“You can’t get any more DC than Wiley!” This one-office firm has built one of the best reputations for government and political law work in the country.
'If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is a pretty good maxim to follow, and wise Wiley has stuck to a formula that works very well: a one-office model in DC; a focus on areas that intersect with the function and operations of government; and a wholesome culture where people are “down to earth and super open to chatting with you from the get-go.” This source accurately declared that “you can’t get any more DC than Wiley!”
“I was looking for a firm where the people had significant government experience.”
“The perception of the firm was really good at law school,” an associate recalled. “When I told people I got an offer, they were like, 'Wow what a great firm!'” Interviewees repeatedly flagged Wiley’s “prestigious government contracts group” as a significant draw: “It’s pretty niche,” said one, while another told us that “I was looking for a firm where the people had significant government experience and a focus on areas like privacy and data security.” Wiley’s government contracts, political law, international trade and False Claims Act work receives nationwide acclaim in Chambers USA, but its expertise in sectors such as insurance, media, and telecommunications is also lauded in DC. On the litigation side, Wiley is recognized both for its capabilities in white-collar and government investigations matters and general commercial disputes.
Wiley’s insurance group held the most associates on our list, followed closely by the firm’s government contracts and telecom, media and technology (TMT) practices. The rest were split between Wiley’s litigation, international trade, and election law groups. Every practice has a designated workflow coordinator, and assignment was felt to be an area where Wiley “does really well – partners will go to our coordinator with an assignment and ask who has capacity. The coordinator is very good at playing defense if you have too much on or they can give you work if you have nothing on.” At the same time, “you’re able to control where your practice goes, in that if I’m interested in defense contract work I can reach out to a relevant partner and mention my availability.”
“...deciding on the obligations that insurers have and protecting our clients.”
The insurancegroup is “interesting because it touches upon almost every aspect of life and law, covering areas such as IP, cyber, and matters that are on the news, which is cool.” This source explained that “we do a lot of work for the major insurers and handle a lot of different policies, but directors and officers [D&O] insurance work is quite typical and there’s professional liability work as well. There’s also a lot of work on the litigation side where we are evaluating issues that have arisen in policies and deciding on the obligations that insurers have and protecting our clients.” When juniors review policies, “there’s a fair amount of research and analysis in that we might not be sure how to apply a provision, so we look to see if there’s any historical points of law on it.” Sources told us that teams are staffed leanly, which means “you get the first stab at drafting discovery requests and motions – you’re given a lot of responsibility and the partners will ask you to do whatever needs doing.”
Insurance clients: AXA XL, Chubb, AIG. Represented General Star Indemnity Company during a dispute with SAS International over whether its commercial property insurance policy covered alleged damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“...dissatisfied groups who lost out on a contract and need us to represent them.”
The government contracts practice is “unique because we’re able to mesh litigation and transactional work,” a source commented. The main source of work in this area is big procurement requests, which arise “when the government tries to procure services from the private sector – that's when we we’ll get involved. For instance, they might need more doctors or engineers.” Another significant stream of work revolves around bid protests: “Government agencies will award contracts, but there are often dissatisfied groups who lost out on a contract and need us to represent them.” Our interviewees found no shortage of work: “Right now I have six bid protests on the go!” Associates tend to work on numerous tasks and were not “stuck doing doc review – one day you’re drafting the bid protests and answering discrete questions and another you’re digging into a different matter and handling the first drafts of documents tied to it.” Juniors found that partners were keen on them pursuing their interests as “they’ll assign work according to where you want to develop. When there’s not something for you to do in that area right away, they’ll get you to work on an article or other side projects in that zone.”
Government contracts clients: The Boeing Company, Bollinger Shipyards, Ology Bioservices Inc. Defended Henry’s Aerial Services against a protest over contracts awarded to the company and another firm for firefighting services on federal lands.
“...we're helping our clients to understand compliance rules and what they need to do.”
Over in TMT, “the media side primarily involves transactions where we are acting as regulatory counsel on the deal, but there’s also a lot of regulatory work around advertising during election season.” When it comes to telecoms work, “the core element is FCC regulatory work where we’re addressing, for example, wireless broadband licensing issues. Our clients are major telecoms companies and a lot of our work emerges from a variety of FCC programs connected to things like telecommunications relay services and product authorizations.” There’s also a lot of work stemming from the cyber privacy space, we heard: “It’s a very active and developing area in law – we're helping our clients to understand compliance rules and what they need to do. Every week there’s more and more advocacy and compliance work for us in this area.” For juniors here, the work involves “summarizing new rules for clients; preparing memos on regulatory regimes that clients will be subjected to; and compiling documents for the government.”
TMT clients: Verizon, Intelsat, Virgin Galactic. Representing AT&T during its efforts to reduce the rental rates for pole attachments in order to boost its market competitiveness for broadband, 5G, and other services.
“You get support as soon as you start,” a junior enthused. “You’re assigned two mentors when you join and the firm has just revamped its mentorship program to make it more intentional – it's going very well.” There’s also a professional development program that gives associates access to career coaches: “They help me with my goals and get me thinking about writing articles and doing client development networking.” We heard that “the partners do a good job of giving you advice on how to forward your career – they will suggest that you take clients out to dinner or co-author an article.” Formal feedback is partly delivered in an annual review with “our practice area chairs and supervisors: you can talk about everything you’ve done and plan out how you’ll build upon it.”
“They expect junior associates to eventually become partners.”
