This “real estate powerhouse” helps associates REITs for the stars in a smaller environment that offers a realistic chance of attaining partnership.
If you have a definite and committed interest in real estate, then Goulston should be high up on your list of target firms. The firm’s real estate department is its biggest, and it’s fair to say that real estate as a sector permeates the work conducted in many of the firm’s practices. Corporate, litigation, tax, and private client groups round out Goulston’s offering, which spans three domestic offices: its 122-year-old BostonHQ, as well as its bases in New York and DC.
With well over a century of lawyering to its name, Goulston has built up a sturdy reputation: Chambers USA regards the firm’s real estate practice as one of the very best in Boston, where other areas like environment, bankruptcy/restructuring, and litigation are also highly praised. The firm’s real estate know-how in DC is also very much respected, while on a nationwide level Chambers USA flags the strength of Goulston’s capabilities in complementary sectors like retail and leisure & hospitality. Chambers High Net Worth also plants its stamp of approval on the firm’s private wealth expertise, especially when it comes to contentious probate and fiduciary work.
“I wanted somewhere I could stay long-term.”
The clear scope of Goulston’s practice was a big plus for newbies, but so was the sense of the firm being a place where they could really settle in. “I wanted somewhere I could stay long-term,” said one interviewee. “We have smaller associate classes and higher partnership prospects than peer firms, which cultivates a collegial environment.” Another was seeking “a firm where I could actively participate. I had worked on small teams before, and out of all the firms I looked at, Goulston’s team atmosphere stood out to me the most.” As this junior noted, this is a firm where “you wouldn’t be anonymous – it’s attained that sweet spot between having the resources of BigLaw and a smaller headcount that allows for a commitment to associate development and a clear partnership track.” Most newbies join the firm’s Bostonbase, though the DC andNew York offices were home to a couple apiece.
Summer associates rank their preferred practices at the end of the summer program – provided these preferences align with firm need, newbies will be assigned to their top choice. Each group has one or more work allocators who funnel work to associates based on their capacity: “I’ve turned down work if I’ve been too busy and it’s never been a problem,” one interviewee told us. Most of the associates on our list were working in the real estate or litigation departments, while a couple had found a home in the firm’s corporate practice.
Goulston’s real estate group covers both transactions and land use matters. There isn’t a typical client for these folks, but REITs (real estate investment trusts) and developers often come up on the transactional side: “If financing is involved we’ll often represent the borrower or financial institutions,” an interviewee added helpfully. In addition to affordable housing projects, Goulston often represents local government parties and developers in land use matters, dealing with everything from hotels to industrial warehouses: “But of course office developments are in decline at the moment!”
“I enjoy looking into architecture plans and seeing how the client’s vision fits in with the surrounding neighborhood.”
On any given transaction, “juniors are responsible for ensuring that the deal keeps moving along,” which involves putting the checklist together and drafting documents: “The longer you’ve been at the firm, the more complex the documents are. I no longer simply adjust a standard form to fit the deal, I actually use critical thinking.” On land use matters, rookies draft letters to the relevant zoning commission and help partners prepare for external meetings. Interviewees were keen to point out that “diligence tasks are often seen as grunt work in practices like litigation, but I enjoy looking into architecture plans and seeing how the client’s vision fits in with the surrounding neighborhood.”
Real estate clients: Bell Partners, Beacon Capital Partners, AvalonBay Communities. Recently advised Beacon Capital Partners on the acquisition financing for a majority interest in the partnership that owns a life sciences campus in Pennsylvania.
Litigatorsoperate as generalists until fourth year (though it can also be later). Our interviewees had worked “all over the litigation spectrum,” dealing with everything from employment disputes and probate matters to securities litigation and legal malpractice defense cases.
“…for the client it’s their whole life at that moment in time.”
Given the extent of the firm’s real estate offering, rookies had taken part in a number of real estate and land use disputes: “I didn’t actually like this area in law school, but the attorneys here have a wealth of experience in real estate, so I’ve naturally gravitated toward it.” Others found probate matters more appealing: “There is a human element to it: for the client it’s their whole life at that moment in time, so their appreciation for what you’ve done is really palpable.”
