The real McCoy of real estate in the Northeast has a sturdy foundation to build on.
“GOULSTON is known in Boston, if not the whole Northeast, as one of the very best real estate firms.” That's one junior's assessment of this firm's appeal, and Chambers USA concurs with a top real estate ranking in Massachusetts and further plaudits in DC. The firm is also top-ranked in the Bay State for private wealth law and recognized for environment, banking, litigation, and bankruptcy work in Massachusetts and for retail and leisure/hospitality nationwide.
With just three US offices (New York rounds out the trio) to its name, Goulston is smaller than many of the firms in Chambers Associate. It also has very low leverage, so the entire associate group is the same size as the summer class at some big firms. “One of the main tenets of the culture here is that we've never merged,” one insider declared. “The smaller summer class and open environment were really appealing to me.” Management has focused on growing New York recently, and in 2018 brought a team of five new litigators on board in the Big Apple.
Strategy & Future
So what's in Storr for the future at Goulston? Ignoring our terrible pun, associates told us they expected “expansion to continue,” but noted that “this firm's taken a much more conservative approach than some competitors and that's a good thing.” Besides growth in New York, plans are in motion to expand the DC offering. “It's fairly small and does almost exclusively real estate at the moment – we're trying to make DC a full-service office,” one insider told us.
Most of Goulston's juniors can be found in Boston in the real estate department, but other groups including corporate and litigation take rookies too. Each group has two directors (Goulston's term for partners) who serve as work allocators and manage assignments. Associates provide a work report twice a month and their group's allocators “decide what you have capacity to take on. Their focus is for us to get exposure to lots of different types of work.” The system was popular among our interviewees –“it's been extremely beneficial to my practice”– who also appreciated the care that allocators put into explaining what each assignment entails. We also heard that because Goulston's “not a huge firm, it's sometimes all hands on deck when something massive comes in” to a practice group.
“I'm never static, but I'm not moving too fast.”
The firm's signature real estate group houses two sub-practices: transactional real estate, and development and permitting. Most juniors we spoke to worked on “a good mix of both – you're not pigeonholed early.” On the transactional side you'll find acquisitions, lender and borrower-side financing, and leasing work; attorneys typically “work with people from all different offices – location doesn't really affect anything.” Tasks for juniors at the bottom of the tree include due diligence and managing closing checklists. Those who'd done more permitting work were “reviewing comments on loan documents and negotiating – though a lot of that is done by senior associates.” We also heard that it's “unavoidable” that sometimes “mass lease review projects come in, and the amount of work means ten associates need to spend five hours each on it.”
Sources in Boston appreciated seeing projects they'd worked on dotting the local landscape. But Goulston's practice isn't confined to its three locations – the firm recently helped various retailers from overseas set up stores in the US, including UK toy store Hamleys and Lebanese chocolatier Patchi. Interviewees also commented on how the firm's low leverage affects their work: “Goulston has a roughly one-to-one director to associate ratio, so we're working closely with them.”
Real estate clients: Silverback Development, Bose, and AXA Investment Managers. Represented real estate investment trust Boston Properties during the $660 million development of a new HQ for Marriott in Bethesda.
Real estate clients turn up litigation too, but the firm handles commercial litigation across various industries as well as IP and labor & employment disputes. “I've been discouraged from specializing too quickly,” a young litigator said, “and I'm happy that there's always something new to do.” They and others cut their teeth writing motions for summary judgment or sanction, delving into research, and keeping clients in the loop. We heard that the going is never too tough – “folks have a good handle on what will stretch you versus what might be overwhelming.” Labor & employment matters give juniors the chance to interview witnesses and conduct one-on-one client calls.
Litigation clients: America's Test Kitchen, Stavis Seafoods, and auto dealer Herb Chambers. Acted for real estate firm LMP GP Holdings in an appeal brought by neighbors of a former courthouse who argued against the validity of redevelopment permits.
We heard that “there's been a push to implement more formal training for new associates, and it's getting better.” A training program called Goulston & Storrs University offers fairly regular training sessions, though most of our interviewees felt they learned more “on the job” and as a consequence said “structured training is one of the only areas I'd not rate Goulston five stars.”