The good news for any associate who harbors an ambition to join the partnership is that “none of our partners come from elsewhere, so it feels attainable. It’s clear what you need to do as they set out core competencies for you to achieve at each stage of your career and how to do so. They expect junior associates to eventually become partners.”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,950 target
Bonus eligibility kicks in at 1,950 hours and associates can count up to 50 hours of pro bono towards their target. All bonuses are merit-based, and amounts are determined by an associate's billable hours, firm citizenship, pro bono, and business development work. For some, the criteria could be clearer: “It’s a bit of a black box and we don’t really know how they’re calculated, so bonuses are hard to factor in.” Things are clearer when it comes to base salaries, which are lockstep until the seventh year: “Our structure follows what is considered to be market these days and it’s nice to know that everyone is getting the same.”
“...when it comes to vacation they just want a heads-up on when you’re planning to take it.”
Those in the insurance group were aiming to bill around seven and a half hours a day, “but sometimes it can be like 12 or 13 hours – that's as bad as it gets though, and the workflow indicator we have is helpful as it monitors our hours and limits those busier periods.” TMT associates explained that the hours “depend on the time of year: September, October and November are very busy as it’s bid protest season, whereas February is usually pretty slow. On a normal day, I’ll be working from 9am until 5:30pm in the office, with an additional two hours at home if I’m catching up.” Wiley’s hybrid working policy asks associates to be in the office for 50% of the time, “but it’s not a hard requirement!” In addition, “they do want us to have a life outside of work – when it comes to vacation they just want a heads-up on when you’re planning to take it.”
As working in the office becomes normalized in a hybrid context, “there’s been a big, intentional drive to schedule social events like lunches and happy hours – there's no agenda and we can just connect and chat with one another,” an interviewee informed us. Wiley’s one-office model was felt to aid that sense of cohesion: “The firm feels smaller than it is as you get to see the same people regularly.” In addition, “everyone’s opinion is valued, whether it’s coming from the most junior person or the co-chair of a practice group. If a brand-new first-year associate has an idea or a plan, there’s never any pushback.” This flatter sense of hierarchy means that “it’s common for partners to ask you to coffee or lunch – I really appreciate being able to learn about the person behind the emails!” We even heard of one junior associate “who takes the metro from Virginia to DC and regularly bumps into the managing partner on the way – they get the train together!”
“...it’s the people who are the selling point of the firm.”
A recent social highlight was the firm’s annual Halloween fashion show: “We’ve been doing it for about three years now, but this was the first one we’d done in person on the office’s rooftop. We display photos of folks from across the firm, and they include family, kids and pets!” This source concluded that the event “really shows that it’s the people who are the selling point of the firm.”
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
A source in the government contracts practice said that “the group is majority female and around a quarter racially diverse,” while an insurance interviewee commented that “it’s noticeable how many women with children are in leadership positions. We have a mothers’ room in the office and generous caregiver leave, plus a general position that you can leave to pick up your kids and attend to your family! The firm seems to be doing and saying the right thing.”
“The program encourages diverse candidates to apply to us.”
Wiley’s affinity groups – which include forums for veterans and working parents – were praised for “giving us space to talk with like-minded people about any issues we may be encountering.” We also heard about DE&I events where “we invite clients from different practices to discuss what DE&I means, how it works, and what they are looking for.” Ultimately, “the firm is putting in the effort,” and Wiley’s diversity scholarship program was deemed a highlight: “The program encourages diverse candidates to apply to us in their first and second years of law school, and we’ve had a few associates join us through it.” Wiley’s scholarships offer up to $25,000 to diverse 1L and 2L students.
“The firm really pushes us to do pro bono,” an associate told us, while another highlighted that “there’s a lot of involvement in pro bono here – we have a dedicated pro bono partner who emails opportunities around, plus sometimes partners will just ask around to see if people are interested in helping out.” Sources were also pleased that if they go over their 50-hour pro bono allowance, “you can apply for additional credit and a partner will usually help you to get it signed off – the firm seems pretty liberal on that front.”
“...protected veterans’ employment rights when they return from service.”
What stood out for one source was “the number of amicus briefs we do that are filed in Supreme Court cases – one of our partners works with a Supreme Court clinic where we formulate the briefs and at the end of the Supreme Court’s 2022 term we got a really good decision in the Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety case, which protected veterans’ employment rights when they return from service.” Other interviewees had “taken the lead on research connected with the status of a policy initiative” and delved into more standard corporate assignments where they helped “nonprofits get their tax status and asset purchase agreements arranged – it's nice to help organizations that wouldn’t normally have access to expert legal advice.”
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: 9,028
- Average per attorney: 31
Strategy & Future
While people tend to think of government work when they hear the name ‘Wiley,’ sources were keen to let us know that “insurance is a pretty significant practice in terms of its size” and would continue to be a strong focus for the firm in future. “We’ll never be globally focused,” another interviewee felt. “We’ll remain in DC and will cross-sell across our practice areas. We bring in our insurance and white-collar folk to our practice meetings to see how their clients are doing and how we can potentially bring them in.”
On the government side, “our group has been growing well over the past five years – each year seems better than the last!” Overall, “the plan is to keep growing. They recognize that junior associates are essential to growth and highlight the work we’re doing in practice area meetings. It can be a stressful job sometimes, but they make us feel appreciated!”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 117
Interviewees outside OCI: 7
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 10-40 students for each school’s OCI program. 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 hard-working, 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: 61
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 hard-working.” – 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.”
2050 M Street, NW,
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 a recruiting committee mentor and 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, 2023
District of Columbia
- Environment (Band 3)
- 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
- False Claims Act (Band 3)
- Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation (Band 4)
- Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 1)
- International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 2)
- Political Law (Band 1)
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