Covington & Burling LLP - The Inside View

If a strong commitment to pro bono and a clear footprint on regulatory work is what you’re after, then this DC native has you Cov-ered.

Speak to any politician in DC, and they’ll tell you that reputation is everything. For juniors joining Covington, this was key: “I really feel like Covington are the experts in anything government facing.” Indeed, the DC local has a long history of government and regulatory work, spanning a whole century. This is something that still drives practice at the firm to this day: “The firm is really driven by its regulatory work. Our client base and work tend to be very complicated, very cross border, multi-faceted,” noted one associate. It’s precisely this reputation and complex work that drew many interviewees to the firm, who described it as a “bookish, intellectual place” focused on delivering great work for their clients.  

“People here have an outward orientation. Everyone here has an outward look and wants to do good and make a positive impact.” 

Our counterparts over at Chambers USA can vouch for this, giving top rankings to over 20 departments including government relations, government contracts, corporate/M&A, insurance, white collar, international trade and corporate crime and investigations to name just a few. In addition to its home base of DC, the firm has five other national offices, as well as global footholds in Beijing, London, Frankfurt, Dubai, Seoul, Shanghai, Brussels and Johannesburg. Another strong aspect of Covington’s reputation is the firm’s famed pro bono work, which drew many of our sources to Covington: “People here have an outward orientation. Everyone here has an outward look and wants to do good and make a positive impact.” Covington’s commitment to pro bono cannot be overstated, as in fact, the firm consistently tops our charts for the most pro bono hours per attorney – and this year is no different!  

Strategy & Future 

This past year has been a busy one, as firm chair Douglas Gibson tells us: “We’ve opened an office in Boston over the last year. We have a leading life sciences practice there and we’ve become a powerhouse in that area.” Covington’s not looking at slowing down either, as Gibson spoke of seeing “tremendous opportunities to grow relationships in the city now we’re firmly established.”  

Gibson also spoke about what really sets Covington apart from its peers when it comes to the work: “we’ve built a legal practice that’s at the center of law regulation, government enforcement, and policy expertise. It causes our clients to bring us their most complicated matters.” This is something Gibson highlights as being particularly proud of as “it’s part of our model and we wouldn’t have it any other way.” Speaking of pride, Gibson would be remiss if he didn’t mention the firm’s famous loyalty to pro bono: “it’s been something we’ve been committed to since our founding. It’s great to give associates great experiences, they can stand up in court earlier than in other practice groups and start giving back.” 

The Work 

Covington’s DC office was home to most associates on our list, followed by New York and then California. In terms of sheer numbers, litigation featured the most associates we spoke to. When it came to work assignment, we heard this was both a formal and informal affair. The formal way was centralized staffing, which most sources were happy with. As one insider put it, “we don’t know anyone at the start, so having that system there takes the pressure off.” After you find your footing, work allocation becomes more informal, with associates receiving work from partners they’ve done work for already. Juniors noted that this was a natural process: “I even got a matter just by bumping into someone in the office and striking up a conversation, informal networking is most common here.” 

The firm’s regulatory work is broken down into several practice areas including antitrust, CFIUS (the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States), employment, FDD (food, drug & device) and financial services. “Regulatory can be a bit of an amorphous bucket,” one associate told us, – Don’t worry, we googled that too… - so it covers quite the range of areas. Associates can expect to do a lot of typical tasks like drafting and legal research. Insiders pointed out that the latter could be quite complex, given it’s a fast-moving area: “an institution will reach out cause the regulations are complicated and they want to know if they can do a thing or if they’re interpreting it right. These things are ever changing so we need to be on top of it.”  Though, our sources were glad to get the chance to work on complex issues, one junior in the financial services group reflected that “I love the opportunity to get to know this niche and new financial problem, and I love learning a new part of the industry I never got to experience. It’s genuinely fun!” 

Regulatory clients: General Motors Financial, Valley National Bank, PayPal, Synchrony, the firm represented Blue Ridge Bank in its Written Agreement with the OCC.

