Goulston & Storrs - The Inside View

First things first, Goulston’s the realest when it comes to all things real estate – and not just in its home city of Boston. 

“IT’S one of the best places to practice real estate law in Boston!” exclaimed one source when describing their motivations for joining Goulston & Storrs. Many others were also drawn to the firm by their interest in all things property, with this interviewee revealing that they’d “set my eyes on Goulston early on.” Locking eyes on G&S for this reason was clearly a wise move, considering its status in Chambers USA: the firms stands atop of the Massachusetts legal market for its real estate expertise, but it also pulls in high rankings for its bankruptcy/restructuring and environment know-how in the state. Further afield, G&S shines in the nation for its retail sector capabilities, but also features in the rankings for its handling of matters in the leisure and hospitality arena. Its further two domestic offices in DC and New York are also recognized for their real estate clout. 

The other main reason why juniors joined was G&S’s cultural reputation. “In law school it was known to be a firm with a good culture,” recalled one interviewee, with another highlighting that “now I’ve been here for a while they do hold true [to what the firm says about its culture]  they do care about you.” We’ll explore the reasons for this healthy culture later, but in the meantime this source neatly summed it up as “the type of environment that really fosters relationships among the people inside the firm.”

The Work   



G&S’s real estate practice housed most of the juniors on our list; the litigation and corporate groups took on a handful, while tax and private client took on one apiece. Each practice has its own work allocators who divvy out assignments, especially in the beginning: “They keep an eye on our hours, but once you’re settled work allocation is much more relationship based.” Both the real estate and corporate practices have a secondment program for newbies: “First years in the program are sent to a private equity client to work in-house for six months – it’s a great experience.”    

Sub-specialties within the real estate practice include environment; workouts & restructuring; and development, land use & zoning. Many of the RE attorneys are based in Boston, but in the New York office there are also some interesting specialties, such as work on multifamily, retail, cultural and medical projects. A Boston-based junior explained: “We do a mix of transactional and development work, both on the lender and borrower sides of deals.” Most juniors had spent some time working for developers within Boston: “I’m working on an acquisition where our client is redesigning an asset to make it more profitable. My role involves drafting the closing documents, reviewing opposing counsel drafts and combing through the purchase and sales agreements.” G&S likes to staff matters leanly: “Typically, I’m staffed with one other associate and a partner on all matters,” one source beamed. “What’s nice about Goulston,” another added, “is that they’ve done a great job at involving me in the client relationship and the client team.”   

Real estate clients: AvalonBay Communities, Beacon Capital Partners, Boston Properties. Represented Bell Partners on many acquisition and financing deals involving apartment and multifamily developments across various states. 

The work in litigation is “generally divided up into each of the firm’s specialty areas, including real estate, IP, trusts & estates, malpractice and employment litigation.” During their first few years, litigators picked up work from a variety of areas within the practice. “When you get toward the end of your fourth year the type of litigation work you do narrows down,” one source explained. On the real estate side, “usually we deal with commercial clients. We recently worked on an interesting dispute over a large commercial building; it got to the eve of the construction work beginning and there were literally bulldozers outside!” On matters like this, juniors can be paired with just a partner: “I was really in the thick of it, which was a lot of fun. I was interviewing key witnesses and drafting a significant part of our brief.” Interviewees went on to explain that on trust and estates work G&S represents individuals, while on employment matters employers are typically on the roster, and on malpractice cases other law firms are common clients. “I would say on average I would have a meeting with a client at least every two weeks or so,” one litigator happily relayed. 

Litigation clients: Mugar Enterprises, Simon Property Group, America’s Test Kitchen. Represented the last of these during a case against its former CEO, who was accused of misappropriating confidential information upon their departure. 

