Litigation-focused Munger is full of California Soul and lets you “control your own destiny to a surprising degree.”
Silicon Valley and Hollywood might jostle up against one another in the quest to become the West Coast’s most coveted sector, but they’ve both found love with Munger Tolles & Olson. This litigation-heavy firm is on the legal front line for some of the biggest clients in the media and tech industries, including Netflix, Amazon Studios, Google and Intel. With these names on the books, it’s no surprise to find Chambers USA bestowing elite status on Munger for its general commercial litigation work, alongside top-tier rankings in white-collar crime and government investigations and media and entertainment litigation. Beyond its litigation work, the firm has a number of other practices, including corporate, financial restructuring, and labor and employment.
“Munger likes to bring in people with lots of experience.”
Thinking about getting your foot in the door? Well, it’s no secret that the firm is selective when it comes to hiring, with associates hailing from accomplished academic backgrounds and/or clerkships with federal judges. One associate we spoke with noted that “Munger likes to bring in people with lots of experience and evidence of responsibilities that would translate well to law and client interactions.” Munger’s famed one-to-one partner-to-associate ratio means that associates need the maturity and fortitude to handle more senior tasks pretty early on in their time at the firm (see below). The firm has three offices, with most of the associates on our list calling the Los Angeles HQ home. The rest were split between the San Francisco and DC bases. About 30% of the juniors in our sample had come from clerkships, with the rest coming from the summer program.
Most of the juniors on our list had joined Munger’s litigation and corporate departments, but there were also options in tax and real estate. Litigation is the biggest group at the firm and its generalist scope greatly appealed to some of our sources, with one telling us that they “liked that the firm did not ask me to choose an area of litigation like white-collar or antitrust.” That’s not to say that absolutely everything is on offer: “Because of Munger’s size it doesn’t have every subject matter available all of the time, but you do get a guaranteed cycle through areas like antitrust, contract disputes, etc.” Clients vary by location, with media giants flocking to the LA office and San Francisco seeing a steady line of cool customers from Silicon Valley. There are also “smaller family-owned businesses that pop up when the litigation is high-stakes. Working with smaller companies is different as they're much more involved, so there's a lot more client education to get to grips with.”
A litigator took us through their early experiences at the firm: “In my first year I did a lot of deposition prep, so I was the person preparing the partner for them, but by my second year I was taking depos and running little pieces of cases.” Tasks can also really depend on the case size, with one source noting that while many cases are staffed one-to-one with a partner, there are still “those very large cases with five or more partners and up to fifteen associates and lots of moving parts.” As a result, junior tasks range from “discovery and doc review on the bigger cases to taking on more traditional senior roles on smaller matters, such as client interfacing and hand-holding and drafting substantive motions.” Reflecting on their experience so far, one interviewee conceded that it can be a “double-edged sword in that there are lots of great growth experiences” due to the one-to-one model, but also times of stress when the stakes are high on cases. “Someone once described being at Munger as drinking from a fire hose,” a source recalled. “It is the nature of the beast doing BigLaw at a smaller firm, but it is a high-risk, high-reward scenario.”
Litigation clients: McDonald’s, Pacific Gas & Electric, Lyft. Representing Disney, Fox, and Paramount across a series of lawsuits that state the studios’ liability for alleged copyright infringement committed by a third-party vendor.
Munger’s corporate practice also covers a range of areas, including M&A, private equity and investment funds, corporate finance, and corporate governance: “Partners have specific focus areas, but everyone works on a bit of everything, especially the associates.” Another source noted that about “50% of the practice has involved fund formation work, where we represent private investment funds and also high net worth individuals on the investor side, and the rest of the work has tended to be M&A. We also get a lot of interesting bespoke deals where something is being done for the first time.” This interviewee mused that they “like working in the investment fund space on the investor side. It is a good way to learn about the different fund structures in the practice and it has allowed me to work with the same clients repeatedly.” Those clients are usually “asset managers, investment funds sponsors, family office clients, high net worth individuals and some strategic buyers on the M&A side.” The work was described as both national and international in scope.
Like their litigation counterparts, corporate newbies are trusted with more senior tasks, with one of our interviewees revealing that “for the first four to six months, it is a bit terrifying! But partners totally understand the level you’re at and though they give you things to do that are over your head, they’re patient and walk things through with you.” They also mentioned that as they progress, the assignments become more “drafting-heavy with lots of direct client interaction, unlike my first year.” This was again put down to the smaller staffing ratio on deals, with this source adding: “It very quickly became just me and a partner, so all things start falling to you in a way that they wouldn’t normally elsewhere!”
Corporate highlight: Represented Intel during its $9 billion sale of one of its businesses to a South Korean semiconductor manufacturer.
“The team structure is akin to an apprenticeship model.”
While there are plenty of formal training opportunities (especially on the litigation side), associates agreed that Munger excels at on-the-job training. This interviewee explained that “the team structure is akin to an apprenticeship model; the teams are so lean, but in a way that makes you feel like you’re being stretched in a good way. You work with the partners to figure out how to do things right.” Insiders also heaped plenty of praise on Munger’s review system: “We have formal reviews twice a year, which are really in-depth and helpful. I’ve been impressed by the effort partners put in – they put together a packet with comments and discuss the review with us.” Another commented that the reviews are “clear on guidance for what you need to do and how you should be thinking about your development.”
Speaking of future development: associates felt that making partner was a fairly transparent process. One explained that “in your early years of being an associate, there’s a general understanding that to get on the path you’ll need to work very hard to gain experience and exposure to lots of legal skills.” As associates become more senior, the annual reviews take a more in-depth look at whether or not someone is on track for partnership.While some admitted that partnership isprobably “not attainable for everyone,” the firm “consistently makes people partners from within its own associate ranks.”
