2020 Vault Rankings
- Pro Bono#26
At a Glance
"Interesting work, lots of responsibility, and great early opportunities.”
“I love the people I get to come to work with every day.”
“The freedom (and encouragement) to do excellent work in whatever way works best for you.”
“The leanly staffed teams provide early opportunities but also a heavier workload.”
“Sometimes it is very busy.”
About Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP
One of SoCal’s elites, Munger, Tolles & Olson has only recently expanded beyond the Golden State. The firm is best known for its litigation chops, and through its highly selective recruiting process, draws in a high number of clerks.
Cali Firm with Cornhusker Friends
Munger Tolles 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 the late Paramount chair Brad Grey.
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 No. 1 on the Am Law A-List four more times, most recently in 2017. 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.
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.
News & Awards
Munger Tolles represented Berkshire Hathaway in its commitment to invest $10 billion in Occidental Petroleum to finance Occidental’s proposed acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum.
Munger Tolles elected Malcolm A. Heinicke and Hailyn J. Chen, who both began their legal careers as summer associates at the firm, to serve as co-managing partners.
In what is thought to be the largest environmental crimes trial in California history, Munger Tolles successfully defended Plains All American Pipeline with respect to its pipeline that leaked crude oil in 2015 near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County, preventing a conviction for knowing misconduct before a Santa Barbara jury. Plains achieved pretrial dismissals, acquittals, or deadlocks on 37 of the 46 counts.
Munger Tolles, as co-counsel to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, won a landmark trial victory on behalf of children, parents, and school districts in New Mexico accusing the state’s education system of violating the state constitution by failing to provide students a sufficient public education and denying them due process and equal protection under the law.
- Munger Tolles represented the Writers Guild of America in a lawsuit challenging the television networks’ “family hour” policy, which banned provocative programming during prime time. The firm successfully argued that the FCC ban violated the First Amendment, and the networks dropped the policy.
- Munger Tolles represented AbbVie in a case marking a major change in patent litigation when the firm, as co-counsel, won an en banc Federal Circuit ruling that fundamentally altered the national standards for determining inequitable conduct before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- Munger Tolles’ corporate lawyers helped to create the first-ever security with a negative interest rate.
- No. 3 on The American Lawyer’s 2018 A-List
- 2019 Pro Bono Hot List honoree (The National Law Journal)
- 2018 Appellate Hot List honoree (The National Law Journal)
- 2018 California Powerhouse (Law360)
- 2018 Compass Award winner (Leadership Council on Legal Diversity)
350 South Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Phone: (213) 683-9100
Managing Partners: Hailyn Chen & Malcolm Heineke
Hiring Attorneys: Daniel Levin, Fred Rowley, & Adam Weiss
Total No. Attorneys 2019:
150 - 250
1st year: $190,000
2nd year: $200,000
3rd year: $220,000
4th year: $255,000
5th year: $280,000
6th year: $305,000
7th year: $325,000
8th year: $340,000
Summer associate: $3,654/week
No. of Summer Associates:
26 total (16 2Ls; 3 1Ls; 7 Post 3Ls) (2019)
Kevinn C. Villard
Director of Legal Recruiting
Los Angeles, CA (HQ)
San Francisco, CA
Labor & Employment
*See firm website for complete list of practice areas and industries.