One of SoCal's elites, Munger, Tolles &
Olson has resisted the temptation to expand beyond the Golden
State. The firm is similarly consistent in its recruiting:
depending on your outlook, Munger Tolles attorneys are either
active proponents of public service or shrewd résumé builders (or
both)-a majority of them have clerked for U.S. federal judges,
while many others have worked for federal agencies, including the
DOJ, the EPA, and U.S. Attorneys' offices.
An ancient firm founded by grey-whiskered men
wearing pince-nez? Not Munger Tolles. Instead, think crew cuts and
the Cuban Missile Crisis. The firm was founded in 1962 by seven
partners, including Charles Munger and Edwin Leroy Tolles. Munger
departed after three years, but this proved to work in the firm's
interests. A close friend of investor Warren Buffett, Munger went
on to become vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, which in turn
became a long-time Munger Tolles client.
Tolles passed away in 2008, leaving Ronald L.
Olson as the last name partner still in active practice at the
firm. Olson, who joined in 1968, is also connected to Berkshire
Hathaway (he's a director of the company) and served as Founding
Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Southern California Public
Radio. For many years, the Los Angeles Daily Journal
(which happens to be owned by one Charles Munger) has named Olson
one of California's most influential lawyers, acknowledging his
work for clients like Yahoo!, the J. Paul Getty Trust, Shell Oil,
Michael Ovitz, and Paramount chairman Brad Grey.
Aside from its reluctance to expand
geographically, Munger Tolles is atypical in that it promotes an
"ownership mentality" among its ranks. In adherence to this
culture, partners all weigh in on the pay of their fellow partners,
and all attorneys may vote on all job candidates, review the firm's
financial books, and participate in all important firm decisions. A
highly selective firm in terms of both hiring and its acceptance of
cases, Munger Tolles has historically rewarded those who make it
through the hiring gauntlet with an accelerated path to partner:
the average associate can be considered for the partnership within
five to seven years at the firm. While the firm keeps its ranks
lean, it prides itself on the diversity of talent within its
doors-clients who hire Munger Tolles may find themselves with
lawyers who hold graduate degrees in history, literature, medicine,
economics, or physics.
Proving that the West Coast can be the best
coast, Munger Tolles made headlines in 2008 when The American
Lawyer placed it atop the magazine's "A-List." It was the
first time the honor had gone to a firm outside New York, but not
the last: Munger Tolles placed #1 on the AmLaw A-List for three
consecutive years. Today Munger Tolles operates over a half-dozen
practice areas, with growing strength in criminal investigations
and defense, as well as appellate work. Niche practices include tax
and bankruptcy. The firm counts among its clients some of
California's largest companies (think entertainment, energy, and
retail), national corporations, large universities, foreign
government agencies and international corporations.
I Like to Merge It, Merge It
Munger Tolles was party to one of the biggest deals in
Hollywood: the acquisition of DreamWorks Animation by NBCUniversal
for $3.8 billion. Attorneys from the firm represented independent
directors on DreamWorks Animation's board of directors. The merger
will allow NBCUniversal and its parent company, Comcast, the
ability to utilize DreamWorks properties, including "Shrek," "Kung
Fu Panda," "Madagascar," and "How to Train Your Dragon."
Breaking Ground for Building Hope
Ron Olson, name partner of Munger, Tolles & Olson, was
honored for his long history of public service by the Legal Aid
Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), which broke ground on Jan. 19,
2016 on its new headquarters, named the Ron Olson Justice Center.
Olson has championed numerous pro bono matters during his
five-decade legal career, including securing a landmark settlement
in 2014 on behalf of homeless veterans in Los Angeles.
Jury Relieves UC of Privacy Claim
Munger Tolles obtained a jury verdict for The Regents of the
University of California after the UCLA Health System was accused
of breaching a woman's medical privacy by negligently releasing her
medical records. Following a seven-day trial-that was first-chaired
by an associate-in which the plaintiff sought $1.25 million in
damages, the jury returned a defense verdict for UCLA, finding that
the university did not release the plaintiff's medical records. The
trial victory earned the firm recognition as The
Recorder's Privacy and Data Security Department of the Year
and Law360's Privacy Practice Group of the Year.
A Cast Iron Acquisition
Munger Tolles represented Berkshire Hathaway in its acquisition
of Precision Castparts Corp., a manufacturer of complex metal
components and products, for $37.2 billion in one of Berkshire's
largest deals, according to media reports.
A Winning Team
Brad Brian was selected to serve as the new co-managing partner
of Munger Tolles, joining Sandra Seville-Jones, who has served as
managing partner since 2009. A nationally recognized trial lawyer
and leader in the legal community, Brian will focus on growing the
firm's next generation of leadership and expanding client
Top Tier Litigators
Munger Tolles was named one of California's top-three litigation
departments for 2015 by The Recorder. The publication
pointed to the firm's successful defenses of Transocean, Wells
Fargo, and Philip Morris USA. "Defendants in these complex cases
were facing crippling damages and stinging headlines. But in each
case, clients represented by Munger, Tolles & Olson came out on
top," The Recorder reported.