WilmerHale - The Inside View

Associates at this prestigious firm praised a “friendly” culture where “people are willing to give you opportunities for professional development.” 

IN 2004, DC-based Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering merged with Boston old-timers Hale and Dorr to create the legal heavyweight that is WilmerHale. This international firm has a notable reputation for government-related work, with “strong ties to people in the government.” In a recent headline-grabbing case, lawyers represented President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner in relation to nepotism and conflict-of-interest concerns. Other draws for new recruits include the firm's formidable antitrust practice, and “the quality of its appellate group.” Both of these practices gain first-rate nationwide rankings in Chambers USA, as do financial services regulation, IP, life sciences, and securities regulation. Highly ranked areas include international arbitration, general commercial and white collar litigation, bankruptcy, corporate/M&A, and private equity.

Beyond the firm's prowess in multiple practice areas, several juniors we spoke to had been attracted here by “Wilmer's commitment to pro bono work.” Sources also praised the people – “really smart but not intimidating.” One explained that “I very much enjoyed speaking to everybody who interviewed me – none had a vacant expression on their face, unlike some other firms.” 

The Work

Each group has a work assignment coordinator, providing a “formal path to take advantage of.” The general role involves “matching people who have time with people who have need.” Juniors reported that this system “works in tandem with a free market system,” where partners that you have worked with over time start to come to you directly. A source praised the system, explaining it “reduces anxiety as I've never had an issue of nothing for me to do. Not only do I always have something to do if I need it, but I also feel like I have some control over what it is.”

Most young litigators remain generalists until they are more senior. “It's good because you can experience everything and get a taste for different litigation.” A few sources had veered toward more specific litigation in either antitrust, or securities and enforcement. These juniors dealt with “securities class actions, enforcement of SEC and internal investigations,” and clients were often involved in the financial industry in one way or another. Antitrust specialists saw a similar amount of government-facing work, as well as cartel defense and merger work.

“I've never had to pull an all-nighter or anything close to it.”

Across the board, litigation juniors were responsible for doing the preliminary research, but “pretty quickly I was drafting interview outlines and attending interviews.” Other work includes discovery and fact development, writing briefs, and taking depositions. One source admitted “it's unsurprising that some stuff that isn't intellectually taxing falls down the totem pole to junior associates.” However, a securities junior had experienced “actually very little doc review – but certainly some. I almost wish I were doing more because it's less taxing and you can tune out a little more.” Sources reckoned that “if you do your job well and express interest, then people you've worked with before are happy to let you take on as much as you can handle.” The volume of work was considered “almost always manageable,” with one noting: “I've never had to pull and all-nighter or anything close to it.” Most had “no complaints – as a junior you're trusted with quite a bit of responsibility right out of the gate, but there's also a lot of expertise to guide you.” As a result, juniors felt “well supported.” When it came to client contact, “the cases are big, so there are usually several lawyers working on them.” This meant that client contact was not as regular, and usually occurred more in the pro bono context. Juniors still felt that “people are willing to give you opportunities for professional development.”

“Legitimately, my first assignment on my first day, the partner told me to contact the client.”

Corporate juniors also start out broad, dealing with everything from public companies and IPOs to M&A on both the buy and sell sides. There's also much work with start ups: “It's really cool because start-ups are usually talking to the most junior person on the team, so you get client contact right out the gate.” In contrast, “M&A buy-side deals are often a lot bigger.” Interviewees reported classic diligence-related tasks and reviewing contracts, but also “a lot of drafting.” This might include drafting small contracts, staff-related documents, and board resolutions for directors. Sources also felt encouraged to branch out a little: “I've been on deals with people who say “okay, why don't you try it.” People have really been willing to let me try things, under their supervision.” As for client contact, “legitimately, my first assignment on my first day of work, the partner told me to contact the client. I was like 'this is my first day!'”

Training & Development

“The firm places a great deal of value on training – it's very comprehensive.” Training starts as “an overview of adjusting to firm culture” and progresses to “hands-on practice in specific areas.” Litigators receive deposition skills workshops, discovery drafting training, moot court practice and mock trials – “both of which are very fun.” For corporate juniors, training covers diligence, filing proxies, how to read and understand documents used in financing, and Excel training, among other topics.

