case management, “you do get to take on substantive work, with partner supervision of course.”  One associate highlighted that “prepping for depositions has been really interesting,” but the work also included general legal research, as well as drafting and research on cases with appellate briefs.

Litigation clients: Boston Properties, Madison Joint Venture, Massachusetts Dental Society. Defending Sogou in a securities action regarding a “go-private” transaction with Sogou’s largest beneficial shareholder.

Career Development

While juniors were unanimous in feeling that most learning comes from on-the-job experience, our interviewees also underscored that the firm is “pretty open” to people going to trainings. In real estate particularly, “there are a ton of trainings. They’ll run through, like, the Article 80 review process for Boston, for example.” In addition to this, “it’s also the more informal comments and guidance you receive from not just partners, but associates in the deal – everyone is actively interested in being available for juniors.”  This also shines through in the formal mentoring systems Goulston has in place, as juniors are assigned formal mentors (a partner, and an associate called a 'sibling'!) when they start – “we form those relationships from summer” – then, “we also have informal mentors; just people you build connections with over time.”

“…a one-to-one, partner to associate dynamic.”

Juniors told us that in addition to the mentoring opportunities, efforts are also made “in terms of business development. Client advisories for regulation in the state are typically drafted by juniors, and partners ask clients if they would like to speak to us further on the pieces.” Insiders felt that the partners “push your name out there and promote you in the legal community,” and the firm also has a first-year secondment program with a client during which “you start off at the client's, so you have that client-facing relationship. So, even as first years, you get into it.” When it comes to the typically long and winding road to partnership, at Goulston, “there’s less of a pyramid structure, so it’s more realistic,” one interviewee explained. “It’s more of a one-to-one, partner to associate dynamic.” We heard that “the firm has a very lean staffing model, so they really try to hire people with the intent they will stay and end up as partner.”


“People ask how I’m doing and care to hear the answer!”

“The culture and the people are probably what I like most about Goulston” was a sentiment reflected across all our interviewees. One elaborated, that “any conversation I have, the last thing they’ll say without fail is to reach out if I have any other questions. I don’t know what the source of that is, but I think there’s clearly a push from directors down on that.” Another junior also felt that this is the case “whether you’re in the same practice, or whether it’s work-related or not. I think everyone is just very kind and open – people ask how I’m doing and care to hear the answer!”

We heard that this is also reflected in the firm’s social side which includes the typical drinks and dinners within practice groups, monthly happy hours, and the annual holiday party “where all the associates, partners, and staff come together for drinks and food – everyone has a good time!” Although there is “a lot of camaraderie,” associates admitted the social side isn’t a huge focus: “I think the work from home balance has made the office feel a bit quieter,” one associate confessed.

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: 1,850 target

Associates were pretty comfortable telling us about their “soft target” of 1,850 hours; that might have something to do with the fact that juniors aren’t expected to hit their hours in their first year, particularly “considering the recent market. It’s been a slower period, and the firm acknowledges that.” This junior added, “The messaging given to juniors is that you’re not responsible for the work you’re given, so your hours don’t really matter.” Sources did note that, while the firm does recognize this limited ability to get onto matters during slower periods, Goulston still expects associates to “network, co-author articles, take on pro bono – there are a number of things we can be using our time for.”

So, how does this all tie into bonuses? Get this: “We don’t have bonuses,” which insiders seemed totally fine with! “I think it leads to a better work-life balance,” one mused. “If you don’t make the target, you’re not leaving money on the table – but maybe if I hit the hours this year, I’ll feel differently!” Speaking of, overall, interviewees were satisfied with the work-life balance the firm provides too, which they attributed to the flexible hybrid working policy: “You’re supposed to be in three days, with two between Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday,” but “they’re not tracking people – not everyone comes in that much.”

Pro Bono

Goulston’s policy allowing associates to count all their pro bono work towards their billable target was a draw to the firm for many of our interviewees. Juniors told us that they often hop onto matters broadcast over email, but everyone has their own clients they’re pushing for. Immigration work was the most discussed matter by our sources, in part due to the opportunities to help in clinics throughout the year, but “there’s everything from reproductive rights to civil rights to affordable housing. There are so many topics that are near and dear to people, so we’re not told that there’s one thing the firm would like to focus on.”

