The DC diehards at Wiley continue their commitment to the nation’s capital… and their core practice areas.
In these times of constant uncertainty, it’s reassuring when a law firm knows exactly where it sits in the world. With its single office in DC and a concentrated government and regulatory practice approach, Wiley can certainly be confident in its own identity. Happy to be part of a select incoming class (the firm hires ten or so juniors a year), associates told us “the environment is friendlier and more inviting than other BigLaw firms.” So laser-focused is the firm on its goals that ‘Rein’ has now been cut from its letterhead, leaving the shorter and snappier Wiley.
Chambers USA considers Wiley among the best of the best nationwide for its government contracts and political law work, while giving a nod to its international trade practice. In DC the firm ranks top for insurance and for media and entertainment regulatory work, and earns recognition for environment law, telecoms, white-collar litigation and investigations. Many told us the common threads between these “well-recognized practice groups” attracted them in the first instance: “I was confident that even if I didn’t get my first-choice practice at Wiley, I would still be doing something close to my interests.”
Out of 16 second and third-year associates, the largest number were found in the government contracts group, closely followed by insurance. Environment, international trade, and white-collar each hosted a couple; others could be found in employment, litigation and TMT. Every practice has a partner to monitor workload, but sources noted that “it varies by department whether that person gives you all your assignments, or if it’s more relaxed.”
“We usually participate in interviews and draft follow-up memos.”
Wiley’s esteemed government contracts group handles “everything from advising potential contractors about getting into the government contracts market, to regulatory compliance and litigation.” The team also deals with investigations “if there are government inquiries or lawsuits against contractors; alleged fraud; issues with performance; or potential ethical issues.” Sources enjoyed the variety that DC’s government machinery made possible: “One day you may be working with a giant defense contractor on a military equipment issue, then the next day with Veterans Affairs.” Day-to-day tasks are also varied: on investigations, junior associates are usually “reviewing documents, writing reports and interview outlines – we usually participate in interviews and draft follow-up memos too.” On litigious matters, interviewees got stuck into “research, reviewing evidence and records, and writing briefs.”
Government contracts clients: Atlantic Diving Supply, MC Dean, Guidehouse. Represented Supreme in claims related to the company’s performance of a contract to provide supplies to US troops in Afghanistan.
“Commercial litigation linked to insurance and professional liability” is the core of the insurance practice. Insiders subdivided it into two streams: the first involves “coverage counseling where we represent insurers.” Giving an example, “if there is a complicated or ambiguous claim that comes in, the team advises on how the insurer client should handle it.” The second stream is “coverage litigation, if some sort of dispute has arisen between our client and the policyholders.” Sources here tried their hand at “drafting motions to dismiss, or motions for summary judgment” as well as “preparing for depositions of witnesses.” Predominantly on the coverage counseling side, juniors would “usually review all of the material involved in the claim and the insurance policy,” then “put together formal correspondence on behalf of the client to the policyholder advising on their coverage.” Juniors were generally pleased with their level of responsibility in this department and added that they “communicate with clients directly quite a bit.”
Insurance clients: Chubb, AXA, General Reinsurance. Represented US Specialty Insurance in coverage litigation brought by Towers Watson shareholders following its $18 billion acquisition by Willis Group.
In international trade, juniors cut their teeth on trade remedies litigation, export controls work, and World Trade Organization matters. “The bread and butter here is probably antidumping and countervailing duty work,” one source said. “We’re mainly on the petitioner side representing coalitions of US companies petitioning the US government for relief from unfair trade from foreign countries and companies.” On trade matters, juniors found themselves “taking the lead in handling the review process” as well as “coordinating with economists or analysts,” and wrote some trade briefs. Interviewees revealed the practice is changing quite drastically every day: “In law school it was one trade world, then by the time I was practicing there was a complete paradigm shift! But regardless of personal views, change is good for business and for US trade lawyers.”
International trade clients: Fitbit, iRobot, Century Aluminum. Acted for the US Wind Tower Trade Coalition in a challenge to allegedly unfair trade practices from foreign competitors including antidumping and countervailing duty.
Feeling well supported by the firm in their general career development, interviewees sang the praises of resources including a professional development coach; trainings and skills workshops; and senior associate/partner mentors. Even outside formal programs, juniors found “partners are very invested and always open if you want to talk about strategies for future professional development.”