Associates felt training to be “detailed and effective, which I appreciated because in law school you don't really learn the stuff you actually need to practice law.” They also found the extra practice “gives a bit more confidence.” Other formal training is “mostly clustered around when you move up to the next level – like if I were to become senior associate, there would be a big bunch of training centered around the responsibilities you take on at that time.”


As a result of the big 2004 merger, WilmerHale effectively has two headquarters – one in DC and one in Boston. The DC office is located just a couple of blocks from the White House, but really “feels in the heart of DC.” The entrance to the main building has “a ten-story atrium with a waterfall” (see our Twitter feed for pictures) and the building has its own mock trial room with a jury box. The New York office is located in 7 World Trade Center and has “an amazing panoramic view of midtown Manhattan,” and the Boston office has a watery view of Boston Harbor. Other domestic offices are in Denver, Palo Alto and LA, plus a business services center in Dayton, Ohio. Overseas, the firm is in Beijing, Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, and London.


The general consensus was that the firm's personality is “nice and nerdy.” A junior elaborated by explaining: “We're a little bit nerdier than the stereotypes at other firms.” Attorneys at WilmerHale “like law and like being lawyers” but “don't want work to be their entire lives.” The firm enables this as it “strikes a good balance of pushing for top notch work without top notch stress.” Sources liked the way that “everyone is interested in everyone else's well-being,” and several said they were “friends with people I think I would be friends with outside of the office.”

“I don't think I could find a BigLaw firm that has a better culture.”

“I think for BigLaw there's a pretty good work-life balance, and people appreciate that. I don't think I could find a BigLaw firm that has a better culture.” There are socials throughout the year and “people tend to hang out, but it's a no-pressure situation.” Juniors described “the crew that's going to go out, then the crew that has kids and goes home at five. Both of those exist here and no matter which you're looking for, I think you'll be fine.” The Boston, New York and Palo Alto offices each Friday host the 'Chowder and Marching Society' (CAMS) – an old Boston tradition but “New York has taken out the chowder and the marching – we just have food and a beer once a month. We simplified it.”

Pro Bono

WilmerHale's strong commitment to pro bono was a big draw for many juniors. Sources found the unlimited pro bono hours to be “a tremendous policy.” Many considered it to be “a part of the identity of the firm: I've spent a lot of time on pro bono matters and it's not something you get push-back on. There's no side-eye.” Cases have included clemency projects, immigration matters, appellate work, veterans' work, human trafficking cases, family law matters, and people seeking protection in the context of domestic violence. Juniors found pro bono to be “a great way of getting client exposure, but also do something good, something that is revolutionary to someone's life.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 99,198
  • Average per US attorney: 99

Hours & Compensation

WilmerHale's 2,000 hours target (including pro bono) “sounds like a big number, but we're never really short of work, so it's been manageable.” Many juniors admitted having to work a little most weekends, “maybe an hour or two, but not filling the whole weekend. That's rare.” But when a weekend of work does happen, “people are very very nice about it – they're actually upset that they're making you do it. They make it a point to thank you and say 'hey, this person works really hard'.” There's also the option to work from home as “there's very little to no face time requirement if you're not needed to be at a specific place at a specific time.”

Associate salaries matched the Cravath scale when the market salary went up in 2016. The bonus system was a bit of a gray area for some juniors, but most recognized that “it's pretty much based on market.” Some believed the bonus system to be based solely on hours, and how much over the target you go. One source explained: “They'll give bonuses over market to people who put in a lot more hours than expected. They explained that the extra bonus isn't there to encourage people to go over target, it's just there to recognize the people willing to put in extra time if need be.” Others reckoned that the quality of work also affected the bonus rate.


