WilmerHale - The Inside View

With a foot in each of the intellectual heartlands of Boston and Washington, DC, it's no surprise that WilmerHale is a destination for bright associates who are serious about sampling a range of high-level work.

THIS is a place where top-quality work comes first (it was emphasized to us again and again), which makes for top rankings in Chambers USA in areas including cartel antitrust, appellate, IP, life sciences, financial services regulation, and securities regulation. The firm also has cross-border expertise in areas such as Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) law, international trade and international arbitration, facilitated by overseas offices in financial services centers Beijing, London, Berlin, Brussels and Frankfurt.

Our junior associate sources were drawn to the firm by the chance to sample the broad mix of litigation and transactional practice areas on offer, including plenty of niche specialisms in the trickier areas of financial services law. They found that the firm has a "focus on high-quality, rigorous and careful work," which comes across in its "real commitment to training," including a new associate retreat. They also enthused that "people here are generally treated with a great deal of respect and their contributions are valued at a very early stage," making for an environment that offers young attorneys a great place to grow.



The Work

Juniors pick a practice area before joining. Most go into a litigation/controversy pool, where they reported that "you're able to sample different areas and find out what interests you" before specializing in a specific area by the end of their third year. Other options include corporate, securities (contentious or noncontentious), regulatory & government affairs, IP, tax, financial institutions, and labor & employment. Work is handed out by practice group managers, who "make sure work is allocated evenly and that people get exposure to the different areas they'd like to explore. It's a really nice relationship that means you don't have to feel overwhelmed." 

One litigation associate "really enjoyed having the opportunity to try a number of practice groups. I've worked with a really wide range, from internal investigations on banks to criminal to IP to more general business litigation." Rookie litigators "start out doing a lot of discovery work and managing contract attorneys, but after a year or so you get more opportunities to do brief writings, summary judgments, motions to dismiss, or witness prep. You get enough responsibility to stay challenged, but they don't put you in positions where they expect you to do things you haven't had the training or experience to do a great job at. The work is really well calibrated to each associate's skill level." Juniors were also full of praise for the firm's use of support staff. One found that "there's very little mechanical churning of documents. Even what I've done that qualifies as document review has been higher level document review, because the first level is done by our business services team in Ohio."

Across teams, juniors found that "there's an emphasis on teamwork in everything we do. We have a policy where at least two partners are needed to make important policy decisions, and everyone knows what everyone else is doing: the way we work is pretty seamless." They had high levels of contact with clients on cases that ranged from "litigation for some of the biggest names in the country to working on transactional matters on smaller case teams for regional companies."

Training & Development

Associates felt that "one of the nicest aspects of the firm is that they emphasize training to the extent they do. It's a way of filling in gaps in knowledge that you might not fill organically during your first year, which makes for a pretty well-rounded experience." After three days of initial training, associates attend regular practice group training, including lectures, discussions and workshops. First-years from across the firm, including the international offices, also get together for a new associate retreat in Boston or Washington, DC. As well as providing general training on areas including legal writing skills, "they build in plenty of time to network with other associates, which is one of the most valuable parts of it. There's usually a dinner for everyone, and people also get together informally and go out to bars."

WilmerHale's smorgasbord of training opportunities is representative of a firm culture where "there's a real emphasis on older lawyers wanting to pass on their knowledge to junior lawyers. The firm tries to put you in front of people who have a lot of experience and wisdom to share." Juniors were particularly keen on the firm's mock trial program "with a very senior partner acting as the judge, and a panel of partners observing you. Afterwards the 'judge' spent several hours giving us very concrete feedback on how we'd done, and it was enormously helpful."


WilmerHale was created in a merger a decade ago between illustrious firms Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering in Washington, DC and Boston-based Hale & Dorr; since then the firm has expanded to add offices in New York and Palo Alto, as well as small outposts in Waltham, Denver and Dayton. Today, co-managing partner Susan Murley is adamant that "because most of us joined post-merger, there's very little focus on the legacy firm. If there are differences between offices, it stems from the heart of where different work is generated." Accordingly, the firm's biggest office in Washington, DC, which has a government and regulatory focus.

Still, associates also noticed that "some people believe this is a DC-based firm and the fact the DC office is larger is a negative if you're going to Boston but that's not true – Boston really has its own identity going back to before the merger. It's a little more collegial, there are more events and there's a real sense of friendship in the office, because so many people started as summers and worked their way up." Boston juniors boasted that "everyone's always blown away by our view over Boston Harbor and our cafeteria is fantastic: tons of healthy choices and they use ingredients from local farms." Not to be outdone, the New York juniors are housed in "a state-of-the-art, brand new office in the World Trade Center" and, in true urban hipster style, were particularly excited by the "real ceramic cups" to drink their coffee from, while associates at the smaller, tech-focused Palo Alto office boasted of a more casual atmosphere.


