Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP - The Inside View

Want to be a litigator? This is your chance to work a-Mung(er) the best of the best.

An elite litigation firm with an impressive pro bono program, a lean staffing model, and a family-friendly culture… It may sound too good to be true, but it’s not called the Golden State for no reason. “For such a geographically focused firm, they seemed to really punch above their weight!” an insider recalled of California-born Munger Tolles & Olsen. The firm added to its two office network (Los Angeles and San Francisco) with a foray into DC in 2016, but has since kept it’s footprint relatively small – something which certainly appealed to many of our interviewees. “Number one was certainly the size of it,” one relayed of their reasons for joining Munger. “I wanted a smaller shop where I could get early experience and opportunities.There are very few places in today’s legal market which are relatively smaller firms that can handle really high profile and interesting matters, and are primarily litigation shops that don’t make you specialize!” Indeed, the firm’s focus on high profile litigious matters is well documented, so much so that Chambers USA bestows high praise on the firm’s Californian general commercial litigation and media & entertainment litigation practices, while it’s appellate law and corporate crime & investigations work shines nationwide.

"...the promise of working with some really bright and driven coworkers."

Coupled with the firm’s reputation for impressive work is its reputation for being selective when it comes to hiring; many of the firm’s associates are among the brightest law students and/or have completed clerkships with federal judges. But rather than feeling the pressure of such a feat, our sources were in fact drawn in by “the promise of working with some really bright and driven coworkers.” This selectiveness also means the firm’s cohorts are relatively lean, allowing newbies “earlier interaction with partners,” and “opportunities that might otherwise take a long time to come by at other firms.”

Around two thirds of the juniors on our list were based out of the firm’s Los Angeles office. The rest were in San Francisco, bar one who was in DC. Just over 40% of the juniors on our list had completed clerkships prior to joining.

The Work

All but two of the junior associates on our list from Munger had joined the firm’s litigation department, which comes as no surprise considering that the firm was described as “primarily a litigation firm, although we do have some corporate and real estate people.”

With the generalist scope of the litigation group, associates were drawn in by the fact that “Munger gives you the chance to work in all different areas of litigation. You’re not pigeonholed into a particular field, and not forced to be a labor lawyer or securities lawyer or whatever you can think of. You’re encouraged to try different things, which is somewhat unusual at larger firms.” Juniors also appreciated that the firm uses a free market system for work allocation but offers support for first- and second-years finding work, something that interviewees told us gave them reassurance without removing their independence: “I think it’s really helpful to have the first assignments from the work coordinator, but also really nice to have the freedom to work on what you want to work on.”

"...the standard for work product is pretty high. You’re expected to be putting in your best work on everything."

Teams are generally quite small at Munger, with a junior explaining that “because of the low-leverage model, there are multiple cases where it has been just me and a partner working on the case,” and so “I would be handling all of the associate tasks on a matter.” A source also shared that “one cool thing about Munger is that it’s sort of unique in that it has a whole group of staff attorneys and paralegals that pretty much do all of the document review so associates, no matter how junior they are, are never doing that sort of stuff – they’re jumping into writing motions, preparing briefs, preparing witness interviews for depositions, fact reaching, finding out the story of the case from our client’s perspective, going to court and arguing things.” Juniors felt they had agency at the firm, and that their opinions were valued, as they are “brought in on the decision-making at almost every level of the case.” That all goes to say that high quality of work is expected at the firm: “The lean nature of Munger and the fact that everyone has a fairly rigorous academic background means that the standard for work product is pretty high. You’re expected to be putting in your best work on everything.” No pressure!

Litigation clients: Netflix, Google Play Store, University of Southern California. Represented Lyft in an employment case alleging Lyft drivers were misclassified as independent contractors under state law.

Career Development

Newbies are assigned a junior mentor and a senior mentor, as well as a social mentor “who’s there to introduce you to people you want to meet.” Interviewees valued these mentorship opportunities and shared that support “happens organically too. I’ll reach out to my supervising attorneys and set up time for feedback and improvement, and that’s been really valuable.” A source added, “There are partners I’m inspired by and want to learn from and even though I’m not working with them, I have asked to get coffee or lunch and unanimously across the board they’ve all said yes and been eager to talk to me.” Juniors also spoke fondly of the attorney development committee at the firm, who provide training sessions and “check in with all of us to make sure we’re getting staffed and assigned on matters we’re interested in, and developing our careers how we’d like.”

Partnership at the firm seems achievable to associates too, as “when they hire an associate, they’ve kind of already jumped ahead to the partnership decision. The idea is that they see you running the distance at the firm and becoming a partner within a reasonable amount of time.” In fact, of the associates surveyed, all respondents who had partnership aspirations indicated that it was a realistic goal at Munger.

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: no requirement

“The messaging is that Munger doesn’t have a billable hours minimum, but you should be aiming for something close to 2,000,” associates told us. The firm takes a holistic approach when handing out bonuses and considering factors like the work associates have done and the quality of the work, firm leadership, as well as hours billed. Our sources heralded this a transparent process, as upon joining the firm, newbies “get a pretty clean rundown about the expectation surrounding hours, and then also for getting the bonus.”

