Keeping it real (estate) since 1900, this Boston-born firm helped associates to quickly feel at home.
Real estate associates often tell us they picked their practice area because they like having something physical to show for all their hard work: seeing a skyscraper you had a hand in constructing is quite a thrill. Folks at Boston’s Goulston & Storrs have been feeling that thrill for more than a century. Having built a strong East Coast presence with two more offices in DC and New York, the firm rests on foundations of four core practices: corporate, litigation, private client and, of you guessed it, real estate. Roughly half of attorneys work within Goulston’s signature department.
Besides from its property focus, juniors flocked to this firm because of the “personal feel” that comes with a relatively smaller outfit: “Goulston is more of a mid-sizer than a BigLaw giant so you aren’t just a cog in a machine, you’re an individual.” With smaller numbers in each junior class, our sources felt the firm provided the building blocks to a bright career: “Partners and associates are always willing to mentor you. There are also super-informative training programs.” You don’t need to be a property attorney to benefit, and while Chambers USAgrants Goulston strong rankings for its real estate work in Boston and DC, the firm also earns accolades for bankruptcy, environment law, commercial litigation, retail, employment and leisure and hospitality.
Strategy & Future
Firm director Bill Dillon explains how G&S has adapted to the COVID-19 era: “Our clients' needs have shifted as a result of the pandemic. We have a number of clients involved in the retail and hospitality sectors which have needed a lot more help than usual; and bankruptcy, to no surprise, has also been much busier since the outbreak.” Looking internally, keeping people connected has been a priority. “We made a very conscious decision to not make any personal cuts or furloughs, and in the long run that’s what's really strengthened our bonds at the firm,” Dillon says. Not only did Goulston keep its existing workforce, but it also made five new lateral partner hires in 2020, with two in the Boston office and two in New York. Dillon states the firm has “three primary principles” for the future – “to grow our corporate practice, and the expansion of our New York and DC offices.”
“We made a very conscious decision to not make any personal cuts... in the long run this is what's really strengthened our bonds at the firm.”
For now, the majority of juniors begin Goulston life in Boston; a couple on our list were in DC and New York. Real estate is the destination for most: the litigation and corporate groups scoop up a handful, while bankruptcy and private client had one apiece when we came calling. Each department has two partner work allocators, but sources nabbed work organically too. Some felt initial assignment is a little “hodge-podge,” with juniors being staffed on matters where and when they are needed; it’s further down the line that schedules become more predictable. “A lot of my work comes in through my relationships at the firm, my workflow is more settled now,” according to one source. There were mixed feelings on how easy it is to turn down work, but even the more critical voices felt “encouraged to not spread ourselves too thin.”
Acquisitions, financings, joint ventures and permitting projects were all on juniors’ dockets in real estate. Boston is the heart of the practice, but the New York team also gets access to varied exciting projects involving retail, medical and multifamily residential clients. “We’re involved in deals from the very beginning,” an insider explained. “I’m working on an exciting one where the developer is still coming up with ideas for a brand-new project.” Newbies got stuck into permitting projects for multistory buildings; one told us of an old site that was “knocked down – we constructed a large residential complex and accompanying garages.” Associates took the role of “master of details” on their early deals: “We were securing necessary planning permission from the zoning board,” one told us of a recent project. “I drafted the application, made an argument as to why the plan should be granted and drafted the loan documents.” Real estate sub-specialties include environment; workouts and restructuring; and development, land use and zoning.
Real estate clients: Tricon Residential, Federal Realty Investment Trust, Jamestown. Represented Beacon Capital Partners in the $373 million financing of Wells Fargo Center, the third-tallest skyscraper in Denver.
“The master of the details.”
General commercial, employment, IP, trusts and estates, malpractice and – of course – real estate disputes roll through the litigation department. During their first few years, litigators picked up work from a variety of areas within the practice; most had narrowed their focus toward the end of their fourth year. When COVID-19 hit, a busy department got even busier. “I have at least seven active matters that I’m very involved in at all times,” a source told us. We heard from juniors working on employment disputes, bankruptcies, real estate litigation, federal court cases and probate disputes. Those tackling ‘complex commercial’ litigation took charge of “drafting the funds and legal briefs, legal arguments and drafting client letters.” A lean staffing model inevitably comes with pros and cons: “We receive more experience early on, but I do think it would be helpful to have more manpower on bigger projects,” one junior reasoned.
Litigation clients: NBA, Tina Brown Live Media, Mastercard. Acted for major Chinese search engine Sogou in securities class actions suits brought in the Southern District of New York and California Superior Court.