“What’s nice for me is having a balance of different types of tasks. I always feel like I’m learning something new.” 

Most of the associates on our list were in litigation & investigations, and that’s not too surprising when you look at the whole host this group covers from white collar, internal investigations, antitrust, product liability, commercial litigation, patent litigation, insurance, class actions and more. “I love focusing on white collar” one source said, “but I love leaving room to explore other areas and the firm is very supportive of that.” Sources also praised the variety in their day-to-day duties: “What’s nice for me is having a balance of different types of tasks. I always feel like I’m learning something new.” Insiders talked about having a hand at writing briefs, filing, taking depositions and the excitement of trial work. “The group is fast paced, high stakes and engaging. I get plenty of responsibility and it’s hard to imagine what else I could be doing,” surmised one junior.  

Litigation clients:  National Grid/Brooklyn Union Gas, Ameris Bank, Duke University, represented Amazon Prime in an FTC investigation involving Amazon Prime sign-up and cancellation. 

M&A makes up the backbone of the firm’s corporate offering, with life sciences, employee benefits also factoring into the multi-practice group. The matters cover various corners of the corporate world from “bankruptcy, restructuring and employment contract” to matters on a much bigger scale. The scope of the work that associates got to work on received plenty of praise from our interviewees: “The work is exciting and significant, just look at the matters we get to be involved in!” Newbies can expect to do a lot of writing, researching, due diligence and a great deal of client and counsel facing interactions. Sources were quick to praise the substantive work in the group, explaining that, “you get given what you’re capable of here.”  

Corporate clients: Novartis, Eli Lilly, Cameco Corporation, the firm advised AstraZeneca on its acquisition of CinCor Pharma.

Pro Bono 

Of all the aspects of Covington you could possibly highlight, the firm’s pro bono work stands on top of the mountain. Sources heaped praise on the policy, and one source told us that “it’s weighted the same as your billable work. There’s a culture at the firm of public service and being engaged with the wider community and pro bono is an outgrowth of that.” All pro bono work done at Covington goes towards the billable hours of its attorneys. “It’s one of the best things about the firm,” beamed one junior. They added that “we’re regularly number one on many lists when it comes to pro bono and it’s no wonder why.” Indeed, Covington consistently tops our list of highest pro bono hours per attorney, out of all firms we cover in the guide.

It should come as no surprise then that Covington has a wide range of matters available, from veterans’ work to housing law. The firm also encourages you to bring in your own matters. One junior highlighted that “you can do whatever you want of what’s available, but I’ve also brought in my own work. They’re supportive of that, I wanted to work in a certain space and they worked to find a case for me.”  

Hours & Compensation 

Billable target: 1,950

Most of the firm has a target of 1,950 hours. As pro bono hours count towards the billable target, sources felt very comfortable with it. One newbie noted that “I can easily hit my target, I maybe split my time 70/30 for billable vs. pro bono work.” The bonus also tracks with the market which is in step with the salary. 

In terms of hybrid working, we heard that associates are expected to be in Tuesday through to Thursday, though one associate reassured us that “depending on specifics, the firm is very accommodating of your life situation.” Most of our interviewees seemed happy with the policy. One source shared that “I like the remote and in office balance, you get something out of seeing people in person as well.”  


“We have an intellectual culture, we like discussing the law and getting excited about the great work everyone’s doing.” 

Sources noted that the Covington crowd are slightly more introverted,  though while that may be true, sources were quick to point out that this set up worked well for them. One highlighted that “it’s more reserved but very respectful. We have an intellectual culture, we like discussing the law and getting excited about the great work everyone’s doing.” This sentiment was echoed by others, who praised their colleagues as “just a very smart group of people. People are very enthusiastic about their practice areas and it’s a great environment to be around.” That being said, there are still quarterly happy hours for most practice groups and the firm had a Christmas event that we’re told was well-attended. One particularly social source did put any potential concerns to rest as well: “I’m extroverted but it’s not an issue because there’s enough people that want to hang out.” 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 

Insiders felt positive about diverse representation at the junior level. “Looking at the classes that are coming in, they are so diverse which will only trickle upwards. It might take a while, but I think it is happening and coming,” shared one junior. This was reflected by sources pointing out that the firm is hiring “from a broader range of schools than they have previously.” For women, associates said they had “never worked on a team of all men” and that this gender parity extended to senior positions within the firm: “I’ve had really good interactions with senior partners who are women.”  

