Looking to navigate the revolving doors of DC? Look no further – lawyers at Wiley know the ins and outs of the nation’s capital.
Very rarely do you find a firm so particular in its practice and precise in its prestige as Wiley. Established in 1983 as Wiley, Johnson & Rein with a single office in Washington DC, the firm has stuck to its one-office model and, as such, has become something of an expert in the realm of US governmental law. Wiley weaves a network of state, federal, and private clients, cementing its significance in connecting an array of practice areas to the Capitol’s 'revolving door'.
“If it has a political nexus, we’ve done it.”
From persuading the Supreme Court to uphold FCC media ownership rules in early 2021, to securing adequate mental health care for immigrant children via the Fourth Circuit, Wiley continues to double down on its reputation, furthering its position across national rankings. Chambers USAplaces the firm among the very best for government contracts and political law, with Wiley also courting the top spaces for international trade. Within DC, Wiley is a key player in insurance, commercial litigation, media, and telecoms, giving associates opportunities both within and beyond their well-known areas.
From the 25 second and third-year associates, the biggest clusters were in the government contracts and insurance groups, followed by the international trade and TMT groups. Election law, corporate, litigation, and white collar made up the rest of the numbers, though our insiders were quick to point out that “the barriers aren’t very strict at all at the associate level” – a characteristic carried through from the summer program.
Juniors in insurance receive work from a workflow oversight officer: “They ask if people are free, which works well; I have a very steady workload.” The work itself “combines litigation with the commercial aspect of insurance. We mainly do insurance defense – advising and defending the insurer when sued by policyholders.” As part of litigation matters, juniors highlighted “monitoring matters, doing discovery, drafting motions and filing motions.” One source estimated that “50% of my day is writing.” Although international work typically isn’t a huge part of the practice, juniors emphasized the depth of the group’s national presence: “It could be anywhere in the US – it’s so wide-reaching!” Interviewees were also pleased with their level of responsibility here, noting “partners will actually listen to you. I’ve gotten a lot of responsibility very quickly.”
Insurance clients: AXA XL, Sompo International, and Hudson Insurance Group. Led the defense strategy and briefing on a $65 million case for AXIS Insurance against Regal Entertainment Group where Regal sought coverage for its defense costs and the judgment in the appraisal action.
Unsurprisingly, groups like government contracts and election law tend to be more DC-oriented in their matters. “Naturally political law groups fall on a spectrum, and they’re the best in the business.” Both groups have partners who monitor associate workloads, though “it’s a little more informal; partners reach out for what they need help with.” Juniors preferred this system, with one finding “there’s a little more autonomy, so I’ve been able to pursue things the way I’ve wanted.” Sources also found that “the barriers are quite fluid; Wiley has an unusually exceptional amount of collaboration between groups.” Though some of the work is local for the government contracts group, most of it is federal, with the cases being national in nature. Election law associates tend to work “with a lot of corporations, trade associations, non-profits, elected officials and candidates. Pay-to-play considerations [the laws that regulate political donations made by government contractors] play a large part too. If it has a political nexus, we’ve done it.”
Government Contracts clients: The Boeing Company, Novetta Solutions, and Innovate Now. Wiley successfully defended MicroHealth in an $18 million dispute alleging breach of a teaming agreement and fraudulent inducement, among other allegations, brought by Futrend Technology.
Unlike the other practice areas, TMT is more free market when it comes to acquiring work: “You get to do the work you want to, for the most part, even when we’re busy.” Matters are “fairly mixed between the US and international – around every third client is overseas.” So far, sources had dabbled in a mix of the group’s several “sub-focus areas,” including FCC; technology; financial protection; media; licensing; and compliance.
TMT clients: Virgin Galactic, Volkswagen, and Verizon. Represents KCS on securing FCC approval for transfer of control of FCC licenses.
