WilmerHale - The Inside View

With one foot planted in Boston and another in DC, WilmerHale offers a home to intellectually minded young attorneys.

IT'S been 15 years since the merger between DC's Wilmer Cutler Pickering and Boston's Hale and Dore, and the present-day firm is equally well regarded for government-related work in the nation's capital and for life sciences and tech in Massachusetts, plus much else besides. And it's not just a tale of two cities – this prestigious firm has offices on both coasts and in Colorado plus five overseas, and earns top nationwide nods from Chambers USA for antitrust, appellate law, financial regulation, IP, life sciences, and securities regulation. Impressive!

Wilmer's already strong reputation for government-related law has only grown as alumnus Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election repeatedly hit the headlines. Several former partners joined the special counsel's team and juniors noticed “the firm's profile has risen” in DC and nationwide as a result. Wilmer's also “well known for its strong commitment to pro bono” and public interest issues.

Pro Bono

One of the firm's past partners authored Justice and the Poor – the influential book that kickstarted efforts to secure equal justice across the US in the early 20th century – so it's no surprise that pro bono is a big deal at WilmerHale. “It's viewed internally exactly how you'd expect from the marketing,” insiders confirmed. Associates can count 100% of pro bono hours toward their billing target and had “never heard of any kind of de facto cap. Some people bill 400 hours a year and don't get negative feedback.” There's a 20-hour minimum for all attorneys, though they're “encouraged to spend 50 hours on pro bono. The only problem is it can be a struggle to get partners to anchor cases, because they know they'll get so heavily invested!”

“It's viewed internally exactly how you'd expect from the marketing.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 122,379
  • Average per US attorney: 136

Interviewees gushed about their work on veteran benefits disputes, helping the elderly with wills, and consulting for small businesses; immigration matters are also becoming more prominent, particularly in California. Juniors noted that “Wilmer is known to be politically active, but it often gets lost that there's work on both sides of the table” up for grabs.

The Work

We've mentioned DC and Boston above, but WilmerHale also recruits heavily in New York and in California. At the time of our research roughly a quarter of juniors were in Boston, a quarter in DC, a quarter in New York, and the rest in Palo Alto, Los Angeles or Denver. Over half of juniors start as litigation generalists. Most of the rest join corporate, IP, or securities litigation & enforcement. Each group has an assignment coordinator but the extent to which they control workflow varies by practice and location. “One of the best things about having the coordinator is they can help you turn down work, so you're not in a position of saying yes to everything,” according to one associate. “If there's a downside it's that they tend to start you off with exposure to everything, which can be hard if you want to narrow your practice early.”

Most litigators keep their options open until their fourth year, when they begin to home in on a more specific case type. Starting out primarily on government and internal investigations “is fairly common for first-years, as you can really dive into the facts without knowing a lot about the legal backbone of the case.” Appellate work and commercial litigation are also in the mix. Palo Alto and LA lean more and more toward IP, which generalist litigators can use to fill their plates. “I did document review for the first six months but I've not seen any in years,” a third-year revealed. “Leading up to trial I'm now drafting a lot of discovery motions and evidence outlines for witnesses.” Most favored the investigations side of Wilmer's practice, where they were “creating presentations and searching for supplementary documents.” Next on the wish list of juniors we spoke to was more experience on depositions, which some saw more of than others.

Litigation clients: City of Chicago, Intel, and Prudential. Secured a 60% fine reduction for Japanese electronics manufacturer ELNA in a price-fixing investigation by the DOJ and six international regulatory bodies.

“If you take the initiative you can get into your areas of interest.”

Some juniors join the dedicated securities litigation and enforcement group. DC houses half of them; the team there “works on a lot of big investigations, whereas Boston and New York do more litigation.” On the disputes side Wilmer handles class actions, derivatives suits, and M&A-related litigation, for which juniors “review documents, put together materials to prep the client and draft sections of briefs and motions to dismiss.” Excited to be involved in “high-profile matters on the front page of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal,” sources active on the investigations side confirmed: “You start out doing more of the admin tasks. It's very easy to get caught up in doc review, but if you take the initiative you can get into your areas of interest.”