In addition to diversity initiatives and affinity groups, the firm also holds a diversity summit every other year in DC. Though the firm’s efforts go beyond this, as another newbie told us that “there are speakers and workshops. For one workshop, we were divided into groups and discussed how we could improve diversity at the firm. It was good to feel listened to.”  

Career Development 

We heard that although associates may have to be a little proactive in seeking specific career development, once they did, it was there in spades: “the firm definitely cares about what I want out of my career. After I expressed an interest in employee benefits, I was assigned a mentor with someone who works in that area for a year.” There’s a whole host of mentors available, from more formal mentors to assigned associate mentorship to the natural bonds that come with invested and open senior colleagues. One insider told us that “I have a very personal relationship with my assigning chair, they ask about my interests and availability on my assignments and help keep me on track.” As for the associate mentor, sources said they met regularly with them (as often as they both feel they wish to) and the firm will even fit the bill, so the two of them can go out for a meal together. It doesn’t have to be as rigid as all that though, as one source told us that “I meet with my mentor regularly. We talk about my stresses, and I reach out to her for advice a lot, and I can often call her the day of, actually I spoke with her about an hour ago!” 

Get Hired 


The first stage: recruitment on and off campus  


OCI applicants interviewed:  1635  


Covington participates in over 25 OCI programs and job fairs/consortiums. Come spring, prospective candidates can submit a resume, law school transcript, writing sample, and a list of two to three professional references, including a 1L summer employer reference, in addition to the firm’s OCI process.  


Students will meet with a range of attorneys, both partners and associates, from the offices in which they are applying. For those the firm interview outside of the OCI process, there will also be a meeting with one of the firm’s attorneys as a part of an initial screening interview. At this stage, the folks at Covington are looking at candidates’ background and strengths to assess their suitability for summer associate positions. According to Karema Page, Director of Legal Recruiting, this includes (but isn’t limited to) academic distinction in law school and undergraduate education: “We also look for students with strong motivation and initiative, the ability to take on responsibility, and enthusiasm for private law practice. The firm has long been committed to the highest standards of the profession and public service, and we look actively for new lawyers to continue in that tradition.”  




Applicants invited to second-stage interviews: 581  


Students submit an online questionnaire indicating their practice area and affinity group interests when scheduling a callback interview. Candidates then meet with 4 attorneys, including a mix of partners, counsel, and associates, during one-to-one interviews that last around 30 minutes each.  


Summer program  


Offers:  282  


Acceptances: 129 (123 students in the program; 6 splitting between Covington offices)  


“Our interactive and individualized assignment system is the foundation of our program,” Page adds, “We actively solicit input from summer associates on desired assignments and encourage them to try projects in multiple practice areas.” Covington’s summer training programs include depositions, advocacy writing, communication skills, and transaction and settlement negotiations. Summer associates are also invited to participate in client meetings, internal strategy meetings, and court hearings. The firm also looks for opportunities to ensure that summer associates get to know Covington’s lawyers, which includes activities ranging from sporting events, concerts, wine tastings, and hiking. All summer associates are assigned both a senior and a junior mentor who facilitate their introduction to the firm, advise on work assignments, and provide insight into life at Covington. “We pride ourselves on providing summer associates with constructive feedback on their work throughout the summer. We also help summer associates develop their writing, research, and advocacy skills as the summer progresses.” 