Irrespective of the subject matter, associates are given tons of responsibility: “It’s just me and a partner on 90% of my cases, so I usually work as a ‘Jane of all trades.’” Specifically, this means drafting motions and pleadings and taking ownership of research tasks. Juniors do attend client meetings and hearings, but usually in a note-taking capacity. Sources did cite pros and cons to such leanly staffed matters: “I have to ask the partners all my dumb questions, rather than a midlevel who would be closer to me experience-wise.” Luckily, “the majority of partners are understanding about this!”
Litigation clients: Northeastern University, Boston Properties, tech company Sogou. Represented Boston Properties and its affiliates in an action against Saks Fifth Avenue, concerning Saks’ suspension of rent payment due to the pandemic.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,850 target
While juniors were “more likely to be staffed on something last-minute,” interviewees were glad to tell us that "our colleagues don’t call us at all hours and requests are always within a reasonable time frame. They understand we’re busy and don’t want us to burn out.”
Interviewees were a little unclear on expectations around billable hours: “We’re told there isn’t a target, but I’ve heard that associates asked for one a few years ago which was apparently set at 1,850. I think any focus on that ‘target’ comes from associates more than directors.” The “pro of this is that there’s less pressure,” a source thought, echoing others who flagged a better chance of having a greater work/life balance at Goulston; our survey respondents registered an average of 46 working hours in the preceding week (below the market average we recorded in 2021) and had taken an average of 11 days’ vacation in the last 12 months (higher than the market average).
"…our colleagues don’t call us at all hours and requests are always within a reasonable time frame.”
The perceived “con” of Goulston’s approach was that “we don’t do bonuses.” Well, up until recently that is: “Goulston strives to have a better work/life balance, but the pandemic made things more hectic and because of that unprecedented level of work they gave us an appreciation bonus this year .” Their comments are echoed by co-managing director Bill Dillon: who tells us: “We usually don’t offer bonuses because we don’t have a billable hour minimum. We think about this in terms of value proposition: we want to offer our people somewhere to work that is sustainable, where they’re not working crazy hours. If you compare us to other firms on a purely financial basis then we may not come out as number one, but we give attorneys great opportunities for personal development.”
When it comes to base salaries, associates are paid the market rate for the first three years that they are at the firm.
Goulston does offer something quite distinct when it comes to the partnership track: most firms give associates the chance to become non-equity partners around the seventh/eighth-year mark, then full equity partnership at a later date. Goulston, however, bypasses the first stage and offers full equity partnership around year ten. “It’s something that’s falling out of fashion, but to us an important element of practicing is being committed to each other as peers. If we had two tiers, it would suggest there’s something different between the two levels, and we don’t want to distinguish between them,” Dillon explains.
Interviewees were optimistic about the potential to make partner, with 60% of our survey respondents stating that they intended to do so (a much higher proportion compared against the 25% market average we recorded in 2021). Our sources put this down to partners’ proactivity in nurturing future leaders: “Because it’s usually just you and a partner on a matter, you get to attend client meetings, which helps you develop business development skills,” explained one associate, while another added: “I’ve been given opportunities to argue in court and take the lead on building strategy, so there’s definitely room to grow.”
“…you get to attend client meetings, which helps you develop business development skills.”
Goulston also has a formal mentorship program: each associate is assigned a partner mentor and a ‘sibling’ (those based outside of Boston also get a mentor in the HQ). ‘Siblings’ are mid-level associates who are on hand to answer “silly, day-to-day” questions: “Mine was great at helping me get my feet underneath me. I’m now a ‘sibling’ to a first-year, which is funny because they ask me the same questions I asked when I started, so I get to pass on the same knowledge my mentor passed to me.” The firm also runs Goulston & Storrs University, which offers a series of hour-long sessions designed to help associates with foundational career skills, practice area skills, and general training on topics like ethics.