We were told that Munger’s “not a huge party firm” but that doesn’t mean that it’s an unsociable place: “People definitely do spend time with one another, and do so outside of work, too.” Another source commented that “the firm is a little nerdy, in that people are academic about the law, but overall we’re a really nice and laid-back bunch of attorneys.” Many felt that the firm was family-centric, with one interviewee emphasizing that “this is a place where people have families and it’s talked about a lot. The majority of attorneys have children and that is seen as totally normal.” As a result, there are “family-focused events,” but plenty of others to enjoy as well: “We host a holiday party, as well as various attorney retreats, including one for new associates, and there are diversity events. My favorite social thing is the monthly happy hour though – it's easy to attend and super-informal.”
“People feel a real sense of ownership here.”
The other distinguishing feature of the firm’s culture was felt to be its transparency: “Munger is all about promoting a democratic and transparent model,” a source stated. “People feel a real sense of ownership here, and the firm’s smaller size means that a lot of information is available.” Associates also identified a trusting and generous streak to the culture, with this source telling us that “a senior partner brought me onto a matter and let me run the project – it was the kind of opportunity that people would tend to keep to themselves and not let an excited first-year associate have a chance to drive forward!”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: no requirement
While there’s no billable target at the firm, one source did note that “there’s an unspoken sense that aiming for 2,000 hours is ideal.” For those with the drive, Munger was felt to provide enough work to get them to their billing goals: “If you want to hit 2,000 hours you can hit it. I've always felt I've had enough to hit that.” The firm does publish monthly billable hour reports to the whole firm (including pro bono hours), which received a mixed response from our sources. Some appreciated the practice as “you can get a sense of where other people are at” and adjust billing goals accordingly, while others felt that it can “lead to people knowing a lot of everyone's business.” Bonuses are discretionary and paid out based on various factors beyond just billable hours, like quality of work and overall contribution to the firm.
Most of our interviewees were billing around seven to nine hours per day on average. As with any other BigLaw firm, you can expect “crazy days where you bill more and those where you bill less.” When work heats up, “you can find yourself working until 11pm fairly consistently, as well as on a weekend.” However, sources were keen to stress that they’d “never been asked to do something by Monday on a Friday – I’ve worked on a weekend to alleviate pressure during the week though.” There is a hybrid working policy in place which asks associates to be in for three days per week, but it’s “not super-mandatory and there are varying degrees of buy-in by people: some are in five days a week and others are rarely in. No one says that’s not okay and it’s a team-by-team thing.”
Munger is frequently in our 'top firms' list for the highest average of pro bono hours recorded, and the firm prides itself on the fact that all pro bono is billable. “You are really encouraged to do what speaks to you and it’s self-driven," a satisfied source told us, highlighting that there’s no limit on how much associates can take on. This flexible system saw “associates bringing in matters (with approval), so the work can be shaped by what appeals to you.” There’s also a “central pro bono hub, where you can see opportunities and get into the mix. Partners will also have specific areas that they focus on, so you can ping them an email and get on a matter right away.” Pro bono was felt to be a great way to hone skills, as “you can take on more responsibilities and manage a case team – so many partners at the firm will tell you to do pro bono for development.”
“Munger is very involved in police reform initiatives, as well as extensive immigration cases.”
A corporate associate did note that there were “fewer transactional pro bono opportunities, but I’ve still been able to work on company formations and agreements for nonprofit museums and struggling artists.” Litigation associates had taken on all sorts of matters, with one revealing that the firm is “very involved in police reform initiatives, as well as extensive immigration cases – especially during the Trump administration. We have also dealt with lots of schools, whether it was in relation to indigenous reservations or local school districts having structural racism problems.”
Pro bono hours
- Average per (US) attorney: 163
- For all (US) attorneys: 30,874
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Munger has four affinity groups for women, attorneys of color, LGBTQ+ attorneys, and parents, all of which have subgroups. Interviewees were happy to tell us that “if you want to push for certain changes or ways of doing things, the affinity networks are natural places to bring up those conversations.” Like all BigLaw firms, the challenge for Munger was felt to be “hanging onto diverse partners.” This source commented that “it's hard because any departures at smaller firms like ours can really swing the numbers, but I think it's something we could be doing more to address.” Associates were keen to underline that there’s not a lack of thought behind initiatives, with this one emphasizing that “lots of the people care!” Another attorney we spoke with liked that she could relate to senior figures at the firm: “Our managing partner is a woman and a mother, and it makes me very happy to know that there are women in the firm leadership who really get it.”
Munger is Mansfield 5.0 certified and one of the firm’s “big initiatives is its MTO Fellows Program, which focuses on identifying diverse candidates and supporting them early on.” There’s also a designated 1L diversity program and a selection of 2L diversity scholarships up for grabs.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 231
Interviewees outside OCI: 8
Historically, MTO conducts OCIs at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Chicago, Michigan, Penn, Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, Loyola, Howard, NYU, and USC. Hiring partner Adam Weiss tells 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 Weiss explains: “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.” Weiss adds 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.” – Hiring partner Adam Weiss
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 63
Callbacks for summer associate candidates consist of “a series of 30-minute interviews with lawyers of varying seniority.” Weiss explains 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.” – Hiring partner Adam Weiss
Offers: 38 (2Ls)
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,” Weiss explains. He 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," says Weiss, 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.”
"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)." – Hiring partner Adam Weiss
Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP
350 South Grand Avenue, 50th Floor,
Main areas of work
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Job Fairs: Afro Scholars 1L Job Fair
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.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023
- 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)
California: Los Angeles & Surrounds
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Tax (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Appellate Law (Band 2)
- Corporate Crime & Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- Securities: Litigation (Band 5)