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Munger, Tolles & Olson [Marty Schultz-Akerson] Resisting the urge to grow at the rate of some of its peers, Munger Tolles has nonetheless earned a stellar reputation for its top-notch litigation department and its commitment to hiring the best and brightest.

Considered one of the most prestigious

Possibly the firm’s most famous litigator,

the basic MTO mold go through a number of

firms in California and home to a nationally

name partner Ronald Olson provides a shin-

interviews before the entire firm sits down to

acclaimed litigation department, Munger,

ing example of the MTO attorney. Reported

make the final decision. Even 10% disap-

Tolles & Olson, LLP, disproves the notion

to bring in upwards of $10 million a year in

proval could be cause for rejection.

that bigger is always better when it comes

major cases, Olson was recently counsel for

to law firms. Since its inception in 1962 in

such clients as Edison International in the

The stringent selection process appears to

Los Angeles, the firm has steered clear of

California electricity crisis and the Republic

pay off, and associates at MTO immediately

the rapid expansion so prevalent in the legal

of Philippines in a suit against the Marcos

enjoy a sophisticated workload due to the

industry recently and has added only one

family. He has arranged advantageous settle-

firm’s small size. That often translates into

new office in San Francisco. With 153 lawyers

ments for Merrill Lynch and Alyeska Pipeline

more responsibility for associates and, since

and close to an equal ratio of partners to

Services, avoiding billion dollar punitive

the more experienced lawyers have little

associates, MTO remains true to its found-

damages. As is common with MTO attorneys,

time to train newcomers, can feel like a

ers’ dedication to providing top-notch legal

Olson sets the standard for professional

birth-by-fire ritual. Nevertheless, those who

services in an efficient manner.

responsibility, devoting considerable time

survive say the system works better than

to pro bono legal services and playing an

more structured training methods and af-

Prestige often comes from whom you know,

important role in the development of cost-ef-

fords greater potential for growth.

as illustrated in the friendship between MTO

fective legal services as the Chairman of the

founder Charles Munger and the owner of

Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee

Compensation at MTO is the market rate and

Berkshire Hathaway billionaire Warren Buf-

from 1976-1986.

advancement is relatively fast, taking as little

fett. Munger eventually decided to leave the

as four years to make partner. The firm’s

firm to become Berkshire Hathaway’s vice

As a whole, MTO stands out for its substan-

commitment to over-achieving intellectual

president, but the ties did not break with his

tial commitment to pro bono work. Lawyers

lawyers might be said to hamper the social

departure, as MTO continues to represent

donate 3% of their time to worthy causes,

life, although there are weekly lunches and

the investment company in its legal affairs.

frequently representing prisoners on death

Friday night gatherings.

Other notable MTO clients include Universal

row, staffing legal clinics, and fighting for

Studios, Edison International, Shell Oil Co.,

broad social issues such as the elimination of

Perhaps the most unique feature about MTO

and Alyeska Pipeline Services.

the chad-producing punch cards in the Cali-

is the democratic nature of its management.

fornia voting system. The firm has received

As mandated by the firm’s seven founders

While MTO attorneys bring wide ranging

ample recognition for its socially responsible

in 1962, partners and associates alike share

expertise to their practice, the firm is best

endeavors from the ACLU, the ABA, and the

an equal vote when it comes to making deci-

known as a litigation heavyweight. Its reputa-

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

sions. The only downside to such a system

tion in that field is exemplified by the fact

is that decisions might take longer to make

that it is often called as counsel for other

Getting hired at MTO is a competitive pro-

law firms. For example, MTO successfully

cess. In addition to graduating from top law

less, for those seeking to work in a stimu-

represented Kirkland & Ellis in its entangle-

schools with impeccable GPAs, nearly one

lating, intellectual environment and have

ment in the Enron debacle, getting the firm

out of eight MTO lawyers were Supreme

considerable say in their firm’s direction,

dismissed from the securities class action

Court clerks and eleven out of the twelve

MTO might be just the place.


non-lateral hires in 2003 came from some clerkship position. Candidates who possess


than in a more hierarchical firm. Neverthe-

Munger, Tolles & Olson