Securities clients: Royal Bank of Scotland, Comcast, and TerraForm Global. Defended biopharma company Ophthotech in an investor class action alleging violation of the 1934 Securities Exchange Act.

WilmerHale's corporate team is generalist and associates get to dip their toes in M&A, capital markets, and technology transactions. “I imagine if I could focus on one or two areas I'd get more responsibility,” one insider reasoned, “but I'm generally happy because I can try all sorts of different things.” Each office has its own distinct client base – in Palo Alto that means working with tech startups, Boston is the biotech hub, and New York works with financial institutions on insurance and capital markets deals. “The firm does cross-staff,” so geography is no obstacle to associates' ambitions. Drafting ancillary documents and doing due diligence are staples in M&A; venture finance deals were popular as “juniors get more responsibility quicker because there aren't as many ancillaries involved.” With an eye to the future, one source observed that “corporate is a good option if you want to go in-house with a client one day.”

Corporate clients: BNP Paribas, Fortive, and PTC Therapeutics. Acted for healthcare and security technology provider Analogic on its $1.1 billion acquisition by private investment firm Altaris Capital Partners.

Career Development

Associates in Boston and New York noticed a lot of colleagues go in-house after a few years at Wilmer. Others take up government positions – in DC especially “Wilmer is known for its revolving door with government. And there's an understanding that if you leave and make a name for yourself in government there will likely be a spot for you to come back if you want.” Though many admitted to not having partnership aspirations (Wilmer only promotes a handful of partners each year), our interviewees made clear “there is room for it to happen. Two associateswho summered here recently made partner, which gave us a lot of hope.”

In it for the long haul or not, associates were confident “the firm doesn't look down on anybody's plans and helps them achieve their goal.” Wilmer hosts a one-week 'Contested Matters' training program for litigators “that's basically disputes 101,” and a one-week 'Corporate University' for transactional juniors which “is even more substantive because you don't really learn what you need to in law school.” The firm crams most associate training into the first six months of their career and after a few years “you're mostly learning by doing.”


Attorneys come together for semi-regular happy hours in each office. “It's up to you” how much to get into the social swing of things  – “each group has its own opportunities but you're not penalized for not attending.” The size of the firm means many split off into their own friendship groups, some of which “hang out at weekends and plan holidays together.” A Boston source noticed “if you go down to the cafeteria you'll see previous summer classes still clinging on to their daily lunch together.” Some clamored for “more events and conversations between different departments.”

“Wilmer has quite a nerdy thing going."

That's not to say there was any tension between groups – again and again we heard “everyone is happy to help each other out. If work is making one person unhappy, we're all unhappy so we don't take things out on each other.” The New York and Boston offices share a “friendly rivalry like the Yankees and Red Sox – it's all in jest.” Big Apple juniors dubbed their office “pretty young in character,” while Bostonians noted: “People are especially friendly here.” DC stands out as “definitely having a focus on politics, and it feels a bit more intellectual here than at some other firms.” In fact the word “intellectual” came up in more than one of our interviews. “Wilmer has quite a nerdy thing going on compared to other big firms," one source mused. Intellectual titans they may be, but we heard most partners are “approachable and always ready to give you advice. It really makes crazy hours easier to deal with.”

Hours & Compensation

Very few associates had Kiss levels of crazy, crazy nights to deal with – most were “usually offline by 8:30pm,” and East Coast sources stuck to “a more normal 9am to 6pm schedule” and logged back on to work at home if necessary. West Coasters were more likely to bend their hours to account for time zone differences. “If you're running behind you can just let people know, and people are pretty flexible,” according to a New York source, while a Los Angeles junior observed: “After a string of long nights the partners are cognizant of giving us a break.”

“Usually offline by 8:30pm.”

The 2,000-hour billing target is “pretty easy to make if you work for it” even if some associates reckoned “it's higher than at some comparable firms. I feel like I should hit the target to show I'm doing a good job but I don't think I'd get fired or anything if I didn't.” Wilmer offers an additional bonus at 2,200 hours and some associates spoke of a mysterious “blue moon outstanding worker increase,” but weren't sure on how to get one.