Associates told us that "we're not slick lawyers with a lot of bluster and show; folks here are a little bit academic, maybe even brainy." This makes for an environment where "people are extremely professional, thoughtful, and really concerned about doing the job right," as demonstrated by the firm's emphasis on training and its "supportive" culture.

Juniors also emphasized that WilmerHale "has really made a commitment to allow people to have a decent work/life balance." This means that "people tend to keep their heads down during the week, and there aren't tons of socials as a lot of people have families or meet their social needs outside the firm. But that's not to say it's in any way cold: there's plenty of room for making friends here." Boston associates frequent the Chowder and Marching Society (CAMS) on Fridays, although they explained that "there's no chowder or marching in the streets, it's just wine and beers" – the misnomer's origins are lost in the mists of time, but it looks like a reference to the social club frequented by the fairy godfather in 1940s comic strip Barnaby. Not to be outdone, DC also hosts monthly happy hours, as well as special events including a biannual DC regulatory party in the office cafeteria. Excited juniors reported that "one time, we had the mascot from the Washington National Team show up. They try to do little things like that to keep our morale up."

Hours & Compensation

Associates aim to bill 2,000 hours, but find that "the firm doesn't put a lot of emphasis on hitting the target because there's an ethos of quality over quantity, although you do want to be hitting hours by the third year." They also stressed that "although we're definitely not a lifestyle firm, people here are really respectful of time spent with family. They willingly volunteer to cover for each other in busy times, and people will jump in and help out if you're overwhelmed."  

Bonuses are "based on a combination of merit and standard scale," with a full bonus awarded at 2,000, and a smaller sum at 1,900, along with a discretionary amount based on performance. Associates were tight-lipped about how much they netted, but as one opined, "philosophically I believe in the lockstep model, but it wasn't the compensation system that made me come here."

Pro Bono

Juniors found that "there's a real commitment to community service here, which means the firm actively encourages us to do pro bono." WilmerHale even puts its money where its mouth is by putting no upper limit on pro bono hours. One busy junior reported that "I do so much pro bono that if I don't have any going on I'm somewhat worried. You're doing good, and you get more responsibility too. I've got to write a brief and argue it in court, and the partner I'm working with gives me really great criticism."

Pro bono hours 

  • For all attorneys across all offices: 162,420 
  • Average per US attorney: 153 


Associates enthused that "this is a great firm to be a woman. Our co-managing partner Susan Murley really encourages women's development, and there's a big turnout for the women's leadership events, where female senior partners have been very open in talking about the struggles they've faced and how they've overcome them." Our sources were also "encouraged to participate directly in diversity events, and if you have an idea that you want to run with they'll help you make it a reality."

Get Hired

WilmerHale recruits from 35 top schools nationally through the standard OCI process, where the associate consensus was that they hunt down candidates that are somewhere between "very smart" and "very, very smart." In case you're still in any doubt, hiring partner Chris Davies clarifies that "we're a relatively cerebral place. Clients hire us to solve sophisticated and difficult problems that require vigorous and imaginative advocacy, which we do through thoughtfulness and consideration. It's important for people to consider the degree they want to be at a place which is serious and determined, but still creative. We're looking for stellar academic records, even at the top schools. The quality of the writing sample is a threshold criterion in our hiring decisions, and is sometimes even a determining factor." He also tells us that at the firm's interviews, candidates are "likely to be asked detailed questions about items on their resume. Their capacity to speak to these topics thoughtfully, compellingly and with some imaginative insight is very important."

Associates added that WilmerHale is also keen on people who are "able to work well in teams, and that's valued more than people who shine individually." This means that the interview process is "much more conversational than at other firms. They want people who are friendly and able to go off and get things done."

Strategy & Future

Co-managing partner Susan Murley's catchy promise for the next few years at WilmerHale is "evolution, not revolution." The firm recently opened a new office in Denver, which she tells us "offers opportunities for growth in our energy and natural resources practice. We're also looking at further developing our practices in healthcare and education, and our practices outside the US, including building on our strong reputation in IP litigation in Europe."

