LA’s Greenberg Glusker has a boutique atmosphere but packs a punch with its full-service offering, which includes a robust real estate group and star-studded media practice.
Vast global networks of offices may now be the norm for BigLaw, but those who prefer a cozier Cali vibe would do well to consider Greenberg Glusker. With 100 lawyers at its residence at 2049 Century Park East, it's the largest single-site law firm in California. Managing partner Bob Baradaran tell us: “Remaining a single-office law firm allows the firm to have a strong firm culture where everyone knows each other across all disciplines.”
Our interviewees certainly recognized the benefits of being under one roof. As one insider remarked: “It’s cool being at a firm where if you have a question on any topic, you can just walk down the hallway and ask the relevant partner." Chambers USA recognizes the strength of the firm’s media & entertainment litigation, environment and bankruptcy groups, while Chambers High Net Worth holds Greenberg’s private wealth practice in high regard. Between the groups, juniors can engage with a diverse pool of clients ranging from Hollywood legends such as Tom Cruise and James Cameron, to commercial giants such as Costco and the American Golf Corporation. Moreover, though the firm operates out of single office, it doesn’t mean work is limited to the LA region. As one junior told us: “I’ve worked with clients across the country including Texas, Pennsylvania and the Midwest.” Baradaran adds that “we are well positioned to serve national and international clients through our own attorneys who have licenses to practice in several states.”
The firm's 29 associates are distributed across nine departments. One insider explained that “in the last couple of years litigation has been the largest in terms of headcount, followed by real estate and corporate. However, our private client and trust & estates areas have also been very busy recently, so the firm has been placing a lot of people there too.” Department allocation is based on both the individual preferences of the incoming associate and the business needs of the firm. One source explained that “it’s not uncommon for associates to switch department after a year if they are unhappy. The firm is very accommodating and there’s no risk of compromising any relationships you’ve made by moving.”
Greenberg’s real estate group represents a range of clients including developers, investors, office building owners, tenants and large commercial brokerage firms. “We represent clients across the country,” said one source, “so it’s been great getting experience of real estate markets in various states.” Good organizational and communication skills are a must as associates reported dealing with a high volume of email traffic. One junior told us: “I’m frequently coordinating the closing of transactions, which involves conferring with both sides to make sure everyone has all the required information.” Drafting opportunities are also available in the form of listing agreements, construction documents, and purchase and sale agreements.
Real estate clients: American Golf Corporation, Majestic Realty, Principal Financial Group. Recently advised affiliates of Majestic Realty on ten construction loan transactions for industrial development projects across the US and Canada.
“That might mean drafting a motion to dismiss, a summary judgment motion, or being sent to court on your own – there’s not a lot of hand-holding!”
Greenberg’s glamorous media & entertainment group represents a star-studded roster of actors, directors, writers, producers and companies. Disputes are often high-profile and cover contract and defamation issues through to spats over merchandise, copyright and licensing deals. “Typically, you will be called into an office, have the case explained to you by a partner, and then be required to do whatever is needed of you,” one junior succinctly explained. “That might mean drafting a motion to dismiss, a summary judgment motion, or being sent to court on your own – there’s not a lot of hand-holding!” And yes, associates do come into contact with A-listers: “Tom Cruise even sends the team a cake every year!” On the transactional side, the group “is split between talent-side and company-side matters. Most partners have a 90/10 split between the two areas,” one junior explained. The group also handles film financing transactions.
Media & entertainment clients: Hulu, Corday Productions, Rian Johnson. Representing Khloe Kardashian’s clothing company Good American in a dispute with a designer who has accused the company of copying their work.
Strategy & Future
Our interviewees highlighted that “the firm is trying to position itself to be at the forefront of cannabis law and other lucrative areas such as cybersecurity.” Baradaran tells us: “We are actively recruiting lateral attorneys in the areas of corporate, entertainment (transactional), real estate, tax, bankruptcy, and litigation.” He adds that “In 2020, we also added two exceptional corporate and regulatory attorneys who practice cannabis law.” In the more immediate future, incoming associates can look forward to joining the firm in a brand-new office space in Century Plaza Towers – pandemic permitting of course. Those who had experienced a brief two pre-pandemic working weeks in the office described it as a “super modern, open space with amazing facilities.”