Although sources agreed that associate camaraderie is strong, those who joined remotely felt they had missed out on some of the relationship-building that would usually happen in the office. On the plus side, our survey respondents indicated that they felt comfortable being themselves at work, whether that was virtually or in-person.
“…the emphasis is on long-term career growth.”
Among other comments we received on Goulston’s culture, sources picked out its lawyers’ “genuine kindness” and the general “everyone helps everyone” approach as cornerstones: “There isn’t a divide between partners and associates when it comes to asking questions etc… People are very willing to help out and pitch in wherever they can.” Another source emphasized Goulston’s “more mature approach to team-building, which feels structured for longevity… the firm has a model that eschews the ‘churn and burn’ one used at many firms, and the emphasis is on long-term career growth.”
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Our survey respondents indicated that more could be done when it comes to retaining and promoting diverse associates at the firm, with this interviewee explaining that “most associate class years are much more diverse now, but it’s not visible at partnership yet. That’s probably because we have just the one partnership track, so it takes longer here compared to other firms.” Goulston alsohired its first ever director of D&I in January 2020 and has since welcomed two more diversity-focused officers. In particular, the firm is looking to strengthen its mentorship program for diverse individuals, as well as its inclusion advisory committee. Goulston earned its Mansfield 4.0 Certification in 2021 and is currently taking part in the fifth iteration of Diversity Lab’s Mansfield Rule program.
“They don’t want us to operate in a cone of silence.”
There are also a number of affinity groups, including women’s and LGBTQ networks, although these vary in terms of activeness: “I’m in the women’s one, but it’s not particularly active so it isn’t a huge source of mentorship or support in that way,” one admitted. Mental health support comes in the form of free, confidential Zoom consultations with a therapist: “The two managing partners started doing town halls when it became clear COVID wasn’t going away, and mental wellbeing came up loads: they recently told us they’re going to hire two wellbeing coaches.” Further support comes from the legal talent team: “They encourage us to speak up if we have any issues – they don’t want us to operate in a cone of silence.”
Goulston views pro bono the same as billable work: “I was once on a case for a couple of weeks before I realized it was actually pro bono!” one of our interviewees quipped.However, sources told us that personal capacity can restrict the amount they take on. “The firm encourages us to speak up if there’s something you want to do,” an interviewee commented; “if you’re in litigation it can broaden the scope of services you can provide, but there are other non-litigation opportunities, too.” For example, a first-year associate set up a program called Project Citizenship a few years back: “We spend two hours once a quarter helping people finalize their applications for US citizenship.”
“The firm encourages us to speak up if there’s something you want to do.”
Other projects we heard about included legal malpractice defense matters and tax abatement cases for nonprofits. “I’ve got four pro bono cases on the go at the moment!” this source chirped, while 83% of our survey respondents agreed that Goulston is committed to pro bono work.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 16,263
- Average per US attorney: 79.86
Strategy & Future
We all know the lateral market is red hot, and Goulston is another firm that’s on the new lookout for new talent: “For many years we’ve been trying to grow our presence in New York and DC. We already have offices there but we’re focused on attracting corporate laterals to those offices. As things currently stand, we’ve got a strong offering with mid-market M&A and general corporate representation, but we think we can grow those practices even more." Dillon adds that "we’re always on the lookout for talent both in New York and DC because there’s so much room for growth: we don’t have much name recognition in those markets, but once people get to know us they realize our offering is very attractive.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 200+
Goulston & Storrs participate in OCIs with schools in the geographic areas of their offices (Boston, NY and DC) as well and more broadly at the University of Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Virginia and Yale. G&S also participate in two diversity job fairs; The Boston Lawyers Group Job Fair and Lavender Law Career Fair. A member of the hiring committee meeting or law school alum usually conducts the OCIs
The firm tends to ask questions surrounding students who understand the firm’s emphasis on quality and culture tend to succeed. 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
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 Goulston's co-managing director Bill Dillon
CA: Have there been any developments at the firm in the past year that readers should know about?