Murley also informs us that a firm saying is: “Our focus is on great work, hard work, teamwork, and a place where everyone counts and they know it.” She elaborates that "it's hard work to be a lawyer at a big firm, but there's very much a sense we do it as a team, whether it's working across offices on small matters, or as part of very large teams on matters like our work for JPMorgan or Apple in its global patent infringement battle with Samsung, which spanned almost every office in the firm, in and out of the US."

Recent Work Highlights 

  • Secured $2.15 billion in patent infringement damages for Pfizer following a nearly decade-long legal battle with Teva and Sun Pharmaceutical, which launched generic versions of its acid reflux drug Protonix
  • Successfully defended Intel, Apple and Hewlett-Packard after electronic components company X2Y tried to exclude Intel's microprocessors, as well as products using them, from the US on the grounds of patent infringement
  • Successfully defended Bank of America, JPMorgan and Credit Suisse against a $465 million claim brought by the liquidators of offshore funds, who were seeking to recover deposits entrusted to defunct broker Refco
  • Representing Boeing in its appeal against the World Trade Organization's decision that the $5 billion in subsidies it received from the US government to create the 787 Dreamliner jet amounted to an unfair advantage over its rival Airbus

Fabulous Fab, rogue trader extraordinaire  

Securities regulation might be dry fodder to anyone stuck chomping through indigestible regulatory rules in statute books. But the reward for persevering is the odd flash of glamor that comes courtesy of high-profile securities frauds, and they don't come much more glamorous than Fabulous Fab, the ex-Goldman Sachs trader who was recently found liable for a $1 billion failed mortgage deal. WilmerHale has just brought Matthew Martens, the lead prosecutor on the case, on board in a high-profile lateral hire. As he explains, "they've obviously got the premier securities practice in the country, and no doubt WilmerHale has the expertise to cover legal issues from every angle. I brought to the firm my experience of trying significant financial cases, and I benefit from the depth and breadth of securities knowledge that the firm and the practice is known for."

Matthew Martens has been recruited from his former role as chief litigation counsel at the SEC, which was responsible for prosecuting Fabulous Fab in one of the most high-profile securities cases to come out of the financial crisis. As he explains, "it was unlike anything I'd done before in terms of the way it captured public attention. The courtroom was full every day, as were two overflow courtrooms. There were cameras outside every day and the case made the front page of the Wall Street Journal above the fold." It has been controversial that the SEC went after Tourre, rather than his superiors higher up at Goldman Sachs, but actually attributing guilt in complex cases like these is notoriously challenging.

In Fab's case, his guilt, as well as his colorful nickname, was clear at least in part from the florid personal e-mails he sent during the time of the frauds. He cast himself as the “only potential survivor, the fabulous Fab… standing in the middle of all these complex, highly leveraged, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all the implications of those monstrosities!!!” He also boasted of selling financial products to “widows and orphans that I ran into at the airport” and dubbed the process of constructing them “pure intellectual masturbation.”

Thus far, WilmerHale's securities work has been rather less attention-grabbing, with a noncontentious focus on the complex regulations that surround securities, particularly in the aftermath of the financial crisis. The firm has represented two major financial services companies in fraud-related class actions springing from the sale of products including annuities, life insurance and retirement plans. Matthew Martens' recruitment marks a renewed focus on the litigation side of things, and although characters like Fabulous Fab don't come along every day, he reassured us that he sees no end in sight to high-profile financial frauds, however complex the regulatory environment.

The summer program 

Summers enthused that WilmeHale hosts "a really enjoyable summer, partly because the firm makes a point of giving us interesting work and not drudgery." Workflow is coordinated by midlevel associates who solicit assignments from the rest of the firm, which allows summers to sample "a really wide range of projects, so you're not pigeonholed in any one area." One source told us that "I was all over the map in the work I took on. I appreciated that opportunity because it made me realize I wanted to litigate." They also benefited from training opportunities including a "fantastic deposition simulation – they made a real commitment to training us and the quality was fantastic."

There's also a full program of socials on offer, which range from dinners at partners' houses to more quirky options. Associates had particularly fond memories of "a big fun sailing trip in Maryland. The pilot for the sailboat was able to show us around the bay, and under his guidance we could turn the wheel ever so slightly. For people like me who've never been near the ocean it was special, a real highlight. Then when we came out we had a big crab feast." There was also a "slightly dorky" tour of Washington on Segways, upright motorized vehicles of the future, and "a cooking event in a special kitchen where each group made a course for a shared meal." 