Covington & Burling LLP

One CityCenter, 850 Tenth Street,
Washington, DC,

Main areas of work
Mergers and acquisitions; private equity; capital markets; life sciences; financial services; technology and outsourcing transactions; international energy sector
Litigation & Investigations: White collar defense and investigations and cultural reviews; international arbitration; product liability; appellate
Regulatory & Public Policy: International trade; life sciences; data privacy and cybersecurity; CFIUS; government contracts

Firm profile
In an increasingly regulated world, the attorneys of Covington & Burling LLP have an exceptional ability to navigate clients through their most complex business problems, deals and disputes. Our distinctively collaborative culture allows us to be truly one team globally, drawing on the diverse experience of lawyers and advisors across the firm by seamlessly sharing insight and expertise. What sets us apart is our ability to combine the tremendous strength in our litigation, investigations, and corporate practices with deep knowledge of policy and policymakers, and one of the world’s leading regulatory practices. This enables us to create novel solutions to our clients’ toughest problems, successfully try their toughest cases and deliver commercially practical advice of the highest quality.

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2024:

American University Washington College of Law; Berkeley Law; Columbia Law School; Cornell Law School; Duke University School of Law; Fordham University School of Law; George Washington University Law School; Georgetown University Law Center; Harvard Law School; Howard University School of Law; Northwestern Law; NYU Law; Stanford Law School; UC Davis School of Law; UCLA School of Law; University of Chicago Law School; University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law; University of Michigan Law School; University of Pennsylvania Law School; University of Virginia School of Law; USC Gould School of Law; Vanderbilt Law School; Washington and Lee University School of Law; William & Mary Law School; Yale Law School; Bay Area Diversity Career Fair; Lavender Law; Loyola IP Job Fair; The Midwest-California-Georgia Consortium; National Law School Consortium

Recruitment outside OCIs:
We seek outstanding candidates from a wide variety of law schools throughout the country as summer associates. In addition to interviewing students at many law schools and job fairs, the firm also considers write in applications.

Summer associate profile:
We seek talented and motivated individuals who share our well-known commitment to excellence. We assess candidates for summer associate positions based on an overall evaluation of their background and strengths. We look for students with strong motivation and initiative, the ability to take on responsibility, and enthusiasm for private law practice. The firm has long been committed to the highest standards of the profession and public service, and we look actively for new lawyers to continue in that tradition.

Summer program components:
Our interactive and individualized assignment system is the foundation of our program. We actively solicit input from summer associates on desired assignments and encourage them to try projects in multiple practice areas. Our substantive summer training programs include depositions, advocacy writing, communication skills, and transaction and settlement negotiations. Summer associates are also invited to participate in client and internal strategy meetings and court hearings. Finally, we ensure that our summer associates get to know our lawyers outside of the office through a variety of social events. We provide the opportunity for summer associates to take advantage of many of the cultural activities that our cities have to offer. Events include sporting events, concerts, cooking classes, escape rooms, and theatre nights.

Social Media
Twitter: @covingtonllp
Facebook: Covington-Burling-LLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Deals in Asia (Band 1)
    • Insurance: Policyholder (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Technology: Transactions (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory (Band 1)
    • Insurance: Policyholder (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Media & Entertainment: Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Technology (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 3)
    • Climate Change (Band 3)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • E-Discovery & Information Governance (Band 4)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
    • False Claims Act (Band 1)
    • FCPA (Band 3)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Compliance) (Band 3)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 3)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 1)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Financial Institutions M&A (Band 4)
    • Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation (Band 1)
    • Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Government Relations: Congressional Investigations (Band 1)
    • Government Relations: Federal (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • International Arbitration: The Elite (Band 3)
    • International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 1)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions: The Elite (Band 1)
    • International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 1)
    • International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 3)
    • Life Sciences (Band 1)
    • Life Sciences: Regulatory/Compliance (Band 1)
    • Outsourcing (Band 4)
    • Political Law (Band 2)
    • Privacy & Data Security: Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Securities: Regulation: Enforcement (Band 4)
    • Sports Law (Band 1)
    • Tax: Controversy (Band 5)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 4)
    • Technology (Band 4)
    • Transportation: Rail (for Railroads) (Band 2)