Pro bono hours  

  • For all US attorneys: 15,092 
  • Average per US attorney: 71.9 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

On the topic of DEI, associates were unanimous in feeling that “the legal community in general could do better,” but they all felt Goulston is very much aware of any shortcomings in this regard. “They check in with diverse attorneys with the DEI team,” one junior explained, “with monthly, one-on-one meetings to ask if there’s anything they need and make sure they’re doing okay.” Insiders also told us that the firm is supportive of its affinity groups though “they’re more led by associates, so they’re not as busy as they could be.” This includes the parenting, Black, Asian American, Women’s, and LGBTQ+ groups (among others), “which are all very active.” Outside of the office, last year, Goulston introduced its Building Equity initiative to create opportunities for people from under-represented groups in local real estate communities; the firm does this by connecting people to mentors and giving them access to debt/equity capital and counsel.

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

Goulston & Storrs participate in OCI with schools in the geographic areas of their offices (Boston, NY and DC) as well and more broadly at the University of Chicago and University of Michigan. G&S also participates in The Boston Lawyers Group Job Fair.  A member of the hiring committee meeting or law school alum usually conducts the “screening” or  On Camera Interview. 

The firm tends to ask questions surrounding students who understand the firm and their  emphasis on quality and culture  The questions are designed to yield a sense of the candidate’s engagement with the law and interest in our firm.

Top tips for the stage:

“Know who we are and have a sense of why our firm might be the right place for you to develop as a lawyer.” - hiring partner, Joshua Davis


During callbacks, each candidate will meet with four to six of the firm’s lawyers, partners and associates. The majority of interviews are conducted by members of the hiring committee. Each candidate meets, at least briefly, with one of the hiring partners. At this point, G&S ask questions about areas of interest, life experiences, and career hopes and expectations. The interviews are conversational in nature, so candidates can expect to have a real sense of the people they meet.

Top tips for this stage:

“Be thoughtful in your answers and in your preparation. We value that quality in our colleagues and we look for it in those who hope to join us.” - hiring partner, Joshua Davis

Summer Program

The summer program consists of educational seminars, social events, client meetings and work assignments. Summers get assignments in all practice areas, so they have a chance to learn about the work G&S does and have the opportunity to be exposed to as many attorneys as possible. According to hiring sources at the firm: “Virtually all summers end up joining the firm.” Yet, as the program is very small, early expressions of interest often prove useful, according to hiring sources. At the end of the summer, summers are asked to rank practice areas in order of preference and, barring some business reason, they are assigned to one of their top choices.

Top tips for this stage:

“Our lawyers are engaged in our practice and in the life of the firm. We urge our summer associates to be as well. Ask questions, engage with your colleagues and take the time to get to know us as we will take the time to get to know you.” - hiring partner, Joshua Davis


Interview with William Dillon, Co-Managing Director

Commercial strategy, market position and trends

Chambers Associate: How would you define your firm’s current position and identity in the legal market? What differentiates your firm from your peer firms in the market?

William Dillon: We’re known for our four core practice areas, real estate, corporate, litigation and private client. We have a reputation for being unique in how we are structured – we are a one tier partnership; we don’t have non-equity partners. We’re also not highly leveraged in terms of associate to partner ratios, so we are a place people tend to come to stay for the rest of their careers.

CA: Have there been any developments at the firm over the past year that you’d like law students to know about?

Dillon: We moved location in New York, and we are in the process of moving our Boston office to modernize our space and make it more conducive to hybrid working. The buildings we’re going to are new and full of amenities – like, and I don’t know for sure if this is the way things are going, but both will have golf simulators! Also, we’ll have gyms and more gathering space, which will make the time in the office more enriching. We also have hired lateral lawyers to begin private client in New York, which will be our first foray into the area.

CA: Are there any domestic or international events/trendsthat are affecting any of the firm’s practices at the moment? Are there any trends that you think are affecting the business of law firms more generally, and how is that playing out with your firm?

Dillon: We are a transactional heavy mix of work with significant corporate and real estate practices – both of those are highly sensitive to the increasing real estate interest market, so it has impacted us negatively. With regards to deal flow, our approach has been to stay the course though – we think those areas are going to come back, and we need to retain and attract talent. We’ve been affected but will continue to stay the course.

CA: Recently the firm announced Michelle Porter as the new co-managing director – is this indicative of any changes to the firm’s practice or structure going forward, what changes are hoped to come about through this move?

Dillon: It’s very exciting – it’s not a change in our approach to management or strategy. We’ve had a co-managing director set up for as long as I remember. My current director has decided after 15 years of service he’d like to go back to being a lawyer again, so he’ll be practicing full time. Michelle is stepping into that role but there’ll be a lot of continuity.

Inside the Firm

CA: How is the firm evolving to accommodate the needs/expectations of the next generation of lawyers?