“WilmerHale is the kind of place where people feel welcomed.” Although juniors agreed that there's “a lot of straight, white dudes,” many emphasized that that's “industry-wide” and the firm itself “tries really hard. Certainly the incoming classes are diverse, and the firm is committed to making sure the partnership is diverse too.” The firm recently hired Nimesh Patel from the Department of Homeland Security to head diversity and inclusion. He “has a history of successful diversity initiatives at other places,” according to one associate, which will help with WH's efforts.

Strategy & Future

At the time of our research, the firm was preparing to have its annual state of the firm meeting. Juniors anticipated that the meeting would go through things like “how the firm did last year, goals for the future, and what business they want to focus on,” among other items. Regular emails go out as well updating attorneys on firm initiatives.

"We're only as good as our next generation of talent," co-managing partner Susan Murley tells us. "Between now and when readers will be ready to join, we will continue to focus on building talent at the firm, to help us focus on areas such as litigation, intellectual property, crisis management, regulatory, all things transactional, and securities. Those are strengths for us and will continue to be our focus." In terms of geography, Murley explains: "Some of our offices are more mature than others. For example, DC and Boston are both vibrant and key offices where we'll continue to recruit talent, but we probably will not look to see substantial growth in those offices in the next few years. On the other hand, we will see growth in California, New York, and in our newest office in Denver, Colorado, and we will continue to build our practice in all of those offices."


Get Hired

When looking for potential new recruits, junior associates tend to ask themselves “can the candidate communicate themselves clearly and do they seem interested in the firm?” Others viewed their role as “focusing on fit a little more than senior attorneys, who are thinking about hiring from a management perspective.” One elaborated: “I want to get a sense if this is someone I'd want to work with. They can be top of their class, from the best law school, but at the end of the day I want to make sure I'm working with someone who's not a jerk.” Besides fit, enthusiasm and demonstrating that you're a hard worker go a long way.

Juniors advised that students “shouldn't be afraid to network and put themselves out there. People always want to talk and tell you about what they do – there's a lot of pride of job in this industry.”

Interview with co-managing partner Susan Murley

What highlights from the past year would you want to flag up to student readers interested in the firm?

As a firm that thinks about its strategy, we have continued to focus on a few things: the quality of our practice, the quality of our talent, and the quality of experience here. The quality of our practice is really central to us in establishing our place in the legal industry. It is what we focus on and what our clients expect of us. We look at what we do best and try to do more of it. As I think about our developments and defining moments over the past year, many of the successes we have had and many areas of our focus have come from that objective. As a firm, our cross-practice teams converged around our clients' most pressing challenges to provide the kind of sophisticated, multifaceted legal and strategic advice that has come to define our unique position in the market. Over the last year, we have represented Palo Alto-based health technology and lab services firm Theranos, which has faced a number of challenges. They turned to us for  strategic advice  as they made their way through those challenges.  Another example is our long-time focus on IP litigation. In 2016, we persuaded the federal circuit court to reinstate a $120 million jury verdict for Apple in connection with the Samsung-Apple smart phone battles over various features, including  the 'Slide to Unlock' feature.

Given that our readers wouldn't be joining your firm for another couple of years, what is the general strategy going forwards, and what do you reckon the firm will look like then?

We will continue to focus on the same strategy. On the quality of talent front, as we remind  our folks here we don't sell stuff like our clients do; instead we sell talent. We're only as good as our next generation of talent. Between now and when readers will be ready to join, we will continue to focus on building talent at the firm, to help us focus on areas such as litigation, intellectual property, crisis management, regulatory, all things transactional, and securities. Those are strengths for us and will continue to be our focus. With respect to geographies, some of our offices are more mature than others. For example, DC and Boston are both vibrant and key offices where we'll continue to recruit talent, but we probably will not look to see substantial growth in those offices in the next few years. On the other hand, we will see growth in California, New York, and in our newest office in Denver, Colorado, and we will continue to build our practices in all of those offices. 

Where will the firm be investing? Any plans to open new offices? Expansion around the world?