“Structured training is one of the only areas I'd not rate Goulston five stars.”
Our sources did give the firm the full five stars for exposure to business development, which warmed them to the idea that “making director is realistic – senior attorneys are really invested in our growth.” For their first few years at the firm, juniors get an official review every six months in which they sit down with two directors from outside their group who provide feedback from directors they've worked with. The track to an equity position is typically ten years or so – “by that time each associate is ready to be a director here.”
Hours & Compensation
One interviewee argued that the clear career path to the top makes up for the fact Goulston doesn't pay bonuses to associates. In addition, another source felt: “I think we have a better work/life balance than firms which do pay bonuses – we never feel the need to work super late every night.” Associates who'd logged a lot of hours did “have some grumbles recently – because it's easy to look across the street and see people billing the same and getting bonuses.” Management took these comments on board and formed a committee for associates to voice concerns – “they were really responsive.”
There's no minimum hours goal, but the firm recently introduced a soft target of 1,850 hours, “because associates asked for one – it's been made clear there won't be repercussions for not reaching the target, but it seems very fair.” Some sources noticed “more of a focus on hours than when I'd started,” but were still happy to get out of the office “at 5.30pm if I'm lucky” and 7pm on most days.
“I've never felt I have to be competitive with colleagues in my class,” one source shared. Many indicated that the firm's size played a big role in its friendly atmosphere, because “we all get to know each other even across the offices.” Smallest of the lot, DC has “a super friendly and warm feel,” whereas Boston sources reckoned “the New York office is faster paced – that's not my jam but others like it.” As for Boston, “it's the central point where everything happens!”
“The firm organizes lots of opportunities for us to hang out.”
Boston certainly seems like the best place for social happenings. “The firm organizes lots of opportunities for us to hang out as associates or within practice groups,” one source reported. And there are also firm-wide winter and summer events. New York in turn hosts monthly attorney lunches which “most people go to even when they're busy – we all make an effort to catch up.” All things considered, one insider estimated: “We go for drinks and hang out quite a lot but probably less often than at some other firms.”
“I've had lots of questions and people are very willing to help me out,” another junior commented when we asked them to describe the firm's culture. “That's fostered an environment where I'll then be happy to assist younger attorneys down the line.” How did Goulston create this camaraderie? “I think it's self-selection of who gravitates here and who they recruit,” one interviewee proposed.
“If past internships you've done aren't just corporate or transactional that's fine – we like people who've done pro bono and volunteer work.” Find out more about how to get hired at Goulston by clicking the 'Bonus Features' tab above.
Diversity & Inclusion
Acknowledging that “Goulston hasn't been very successful at retaining diverse attorneys,” associates lamented a vicious cycle wherein “until we get some directors of color, it will be a hard sell to increase diversity among associate classes.” Interviewees did applaud the firm for establishing a culture of acceptance. “Everyone here is so inclusive and accepting,” one junior felt. “There's an emphasis on diversity, but it's not too in-your-face.” Goulston participates in various diversity events organized by law schools and has a diversity and inclusion committee to oversee initiatives. “They're trying,” one interviewee concluded. “We have a way to go and doing more to recruit and retain are the two essential pieces of the puzzle.”
“I didn't realize one client was pro bono until weeks into the case!”
Feedback on Goulston's pro bono efforts was more resoundingly positive. “If you feel strongly enough about an organization or cause, the firm encourages you to bring in the work,” one source said. On the whole most pro bono going around was for long-term firm clients rather than one-off projects: Boston associates have “been hard at work on a refugee assistance project which some colleagues went overseas for,” while New York handles real estate pro bono work for the YMCA. “I didn't realize one client was pro bono until weeks into the case!” a junior recalled.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 14,346
- Average per US attorney: 65
Interview with co-managing partner Bill Dillon
Chambers Associate:How would you summarize Goulston’s current market position, and what differentiates it from other firms?
