Democrats to the left of them, Republicans to the right, here Wiley is, stuck in the middle with you.
TWO Emmy award-winning attorneys in an office less than half a mile from the White House. No, this is not a subplot on The West Wing. We’re talking about Wiley Rein. Founded in 1983, this firm operates from a single office on K Street. “We’re a DC-only firm that is nonetheless referred to as BigLaw,” one junior said. “We’re not a megafirm, but we still have an exceptional client base and a great reputation in DC.” Interviewees also told us that the firm’s relatively small size fosters a culture where “anyone you need is right down the hall, and all the partners know my face.”
Wiley Rein's work is centered around three specialties: government contracts; insurance; and telecommunications, media and technology (TMT). All three practices merit top Chambers USA rankings, while groups like international trade, franchising, and privacy & cybersecurity also get nods from Chambers. The linkage between the first specialty and the firm's DC presence is obvious, while the other fields it operates in also have some relation to regulation and/or politics. Speaking of politics, it's worth noting that founding partner Richard Wiley was the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the Nixon administration.
Wiley's government contracts, insurance and TMT practices absorb most incoming juniors, but you'll also find the odd one or two in areas like IP and international trade. In the TMT and government contracts groups, there's both an 'open-assignment' allocation system and an assigning partner. Associates here are “proactive – walking the halls and sending emails asking if there’s anything you can help with.” However, we heard it “can be hard to break into the group initially.” For those struggling, the legal talent group hands out projects to those who are short of work. In insurance an assigning partner handles all new matters and projects, which we heard makes things easier. “He acts as a referee if you’re particularly overwhelmed or worried about your hours,” one junior said. “We’re lucky to have him!”
The TMT team handles “both litigation and regulatory work,” – the latter often with a focus on FCC regulations. The group also works with the Federal Trade Commission on data protection and privacy matters, and “has experience in various emerging technologies: we’re working on things like cybersecurity, 5G, satellites and space stations!” Juniors draft reply comments on proposed regulations and conduct due diligence on authorization and license checks. “We have to make sure clients account for all technology licenses and help with authorizations both domestically and internationally. For example, when a satellite goes up, some stay in place over one static location, but some move around the planet – so it gets complicated!” Juniors found it “interesting to work with the emerging technologies – it’s a heavy-duty learning process but you get to home in on narrow topics.”
TMT clients: National Association of Broadcasters, AT&T, Motorola, and the Satellite Industry Association. Helped space tech company Maxar gain approval from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the FCC for its $2.4 billion acquisition of satellite-imaging company DigitalGlobe.
The government contracts group handles a lot of bid protest claims – these challenge the awarding of government contracts. The group's work overlaps with the white-collar practice and delves into M&A and data security too. “You get exposure to different areas – sometimes it can be quite complicated to juggle that!” Bid protest cases typically last around 100 days and during this time “the junior associate manages the schedule and does a lot of initial research and drafting.” Associates draft most of a protest and entire claims by themselves. “It’s interesting because you work on anything a government contract can be about, which means you have to learn about different subjects very quickly,” one source reflected. “That can be intimidating, but it keeps things interesting.”
Government contract clients: Boeing, General Dynamics, and BAE Systems. Represented logistics company Supreme Foodservice in a $10.6 billion dispute with the DOD's Defense Logistics Agency over a 2005 contract to provide food, water, and other supplies to troops based in Afghanistan.
Wiley's insurance group provides both coverage counsel and litigation services to insurers and insured policyholders. The work covers employment, cyber liability and policy matters related to “claims ranging from $5,000 to $100 million.” Juniors' non-litigation tasks include “reviewing underlying litigation and considering potential coverage under insurance policies.” When it comes to litigation juniors will be “drafting letters, briefs, filings, and memos, plus conducting research.” Interviewees particularly enjoyed brief writing as “it’s persuasive writing, and it’s more fun because you get to argue – in a productive way!”
Insurance clients: Allied World Assurance, AXIS Insurance, and Chubb. Represented UBS in lawsuits, regulatory investigations, and hundreds of arbitrations following the collapse of the Puerto Rican bond market.
We mentioned above that Wiley Rein has historical links to Republican administrations, and the election law group’s current political clients include the Republican National Committee and a legal expenses fund for the Trump administration. Given this we wondered whether politics informed the firm's culture at all. “I’m definitely not conservative,” one junior told us. “I work with different politically leaning people every day. We have different views, but we have excellent relationships and I love to talk to those people.”
It is most definitely not a requirement to have any particular political views, opinions or knowledge when joining this firm. “I didn’t really know about it coming into the firm,” one junior said of Wiley's political work. “You don’t notice a political stance in any of the groups [besides the election law group].” People from the political right or left or center all fit in fine. “You'll find many centrists in DC,” one interviewee shared. “Even people labeled Republican or Democrat are often quite centrist because we have to work with each other.”
What was more on juniors’ mind is the fact that “flexibility and kindness permeate the workplace here.” Juniors enthused about their “close-knit” office, and spoke positively about the effects of the firm's relatively small single site. “I know about 80% of the attorneys here by name,” one reported. “We say hello in the elevator and drop in to offices to chat.” Another source told us that former summer classes tend to stick together, and teams sometimes do informal happy hours. One interviewee concluded: “I view Wiley's culture as very supportive. We help pick up the slack on each other's projects when we can.”
As part of this supportive culture, juniors felt like they were getting the training they need in order to one day step into leadership roles. For example, one told us: “A lot of the partners help with things like how to put together a budget for a client or other aspects of professional development, which you wouldn’t pick up otherwise.” This gives Wiley's juniors “insight into how the firm and the business work.” There’s also the chance to “write and speak on topics you’re interested in, and the firm gives you credit for business development work too.”