"A lot of the partners came through the summer program!”
There was also widespread confidence in the junior ranks that they could climb the totem pole, having seen it happen around them: “A lot of the partners came through the summer program!” One source explained: “The type of training and the amount of experience we get makes me feel like associates get the preparation so that, one day, they may become a partner too.” Of course, partnership isn’t everyone’s goal – those with other plans reckoned that “if you wanted to go in-house with a firm client, the Wiley name would be extremely well regarded,” especially in the government contracts sector.
Happy to pilot their own pro bono journeys, sources said “there’s no pressure to do it, but it’s definitely encouraged.” Wiley’s dedicated pro bono partner “exclusively handles and manages projects and brings in new pro bono work for the firm.” Attorneys’ first 50 pro bono hours automatically count toward billables, and higher billers “can request approval for more to count.” Some felt that “compared to other firms it’s not quite as generous” an allotment, though one source caveated that with the admission: “So far I haven’t heard of anyone being denied the request for more hours to count.” Juniors had worked on landlord/tenant and personal injury disputes, immigration cases, and matters helping small businesses get nonprofit distinctions. Happy of course to work for a good cause, sources also appreciated honing their legal skills on pro bono – including taking “the opportunity to get in front of a judge.”
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: 7,605
- Average per attorney: 28
Culture, Hours & Compensation
We heard that Wiley’s culture differs from competitors, thanks largely to its single-office setup. Many agreed that this approach guaranteed a “familial atmosphere. People are genuinely friendly and care about your life and wellbeing.” Getting to share an elevator “with the firm’s managing partner on a somewhat regular basis” in normal circumstances, interviewees also appreciated the close-knit environment when COVID-19 threw the world into turmoil: “The people making the big decisions affecting our lives are just down the hall. I like that people who know my name and see me are making those choices.” Wiley’s elite practice means juniors are “still doing BigLaw hours,” but most insiders found it easier to do so with “more understanding and friendlier faces” sitting opposite.
Billable hours: 1,950 target
Associates described this as “generally achievable,” though some reported difficulty hitting the mark in their first year. No big deal – they told us the firm understands that new arrivals are still “transitioning in” and most found themselves “incredibly busy” in subsequent years. It’s hard to pin down an average day’s work for Wiley associates: “Some days I’ve done a regular 9-to-5, then others I’m working way later than that,” one said. Others agreed “there’s a lot of flexibility, so there’s no firmwide ‘normal’.” More often than not, juniors found they could make time for their private lives away from the firm. “I was very aware of what BigLaw hours were like coming in,” one explained. “Sometimes you do have to cancel plans if something comes up, but that was expected.” Another source weighed in: “People are pretty respectful if I say I can’t do something or if I have a vacation coming up.”
“I get paid a lot of money, so I feel a little strange complaining!”
Juniors were happy with their DC market salaries, though revealed that “bonuses tend to be below market.” For bonus eligibility “you have to hit your hours, but there are more criteria and I’m not totally sure of the metrics that are used,” a source said.Some hoped for more transparency surrounding compensation, though they could only be so unhappy: “I get paid a lot of money, so I feel a little strange complaining!”
Diversity & Inclusion
“There are prominent women at the firm,” juniors said, conceding that “Wiley used to be quite male-dominated. There are now more female partners to look up to.” Women in the junior ranks felt they had “plenty of mentors to go to, even outside of practice groups,” and while many felt “there’s always more to be done” in other aspects of diversity, we heard mostly optimistic reports. “In light of all the recent events in the world, the firm has doubled down on its commitment to diversity.” Many were “really excited about” the hiring of a chief diversity officer.Wiley has the affinity groups typical of large firms, plus a “diversity and inclusion committee made up of people at all levels. It’s heavily involved in the recruiting, events, associate review and promotions processes.”
Strategy & Future
Even with government-related work sure to boom in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, don’t expect Wiley to grow extensively. “We have a more conservative approach in that we’re not adding attorneys every other day,” sources explained “We recently added some new hires to particular practice groups, but people are always thoughtfully brought in – if we’re growing, we’re growing slowly.”
