Wiley Rein LLP - The Inside View

One office, three key specialties: DC's Wiley wears a triple crown of government, insurance and TMT expertise.

FOUNDED half a mile away from the White House when Ronald Reagan called it home, Washingtonian Wiley Rein has remained loyal to the capital for 35 years, never feeling the need to expand beyond it. Prospective juniors “really liked that it's invested in being a DC firm and not a global player with far-flung offices, as you get to know pretty much everyone you work with personally.” The DC grounding also provides “less of a competitive New York-style BigLaw culture” and a raft of government connections.

On the subject of these connections: the firm has a historic association with the GOP (former name partner Fred Fielding acted as White House counsel for two Republican presidents). Today, however, juniors told us that Wiley has “become a lot more balanced in terms of political diversity” within its ranks and works with both sides of the aisle. Its government-related work is still very much one of the three prongs on Wiley's trident of well-known specialties – insurance and telecommunications, media and technology (TMT) matters form the other two. All three practices merit gold star Chambers USA rankings, while other groups like IP, international trade, franchising and privacy & cybersecurity also get nods.

The Work

You guessed it: Wiley's government contracts, insurance and TMT practices absorb most of its incoming juniors, but you'll still find the odd one or two in areas like IP and international trade. In TMT and government contracts, there's a free-market work allocation system, which scored mixed reviews. Some had found it “pretty easy, as you just walk around, get to know people and drum up work,” while others didn't like the system “at all, because it can be challenging to break into: before you get a chance to impress a partner, they may have already chosen someone they like working with and set them on the path for getting more assignments.” Insurance was less problematic, as an assigning partner “is very good at what he does – I've worked with almost every partner in the group.”

Team TMT handles both litigation and regulatory work – the latter often has a specialist focus on Federal Communications Commission regulations. Junior tasks range “from filing complaints to completing first drafts of motions; the coolest thing is getting to be the first pen on a lot of substantive writing projects.” Even juniors who'd worked primarily on the litigation side found that “there hasn't been a great deal of document review,” with one boasting: “I haven't done a single one!” A “big portion” of life here involves “keeping abreast of developments in technology in general, to figure out how they relate to what we do.”

The “bread and butter” in government contracts is bid protest claims – which challenge the awarding of such contracts – but juniors had also worked on a sandwich filling of “claims and counseling for companies under the Service Contract Act” and employment cases. Enjoying a “pretty consistent practice,” sources' only protests were aimed at “the short turnaround period for filings; it can affect your work-life balance as you only have ten days to respond and things can ramp up quickly.” On a more normal day, the workload centers on reviewing briefs and opposing counsel files: “You can review around 60 documents then write up a brief. I feel like I've built substantive knowledge in my first year.”

“We're not bogged down in enormous document reviews.”

Wiley's insurance group provides both coverage counsel and litigation services for insurers and insured policyholders in various fields, including employment, cyber liability and policy. “Litigation offers more high-level work more quickly,” juniors revealed, “as cases move quickly and matters tend to be smaller, so we're not bogged down in enormous document reviews. Our area is kinda unique as there isn't a lot of discovery.” Instead, interviewees got to draft motions for summary judgment and some appellate briefs. In the beginning, it's common to be doing “coverage analysis, where you analyze insurance policies and write first drafts of letters to the policyholder.” There are also research assignments us for grabs, “where you look into discrete questions that a partner has on a certain state's laws.”

Training & Development

Newbies are assigned two associate mentors, usually from the same practice group. Everyone receives an annual review, “which is helpful for ensuring you get substantive feedback from partners, as throughout the year things can get hectic and slip through the cracks.” First years also get a midyear review with a partner, “who walks you through the progress you've made after getting feedback from people you've worked with.”

In addition to standard orientation sessions, first years have weekly practice-specific trainings in the form of a '101' series. It's more intensive for some groups than others. “TMT needs more as it's so specialist – we've had a good number of modules exposing us to sources to use and the procedures for certain work products.” Insurance juniors, meanwhile, found there's “a lot of learning on the job” but still pointed to a range of sessions “that go through different types of policies.” A more advanced '201' series awaits juniors in year two.

Culture & Office

Being a one-office DC firm “does have an impact” on the working environment, juniors agreed. “We're a cohesive group,” one explained, adding: “Overall it's a very genial culture and there's a lot of respect for having a life outside the firm.” It sounded like there was plenty of life within the firm too, as social events at Wiley range from winery tours to holiday parties and a fall festival “where people can buy baked goods.”

Associates seemed pretty sweet on one another: “Some of my best friends are my coworkers. Wiley does a really good job of hosting lunches and happy hours every so often.” But mingling isn't just reserved for happy hours, as “being in a single office means you can always stop by and talk to somebody in person; everyone is really nice and wants to do a good job. No one wants drama!” Across the board sources found “Wiley more 'steady life' culturally. The firm tells you when you're a summer that it's a family-oriented place.”

“We're a cohesive group.”