60 State Street,
MA 02109
Website www.wilmerhale.com

350 South Grand Avenue,
Los Angeles,
CA 90071

7 World Trade Center,
New York,
NY 10007

950 Page Mill Road,
Palo Alto,
CA 94304

1875 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC,

WilmerHale Venture Group,
MA 02451

1225 17th Street, Suite 1660, ,
CO 80202

  • Head Office: Boston, MA and Washington, DC
  • Number of domestic offices: 7
  • Number of international offices: 7
  • Worldwide revenue: $1.073 billion
  • Partners (US): 268
  • Associates (US): 615
  • Summer Salary 2014  
  • 1Ls: $3,100/week
  • 2Ls: $3,100/week
  • Post 3Ls: N/A
  • 1Ls hired? Yes, but not in 2014
  • Split summers offered? Yes
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? Yes
  • Summers 2014: 89
  • Offers/acceptances 2013: 127 offers, 83 acceptances, 39 outstanding

Main areas of work

Our global practice includes over 500 litigators with unmatched trial, appellate and Supreme Court experience; a preeminent securities law practice with over 180 lawyers; a regulatory practice that includes more than 110 lawyers who have held high-level government positions; an intellectual property practice enriched by the expertise of more than 180 attorneys and technology specialists who hold scientifi c or technical degrees; more than 220 seasoned corporate transactional lawyers and business counselors; and lawyers who focus on bankruptcy, environmental, labor and employment, private client, real estate and tax matters.

Firm profile

WilmerHale offers unparalleled legal representation across a comprehensive range of practice areas that are critical to the success of our clients. We practice at the very top of the legal profession and offer a cutting-edge blend of capabilities that enables us to handle deals and cases of any size and complexity. With a practice unsurpassed in depth and scope by any other major firm, we have the ability to anticipate obstacles, seize opportunities and get the case resolved or the deal done—and the experience and know-how to prevent it from being undone. Our heritage includes involvement in the foundation of legal aid work early in the 20th century, and today we consistently distinguish ourselves as leaders in pro bono representation. Many of our lawyers have played, and continue to play, prominent roles in public service activities of national and international importance—from counseling US presidents to opposing discrimination and defending human rights around the world. Most importantly, our firm stands for a steadfast commitment to quality and excellence in everything we do—a commitment refl ected in the continued success of our clients across the globe and our dedication to the development of our attorneys.

Recruitment details

Number of 1st year associates:

Number of 2nd year associates: 66

Associates salaries: 1st year: $160,000 

2nd year: $170,000

Clerking policy: Yes. The firm welcomes applications from judicial clerks. Approximately one-third of our recent incoming classes have come to the firm after serving one or more judicial clerkships. We value the experience of clerkships and give credit for clerkships for compensation and seniority purposes. We also pay a competitive bonus to incoming clerks.

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2014:
University of California-Berkeley, Boston College, Boston University, University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Michigan, Northwestern, Northeastern, NYU, University of Pennsylvania, Santa Clara, Stanford, Suffolk, University of California-LA (UCLA), University of California-Hastings, University of California-Davis, University of Southern California (USC), University of San Francisco, University of Virginia, Yale.

Summer details
Summer associate profile:

We seek to hire an extraordinarily talented and diverse group of students whose academic and personal record of achievement demonstrates a commitment to excellence and who want to practice law at the highest and most demanding levels, while still enjoying lives enriched by public, professional and personal pursuits outside the firm. We have identified six competencies—commitment, confidence, oral communication, problem solving, teamwork and writing—that outline what constitutes outstanding performance at WilmerHale and are used to align our selection criteria and evaluations of candidates and summer associates with our expectations of attorneys. In addition, we seek individuals whose character, intelligence, judgment and training will inspire their colleagues and clients to have confidence in their advice and representation.

Summer program components:
By providing a realistic view of the firm through interesting work assignments, practical training and the opportunity to work and socialize with many of our lawyers, we give summer associates the insight needed to make an informed decision to join the firm after graduation or a clerkship. Summer associates do substantive client work and have the opportunity to try a broad range of practices or focus on a few, depending on their interests. Our mentors provide guidance and constructive feedback throughout the summer and make themselves available to their mentees as resources in the firm. We have developed training programs specifi cally for our summer associates designed to assist in their professional development by introducing the practical skills lawyers need and provide a sample of our training programs for our attorneys. Summer training topics include: research skills, negotiation skills, deposition skills, presentation skills/oral communication skills, legal writing, departmental panels and meetings, case studies and mock trials. In addition, summer associates receive a review of their work and are encouraged to provide feedback about their experience.