BD: It’s been primarily business as usual for us. For many years we’ve been trying to grow our presence in New York and DC. We already have offices there but we’re focused on attracting corporate laterals to those offices. As things currently stand, we’ve got a strong offering with mid-market M&A and general corporate representation, but we think we can grow those practices even more. We’re always on the lookout for talent both in New York and DC because there’s so much room for growth: we don’t have much name recognition in those markets, but once people get to know us they realize our offering is very attractive.
CA: The firm hired its first ever director of diversity & inclusion in January 2020 and has since welcomed two more diversity-focussed officers. Does the firm have any further plans regarding D&I?
BD: At the moment, we have two people on our professional staff devoted to D&I. We also have a D&I Committee co-chaired by two partners. Ayesha Johnson, our director of diversity & inclusion, has made an incredible impact on our firm and helped us to organize and strategize our D&I efforts in a very effective way. Like many firms, we’ve looked at the composition of our attorneys and have seen that attorneys from under-represented groups don’t have much representation in our firm, so we’re trying to improve that: firstly, we’re putting a lens on how attorneys are impacted by our firm processes, like training, evaluations and mentoring. Secondly, we’ve created individualized coaching and sponsorship for our diverse attorneys by strengthening our mentorship program and inclusion advisory committee.
CA: How has the firm weathered the pandemic?
BD: We’ve been very fortunate to have maintained continuity. We figured out the work part by enabling people to work from home, then strengthened our internal and external relationships. We found remote working to be beneficial because it means we can cross distance much more easily than before. Conferring with people from the comfort of their own homes has been a real plus, too.
CA: Why does the firm not offer bonuses?
BD: We made an appreciation payment to our attorneys last year because the workload our associates were shouldering was considerable, and came at a personal cost. We usually don’t offer bonuses because we don’t have a billable hour minimum. We think about this in terms of value proposition: we want to offer our people somewhere to work that is sustainable, where they’re not working crazy hours. If you compare us to other firms on a purely financial then we may not come out as number one, but we give attorneys great opportunities for personal development.
CA: Why does the firm have just one tier of equity partnership, rather than offering associates the chance to become non-equity partners first?
BD: I guess we’re a bit old school in how we think about partnership. To us, [partnership is about people who support each other and collaborate. It’s something that’s falling out of fashion, but to us an important element of practicing is being committed to each other as peers. If we had two tiers, it would suggest there’s something different between the two levels and we don’t want to distinguish between them.
CA: Do you consider the rise of technology and ALSPs to be a threat?
BD: Clients have been experimenting with ALSPs for some time now, but we don’t think our law firm model is comparable to what ALSPs offer. As far as technology goes, lawyers are inherently conservative in terms of how they work, but we recognize that we need to stay nimble and adapt. One area we’re trying to innovate in is knowledge management. We’re trying to build out our internal resources to share market knowledge. We have encyclopedic knowledge of the real estate industry, for example, so we’d like to be able to access and share that information more efficiently. Obviously we can just pick up the phone and call each other, but it could be more efficient.
CA: What advice to you have for people who about to begin the careers in the legal industry?
BD: Focus on building relationships with people at your own firm, peer firms, and clients. The personal touch you can offer someone is your secret weapon, so be facile in the way you interface with people.
Goulston & Storrs
400 Atlantic Avenue,
- Head Office: Boston, MA
- Number of domestic offices: 3
- Number of international offices: 0
- Worldwide revenue: $237,875,000
- Partners (US): 118
- Associates (US): 82
- Main recruitment contacts: Karen Kupetz and Jen Smith
- Hiring partners: Yuanshu Deng and Joshua Davis
- Diversity officers: Amy McGrath, Chris Regnier and Kerry Spindler
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 9
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 2Ls: 9
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office:
- Boston: 7, DC: 2
- Summer salary 2022:
- 1Ls: $4,100 per week
- 2Ls: $4,100 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 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.
Recruitment website: www.goulstonstorrs.com
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022
District of Columbia
- 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)
USA - Nationwide
- Leisure & Hospitality (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 5)
- Retail (Band 3)