Dillon: I think it’s important not to think of our colleagues just as defined by their generational characteristics. I’m Gen X but in some ways, I meet the stereotype, and in other ways, I don’t! So, there are two things – there’s a lot for us older lawyers to learn from the next generation with regards to their approach to technology, thinking and wellbeing – what they’re willing to talk about and ask the firm for are huge steps forward. People want a seat at the table to get into the substance and be part of the decision making. The second thing is there’s something we can help that generation with. One thing is that we’re really big on in-person mentorship and development one on one. Your secret weapon is to stop by the office. Our model is that we’re very low leverage – we’re set up to get people really into the work.

The Legal Profession

CA: How do you predict the legal profession will change in the next five years? Are there any particular challenges the industry is facing?

Dillon: I think AI is a huge variable… maybe zooming out a little bit, harking back to what we were talking about earlier: the cycle of the last three years has been unbelievable. There were issues of sustainability and burnout, and in a year’s time, we’re at historic lows in a lot of those metrics. It’s rare you have one group of lawyers who has that, so how can we all build sustainable models – a way to practice weathering the highs and the lows? I don’t think a lot of firms will decide to staff up quickly then shed people. Part of the answer might be looking to efficiency, and AI is one thing we’re actively looking into and preparing our data to be used by. We haven’t taken that next step to create a bespoke tool internally, but we want to be able to do that when we find the right time to do that. We’re not first adopters, but we want to stay modern.

The Fun Bit

CA: Is there any advice you’d give to your younger self starting out your career?

Dillon: It is a fun question, I guess! I think I would tell myself to get comfortable and learn to rely on others more. Focus more time on building relationships and a little less on building my own skillset. Before I started, I had an instinct there wasn’t a problem I couldn’t solve without hard work – of course, that isn’t true of anyone! What really makes your experience rich is being able to get the answer to a question that grows out of relationships.

CA: The hours in BigLaw can be punishing. How do you unwind at the end of a long day/week?

Dillon: I’m a hiker! Or a walker if hiking isn’t available. There’s something very mindful about going in the woods – no music, no podcasts, just me and my thoughts.

CA: Is there a movie/TV show/books about lawyers or the legal profession that you particularly enjoy? And how accurate would you say it is?

Dillon: I am not a big fan of legal procedurals in shows and movies so I’m going to have to plead the fifth… but it’s so lame not to give an answer!

To some extent, I do love a good murder mystery – I’ve been watching Shetland.




Goulston & Storrs

400 Atlantic Avenue,
MA 02110-3333
Website www.goulstonstorrs.com

Main areas of work
Real estate, litigation, tax, private clients and trusts, capital markets, bankruptcy, corporate, employment, banking and finance, environmental, intellectual property.

Firm profile
Goulston & Storrs is an Am Law 200 law firm, with offices in Boston, New York and Washington, DC. With over 200 attorneys across multiple disciplines, Goulston & Storrs is nationally recognized for its real estate practice, leading-edge corporate, capital markets and finance, litigation, and private client and trust practices. Our lawyers employ a proven team approach that values client outcomes over individual recognition. The firm’s dedication to providing prompt, practical legal advice, cost-efficiently and tailored to our clients’ business needs, has resulted in Goulston & Storrs being acknowledged for excellence by Chambers USA, BTI’s A-Team for Client Service, Best Lawyers in America and other leading industry rankings.

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2022:
University of Chicago, University of Michigan, Harvard, Georgetown University, Columbia University, Northeastern University, New York University, Boston College, Boston University, Suffolk University, Howard University School of Law

Recruitment outside OCIs:
We participate in a number of networking events at local law schools; invite students to our office for resume review and mock interviews. We also host a rising 2L reception every June so students from outside Boston can learn more about G&S in advance of OCI. We participate in two diversity recruiting events; the Boston Lawyers Group Job Fair and the Lavender Law Career Fair.

Summer associate profile:
We attract and hire people who: seek a sophisticated and challenging legal practice; are concerned about team success; are willing to work hard.

Summer program components:
As a summer associate, you have a unique opportunity to learn about the legal profession and the Boston area. Expect to live the law firm experience with direct partner and client exposure. Work assignments are substantive and include research and writing assignments, client meetings, conference calls, depositions and attending hearings. Your summer with Goulston & Storrs offers amazing work opportunities throughout several practice areas, assisting the firm’s attorneys.

Social media:
Recruitment website: www.goulstonstorrs.com
Linkedin: goulston-&-storrs
Twitter: @goulstonstorrs
Facebook: GoulstonStorrs

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Leisure & Hospitality (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 5)
    • Retail (Band 3)

More from Goulston & Storrs: