Washington's Wiley Rein is the authority on government contracts.
“THREE is a magic number,” once sang Bob Dorough. And who are we to disagree with the legendary singer-songwriter? While we're (almost) certain Dorough wasn't singing about Wiley Rein, the rule of three definitely applies to the Washington, DC native. The regulatory and policy pro is known for a trio of top practices: all things government-related, insurance, and telecom, media and technology (TMT), with each earning top tier rankings from Chambers USA. Other recognized practices include IP and international trade. The firm's grown to almost 250 attorneys since first setting up shop in 1983 with just under 40 lawyers.
Wiley's telecom practice has been a period of transition of the past year; two partners departed for DLA Piper, one for the FCC and one to Perkins Coie. The move follows the 2014 restructuring of Wiley's telecommunications practice into a telecom, media and technology (TMT) practice. Managing partner Peter Shields tells us: “Our goal has been to continue to innovate and transform all of our practices, but TMT is particularly important because new technologies are being developed so quickly that it is a challenge for policy to catch up with progress. There is tremendous energy in some very exciting areas such as the Internet of Things, connected cars, and smart cities. That requires continued growth from the bottom up –so we are investing in our next-generation attorneys in this sector.”
At the time of our calls, there were six juniors in the government contracts team, five in insurance, and three in TMT, with the odd attorney cropping up in the international trade, IP, election law, litigation and environmental departments.
“You need to be scrappy.”
In the TMT and government contracts groups, there's a free market system for getting work: “You need to be able to hustle,” one source told us. “A lot of the work at Wiley is regulatory based, not the kind of busy, larger litigation with a huge amount of doc review and discovery. Regulatory law lends itself to the need to develop an expertise and you see leaner staffed projects. On the one hand it benefits you to work on a project with just a partner or two, but it can be harder to find hours as they don't need as many associates. You need to be scrappy.” Despite the challenges this can pose in the first and second year, most juniors felt the benefits outweighed the downsides by the time they'd reached the third year: “It's given me the chance to work with and develop close relationships with a lot of partners.” And if you're really struggling, we're told you can fall back on chief talent officer Kay Nash, who's “very helpful in aiding you find work.” The insurance group, meanwhile, has an assigning partner. “I think everyone else is very envious,” one insurance junior confided.
Government contracts associates get a look in on “everything from typical bid protest claims” – challenging the award of government contracts – “and contractor disputes to data rights issues, employment issues and compliance.” They may be helping clients to protest but juniors felt there was little to object to in this department: “The partners are really good at pushing you and making sure you're never stagnant or just doing the bare minimum of research.” Sources had “been in charge of coming up with a legal argument on my own and researching and drafting an entire pleading.” Another added: “That's not to say you avoid doc review. It does come into it but it's often small and usually because you need to know the facts of the case when you're the only associate on it.”
“You're never stagnant.”
It's a similar story in insurance where “we don't have enormous cases which are doc review intensive. I think I've only done a grand total of maybe 30 hours of it this year.” Instead juniors spend their time “writing a lot of coverage letters, push-back letters if someone thinks they should be covered and we disagree, and I've also written motions.” Others had tackled amicus briefs, complaints, answers and counter claims. “It involves a lot of writing.” Matters here are split fairly evenly between “monitoring underlying cases where our client, the insurer, could be on the hook for defense or settlement costs, and litigation involving a coverage dispute.”
Training & Development
Everyone receives an annual review, with first-years also benefiting from a handy mid-year check-in. Newbies are also assigned two associate mentors, who are usually in the same practice group. In addition to standard orientation sessions, new recruits have weekly practice-specific trainings. Each department offers a '101' series aimed at first-years. Insurance 101, for example “talks you through the different areas of insurance and answers questions like 'what are pre-tender costs and why do people keep talking about them?' It's really helpful” and also offers tips from older juniors on what they wish they'd known early on. In the second year juniors attend a 201 series on more advanced topics. Rookies can also make use of litigation skills workshops: “The most recent covered writing and answering complaints, and crafting summary judgment motions.”
Culture & Offices
Wiley associates have long noted the office décor is “a little dated, but I think if it was too modern it wouldn't reflect us. We're not trying to be crazy fancy. We're very open with the fact we're not hoity toity.” We were told Wiley is populated by “really nice, down-to-earth and relatable” attorneys. “People don't take themselves too seriously. They're funny and friendly.” Friendly yes, sociable? “No, no no no,” one source laughed. “We're not a party firm, we're family friendly,” explained another. “During the work day people like to get their work done and leave at a reasonable hour if possible.” However, one source did note: “I was a little anxious when I heard it was family-oriented as I'm young and single. It is family-friendly but it's not like there's no social interaction.” A bowling league, softball and flag football team exist for a “small, core group” who fancy more socializing with colleagues. “I think the family-oriented spin comes from the fact people here treat you like family.”
“The partner replied that I put in the bulk of the work.”
Juniors felt their daily efforts were valued: “Partners do recognize your contribution and say thank you. There are times a client has responded very positively to a drafted product and the partner replied that I put in the bulk of the work and should be thanked too. Little things like announcing juniors on calls makes you feel like part of the team.” Another felt that “partners are invested in your progress. They make sure you have client contact and that clients are comfortable speaking directly with the new generation who are coming up.” Others noted that colleagues keep an eye out for one another: “You're expected to work hard, but if you're staying here until midnight people will not hesitate to tell you you're over-doing it and to go home. No-one wants you falling asleep at your desk.”
Hours & Compensation
Juniors shoot for an annual billable target of 1,950 hours. Sources felt reaching this figure was very practice group-specific but overall agreed it was a fair number to aim for. “The firm is not unreasonable. High expectations are there and they are looking for you to meet them, but if the work isn't there and you've sought it out, they consider that.” Ten or 11 hour days in the office were common, with interviewees putting in a few hours from home when needed.
In summer 2016 the firm raised its first and second year salaries to $180,000 and $190,000 respectively. Beyond that, “we matched the new industry standard until the fifth year and then the salary is decided on a case by case basis.” Bonuses are usually slightly below market “but people don't come here expecting to get a large bonus,” juniors reasoned.
Fifty hours of pro bono count toward the billing target. A pro bono partner farms out opportunities to those who are interested. Juniors credited pro bono matters with promoting “a little bit of internal networking” and “the opportunity to take on a large leadership role from the get go.” Landlord/tenant matters, family law issues and asylum cases are common. Attorneys can also attend a weekly pro bono clinic.
The firm recently took on a racial discrimination case which, at the time of our calls, was “starting to generate a bit of press.” Along with the Department of Justice, over a half a dozen Wiley attorneys are representing three, African-American Maryland police officers who allege they experienced racial discrimination from officials of Pocomoke City, the Worcester County State's Attorney's Office and the Maryland State Police.
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: 11,576
- Average per attorney: 43
“I don't think it's a diverse firm,” one newbie bluntly replied when we asked for their thoughts on racial diversity. Juniors did note, however, that “there are a lot of visible efforts to change that and those efforts are appreciated.” A pipeline scheme is available for diverse 1Ls and the firm offers several affinity networks for various ethnic identities.
Other groups include parents-in-the-law and LGBT & Allies Lawyers. Events for the latter “are always well attended.” A women's forum holds speaker events and quarterly lunches: “Senator Amy Klobuchar came to one lunch – that was really cool,” one impressed associate recalled. “I agree for the most part that we're a good firm for women,” another female source told us. “The culture is pretty flexible, they do encourage a good work/life balance and there are a number of younger female partners.”
Strategy & Future
Wiley is poised to jump on opportunities brought about by the change in administration. “Our International Trade Team has been extremely busy. It's an exciting time to be in that field and it will continue to be a key growth area for the firm,” chief marketing officer Alina Gorokhovsky tell us. Managing partner Peter Shields adds: “Our government contracts attorneys are getting a lot of calls from companies that already have contracts with the government or are interested in securing contracts. Our TMT Team is handling inquiries on anything to do with the FCC. We are also seeing a large number of calls regarding health care and environment issues.”
MP Peter Shields and CMO Alina Gorokhovsky talk about the Trump administration
Chambers Associate: What effect do you think Trump's presidency will have on the legal market?
Alina Gorokhovsky: Any change in administration after elections seems to be followed by a pattern that leads to a focus on trade, infrastructure, and labor and employment issues.
Peter Shields: There will also be a focus on having the government provide services in a more efficient manner and a new approach to implementing regulations, which can lead to legal work involving the revision of regulatory programs.
CA: In what ways will that impact the work Wiley Rein does?
PS: There are trends you would expect to see that are impacting our core practices. Our government contracts attorneys are getting a lot of calls from companies that already have contracts with the government or are interested in securing contracts. Our TMT Team is handling inquiries on anything to do with the FCC. We are also seeing a large number of calls regarding health care and environment issues.
We also get calls every time a key agency appointee is announced. With every new appointee announcement, there are a range of opportunities for us to serve our clients as they seek a better understanding of the new administration’s priorities. Wiley Rein represents clients before 48 federal agencies, and we anticipate that many of those agencies will make key changes in policy and regulation going forward.
AG: Our International Trade Team has been extremely busy. It's an exciting time to be in that field and it will continue to be a key growth area for the firm.
PS: There are a few expected regulatory changes that impact practice areas we don’t have a strong presence in, such as tax or immigration. As a result, we expect those areas to be busy in the wider legal market and are establishing referral networks to meet our clients’ needs.
AG: We’re not sure how cybersecurity will play out, but we anticipate some developments there and have invested in growing our practice, along with labor and employment. We expect to see more M&A work as we anticipate growth in corporate merger activities. We handle regulatory aspects on the biggest deals in the world, so we should see an uptick in that area.
Hiring tips from recruiting committee chair Rachel Alexander and chief talent officer Kay Nash
Chambers Associate: What’s the scope of your recruiting drive? What schools and regions do you focus on?
Rachel Alexander: Over the last few years we have focused our recruiting efforts in three areas. We target top talent at Washington, DC law schools. We also recruit from the top law schools on the East Coast. Lastly, we have had some amazing summer associates who came to us as write-ins from law schools all over the United States. We are really proud to enjoy a tremendous reputation among students who are interested in working in one of our nationally recognized practices at the intersection of policy and law, or in our strong litigation platform.
CA: What does the firm do to encourage diversity in recruiting?
RA: The firm is committed to diversity and has been growing and developing its diversity initiatives each year. In addition to the firm’s annual schedule of diversity training programs, last year we also conducted training for all attorneys involved in recruiting on the complicated and critical intersection of interviewing and implicit bias.
We also partner with the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) on their 1L recruitment program. We have interviewed and hired outstanding candidates through that program, including developing long-term relationships that allowed to make offers to these students in their 2L year as well. It has been a terrific pipeline of diverse talent. The 1Ls who come to us through the LCLD program participate fully in our summer program and they also have the chance to attend a national conference organized by LCLD, that is designed to create networking opportunities for historically marginalized groups in the profession.
We also work with the LCLD on their Fellows and Pathfinder programs. These are national networking and development programs where a rising star is selected from the senior associate or junior partner ranks and enters a program which offers professional development and networking opportunities so they can build their practice and professional identity.
CA: Who do you send to OCIs? Partners and associates or just partners?
RA: We send partners and mid-level to senior associates. We recently began conducting on campus interviews in pairs so that we can offer candidates insights from various stages of career development. This practice has been well received by interviewees and we will be expanding it this year to additional schools. Generally speaking, interviewers are members of the recruiting committee and have had extensive interview training.
CA: Who do candidates meet at callback interviews?
RA: We fill the schedule with a balance of both partners and associates. Candidates meet associates at every level, including at least one first or second-year with whom they can speak about the summer program and what it is like to begin the practice of law at our firm.
KN: We try to craft a schedule individualized to each candidate because we want them to share in what we believe is Wiley’s strength – our people. We make sure they see someone from their law school, a former summer associate, various levels of associates as well as partners and members of the recruiting committee.
CA: What kind of questions do you ask during OCIs and callback interviews?
RA: We ask questions aimed at assessing the candidate’s analytic ability, drive, focus and interpersonal skills. Given Wiley Rein’s unique market position, our recruiting committee spends a good bit of time also considering a candidate's interest in our firm and Washington, DC. We want to make sure candidates understand who we are, too.
A large piece of what we are looking for is fit, so we may ask behavioral interviewing questions to find out how students have responded to different situations in school or in other work they have done. I find that candidates who do well in our interview process are well prepared and understand who they are meeting with and what the firm is about. They are able to customize their answers and be authentic.
CA: What type of person thrives at Wiley?
RA: Someone who is smart, bright, authentic and wants to do interesting work in a collaborative way. Because we are all located in one office here in DC, we see each other all the time which fosters a collegial rapport. Sharp elbows do not do well here. Our firm is full of lots of diverse people who want to support each other to be the best lawyers we can be. Someone who embraces that culture does well here. We like bright, hardworking people, who also want a rich life outside of the practice of law.
CA: What, if anything, can students be doing in their 1L summer to increase their chances of impressing you in their applications and at interview?
RA:. We love to see students who have done an internship or spent time at a government agency with which we customarily work such as the DOJ or FCC. Because of Wiley’s strong reputation within various federal agencies, it is not uncommon for a candidate to be referred to us by an agency lawyer with whom the candidate previously interned. These are often terrific candidates for us. Any prior law firm or professional office environment is also really helpful; we find candidates with that background have a better understanding of how things work in practice and can often hit the ground running.
CA: How’s Wiley's summer program looking next year compared to previous years?
