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Munger Tolles is incredibly selective, but if you’re hired, you’ve just joined a top-notch, tight-knit firm where associates participate in major firm decisions. With strong mentorship, new associates tackle exciting work from day one. 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.

Firm Stats


Total No. Attorneys (2021)


No. of Partners Named (2021)


Featured Rankings

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No. of Summer Associates (2021)


Base Salary

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No. of U.S. Offices

Vault Verdict

Getting in the door at MTO is no easy feat—the firm wants top credentials and clerkship experience. Hiring decisions require a firmwide vote and come after an intense set of interviews focusing on behavioral and substantive legal questions. You’ll be held to high standards here, but the firm is described as a truly special place to work—cultural descriptors include caring, tight-knit, and team-oriented. And transparency is the name of the game: Associates have a say in all major firm decisions. There is no billable-hours requirement, and finding work is on the free-market system, but there is more than enough of it to go around. Compensation is market, with bonuses tailored to individual performance and billables. There isn’t much of a ramp-up for new associates: Lean staffing mea...

About the Firm

Munger, Tolles & Olson is a SoCal elite, with offices in Los Angeles; San Francisco; and Washington, DC. 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 1...

Associate Reviews

  • “MTO's culture is something special. From my first day at the firm, everyone welcomed me and made me feel like family. The firm is tight-knit: We have lunch together multiple times per week, and it isn't unusual for attorneys to attend each other's weddings, kids' soccer games, etc. The firm also takes special care to make sure that all professional staff members are recognized, appreciated and respected.  Professional staff participate in all the firm events alongside attorneys with no distinctions. I've never worked with attorneys and professionals who are so good at what they do while also being such good people.”
  • “Day to day, the atmosphere is very supportive, and everyone seems team-oriented. There are just high expectations right off the bat. Gatherings are strongly encouraged (even virtual), but work always comes first.”
  • “COVID has obviously affected this, but we routinely schedule ‘sherry sips’ and other social events. I have close relationships with several partners with whom I’ve gone on walks or had dinner during the pandemic. As firms go, this is a caring place.”
  • “It's been different over the last year as we've been working from home, but usually the firm has twice weekly all-attorney lunches, a weekly happy hour called ‘Sherry Sip,’ and lots of other opportunities to socialize with other attorneys at the firm.”
  • “The ratio of partners to associates at the firm makes associates greatly valued. Partners work directly with even junior associates. Partners trust and rely on associates, provide substantive opportunities, and work with associates collaboratively and respectfully. The partner/associate relationship has been one of my favorite parts of working at Munger.”
  • “I feel I can personally contact many partners—including both managing partners—to discuss any concerns I have. I am not always 100% satisfied, but I would be surprised if any firm did more than ours to make me feel valued and my concerns heard.”
  • “Associates have a seat at the table for any major decision at the firm—literally. Two associates serve on the firm's Management Committee (and any associate can attend or listen to Management Committee meetings), and associates' votes on firmwide matters are valued equally. Associates even vote on decisions to hire new partners. MTO's radical transparency is something that I really value about the firm.”
  • “There's a very transparent formal review process twice per year, and before the reviews, the partners host informal get-togethers to talk through best practices and address any associate questions/concerns. In general, I have never had a question—about my performance, firm finances, or anything else—for which there wasn't a ready answer that I could find within 60 seconds.”
  • “There is no billable-hours requirement, although people at the firm tend to hold themselves to high expectations, so it is not unusual for associates to bill a lot of hours each year.”
  • “The hours are long but certainly could be worse. Partners tend to be flexible and understanding of your current workload, work-from-home situation, and obligations outside the firm when discussing deadlines. I am in a relatively small practice group, but work seems evenly distributed. While there is no billable-hours requirement, there is a suggested annual threshold, and given how busy everyone is at the firm, you'd have to actively avoid being given work not to hit it.”
  • “MTO gives you as much work as you can handle, and the firm does not have a billable-hours requirement. However, because matters are leanly staffed, if you get staffed on a hot matter and want to succeed it can take over your life.”
  • “I tend to work slightly more than friends at other firms, but the quality of my work is much greater.  Working the extra 100 hours a year is more than worth it when my work is interesting and important.”
  • “The firm always calibrates the median bonus to be market and then adjusts based on individual reviews. People who work hard and perform well will receive an above market bonus. People whose hours are low may receive slightly below.”
  • “MTO compensates its attorneys incredibly well. I clerked for multiple years, so I really appreciate that unlike most firms, they give full compensation credit for multiple years of clerkships.”
  • “Salary and compensation is standard. However, MTO gave us a $750 stipend for a work from home setup.”
  • “The firm generally takes care of associates at or above the market rate. It did not provide special bonuses last year, but associates were able to earn a full bonus (including special bonus) at the end of the year. I expect the same will be true this year, but would prefer to have the firm make that decision and communicate it earlier and, more importantly, reward associates above market for those who have performed exceptionally, as the firm has historically done.”
  • “I spend all of my time on substantive legal work. Because MTO has a lean staffing model, they have no incentive to assign associates busy work or redundant tasks. Every single task that I've completed since I started at the firm has in some way moved the matter forward.”
  • “The work is unbelievably substantive. Within my first two months at the firm, I drafted two motions, handled four filings, corresponded directly with opposing counsel in one of the firm's most active cases, interviewed engineers and inventors for a patent case, and led a discussion with an expert witness. I anticipate conducting depositions within the next few months.”
  • “There is no shortage of high-quality and interesting assignments at the firm, so there's no sense among associates that we have to compete for them. Every associate I've spoken with is doing interesting and meaningful work. And if an associate wants to work on a particular matter or area of the law, they're encouraged to reach out to the partners who are doing that work. We are given full license to seek out work that interests and challenges us.”
  • “Munger gives its associates trust early and often. Assignments are not distributed based on class year. Rather, they are distributed based on need. This means that each associate's practice includes a variety of types of work, from substantive brief drafting, interviewing witnesses, discrete research assignments, to everyone's favorite assignment—document review.”
  • “We have been provided with a lot of technology to make working from home as efficient as possible, including full office set ups and whatever hardware we require. We have decent video conferencing and chat software, and most of our systems work from home exactly as they would from the office.”
  • “The firm sent me multiple screens, a standing mat, etc., to help set up my home office.”
  • “I'm not sure I'd say innovative, but very good at making sure the basics (home office setup, monitors, wireless keyboard/mouse) are provided. IT folks are responsive and helpful.”
  • “The firm adjusted well to the pandemic because we already had a strong work-from-home culture and technology necessary to support it.”
  • “As a new lawyer, we have received regular trainings on litigation essentials, like how to prepare for a filing and taking depositions. We also receive a junior mentor (another more-senior associate) and a senior mention (a partner), and they offer support and help answer any questions we may have. I have also received a lot of mentorship from other lawyers on my teams and through the firm's monthly women's lunch.”
  • “There's a stronger focus on learning by doing than there is on formal training. However, we do have training events and the firm seeks feedback from associates on the types of training we need.”
  • “Partners are genuinely invested in associate development, given the low leverage model and strong preference to promote from within.”
  • “The greatest source of training at MTO is actually doing the assignment. You are trusted to do your best, with expectations appropriate to your level of experience, and supported in improving.”
  • “Promotion to partnership is realistic for those who would like to make partner and demonstrate the necessary skill set and commitment to the firm. The firm tends to promote partners a little sooner than most other firms.”
  • “Absolutely—they make more partners per incoming associates than any firm of comparable size or greater. The most common single exit [opportunity] for litigation associates appears to be [to the] U.S. Attorney's Offices. They also seem to have a number of of-counsel individuals and senior associates; they don't really buy into the ‘up or out’ model.”
  • “Partnership opportunities seem very realistic and doable for those who want it. Not very many associates leave MTO to go to other firms, which I think represents the uniqueness of our firm culture, but a number leave for exciting government or in-house opportunities.”
  • “Partnership at Munger is reached, on average, after eight years at the firm, and it seems like a much more realistic opportunity than at other BigLaw firms. The path to partnership is discussed openly, and associates don't shy away from discussing their desire to become a partner.”
  • “Pro bono hours are counted as billable hours, and there is no maximum limit. The firm is strongly supportive of our pro bono work.”
  • “Pro bono projects are readily available and all pro bono hours count as billable hours.  Big pro bono wins are lauded as much as big wins for clients (with all-firm emails). There was a recent pro bono case that almost went to trial and had a huge trial team billing hundreds of hours to it—no one batted an eyelid.”
  • “This is something that we stand out for—pro bono hours are billed the same as paid hours and count toward bonuses and advancement. MTO really values this work.”
  • “The firm has a true commitment to diversity—but more importantly, it recognizes there is still more work to do.”
  • “The firm puts a lot of energy into diversity efforts. Although there is always room for improvement, the number of diverse partners—including those in leadership roles among the partnership—is impressive. I have been on attorney teams that are majority-minority teams. As a woman of color, I especially appreciate the example set by our co-managing partner who is herself a woman of color.”
  • “The firm has committees focused on diversity in recruitment, and the MTO Fellows Program also does great work helping a diverse group of students prepare for the LSAT and law school applications.”