Bill Dillon: I’d describe us as a mid-size Am Law 200 firm, on the ground in the Northeast but with a national practice. As for differentiators, we have always had very strong real estate and private client practices: those are our mainstays. We also have active litigation and corporate departments.
CA: Which of the firm’s departments have been performing well recently?
BD: Real estate and private client are perennially strong performers. Lately we’ve done very well in corporate mid-market M&A. that’s also been a strong performer for us in recent years.
CA: We heard from associates that plans are afoot to grow the New York and DC offices. What are the goals for Goulston in those cities?
BD: I’m glad they mentioned that, and it’s worth noting that our strategic growth planning covers corporate expansion in all our offices. We’ve got similar objectives in each city, but we’re tailoring our approach in each – in New York we’re interested in corporate growth, plus open to expanding real estate and growing in any number of areas. As for DC, we’re never going to pass up a good opportunity, but we’ve built a good reputation as land use firm there. We also have strong real estate capacity in DC and would like to grow that overall presence, and ideally add a more significant corporate presence in that office.
CA: What are the main challenges that mid-size firms will have to navigate in future?
BD: Living in a world where many mid-sizers are being approached for a combination, which is especially true in Boston, that’s not something we’re particularly interested in. We’ve already built what we think is a good model for client service.
CA: How has the firm reacted to growing competition in the Boston market?
BD: To some extent we’re not directly competitive with a lot of the firms which have recently planted flags in Boston, as we already have a fairly significant share of the market in real estate and private client law. A lot of the firms coming in are focused on other areas related to life sciences and IP. As such there’s not much in the way of direct competition, but it’s definitely a situation where there’s a large demand for talented lawyers in Boston. That causes us to think all the more frequently about offering value proposition for our lawyers.
CA: When did you decide to become a lawyer, and why?
BD: I wish I could say it was a more conscious and deliberate decision than it was in reality! I was a political science major at undergraduate level and going on to law school was a fairly typical and obvious option. Honestly, I didn’t feel wholly validated in my decision until I’d been practicing for a couple of years.
CA: What achievement are you most proud of?
BD: In terms of what I’ve found most rewarding, I’ve been at Goulston for over 20 years and since starting here I’ve worked for a pro bono client called Nuestra Comunidad, investing in the Roxbury area in Boston and others that have seen historically poor levels of investment. I’ve done some of my most impactful work with them – I’ve only played a small part comparatively, but I go to Dudley Square and see huge changes in that neighborhood thanks to the work they’ve done.
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?
BD: I guess I’d say it’s never too early for law students to start building relationships and start forming their personal networks. We’re seeing all these new players coming into Boston and the market is growing, but it’s still a small community in a lot of ways and building social capital is good for you, the firm and the profession. Young lawyers can sometimes struggle to find the time to focus on relationships with the legal community, but it’s very important to do so.
Goulston & Storrs
400 Atlantic Avenue,
- Head Office: Boston, MA
- Number of domestic offices: 3
- Number of international offices: 0
- Worldwide revenue: $187,000,000
- Partners (US): 121
- Associates (US): 70
- Main recruitment contacts: Karen Kupetz and Jen Smith
- Hiring partners: Pamela MacKenzie and Joshua Davis
- Diversity officers: William Dillon, Amy McGrath, Chris Regnier
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 7
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 2Ls: 9
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office:
- Boston: 6, NY: 2, Washington DC: 1
- Summer salary 2019:
- 1Ls: $3,650 per week
- 2Ls: $3,650 per week
- Split summers offered? Case by case basis
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Real estate, litigation, tax, private clients and trusts, capital markets, bankruptcy, corporate, employment, banking and finance, environmental, intellectual property.
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 2019:
University of Chicago, University of Michigan, Harvard, Georgetown University, Columbia University, Northeastern University, New York University, Boston College, Boston University, Suffolk University
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 July so students from outside Boston can learn more about G&S in advance of OCI.
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.
Recruitment website: www.goulstonstorrs.com
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
District of Columbia
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Labor & Employment Recognised Practitioner
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance Recognised Practitioner
USA - Nationwide
- Leisure & Hospitality (Band 4)
- Retail (Band 2)