Career Development    



A low partner-to-associate ratio meant that partners “take a long-term approach and invest in their attorneys; the idea here is to develop talent in-house and keep you.” This intention was borne out from the very beginning: “I thought it was really special that in my offer letter it stated that I would be considered for the partnership on a certain date in a certain year. As they were hiring me, they were also considering me for future partnership. It made me feel more like a crucial member of the team.”  Other interviewees felt that partnership was “attainable” at G&S, with this interviewee commenting that “they’re very transparent about what’s expected at each level.” A partnership review process begins in the fifth year, and around the ninth year “decisions about partnership crystallize.”  

Hours & Compensation   



Billable hours: 1,850 target

There’s a ‘soft’ billing target at G&S, but how soft is soft? “Really soft,” one interviewee emphasized. “There is no pressure and it [the target] is not a point of emphasis, but people do still work really hard.” In corporate, working days can stretch to 14 hours “when a deal is in full force,” while a source  in real estate regularly billed 12-hour days: “A lot of people do the same but they leave and work from home in the evening; I’d prefer to stay and separate home from the office.” Associates in litigation also found that their schedules fluctuated, depending on the course of busy trials: “Some days I work from 10am until 4pm, while on others I’ve worked from 8am to 1am.” Nonetheless, interviewees tended to agree that G&S’s overall approach to hours was healthy, with this source stating that “it’s different from other firms in that there’s respect for outside obligations.” 

“We are not trying to facilitate any internal competition.” 

Others felt that this approach was reflected in the compensation structure. Bonuses are not handed out at G&S, which was deemed to have a “positive influence” on the culture among juniors by one source, while another added: “We are not trying to facilitate any internal competition. Everyone works the hours they work, and there is an understanding that we have an outside life!” This interviewee concluded that they’d “much rather have this attitude toward billables than a bonus.” Base salaries are lockstep and market for the first three years, but come year four “salaries are based on your contribution to the firm,” so a more competitive edge may materialize in later years.

Culture



There’s a strict "no jerks policy" at G&S (which is reassuring), and associates get on more like friends as opposed to colleagues. "Sometimes I have to shut the door to my office to stop people from coming in for a chat!” an associate chuckled. Another highlighted that “one of the reasons I came here was because of the culture. It’s very friendly and homely – everyone knows your name and talks to you like you’re going to be here forever!” The Boston HQ is the hub for many of the firm’s social events. This source enthused: “We've done boat cruises, ax throwing, ice-skating and cooking classes. It’s fun but not overly hectic – the firm is still very much family-friendly.” Even the partners loosen their ties from time to time: "At the end of the year in each of the offices a partner hosts a house party – the ones in DC and Boston have had great turnouts!" As for New York, we detected an air of gratitude: “This office is relatively new and most people here have lateraled in. Most of us have come from more unforgiving environments and appreciate the human culture here!”  

Strategy & Future   



Maintaining this culture was felt to be an important strategic point, especially when hiring: “They interview people one by one and add people to the firm one by one. They look for the type of people who will thrive in this culture and fully understand it.” Bill Dillon, co-managing director at Goulston, gave us an overview of the firm new recruits will join: “We are an AmLaw 200 firm with a national practice, based in three cities focusing on four core areas of practice - corporate, litigation, private client and real estate.” Over the past 12 months, the firm has continued to direct its efforts into these four practices. Dillon told us: “Real estate and private client have always been the base of our work; for our other areas, the corporate practice has grown in terms of legal talent." As for offices, “the New York and Boston offices have seen success in terms of deals and client relationships.” Developing a new role within the firm also cropped up on this past year's agenda: “We created a new role and hired a director of diversity and inclusion, it’s part of our overall effort to rethink and dedicate our efforts toward diversity; we aim to retain and attract talented, diverse lawyers to the firm.” 

Diversity & Inclusion    



G&S earned Mansfield 2.0 Certified Plus status in 2019, which meant it exceeded the pipeline consideration requirements set by Diversity Lab. “There is a significant effort to continue our participation in the Mansfield Rule,” one source attested. Another interviewee told us that the “level of personal investment partners put into diverse associates is important, and here very senior partners take diverse attorneys under their wing.” The firm’s affinity groups aren’t separate entities at Goulston: we were told of a firm-wide trip to DC that united all of the groups: “We went to the Martin Luther King Museum/National Museum of African American History for a big event.”  There’s also a parenting group, which “meets up every month or so; the general parental leave policy is 18 weeks regardless of gender. I think the firm is really supportive of mothers.”  