Formal training was described as “hands-on” by interviewees – “it's really specific training on specific tasks and methods of organization.” Newbies are assigned two associate mentors, usually from the same practice group. Everyone receives an annual review, when the firm “makes sure you’re aware of any issues, how you’re doing and where you can develop.”
Diversity & Inclusion
One area where interviewees felt the firm could develop and “needs to do more work” is on diversity. While it’s “evident the firm is making very intentional strides,” we heard reports that “there are a lot of hidden biases and sometimes they do show.” The strides in question include pipeline schemes and affinity groups where “we discuss things – but I don’t know where it goes from there.”
One source was concerned diverse candidates may be “put off from applying” by the firm's conservative reputation, but others encouraged such applicants not to be put off. “I don’t feel the conservative tilt,” one source asserted. “I mean, just recently the women’s group watched the RBG movie and we invited everyone!”
The women’s committee was noted as the “one of the most active” in the firm, putting on monthly lunches that provide “a nice space to confide in your colleagues and seek advice.” The firm has also put on some LGBTQ-related trainings – “a lot of people come to them, but it’s hard to know if they’re taking it seriously.”
Hours & Compensation
One thing associates definitely do take seriously is the annual billing target of 1,950 hours, which leaves them eligible for the full bonus. Most find the target manageable. “I was able to make it in my first year without breaking a sweat,” one junior boasted. Another said: “I managed to take a full week of vacation and I met the target pretty much on the dot.” Juniors said that on an average day they bill eight or nine hours, usually leaving before 8pm. Government contracts associates experience “peaks and valleys – sometimes you’re working a 60 to 70-hour week, and sometimes a 30 to 40-hour week.” Insurance has more steady hours.
The firm matched Milbank’s 2018 pay rise for juniors, but we heard from juniors that Wiley “isn’t a big bonus firm.” However, interviewees noted that the “trade-off” might be worth it. One junior opined: “Anecdotally, compared to other firms Wiley’s working environment is more conducive to having a family. You can move work around and I’ve only felt overwhelmed on a very few occasions.”
“Most people do at least some pro bono,” we heard. Up to 50 hours can count toward the 1,950 billing target, but associates can apply for additional credit for high-impact cases. We did hear it's “rare you’d get one-to-one credit for additional hours – that prevents it from being a giant pro bono fest around here!”
The 50-hour cap means “some people are definitely hesitant about taking on bigger pro bono matters that could potentially blow up.” More common are discrete tasks or projects, like disability rights cases, custody issues, housing cases and working with DC's Advocacy & Justice Clinic.
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: 15,182
- Average per attorney: 52
Strategy & Future
Like Batman, Wiley belongs wholly to DC. Wiley associates agreed that the firm’s office structure is its greatest asset. “We have a sizable office with so many resources and so much expertise, but at the same time we’re centralized to one office,” an interviewee said. “It seems like a conscious choice management has made to have a firm whose goal is to be the best it can be, rather than as big as possible.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 103
Interviewees outside OCI: 22
Wiley Rein’s recruiting focus reflects its commitment to DC, as it recruits from top law schools in Washington, DC and along the East Coast. However, Jon Burd, chair of the recruiting committee, tells us “we also attract write-in candidates from law schools across the country.” The firm meets with ten to 40 students per OCI. Interviews are conducted in pairs by partners and mid to senior-level associates.
The firm seeks “exceptional candidates who have a demonstrated interest in joining a DC-based practice and one or more of Wiley Rein’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 Rein’s commitments to long-term professional development within our demonstrated areas of expertise.”
They also ask questions to figure out if candidates will be a good cultural fit – “so we may ask behavioral interviewing questions to find out how students have responded to different situations in school or in other work they have done,” Burd clarifies.
Top tips for this stage:
“Candidates who do well in our interview process project confidence, maturity, authenticity and strong interpersonal skills. At the interview, be able to demonstrate that you are hardworking, intelligent, courteous and pleasant, and that you have the soft skills to pass the airport test.” – Jon Burd, chair of the recruiting committee.
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 69
The firm creates individualized schedules for each candidate, “based on the candidate’s potential practice-area interests, professional/work history, law school and other interests,” says Burd. Each candidate typically meets with four to six attorneys for 20 to 30 minutes each, including a mix of partners and associates who are members of the firm’s recruiting committee.
Top tips for this stage:
“Here you’ll fit in well if you demonstrate a good attitude and are open to helping others alongside being generally hardworking.” – a junior associate
Wiley Rein 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,” Bird 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 which will 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 Rein 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.”
Wiley Rein LLP
1776 K Street, NW,
- Head Office: Washington, DC
- Number of domestic offices: 1
- Partners (US): 116
- Associates (US): 57
- Main recruitment contact: Janell Mallard, Senior Recruiting & Diversity Manager
- Hiring partner: Jon W Burd
- Diversity officer: Anna Gomez
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 11
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019:
- 1Ls: 1
- 2Ls: 9
- Summer salary 2019:
- 1Ls: $3,654
- 2Ls: $3,654
- Split summers offered? No
Main areas of work
■ International Trade
■ Election Law & Government Ethics
■ Intellectual Property
■ Telecom, Media & Technology
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.
Summer associate profile:
Our summer associate program is the foundation of our recruiting efforts. We ensure that summer associates experience the excellence and diversity of our firm and we provide opportunities for each student to handle responsibilities typically assumed by first year associates.
Summer program components:
The defining feature of our program is the flexibility of work assignments. We assist students in tailoring their assignments so that they gain significant exposure to a wide variety of practice areas through our interactive database of assignments. In addition, summer associates receive an associate mentor to help integrate them into the firm and our practices. We host an extensive litigation skills training program in addition to other professional development and social events throughout the summer.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
District of Columbia
- 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)
USA - Nationwide
- 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)