“A legitimate opportunity to make partner” was a big pull for this year’s interviewees, and with just three or four associates joining each year, it’s a feasible outcome. As one junior explained: “I think the assumption is there will be a space for you if you do want to advance through the ranks. It’s not just a case of asking you to sit at the end of a desk and work for someone else for a decade. We are given marketing budgets and the opportunity to develop our own marketing plans – they give you the tools to build your own practice.” As such, sources felt the firm had avoided developing a “revolving door of associates,” as can be the case at larger firms. Insiders highlighted that those who do leave “typically go in-house to our clients, which is great for the firm as it further strengthens our bond with that client.” We heard that associates can also make use of a variety of CLEs, training sessions and conventions that occur throughout the year.
Our interviewees hadn’t been particularly active in pro bono matters at the time of our research and the firm ranks at the lower end of our findings for the average number of pro bono hours billed per attorney. That said, the total number of hours the firm devoted to pro bono increased by over 80% in the last year, which is a big improvement. Juniors can bill an unlimited number of pro bono hours toward their billable target. “We handle a lot of adoption matters, which summers typically get involved with – it’s definitely one of the more rewarding matters you can handle,” one junior told us. Examples of organizations the firm pairs up with include the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Domestic Violence Project; Alliance for Children’s Rights; Inner City Law Center; Bet Tzedek; Public Counsel; and the Women In Film’s Sexual Harassment Help Line and Legal Aid Service.
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: 2019
- Average per attorney: 21.3
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,800 requirement
Greenberg’s hours target is slightly lower than many other BigLaw firms that typically set targets between 1,900 and 2,100 hours. With a lower target does come a lower salary compared to market, but our interviewees felt that the trade-off was worth it. “I didn’t want to be working ridiculous hours, like 80-hour weeks,” one associate reflected, adding that “I would rather be paid slightly less and not be burnt out after two years.”
To emphasize the point, one junior told us: “I’m done at 6:30pm every day and I rarely have to do work at the weekend. Of course, there’s always going to be tight deadlines where you have to work late or answer emails on a Saturday but it’s not constant.” It’s worth noting here that experiences are likely to differ between departments. For example, those in the media & entertainment department emphasized that the “clients don’t tend to be hyper demanding.” That compares to clients in the corporate and real estate teams, which typically are working to tighter deadlines and tend, our interviewees agreed, “to be more demanding.”
“I rarely have to do work at the weekend.”
Bonuses at Greenberg are merit-based and discretionary. Several factors beyond hours are considered when deciding amounts, including quality of work, firm citizenship, pro bono and marketing activities. One source elaborated: “This year, my billable slipped but I stepped in to help the firm with its engagement on all COVID-related issues to make up the difference. We don’t have many administrative folks at the firm, so when attorneys step up to help out and add value to the firm, it’s very much appreciated.”
“I think we have one of the best cultures out there,” one source said proudly, before adding: “I can’t imagine how it could be better!” Interviewees attributed this pleasing atmosphere to Greenberg’s single-site dimensions. “It’s very cooperative. I am closer to some than others, but I am familiar with everyone in the entire firm,” one junior told us. They added that “the firm is good at creating opportunities to bond and socialize throughout the working day.” We were told that every Monday all attorneys are invited to have lunch together, while on Friday afternoons there’s a happy hour in the office. The highlight of the firm’s social calendar occurs in the summer when all members of the firm are invited out to Ojai, California for a spa retreat weekend. “Attendance is normally 100%,” one told us (we weren’t surprised to hear this!). “Even an attorney who gave birth just before came and brought their kid along!” More generally, our interviewees emphasized that “the firm is very supportive, especially of younger attorneys who may make mistakes. Horror stories of staplers flying across the room never happen here – I’ve never even heard anyone even yell.”
“...the firm is good at creating opportunities to bond and socialize throughout the working day.”
Diversity & Inclusion
“It’s definitely something we could improve on,” our interviewees agreed, noting a lack of ethnic minority representation throughout the firm. However, one source felt the firm “had a good representation of people from different socio-economic backgrounds,” and at 33%, the number of female partners at the firm is above average for BigLaw in the country. One source added: “The partnership and diversity committee are very active about this issue – it’s very much on their mind.” Another praised the firm for its inclusive culture and told us: “We have a full firm mentality, with no distinction between attorneys or staff. We involve staff in all issues discussed.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 38
Greenberg Glusker’s California presence is clear in the schools it typically attends for OCIs: UCLA, USC, Berkeley, Stanford and UC Davis. The firm singles out UCLA and USC as its “key feeder schools.” But this shouldn’t put off any out-of-state hopefuls as the firm is also open to impressive resumes that it receives outside of the OCI process.