Associates were unanimous in their praise for development opportunities:“You can’t beat the training,” one insider told us. “I have two mentors, trainings every week and webinars – they’re definitely invested, especially for new associates.” And if there’s anything juniors feel they’re missing in terms of training, sources added that the firm is “very responsive to associate feedback.” As such, sources we spoke with felt they would only move for geographic reasons as “Wiley is a good training ground.”
"It’s good to have the connections.”
Wiley’s smaller environment prompts for “more intimate relationships and interactions with partners,” a lot of whom started either as juniors or even summer associates.This left many with a positive view of eventually achieving partnership, though some noted being slightly unsure of “what the path to partnership really looks like.” Juniors were confident that even if they didn’t choose the path to partnership, other options were open to them. “People often do little stints elsewhere,” such as at regulators, in government and in-house. “They’re very supportive of going in-house or into government because they get lots of clients in – it’s good to have the connections.”
Culture, Hours & Compensation
“There’s a strong sense of community; there’s pride around being here and there’s a culture where attorneys can reach out to each other. It even manifests outside of the firm hours and events; I know there are associates who are close outside of the firm.” Sources went on to elaborate about how “there’s the feeling that it’s possible to have a family. Work-life balance really translates to how people interact with each other; people have their evenings and don’t make ridiculous requests on social time.”
“Wiley is a family firm – a lot of the partners have kids so they’re very accommodating.”
Billable hours: 1,950 target
Remote working is the norm for now, but even still, the “hours are pretty good relative to other firms.” Sources estimated that “the requirement is about seven hours a day and they have a time-tracking app which tells you when your time is out.” Associates regularly billed somewhere between 35 and 42 hours, but heavier weeks could easily surpass 55 hours. “Wiley is a family firm – a lot of the partners have kids so they’re very accommodating." As a result, weekend work was usually light: for the most part juniors were free, though “it really depends on how your workload looks.” One reckoned “I don’t work every weekend, maybe one to two weekends a month.”
Attorneys are expected to bill 1,950 hours and receive the new market-rate base compensation. However, sources described the bonus structure as “a bit of a black box,” and flagged that while “bonuses are good, they aren’t market.” Most reckoned there was likely a performance-based component in addition to hitting the hours target.
“There’s no shortage of pro bono,” sources asserted. “It is something you can pursue.” 50 hours can go towards attorneys’ billables, but juniors added: “It’s not a difficult process to get more hours approved.” Some had even done up to 150 hours of pro bono last year – “all credited!” The firm has a dedicated pro bono partner who “coordinates with the DC Bar pro bono scheme” to bring in a range of matters. For example, juniors highlighted: “We do a lot of immigration litigation, asylum hearings, appeals, domestic violence cases and defending evictions.” Elsewhere, interviewees had also worked on matters for organizations such as the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] and Care. There’s also the option of bringing in your own cases, for which sources said “the process is really good.I really appreciate that I’m allowed to take cases superiors wouldn’t want to take themselves.”
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: 7,716
- Average per attorney: 26
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Diversity within the firm varied depending on the practice area, though one area sources could agree on was that “women have a strong representation – you can see the firm’s efforts to reach equity over time.” Racial diversity was slightly less visible, but “the firm has been super aggressive about the issue, for example, recruiting a chief diversity officer.” Others flagged “there are affinity group meetings at least once or twice a month and a lot of other programming centered towards diversity.” Along with eight affinity groups, the firm also hosts annual implicit bias training for all attorneys, and DE&I-focused training for all partners and firm leaders.
Sources also appreciated a decent level of support for mental health: “There’s a lot of communication and resources available,” plus the incorporation of workflow oversight certainly helped for ensuring associates didn’t become inundated. There are also “Wellness at Wiley emails every Wednesday which offer free help and workshops with a consultant to voice concerns.”
