PUBLISHED:February 04, 2011

The Gibson Dunn-Duke Connection

Strong recruiting, collegial cultures credited for the firm’s unusually high concentration of Duke Law graduates in senior roles.

That five of the eight U.S. offices of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher are head­ed by Duke Law School alumni might be a surprising fact to some, but it all makes sense to the “Gibson Dunn Dukies.”

“At both Duke and Gibson Dunn, there is a combination of a high level of qual­ity of work balanced with the collegial and comfortable personality of the place,” says Karl Nelson ’91, partner-in-charge at Gibson Dunn’s Dallas office. “I think that whatever it was that appealed to me about Duke when I first visited also appealed to me when I clerked at Gibson.”

Nelson’s colleagues across the firm agree: Cultural similarities between the firm and the Law School, along with leadership of alumni who loyally recruit at Duke, have attracted Duke Law alumni to the firm and created opportunities for leadership and professional success. According to the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher website, 32 Duke Law alumni work for the firm.

“The culture at Gibson Dunn is like noth­ing I’ve seen before,” says Karen Manos ’86. A co-partner-in-charge at its Washington, D.C., office, she joined the firm after a distin­guished career as a U.S. Air Force JAG. “It’s the most congenial, friendly place I’ve been. It was like that at Duke as well.”

“I hear it even from recruits from Duke, the younger folks we’re interviewing, who talk about what they like about the Law School, and it is in fact very similar to Gibson Dunn,” agrees Steven Shoemate ’88, co-partner-in-charge at the New York office. “It is a supportive rather than a competi­tive atmosphere.”

Duke Law’s connection to Gibson Dunn traces back to Bob Montgomery ’64, a recently-retired partner and executive committee member at the firm who may well hold a record for the longest recruit­ing streak at Duke Law — 40 years. Montgomery joined the Los Angeles-based firm immediately after graduat­ing from law school and was the first Duke Law graduate hired there.

“I had heard Los Angeles firms were different, and I found that to be true,” Montgomery says. “I chose Gibson Dunn over other law firms for the same reason I chose Duke over Harvard: it was collegial and friendly, and the people seemed to care about you as a whole person.”

Montgomery clearly conveyed those attributes in his own recruit­ing at Duke.

“The significance of someone at [Montgomery’s] level coming to the school to recruit, showing such loyalty to Duke and to the firm, that wasn’t lost on me [as a student],” recalls Christopher Dusseault ’94, co-partner-in-charge of Gibson Dunn’s Los Angeles-area offices. “He’s a role model of loyalty to Duke and a great spokesman for the firm.”

Fred Brown ’75, partner-in-charge at the firm’s San Francisco office, denies a hiring conspiracy between the Law School and the law firm — “There is no Duke mafia at Gibson Dunn,” he says with a laugh — but he says Duke does a good job of preparing students for success at a firm like Gibson. “You get a superior education. You have smart people, and you are educating them in a superior way.”

His firsthand knowledge of the qual­ity of a Duke education is one reason Montgomery has been so committed to recruiting Duke students over the years. With decades of interviewing behind him, Montgomery says his advice to students has remained the same: “If you work hard, prepare yourself, and are flex­ible and open to opportunities, you will succeed as an attorney. Take courses to ready yourself in a range of ways and be open to trying new things.”