Interviews are conducted by both partners and associates, and the firm prefers to send alumni of the school in question to do the interview. Associates told us that “what’s most important to Greenberg Glusker is to choose someone who will be enjoyable to work with – a positive contributor.” The candidates the firm sees at OCI will most likely tick all the essential boxes with their resumes, but will they be able to hold a more off-the-cuff conversation? “I was extremely nervous going in, but we spent the duration of the interview talking about fantasy football!” one associate recalled. “It was clear that they were seeing whether I’d be a good fit for the firm.”
Top tips for this stage:
“The main aim at OCIs is to get a feel of whether the student will fit well with the firm.” –a second-year junior associate
“Lack of energy/spark is one of the most common reasons we hear for not bringing in a candidate for a callback.”– hiring partner Aaron Gafni
Callback interviews consist of 20-minute interviews with six attorneys (a mix of partners and associates from different departments), as well as a meal with two more attorneys. One associate recalled being impressed by the variety of the interview panel: “There were older partners and younger associates, and men and women from different practice areas.” Hiring partner Aaron Gafni tells us: “We use the interview process more to get to know the candidate’s personality, and less to drill down on the candidate’s legal knowledge, capabilities or experience.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Bring energy and show enthusiasm for the firm.”– hiring partner Aaron Gafni
The firm’s ten-week summer program is divided into three rotations that cover all the firm’s practice areas. Two designated work coordinators are on hand in each rotation to assign pieces of work to the summer associates. Gafni says that “attorneys often bring summer associates to court hearings, depositions, meetings and conferences.” There are also weekly social events. Past highlights include Hollywood Bowl concerts, Dugout Club at the Dodger game and a karaoke night – Gafni says: “Summer associates arestrongly encouraged to sing.” Of course, it goes without saying that summers should “always remain professional.”
The firm tells us most of the summers return as full-time associates. Practice area assignment is based on associates’ preferences and the business needs of the firm, and associates felt “they do their best to accommodate your preference.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Ask tons of questions before diving into a project, and double and triple-check your work before turning it in.” – hiring partner Aaron Gafni
Number of laterals: 4
In a “typicalyear,” Gafni says, Greenberg Glusker hires around 50% of its annual associate appointments through lateral hires. Most of these hires comes “from larger, national law firms” and laterals are targeted on the basis of “need.” Gafni says the firm “generally looks for mid-level associates” when looking for lateral hires and is “currently looking to hire associates in transactional departments, including corporate, real estate, IP/tech transactions, entertainment and employment.”
Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP
2049 Century Park East,
- Head office: Los Angeles, CA
- Number of domestic offices: 1
- Partners US: 68
- Associates US: 30
- Main recruitment contact: Aaron Gafni (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partner: Aaron Gafni
- Diversity officer: Brian Moskal
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 3
- Clerking policy: No
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 2Ls: 3
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021split by office: Los Angeles: 3
- Summer salary 2020: 1Ls: $ 3,077/week 2Ls: $3,077/week
- Split summers offered? Yes
Main areas of work
Bankruptcy/insolvency, corporate, emerging technology and new media, employment, entertainment, environmental, intellectual property, litigation, private client services, real estate, and taxation
Founded over 60 years ago, Greenberg Glusker holds a unique position in Los Angeles as a full-service law firm, with particular expertise in bankruptcy/insolvency, corporate, employment, entertainment, environmental, intellectual property, litigation, private client services, real estate, and taxation. Committed to providing a wide range of services, we combine the personal attention of a boutique firm with the strength and breadth of services customarily found in a multioffice, international firm. Results-oriented client service is how we continue to distinguish ourselves today.
Law schools attended for OCI in 2020:
UC Davis, UCLA, UC Berkeley, USC, and Stanford
Summer program components:
The main objective of our summer program is to provide the summer clerks with an honest and real experience of practicing law as a junior attorney at Greenberg Glusker. For purposes of the summer program, we divide the firm into three practice area subgroups. Each summer clerk will spend a minimum of three weeks in each practice subgroup.
Typically, the subgroups are organized as follows:
• Real Estate/Environmental/Trusts & Estates
• Bankruptcy/Business & Tax/Intellectual Property
Our clerks will have the opportunity to attend trials, depositions and business meetings. Also, as a part of the summer program, we plan social events in order to facilitate multiple opportunities for the clerks to interact with each of our attorneys as much as possible. Our summer social calendar includes a mix of formal events such as concerts, sporting events, theater, and cooking classes, as well as informal happy hours and dinners.
Recruitment website: www.greenbergglusker.com/careers
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Environment (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 3)
California: Los Angeles & Surrounds
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)