Strategy & Future
Even over the pandemic, associates remained confident on the shape of the firm and its intentional one-office model. In particular, juniors told us “we’re very much kept in the loop in our groups, like anytime we have big partner hires, etc.” Managing partner Peter Shields tells us that "we’re specifically looking to invest, grow, and diversify our firm." Among other lateral hires, Shields flags that "we also hired a FDA group covering all aspects and sub-specialties." Shields adds: "We’re very intentional about not wanting to expand geographically – we like what works for us. With all that has been going on, it has been an interesting time for the legal industry. We have seen an increase in client demand from many of our practices, especially those that have been historically tied to the firm’s reputation."
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 119
Interviewees outside OCI: 6
Wiley’s recruiting focus reflects its commitment to DC, as it recruits from top law schools in Washington, DC and along the East Coast. However, Jon Burd, chair of the recruiting committee, tells us “we also attract write-in candidates from law schools across the country.” The firm meets with ten to 40 students for each school’s OCI program. Interviews are conducted in pairs by partners and mid to senior-level associates.
The firm seeks “exceptional candidates who have a demonstrated interest in joining a DC-based practice and one or more of Wiley’s core practice areas,” says Burd. Interviewers ask questions about the interviewee’s “analytic ability, drive, focus and interpersonal skills.” They look too for an interest in the firm’s involvement in DC and are seeking “promising new attorneys from diverse backgrounds and who share Wiley’s commitments to long-term professional development within our demonstrated areas of expertise.”
They also ask questions to figure out if candidates will be a good cultural fit – “so we may ask behavioral interviewing questions to find out how students have responded to different situations in school or in other work they have done,” Burd clarifies.
Top tips for this stage:
“Candidates who do well in our interview process project confidence, maturity, authenticity and strong interpersonal skills. At the interview, be able to demonstrate that you are 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: 63
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 describes its summer program as having six facets: integration; guidance and sponsorship; substantive work; hands-on learning; evaluation, feedback and growth; and special opportunities. ‘Integration’ involves social activities that allow candidate and firm to “get to know each other better.” ‘Guidance and sponsorship’ involves mentoring and meeting clients. ‘Substantive work’ involves summers self-selecting work from the assignment database. ‘Hands-on learning’ includes training sessions and taking part in the firm’s litigation skills workshop, which “includes opportunities to take and defend mock depositions and build a litigation case strategy,” Burd explains. ‘Evaluation, feedback and growth’ includes mid-summer and end-of-summer reviews to receive and give feedback. ‘Special opportunities’ include opportunities such as attending client meetings, depositions, affinity group lunches and seminars.
For the past five years, 95% of summer associates have returned as first-year associates. “At the end of the summer, we invite our summer associates to rank their top three practice group interests,” Burd tells us. “We use these rankings and consult with practice group leaders to determine placement for our junior associates, and make our best effort to place new attorneys within their top-ranked practice area.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Ask a lot of thoughtful questions that reflect your interest in learning and understanding the practice of law. Take advantage of special opportunities such as attending depositions, listening in on conference calls, and attending social events organized by the firm. It’s important to talk to as many people as possible about their experience at the firm.” – Jon Burd, chair of the recruiting committee.
Burd believes that “Wiley is a great place to build a career. This is a 30+ years-young, innovative firm that is invested in building for the future by consistently identifying and growing top talent to lead the ‘next generation’ of outstanding Wiley attorneys.”
Interview with managing partner Peter Shields
Chambers Associate: How would you describe the firm’s current market position?
Wiley continues to be a premier Washington DC firm, and our new brand reflects that we’re all things Washington. It differentiates us in the marketplace. We are really at the intersection of business and government and our location allows us to work with all branches of government, and to educate on the West coast perspective.
CA: Are there highlights from the past year or in the firm’s immediate future you think our readers should be aware about?