We’ve heard time and again in our research that “Goulston is a great place to grow your career” thanks to training programs, mentors and seminars. Litigators plugged into “sessions on legal writing and taking depositions,” while their real estate counterparts attended discussions on accounting and the building blocks of a property practice. Juniors also pair with ‘sibling’ associates and a more senior mentor who’s there to assist with more serious work queries. “The sibling is there for moments where you might have stupid questions,” interviewees explained. “It can be harder for senior people to provide feedback because they’re so busy, and some anxiety comes with not really knowing how you’re doing.” More formalized feedback does come through a regular review process, which also includes discussion of partner metrics. Discussions around making partner begin in year six, before becoming more practical after another four years.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,850 target
That’s a less daunting goal than you’ll see at many large firms, and juniors told us they also get some wiggle room: “You won't get a slap on the wrist if you don’t make it,” one laughed. A typical day for a Goulston associate runs from 8:30am to 6pm according to our research, with some longer nights and an extra one or two hours in the evening when necessary. There is a trade-off for less demanding hours: Goulston doesn’t hand out bonuses. The firm’s associates move through three years of lockstep compensation, after which there’s more variation. “Associates are paid based on their contribution to the firm: we’re informed what this will be during our end-of-year review,” according to one.Interviewees felt the lack of bonus structure has positives and negatives – while internal competition is reduced, “knowing we won’t receive a bonus potentially creates an incentive to not work as hard.” Our survey suggests associates are happy to put the work in, though some felt that “Goulston is more of a lifestyle firm” than many we review.
“You won't get a slap on the wrist if you don’t make it.”
Raising examples of social events, collaborative work and a sustainable work/life balance, juniors repeatedly described Goulston as a “community” as well as a place of work. “Many firms talk about being a unit, but Goulston lives up to that standard,” one suggested. “There is cross-group collaboration daily and everyone knows each other.” COVID-19 made internal support structures more important than ever, and associates felt like colleagues had their back. “If you need help because of an emergency, people are willing to drop what they’re doing and assist,” we heard. As for social events, the Boston HQ is the hub for many: holiday parties, scavenger hunts, associate lunches, dinners and virtual randomizers have all lit up the calendar recently. “They give you the opportunity to meet people outside of your circle,” a source said of firm socials. When everything went virtual in 2020, associates felt Goulston did a job of keeping everyone across the firm connected.
Diversity & Inclusion
In January 2020, G&S solidified a cited commitment to D&I with the hiring of first-ever director of diversity and inclusion Ayeshah Johnson. The role involves working closely with the pre-established inclusion committee to ensure the firm is promoting a comfortable and safe environment, as well as meeting with the decision-making community and discussing cognitive bias. “There’s been an enormous push toward hiring and retaining diverse associates within the last year or two,” juniors noted. “The new D&I officer looks at entry-level and lateral hiring and makes sure diverse associates have the right resources.”
“There’s been an enormous push toward hiring and retaining diverse associates within the last year or two.”
As with the legal profession as a whole, there’s still plenty to be done: “If you look at the partnership there isn’t a lot of representation of ethnic minorities or the LGBTQ+ community,” associates observed. Continuing to move things in the right direction, Goulston runs implicit bias training to provoke progressive conversations and offers a generous parental leave policy of 18 weeks regardless of gender, as well as mental health awareness sessions to maintain attorney and staff wellbeing.
“Goulston approaches pro bono work the same as billables” and grants associates unlimited billable credit for projects. In keeping with the firm’s signature practice, there’s plenty of real estate pro bono on offer, such as working with private developers, investment companies and trusts to help communities create affordable housing and schools. A junior explained their role on a “case involving constitutional issues. We were helping teens in Boston with their living conditions and landlords; I’d aid the communication between the tenant and landlord and negotiate issues like water leaks.” Goulston also works on other kinds of cases like wrongful evictions and assistance with social security benefits; and partners with organizations including Housing Up, KIND and Oxfam.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: undisclosed
- Average per US attorney: undisclosed
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
Goulston & Storrs
400 Atlantic Avenue,
- Head Office: Boston, MA
- Number of domestic offices: 3
- Number of international offices: 0
- Worldwide revenue: $198,684,000
- Partners (US): 118
- Associates (US): 77
- Main recruitment contacts: Karen Kupetz and Jen Smith
- Hiring partners: Yuanshu Deng and Joshua Davis
- Diversity officers: Amy McGrath and Chris Regnier
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 6
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 2Ls: 9
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office:
- Boston: 7, NY: 2
- Summer salary 2021:
- 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 2021:
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, UVA and Duke
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, 2021
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)
- Retail (Band 2)