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 Department of Justice, the
Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Attorneys offices.
Cali Firm with Cornhusker Friends
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 repeat
Munger Tolles' client.
Tolles passed away in 2008, leaving Ronald L. Olson as the only
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 are allowed
to weigh in on the pay of their fellow partners, and all attorneys
may vote on all job candidates and review the firm's financial
books. 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. 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.
Winning on Pacific Time
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
IN THE NEWS
All in the Family
Munger Tolles is among Yale Law Women's 2014 Top Ten Family
Friendly Firms, which recognizes law firms that are leaders in
developing and implementing family friendly policies and practices.
As Yale Law Women noted in its report of the firm, "75% of the 2013
partner class was women, and more than half of the associates
promoted to partner in the past five years have been women." All
six attorneys promoted to partner in the last two years are
parents, including five women.
Hit the Bench
The U.S. Senate confirmed two Munger Tolles partners to serve as
judges to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Michelle
T. Friedland-whose practice focused on antitrust litigation,
appellate matters and constitutional and academic affairs
litigation for higher education institutions-was confirmed April
28. John Owens, a former federal prosecutor who focused on
representing individuals and corporations in government
investigations, was confirmed March 31. They follow former Munger
Tolles partner Paul J. Watford, who joined the appellate bench in
Munger Tolles lawyers successfully defeated a 16-year-old class
action seeking as much as $1 billion from client Philip Morris,
landing it in the Daily Journal's Top Verdicts of 2013
list in the "Top Defense Results" category. The plaintiffs alleged
that Philip Morris violated a number of California laws through its
marketing of Marlboro Lights, and sought $545 million to $1 billion
in restitution, in addition to various forms of injunctive relief.
The firm beat back the suit by deposing a sample of 156 class
members, revealing that the plaintiffs were not misled and suffered
no economic damages in their purchase of Marlboro Lights.
New Partner Class is All Women
Munger Tolles welcomed two colleagues to its single-tier
partnership ranks. Hailyn J. Chen and Bethany Woodard Kristovich
are both Los Angeles-based litigators. AmLaw Daily noted
that Munger Tolles is the only AmLaw 200 firm to have an all-woman
partner class in 2014.
A Victory for Equality
A team of Munger Tolles litigators was awarded the California State
Bar President's Pro Bono Service Award for a Law Firm Team. The
team representing LGBT advocacy group Equality California
successfully defended Senate Bill 1172, which prohibits
state-licensed therapists from engaging in sexual orientation
change efforts ("SOCE") on minor patients. The law was challenged
in two different lawsuits by practitioners of SOCE, sometimes
called "reparative" or "conversion" therapy.
The Munger Tolles Corporate Group represented Beats Electronics
LLC, the audio brand co-founded by legendary artist and producer
Dr. Dre and Interscope Geffen A&M Chairman Jimmy Iovine. In
September 2013, the company announced an equity investment by The
Carlyle Group (NASDAQ:CG), the global alternative asset manager,
and a new bank facility. Beats also announced that it entered into
a definitive agreement to reacquire the minority stake in Beats
held by HTC Corp. Munger Tolles lawyers guided the company through
the simultaneous transactions.