If you've just resurfaced from a Stranger Things binge you may be pleased to hear Wiley's office described as “a building from the '80s,” but we've often heard that the decor is “a little outdated and basic. It's well taken care of but it's not a modern building.” Our interviewees found a certain charm in the retro vibes, though, and were pleased to get their own office from day one: “They're not giving you tons of fancy snacks or coconut water but its being dated doesn't really matter – I prefer solid walls to glass anyway!”


Looking at the industry as a whole, one source had the “sense that Wiley isn't behind the curve, but not quite ahead of it either” when it came to diversity. Strong female representation at associate level was dubbed “a plus,” but translating this up to the partnership is “an ongoing process. They have a pretty good approach to flexible working, which helps.” Though some suggested that “racial diversity isn't better or worse than it is at your typical BigLaw firm,” others were more conscious of deficiencies: “We could be doing better given our size. I don't think it's very racially diverse, but they're working on it.” A pipeline scheme is available for diverse 1Ls, and the firm runs several affinity networks for ethnic minorities, LGBT lawyers and working parents.

“They have a pretty good approach to flexible working.”

Pro Bono

“It's great to have a pro bono partner here who really pushes it and does a great job of advertising projects,” juniors reported. Those projects had included tax matters, landlord/tenant cases, immigration work and social security appeals. One junior enthused: “I wrote two Supreme Court amicus briefs in my first year, which is ridiculous and incredible – it's great to be able to work on such substantive, high-impact projects.”

Despite this enthusiasm, juniors simultaneously found Wiley's approach to pro bono “fairly frustrating” due to the 50-hour cap it imposes on what can be counted toward the billable target. “The policy is outdated and not on par with the wider industry. Pro bono matters can run on for much longer than that, and you could fill up 50 hours in two weeks – other firms are more generous.” Some sources had heard “that if you hit 100 hours they'll consider counting it but it's a real black box.” The firm clarified that associates can apply for additional credit for high-impact pro bono cases.

Pro bono hours

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 13,151
  • Average per US attorney: 48

Hours & Compensation

Juniors shoot for an annual billable target of 1,950 hours. “I'd say it's achievable if you don't do much pro bono,” said one, while another confirmed: “The work is available and you can get there – I didn't have a problem making it even as a first year.” Some warned that “Wiley is a face time-heavy firm: you're expected to be here between 9am and 6pm – it's not the kind of place where you can traipse in every day at 10:30am.” The average leaving time was 6:30pm, with late nights described as rare: “There have been around 15 days where I've been here until 11pm – it's the exception rather than the norm,” one second year explained.

“The work is available and you can get there.”

Juniors “couldn't complain” about Wiley's base compensation structure, which matches the Cravath scale for juniors' first four years in practice. After that, it switches to a merit-based system. Bonuses, however, are “a bit of a black box: you take what you're given without any real explanation. The system could definitely be improved.” At the same time, other sources did make the point that “we didn't come to Wiley expecting NY-level bonuses, and the trade-off of a better work-life balance is worth it.”

Strategy & Future

As a DC firm, government policy affects Wiley Rein acutely. Managing partner Peter Shields reveals "during any administration change there tends to be an uptick in Washington work. Whether it’s a Democratic administration that is stereotypically regulating or a Republican one that is deregulating, clients want to understand every facet and implication of the government’s activity." He highlights international trade as "a high priority of this administration" while noting that "there's been more M&A activity and litigation as a result" too.

Get Hired

Commitment to DC is essential for a Wiley Rein candidate, and can be demonstrated via “study, a prior internship or government-related experience.” Once that commitment is established, step two involves demonstrating “your interest in the specific practice areas the firm specializes in. We're not a global giant that does everything – we do what we do very well.” The broad swath of corporate work integral to many BigLaw firms is more niche at Wiley, and a generalist attitude won't impress. One source made it clear: “Attorneys here specialize by area, so show that you understand that at interview.” On the other hand, like its peers the firm favors “friendly, personable candidates who we can put in front of a client. The firm is looking for team players who can work well with others for collaborative success – I've never done one project completely by myself.”

Government experience is an invaluable resume boost, but not essential. “Anything that shows you're interested in legislative matters and how DC works” will stand you in good stead – particularly if you're aiming for the government contracts group itself, but for all candidates generally too. Skills-wise, “writing is important and being able to demonstrate you've taken opportunities to build your capabilities in relation to that” is another big plus.

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 midlevel 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.

Kay Nash: 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 kinds 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: 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. 

Interview with managing partner Peter Shields

Chambers Associate: What's been the most exciting thing that the firm has done over the past year?

Peter Shields: The firm has had another excellent year in all respects – and in two key areas in particular. We once again achieved outstanding results for our clients, and had a strong financial performance amid tough economic conditions for our profession.

CA: Last time we talked about how the Trump administration will affect the firm's work, how have things changed since?