“People are always thoughtfully brought in – if we’re growing, we’re growing slowly.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 114
Interviewees outside OCI: 30
Wiley’s recruiting focus reflects its commitment to DC, as it recruits from top law schools in Washington, DC and along the East Coast. However, Jon Burd, chair of the recruiting committee, tells us “we also attract write-in candidates from law schools across the country.” The firm meets with ten to 40 students per OCI. Interviews are conducted in pairs by partners and mid to senior-level associates.
The firm seeks “exceptional candidates who have a demonstrated interest in joining a DC-based practice and one or more of Wiley’s core practice areas,” says Burd. Interviewers ask questions about the interviewee’s “analytic ability, drive, focus and interpersonal skills.” They look too for an interest in the firm’s involvement in DC and are seeking “promising new attorneys from diverse backgrounds and who share Wiley’s commitments to long-term professional development within our demonstrated areas of expertise.”
They also ask questions to figure out if candidates will be a good cultural 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,” Burd clarifies.
Top tips for this stage:
“Candidates who do well in our interview process project confidence, maturity, authenticity and strong interpersonal skills. At the interview, be able to demonstrate that you are hardworking, intelligent, courteous and pleasant, and that you have the soft skills to pass the airport test.” – Jon Burd, chair of the recruiting committee.
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 72
The firm creates individualized schedules for each candidate, “based on the candidate’s potential practice-area interests, professional/work history, law school and other interests,” says Burd. Each candidate typically meets with four to six attorneys for 20 to 30 minutes each, including a mix of partners and associates who are members of the firm’s recruiting committee.
Top tips for this stage:
“Here you’ll fit in well if you demonstrate a good attitude and are open to helping others alongside being generally hardworking.” – A junior associate.
Wiley describes its summer program as having six facets: Integration; guidance and sponsorship; substantive work; hands-on learning; evaluation, feedback and growth; and special opportunities. ‘Integration’ involves social activities that allow candidate and firm to “get to know each other better.” ‘Guidance and sponsorship’ involves mentoring and meeting clients. ‘Substantive work’ involves summers self-selecting work from the assignment database. ‘Hands-on learning’ includes training sessions and taking part in the firm’s litigation skills workshop, which “includes opportunities to take and defend mock depositions and build a litigation case strategy,” Burd explains. ‘Evaluation, feedback and growth’ includes mid-summer and end-of-summer reviews to receive and give feedback. ‘Special opportunities’ include opportunities such as attending client meetings, depositions, affinity group lunches and seminars.
For the past five years, 95% of summer associates have returned as first-year associates. “At the end of the summer, we invite our summer associates to rank their top three practice group interests,” Burd tells us. “We use these rankings and consult with practice group leaders to determine placement for our junior associates, and make our best effort to place new attorneys within their top-ranked practice area.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Ask a lot of thoughtful questions that reflect your interest in learning and understanding the practice of law. Take advantage of special opportunities such as attending depositions, listening in on conference calls, and attending social events organized by the firm. It’s important to talk to as many people as possible about their experience at the firm.” – Jon Burd, chair of the recruiting committee.
Burd believes that “Wiley is a great place to build a career. This is a 30+ years-young, innovative firm that is invested in building for the future by consistently identifying and growing top talent to lead the ‘next generation’ of outstanding Wiley attorneys.”
1776 K Street, NW,
- Head Office: Washington, DC
- Number of domestic offices: 1
- Partners (US): 119
- Associates (US): 70
- Main recruitment contact: Janell Mallard, Director of Recruiting
- Hiring partner: Jon W Burd
- Diversity officer: Rashida MacMurray-Abdullah
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 10
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021:
- 1Ls: 2
- 2Ls: 14
- Summer salary 2021:
- 1Ls: $3,654
- 2Ls: $3,654
- Split summers offered? No
Main areas of work
■ Government Contracts
■ International Trade
■ Election Law & Government Ethics
■ Intellectual Property
■ Telecom, Media & Technology
American University Washington College of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School — George Mason University, The George Washington University Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, Harvard Law School, Howard University School of Law, University of Virginia School of Law.
Summer associate profile:
Our 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.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021
District of Columbia
- Environment (Band 4)
- Insurance: Insurer (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Regulatory (Band 1)
- Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 1)
- International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 2)
- Political Law (Band 1)