RA: We have eight 2L summer associates from seven law schools; two were write-in candidates and one was a candidate we met during the 1L LCLD program the year prior. Although we were not able to connect for her 1L year, we are excited to have her with us this year as a 2L. We also have two 1L LCLD scholars joining our summer program this year.
CA: What are the advantages of having a summer program with a relatively small number of summers?
RA: The more intimate size of our class means that people are embedded closely with our attorneys and can authentically connect and grow relationships. The firm does a great job of providing lots of networking opportunities to facilitate this relationship building. It really allows the students to bond with each other and to integrate deeply with the firm in ways that have been fun to watch. Not only does this help summer associates feel better about coming to DC and Wiley Rein, it also helps make our summers better lawyers. They quickly develop on-the-spot mentors who can proofread their memo or provide tips on working with certain partners or in various practice areas. The size of our program is not dissimilar from the size of our firm, big enough to have diversity of thought that fosters learning and growth, and small enough to allow summers to build relationships that can shape their career and enhance their personal experience.
Wiley's TMT practice
A few Wiley TMT partners headed for the door in 2016, following the transformation of the telecommunications group into telecoms, media and tech in 2014. Managing partner Peter Shields told us: “Our goal has been to continue to innovate and transform all of our practices, but TMT is particularly important because new technologies are being developed so quickly that it is a challenge for policy to catch up with progress.” He went on to say: “That requires continued growth from the bottom up—so we are investing in our next-generation attorneys in this sector” and it sounds like the rookies are getting pretty stuck in.
“The partners have done a good job at making sure I'm included on calls and in meetings and am able to speak as much as I'd like if I'm comfortable.” As there are always news developments in the tech sphere, any emerging technology “enables you the chance to become an expert in that field and be the person in the room who knows the most.” Interviewees had kept an eye on FCC developments for clients: “I monitor regulatory issues and how they affect a client's business before drafting summary comments for them.” Another added: “If I'm the most junior member on a cases I do a lot of research and draft portions of pleadings or memorandums.”
Cybersecurity & privacy, the Internet of Things – where everyday objects are connected to the grid to transfer data and be controlled remotely – appellate and telecoms litigation and regulatory compliance are all areas juniors could find themselves working in. “Right now drones are a hot topic,” one source told us. “I know a few people working in that space.”
Chief marketing officer Alina Gorokhovsky tells us: “Our TMT Practice is truly bipartisan, so at a time of political transition, we're very well-positioned to help clients as the government goes through periods of increased regulation and deregulation. It's a great time for TMT and we have substantial experience helping clients navigate change and responding to new opportunities.”
Wiley Rein LLP
1776 K Street, NW,
- Head Office: Washington, DC
- Number of domestic offices: 1
- Partners (US): 113
- Associates (US): 62
- Summer Salary 2017
- 1Ls: $3,465/week
- 2Ls: $3,465/week
- Post 3Ls: N/A
- 1Ls hired? CBC
- Split summers offered? No
- Summers 2017: 10
- Offers/acceptances 2016: 10 offers, 10 acceptances
Main areas of work
Government contracts, insurance, international trade, intellectual property, telecom, media and technology, and litigation.
Wiley Rein operates at the intersection of politics, law, government, business, and technological innovation, representing a wide range of clients - from Fortune 500 corporations to trade associations to individuals - in virtually all industries. We believe delivering consistent and successful results is achieved through building true partnerships with our clients. We do this by understanding the industries and economic climate in which they operate and the current and potential legal issues that impact their business. Most importantly, because Wiley Rein remains a Washington, DC-based firm that largely operates out of a single office, we are able to control costs and billing rates in a manner that is nearly impossible in large, multi-office or multinational law firms. In addition, Wiley Rein generously gives back to the community, providing significant pro bono legal services and charitable contributions to more than 450 local and national organizations every year.
• Number of 1st year associates: 8
• Number of 2nd year associates: 11
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $180,000
• 2nd year: $190,000
• Clerking policy: Yes
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2017:
George Mason University School of Law, The George Washington University Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, Harvard Law School, Howard University School of Law, University of Pennsylvania School of Law, University of Virginia School of Law, Vanderbilt Law School, Washington and Lee University School of Law
Summer associate profile:
Wiley Rein’s summer associate program is the foundation of our recruiting efforts. We ensure that summer associates experience the excellence and diversity of our firm and we provide opportunities for each student to handle responsibilities typically assumed by first year associates.
Summer program components:
The defining feature of our program is the flexibility of work assignments. We assist students in tailoring their assignments so that they gain significant exposure to a wide variety of practice areas through our interactive database of assignments. In addition, summer associates receive an associate mentor to help integrate them into the firm and our practices. We host an extensive litigation skills training program in addition to other professional development and social events throughout the summer.