We’re specifically looking to invest, grow, and diversify our firm. We also brought on some key laterals including: Hon. Nazak Nikakhtar, Thomas M. Johnson, Jr., Charles McKee, Charlotte Bertrand, Jacqueline F. "Lyn" Brown, and Richard P. Leissner, Jr. We hired also hired a FDA group covering all aspects and sub-specialties. FDA has been a hot area for firms over the last seven years, and with former inhouse general council Ann Begley joining us a year ago. She is a great fit - and a lovely person.
We also spent most of the past year preparing for our move, which took place in December. Our new space is modern, competitive, and tech savvy. The new office really reflects our collaborative culture. Our move has reinvigorated the energy in our firm.
CA: Would you characterize the firm as being in growth mode?
We’re very intentional about not wanting to expand geographically – we like what works for us. With all that has been going on, it has been an interesting time for the legal industry. We have seen an increase in client demand from many of our practices, especially those that we have historically been tied to the firm’s reputation.
CA: How has the firm weathered the pandemic and has it affected the firm’s long-term strategy?
It hasn’t affected our long-term strategy – the pandemic was a shock, but we are humble, and grateful that we kept everyone. Our infrastructure is great so we pivoted to a remote structure without missing a step. Everybody overperformed -- people are still wearing multiple hats -- especially parents and families. All in all, it helped our culture. At the beginning of the pandemic we didn’t know how we would fare and how it would impact our clients, but throughout this time, we have been able to help our clients solve sophisticated problems and we have also transformed the way we work.
CA: What is the greatest challenge facing the firm in the next decade? How about the legal market more generally?
It’s the retention of talent – it’s a very competitive market and for associates that’s never been truer. We increased salaries and flexibility and have built a richer environment.
CA: How has the rise in legal technology affected the firm? Are you implementing any specific programs/initiatives with regards to technology?
We’re constantly investing in both. Our firm is doing more with clients in using technology. There’s a lot of change in real-time, and with the new office we have invested in state-of-the-art technology and are updating, focusing on knowledge management to keep ahead.
CA: What is Wiley’s approach to DE&I like?
We have created a DEI Committee and they have really been involved with implementing inclusive measures throughout every piece of our firm. Our new partner class is 50% women and 33% ethnically and racially diverse but we’re still always looking to do better with numbers. We’ve had very diverse classes over the past few summers, and internally we’re very focused on professional development.
CA: Any advice for those about to enter the legal industry?
Start with being patient and build a foundation of knowledge within your field; ask questions, take advantage of mentoring, and understand the context – it’s the best way to learn all aspects of our profession. Overall, I would suggest choosing to focus on exploring and building your independent professional identity.
2050 M Street, NW,
Washington, DC 20036,
- Head Office: Washington, DC
- Number of domestic offices: 1
- Partners (US): 119
- Associates (US): 70
- Main recruitment contact: Janell Mallard, Director of Legal Talent
- Hiring partner: Jon W Burd
- Diversity officer: Rashida MacMurray-Abdullah
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 10
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021:
- 1Ls: 1
- 2Ls: 14
- Summer salary 2021:
- 1Ls: $4,134
- 2Ls: $4,134
- Split summers offered? No
Main areas of work
■ Government Contracts
■ International Trade
■ Election Law & Government Ethics
■ Intellectual Property
■ Telecom, Media & Technology
American University Washington College of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School — George Mason University, The George Washington University Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, Harvard Law School, Howard University School of Law, University of Virginia School of Law.
Summer associate profile:
Our summer associate program is the foundation of our recruiting efforts. We ensure that summer associates experience the excellence and diversity of our firm and we provide opportunities for each student to handle responsibilities typically assumed by first year associates.
Summer program components:
The defining feature of our program is the flexibility of work assignments. We assist students in tailoring their assignments so that they gain significant exposure to a wide variety of practice areas through our interactive database of assignments. In addition, summer associates receive 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, 2022
District of Columbia
- Environment (Band 3)
- Insurance: Insurer (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Regulatory (Band 1)
- Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- False Claims Act (Band 3)
- Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 1)
- International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 2)
- Political Law (Band 1)