Currently we have offices in LA and Palo Alto in California. We are going to continue to grow in California and while we have no current plans to open new office, we will continue to see if it makes sense to do that. We will ask ourselves whether we service our California clients – many of which are tech-focused – from those offices, or do we need additional offices? Outside of the US,  we're trying to build on our biggest ex-US practice, International Arbitration, as well as those practices that are strong inside the US. All of the offices outside the US are smaller than those inside. In order to have strong market presence, we think the best way to present ourselves is to build on the areas where we’re strong. We will continue to think about whether we need additional European offices, or perhaps additional offices Asia, where we can build on our practice strengths. IP litigation is a good example – it's a practice where our clients face patent challenges in and  outside the US. As a firm we have offices in the UK, Frankfurt, Berlin, Brussels and Beijing. In future there may be opportunities to build, but right now we don't have specific plans to open any additional offices.

How do you think the Trump presidency will affect the legal industry?

As with any new administration, clients look to us for advice on how their business will be affected by changes in the regulatory landscape. They want us to see around corners and translate what we are hearing from any administration into practical terms. This is particularly interesting as the President and members of his administration have talked about a number of areas where there could be change.. The President- has promised to improve US infrastructure, so if significant infrastructure projects get under way there will be ample opportunities for lawyers – changes that will result in government contracting and permitting, and tax reform that comes from those. Healthcare reform is another area of focus of the new administration. Healthcare providers, pharma and biotech clients – they will look to us for advice on changes in healthcare. It probably goes without saying, but change  and uncertainty such as those contemplated by the administration,  create a number of opportunities for lawyers, and for firms that focus on change.

Can you define the firm's character or culture? And what kind of lawyer thrives at the firm?

I have been at the firm for more than 30 years. Notwithstanding the fact that this firm is a product of a merger 13 years ago, and the fact the firm has gotten much bigger since I joined, the culture of the firm has remained the same. It  is defined by the quality of our practices and the hard work and team work that help to foster that high quality. We continue to focus on building the kind of teams that help give clients the best advice. In addition, we have long been focused as a firm on doing good while doing well, which speaks to our focus on pro bono and public service.

The type of lawyer who is  successful at this firm is a person who an insatiable hunger not only to learn more and be creative, but who works well in teams.  It is a person who not only  understands  the law and its effects, but one who anticipates events and sees  around corners. We want people who will consider  what's going to happen next, and anticipate for clients what could happen. Those kind of people thrive at WilmerHale.

Any advice or words of wisdom for our student readers as they try to enter the legal profession?

Never stop asking questions. Think about the changing world and how changes will affect practices, clients, firms, companies, regulations, opportunities and their own lives. It's the hallmark of great lawyers.



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

350 South Grand Avenue,
Suite 2100,
Los Angeles,
CA 90071

7 World Trade Center,
250 Greenwich Street,
New York,
NY 10007

950 Page Mill Road,
Palo Alto,
CA 94304

1875 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC,

1225 17th Street Suite 1660,
CO 80202

  • Head Office: Boston, MA and Washington, DC
  • Number of domestic offices: 7
  • Number of international offices: 5
  • Worldwide revenue: $1,130,400,000
  • Partners (US): 255
  • Associates (US): 568
  • Summer Salary 2017  
  • 1Ls: $3,500/week
  • 2Ls: $3,500/week
  • Post 3Ls: N/A
  • 1Ls hired? Yes
  • Split summers offered? Yes
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? Yes
  • Summers 2017: 104
  • Offers/acceptances 2016: 80 offers, 57 acceptances, 20 pending

Main areas of work
Our global practice includes over 600 litigators with unmatched trial, appellate and Supreme Court experience; a preeminent securities law practice with over 130 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 170 attorneys and technology specialists who hold scientific or technical degrees; more than 200 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 reflected 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: 65
• Number of 2nd year associates: 51
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $180,000
• 2nd year: $190,000
• 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 2017:
University of California-Berkeley, Boston College, Boston University, University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Loyola Law School - LA, Michigan, Northwestern, Northeastern, NYU, University of Pennsylvania, Santa Clara, Stanford, Suffolk, University of California- LA (UCLA), University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Denver, University of Southern California (USC), 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. Summer associates also have the opportunity to attend client meetings and trials whenever possible. 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 specifically 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, leadership, 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.