Diversity at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP

"Since our founding in 1962, Munger, Tolles & Olson has been at the forefront of diversifying the legal profession, and the firm's tradition of diversity continues today. We remain a leader in recruiting, retaining, and promoting women, LGBTQ, and minority attorneys, and we consistently beat national averages in the number of diverse lawyers in our associate and partner ranks. We also work hard to foster an inclusive environment where all of our lawyers can thrive and contribute fully and authentically to all aspects of firm life. This..."

Getting Hired Here

  • “The entire letterhead votes on each new hire, from lateral partners to summer associates. The hiring process is incredibly competitive, and the firm values candidates with interesting backgrounds, experiences, and prior careers. That said, law school attended, grades, and clerkships are all incredibly important.”
  • “Intensely debated; everything is closely scrutinized. Very, very selective process—lots of interviews and sometimes lengthy articulations of the results of those interviews discussed internally. Definitely a limited number of schools that participate in OCI, though sending apps from other schools is encouraged.”
  • “MTO is extremely selective in its hiring. The firm generally looks for students in the top 5% of their class at a top law school with journal experience and a federal clerkship lined up.”
  • “The hiring process is highly rigorous. It's common for candidates to interview with well over a dozen attorneys, and all hiring decisions—from summer associates to partners—are voted on firmwide. Markers for success include not only a stellar academic record but also community citizenship and entrepreneurial spirit.”
  • “The firm uses situational interviewing, asking about specific instances where the candidate had to, for instance, lead a team to accomplish a complicated set of tasks, or overcome a particular challenge, or deal with failure. Candidates are also asked about past legal work and are expected to discuss it at a deep and nuanced level, regardless of the candidate's level." 
  • “Over 80% of MTO's attorneys have clerked, so the firm somewhat specializes in integrating law clerks. The transition from clerkship to MTO has been seamless.”
  • “As a lateral associate myself, I think the firm did an amazing job at integration. Because it is small, it is easy to get to know people, and people genuinely want to help you out as you get acclimatized.”

Perks & Benefits