PS: There's been a tremendous amount of activity for clients in various practice areas, as we anticipated, and it's been quite busy. During any administration change there tends to be an uptick in Washington work. Whether it’s a Democratic administration that is stereotypically regulating or a Republican one that is deregulating, clients want to understand every facet and implication of the government’s activity – and our attorneys have deep expertise interacting with the executive branch, as well as working with federal agencies, and on Capitol Hill. Specifically, there's been a large amount of international trade activity, a high priority of this administration, and also in TMT, government contracts and election law. Litigators remained busy and there have been more deals negotiated. Overall, we’ve seen more M&A activity and more litigation as a result, as well as more appeals of agency decisions.

CA: What’s your long-term vision for Wiley Rein? Do you see the firm ever merging or expanding beyond DC?

PS: Our long-term vision is to continue to do what we do very well and stay focused on meeting client needs first and foremost, in several premier practice areas. For the time being, we don't envision a need to grow outside of DC as we currently represent clients all over the world, and do it efficiently with one office. Many of our practice areas have international clients. We want to continue to expand our elite regulatory and litigation practices, growing in a smart, efficient way. We intend to continue to invest in the right talent and practice areas to serve a broader array of clients. More emphasis will be placed on the West Coast and New York; we've always done a lot of work there, and our West Coast client needs are growing as many companies realize DC is critical to their company’s business.

CA: Are there any practice areas you think the firm is underrated in?

PS: One example is white-collar and investigations work, which is becoming more important regardless of the administration; it's clear this work is here to stay. We have a fine roster of lawyers who are able to walk clients through the most complex issues, and I hope that group will grow and become better known. Another would be government relations. Between government relations attorneys and our Signal subsidiary, the people at Wiley Rein have a deeper, broader offering.

CA: Whatdoes only having one office mean for the firm's culture?

PS: We believe it's a clear strength; we have a unique collaborative culture as a one-office firm. We remain nimble in a way that other firms can’t be, given their structure. Everyone knows each other really well; we're under one roof developing collegial relationships that are more difficult to forge in multi-office firms.

CA: How do you think practicing out of DC differs from the experience in New York or elsewhere?

PS: DC allows attorneys to have broader, richer careers because the government overlay is something all lawyers tend to deal with, whether you're in private practice litigating or in a regulatory area. That day-to-day experience gives you different skills that are transportable to other markets later in your career. Attorneys get to learn the importance of policy as well as legal skills.

CA: If you could give one piece of advice to a student looking to go into the law, what would it be?

PS: Find, and most importantly use, both formal and informal mentors at every stage of your career. I continue to meet with students and attorneys at all seniority levels from around Washington, from my time teaching as an adjunct in law school or through the Bar Association. Our firm is well known for doing this, and many of my colleagues do the same thing on a regular basis – I'm proud of how generous our attorneys are with their time. DC is a small town in many ways; people get time to work together and support each other.

CA: Is there anything else you think readers should know about the firm?

PS: Diversity remains a big priority for us. We're not satisfied with raw numbers; comparatively we do well but we plan to do better in this important area.

Pro bono and philanthropy are two other points. Even as a firm our size, we made an intentional decision to have a full-time pro bono partner, and deepened and broadened our outreach and offerings. Through Wiley Rein in the Community, we've continued to outperform peers in donations to community causes, and once again the firm was one of the largest corporate philanthropists across any sector, as identified by the Washington Business Journal. That's not only a strategic priority; it's the right thing to do.

We also just completed firm elections; I was re-elected as managing partner for a third consecutive term. Dot Powell-Woodson, cochair of our healthcare practice, was re-elected to the Executive Committee along with Dan Standish, chair of our insurance practice. Every one of our firm committees is chaired or cochaired by a woman, as we believe it's important to have a diversity of leadership at every committee level.

Wiley Rein LLP

1776 K Street, NW,
Washington, DC,
Website www.wileyrein.com

  • Head Office: Washington, DC
  • Number of domestic offices: 1
  • Partners (US): 113
  • Associates (US): 57
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Janell Mallard, Senior Recruiting & Diversity Manager
  • Hiring partner: Rachel A. Alexander
  • Diversity officer: Anna Gomez
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 8
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2018:
  • 1Ls: 1
  • 2Ls: 11
  • Summer salary 2018:
  • 1Ls: $3,465
  • 2Ls: $3,465
  • Split summers offered? No

Main areas of work

 ■ Government Contracts
■ Insurance
■ International Trade
■ Intellectual Property
■ Telecom, Media & Technology
■ Litigation 

Firm profile

  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 consistent and successful results are 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.


Law schools attending for OCIs in 2018:
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 Michigan Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School, University of Virginia School of Law, Vanderbilt University 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.

Social Media

Recruitment website:www.wileyrein.com/careers.cfm
Instragram: @wileyrein

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Environment Recognised Practitioner
    • Insurance: Insurer (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations Recognised Practitioner
    • Media & Entertainment: Regulatory (Band 1)
    • Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 2)
    • Franchising Recognised Practitioner
    • Government Contracts (Band 1)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions Recognised Practitioner
    • International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 2)
    • Political Law (Band 1)
    • Privacy & Data Security (Band 3)