"I get to put my real estate skills to the test and work outside my comfort zone.” 

Pro Bono   



‘Unlimited’ can be used to describe the amount of billable credit associates get for pro bono work, but it’s also an appropriate description for the scope of projects available. “Goulston has a very strong pro bono practice,” one real estate source raved. “They truly allow associates to pick and choose what they want to work on and wholeheartedly welcome new causes.” Another real estate junior chimed in and explained: "I get to put my real estate skills to the test and work outside my comfort zone, all for a good cause – it’s a win-win." One of the organizations that Goulston assists is The Conservancy, which manages the Rose Kennedy Greenway – a linear park that stretches across downtown Boston. “I love the work with them,” commented an interviewee. “We do things like reviewing their maintenance agreements, their installation contracts – everything under the sun!” Another common strand of work among sources involved representing a homeless shelter on various matters, including wrongful evictions and assistance with social security benefits. 

Pro bono hours 

  • For all US attorneys: 12,720.9
  • Average per US attorney: 54.7

Get Hired



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

 

Callbacks

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 do 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

 

Career Development 



Goulston & Storrs University offers regular training sessions, but as this source noted, “the best training comes when you’re working directly with senior staff and they take the time to explain to you what’s going on and what’s required of you.” Mentors were viewed as helpful in steering associates toward the top: “I have very open discussions. My mentor is a partner and we discuss what I should be doing. It’s not a casual conversation and they answer any queries I have.” 

 

Interview with William Dillon, co-managing director of Goulston & Storrs



Chambers Associate: How would you describe the firm’s current market position?

Bill Dillon:We are a little bit unusual. We are an AmLaw 200 firm with a national practice, based in three cities focusing on four core areas of practice - corporate, litigation, private client and real estate. I guess we have a very unique current market position.

CA: What are the firm’s core practices? Which practices have been performing especially well recently?

BD:Real estate and private client have always been the base of our work; for our other areas, the corporate practice has grown in terms of legal talent. The New York and Boston offices have seen success in terms of deals and client relationships.

CA: What developments from the last year would you like our readers to know about?

BD: Within the past year, we created a new role and hired a director of diversity and inclusion, it’s part of our overall effort to rethink and dedicate our efforts toward diversity; we aim to retain and attract talented, diverse lawyers to the firm. 

CA: How do you think the profession has changed since you started out practicing as a lawyer?  

BD: The pace of play has increased tremendously with technology. The developments in tech have urged lawyers to work quickly whilst maintaining critical connections. On the client front it is much easier nowadays to have a strong relationship with someone who you have never met. We aim to push our lawyers to be savvy with technology but also be aware of their comfort zones.

CA: Why is law an attractive profession for students to join today?  

BD: I think in some ways the value or the appeal of law practice has changed from when I graduated. At that time people were attracted by the idea of the limitless options law can bring. Nowadays, the appeal is more so that law provides a seat at the table at a very early stage in one's career. Law students can quickly graduate and be involved in complex, exciting work pretty instantaneously.

CA: What's been the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career?  

BD:This is going to sound a little trite, but the biggest lesson I have learnt is not to lose your sense of gratitude. This profession is so reliant on help and mentoring – it is sometimes hard to find the time to reflect on how meaningful and special that is. I think that gives us the ability to create bonds and connections with people that I sometimes worry we are losing these days.

Goulston & Storrs

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

  • 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
  • Contacts 
  • 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 2020: 7
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2020: 2Ls: 9
  •  Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office:
  • Boston: 6, NY: 2, Washington DC: 1
  • Summer salary 2020:
  • 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.

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.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2020:
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.

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

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2020

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 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Leisure & Hospitality (Band 3)
    • Retail (Band 2)