Most interviewees reported working within typical business hours, followed by a few additional hours in the evening once they’ve left the office. While late nights do happen when necessary, insiders assured us that “when stuff comes in at night, it’s very rarely, ‘Do it right now’.” The family-friendly nature of the firm also shone through in this area, with a junior sharing that “even when we’re super busy, I would see people away on teams during kids’ bedtimes. People are able to have lives on top of work.” The firm has a three-day policy for working in the office, but sources explained that “no one has ever asked me to be in on certain days,” and “everyone is deeply supportive of working from home whenever it is you need to work from home.”

"...the intellectual types with dual degrees, PhDs, or interesting career paths before law school..."


Associates were excited to speak about the culture of the firm, explaining that it is a place where “they really try to cultivate a close family-style culture,” and “for being as selective as they are, they’re not elitist. Everybody’s very down to earth.” This culture of family-friendliness extends to the firm’s social events, too. “We have a firmwide retreat, and everyone’s encouraged to bring their significant others and their families” smiled one interviewee. During these retreats, “the emphasis is really getting to know one another on a more personal level, even if you might not work directly with someone on a team.” Juniors also described the firm as “pretty nerdy. I think the vast majority of my peers did exceptionally well in law school – towards the top of their class – and they appear to be the intellectual types with dual degrees, PhDs, or interesting career paths before law school in another area,” they awed.

“It’s been a tradition for a long time!”

In keeping with the studious air, Munger hosts two firmwide lunches a week “where someone discusses something that’s happened on a case or some sort of development in the law. It’s been a tradition for a long time!” sources shared, noting that they take place across all three of the firm’s offices. “They actually start a Zoom meeting so you can see the folks in the other cafeterias!” an insider added. Associates were also happy to tell us about the firm’s weekly Thursday happy hour, fondly called the ‘Sherry Sip’, where the firm “cater food and provide drinks, and people just go to chat and socialize.” To summarize their thoughts, one interviewee explained, “The firm has really, really high expectations, but that doesn’t translate into a sort of cutthroat culture at all because everybody’s brought in on the success of the firm; everyone wants to do their best and wants the firm to succeed.”

Pro Bono

The importance of pro bono at the firm was clear, with juniors making time for pro bono matters alongside their client billable work. In fact, one interviewee even went so far as to tell us that they “can’t imagine a better firm when it comes to pro bono. Truly!” They put this down, at least in part, to the fact that the firm has no limit on how many pro bono hours can count towards associates’ billable hours. We heard that pro bono work is well-respected by attorneys at the firm, with a source explaining that “if you’re busy on a pro bono matter, that just counts as you being busy. That’s all to say that there’s no sense that the billable work comes first. If you have client obligations on a case and it happens to be one not generating revenue for the firm, you still have client obligations that the firm understands you need to take care of.”

In terms of pro bono opportunities associates can get stuck into, there are chances to do standard immigration work, as well as write amicus briefs for the Supreme Court. An associate also shared that the firm was working on a case challenging LA’s bail system which is “complex, and a significant commitment of resources, but Munger’s willing to do it because the firm believes it’s the right thing to do. It’s a worthwhile contribution to society, and therefore of the firm’s resources.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 27,763
  • Average per US attorney: 178

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

On the topic of diversity, we heard that “the firm is investing a lot of resources to address issues” in the space. While our sources felt positive about the representation of women at the firm, they did note that, “As to minorities, I think the firm still has a little bit of work to do. The younger classes are definitely more diverse than the older classes of attorneys, but I think with things like this, there’s always more that can be done.” The firm has a 2L Inclusivity Scholarship on offer which rewards successful candidates up to $15,000. Munger also has five affinity groups – for women, attorneys of color, LGBTQ+ attorneys, lawyers with disabilities, and parents – and we heard that each group “has weekly standing meetings or get-togethers and events at least once a quarter. I haven’t felt any pressure to join if I’m not interested, but I’m very aware that they’re available, I can join, and they’re also open to allies.”

Strategy & Future

With regards to the future of the firm, associates told us that they “think the firm is trying to grow, and it’ll be interesting to see how it does that while still managing its current commitment to low-leverage, ownership, and also making sure that new hires are integrated properly.” A source was clear to indicate, however, that “growing doesn’t mean relaxing the application standards that we use,” as standards for new lawyers at Munger remain high.

Get Hired 

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus  

OCI applicants interviewed: 176 

Interviewees outside OCI: 26 

 Historically, MTO conducts OCIs at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Chicago, Michigan, Penn, Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, Loyola, Howard, NYU, and USC. The firm’s hiring partners tell us: “We also hire students from schools outside of those where we typically conduct OCI, including Northwestern, Georgetown, Duke, University of Texas, University of Virginia, and UC Irvine, among others.” Munger associates have often undertaken clerkships, and the hiring partners explain: “For our post-clerkship hiring, recruits most commonly have graduated from law schools at which we also recruit for our summer program. But we also hire students out of federal clerkships who graduated at or near the top of their classes from other law schools.”   

 In addition to academic excellence, Munger looks for candidates who bring “leadership, intellectual curiosity, and a sense of individuality to an already extremely talented and diverse group of lawyers.” The hiring partners add that the firm is looking for commitment: “Unlike other law firms, we only hire lawyers we believe have the potential to ultimately become partners at the firm.” Associates involved in recruiting told us: “We’re looking for people who can exhibit initiative and resilience. We want people who have demonstrated that they can be the best in a way that goes beyond their GPA.”   

 Top tips for this stage:   

“We are looking for students genuinely interested in practicing law, and doing it with us. Be yourself during the interview. We have your resume and will see your transcript; the interviews are a chance for you to convey your interest in working with us to help solve our clients’ toughest problems, and for us to get to know you better as a person.” – Munger’shiring partners  


Applicants invited to second stage interview: 57  

Callbacks for summer associate candidates consist of “a series of 30-minute interviews with lawyers of varying seniority.”  The hiring partners explain that in addition to traditional interviews, the firm uses “a competency-based interviewing method – also known as 'behavioral interviewing'. This process allows candidates to showcase their experience and gives our interviewers a more thorough understanding of the knowledge, skills and abilities a candidate could bring to our firm.”   

 Top tips for this stage:   

“In order to prepare for the interview, we recommend that you think through professional or school-related circumstances in which you faced conflict, displayed leadership, and/or had to work with others to achieve a common goal. Our interviewers will ask you for specific examples, so be prepared to share the situation, the actions you took, the outcome, and what you learned from the situation. We also ask you to take some time to learn about us, what differentiates us, and what makes us a unique – and, we think, special – place to practice law.” – Munger’s hiring partners  

 Summer program  

Offers: 45 (2Ls) 

Acceptances: 24   

 Those who are lucky enough to snag a spot in Munger’s summer program will be given “a realistic idea of what it is like to practice law at our firm, where new lawyers get early responsibility from day one,” the hiring partners explain. They adds “You will work closely with attorneys on matters that interest you, doing meaningful assignments. Your summer will include invitations to attend frequent lunches hosted by our lawyers and firm alumni about cutting-edge areas of law; training programs; and thoughtfully curated social events.” On top of this, summers are assigned a work coordinator and a social adviser; the former "will find assignments that are of interest to you and provide guidance and feedback during the summer," say the hiring partners, while the latter “will help ensure that you meet and get to know a broad swath of lawyers at the firm and get a true sense of what it is like to practice law in our distinct and uniquely collegial and collaborative culture, where early responsibility and radical transparency are the norm.”    

 And finally...   

"Most of our summer associates return as junior associates. When associates join the firm full-time, they make the choice as to what practice area they want to focus on, whether that is litigation, corporate, or something more specific (i.e. a particular type of litigation)." – Munger’s Hiring partners  


Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP

350 South Grand Avenue, ,
50th Floor,
Los Angeles,
CA 90071

Main areas of work

  Attorneys from Munger, Tolles & Olson partner with clients on their most important and complex cases and business deals. We maintain a national and international practice. Our principal areas of practice include bet-the-company litigation (from the outset of the case through trial and any appeals), internal investigations, white collar defense, securities litigation, antitrust, labor and employment, financial restructuring, and corporate counseling.

Firm profile

  Munger Tolles has purposefully maintained a low-leverage environment and eschewed the high-leverage model adopted by many firms. We believe our low partner-to-associate ratio instills a work ethic that results in a cost-effective approach for our clients. In every representation, our 200 lawyers are expected to make a difference in developing and implementing strategies to obtain the best results for the client.


Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2024: Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, Howard, Loyola (LA), Michigan, NYU, Penn, Stanford, UCLA, USC, and Yale.

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Job Fairs:
Afro Scholars 1L Job Fair; Lavendar Law
Resume Collections: Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern, Texas, UC Irvine, and UVA

Summer associate profile: We want to hire problem solvers. We look for law students who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in their prior pursuits and who bring leadership, intellectual curiosity, and a sense of individuality to an already extremely talented and diverse group of lawyers. Unlike other law firms, where it has become common to expect that young lawyers will stay only a short time before moving on to other endeavors, we only hire lawyers we believe have the potential to ultimately join our partnership.

Summer program components: Our summer program will provide you with a realistic idea of what it is like to practice law at our firm. You will work closely with attorneys in various practice areas, doing meaningful assignments. Each summer associate is assigned a work coordinator and social mentor. Your work coordinator will find assignments that are of interest to you and provide guidance and feedback during the summer. Your summer will include invitations to attend our twice-weekly lunches, training programs, social events, and practice group meetings.

Social media

Recruitment website:
Linkedin: munger-tolles-&-olson

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Energy: State Regulatory & Litigation (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Litigation: Appellate (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Appellate Law (Band 2)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 5)