“They killed us with how quiet they were,” one impatient interviewee laughed when we asked about the market salary increases of 2018. “In the end they matched, but there was some grumbling that Wilmer was slow to react.” Most associates were pleased with the firm's cautious approach, however, arguing it was “wise to look through all the financial implications before committing.”

Get Hired

“I think if there's any trait I really demonstrated in my interview it was enthusiasm,” a junior reminisced. “I really wanted to be at Wilmer and that shone through.” Learn more about what the firm is looking for when it's recruiting by clicking on the 'Bonus Features' tab above.

Diversity & Inclusion

The firm recently ran implicit bias training to help attorneys keep diversity in mind when interviewing candidates. Juniors appreciated that “the firm puts quite a bit of emphasis on diversity with programs in each office,” including parties for diverse attorneys and forums run by the Women's Leadership Initiative. “Meetings and initiatives are great, but results are better,” one interviewee pointed out. “Wilmer is trying to address concerns but we want to see concrete progress, and I do wish things were better at partner level.” The firm cleared one hurdle in 2018 by earning Mansfield Certification Plus status, indicating that 30% of lawyers in leadership roles specified by the industry-wide initiative were women or people of color. New York and California earned the most positive feedback. “We have really good female partners," one source said, "which helps with recruitment of female associates. From a mentorship perspective it really makes a difference to have examples to look up to.”

Strategy & Future

Acknowledging that Wilmer's already a dominant force in DC and Boston, some of our junior sources predicted “the future of expansion will be in California. There have long been rumors about a San Francisco office and we always have more work than we can handle on the West Coast.” Across the board interviewees were confident that “Wilmer is really considering the future of the law and newer areas like cybersecurity are really taking off.”

Get Hired

Coming soon...


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

1875 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC,

  • Head offices: Boston, MA and Washington, DC
  • Number of domestic offices: 7
  • Number of international offices: 5
  • Worldwide revenue: $1,149,000,000
  • Partners (US): 240
  • Associates (US): 525
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contacts:
  • Beth Miller (firmwide)
  • Karen Rameika (Boston)
  • Michelle Petlow (Denver, Los Angeles and Palo Alto)
  • Nancy Gray (New York)
  • Samantha Amoonarquah (Washington, DC)
  • Hiring partners:
  • John Hobgood & Sarah Petty (Boston)
  • Ben Fernandez (Denver)
  • Chris Casamassima (Los Angeles)
  • Erin Sloane & Alan Schoenfeld (New York)
  • Michael Mugmon (Palo Alto)
  • Jonathan Paikin (Washington, DC)
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 75
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019:
  • 1Ls: 2, 2Ls: 77, SEOs: 4
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office:
  • Boston: 23, Denver: 4, LA: 3, NY: 18, Palo Alto: 7, Washington DC: 24
  • Summer salary 2019:
  • 1Ls: $3,700/week
  • 2Ls: $3,700/week
  • Split summers offered? Yes
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? Yes

Main areas of work

 Our global practice includes over 500 litigators with unmatched trial, appellate and Supreme Court experience; a preeminent securities law practice with over 200 lawyers; a regulatory practice that includes more than 100 lawyers who have held high-level government positions; an intellectual property practice enriched by the expertise of more than 200 attorneys and technology specialists with more than 120 who hold scientific, engineering or technical degrees; more than 160 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 —a nd 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.


Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
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 Texas, University of Virginia, Yale.

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, Boston Lawyers Group Diversity Job Fair, BU/BC Job Fair, Harvard Law School BLSA Job Fair, Lavender Law, Loyola Patent Law Program, Rocky Mountain Diversity Legal Career Fair.

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.

Social media

Recruitment website: www.wilmerhalecareers.com
Linkedin: WilmerHale
Twitter: @WilmerHale

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Venture Capital Recognised Practitioner
    • Environment Recognised Practitioner
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Media & Entertainment (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Technology (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 5)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Antitrust: Cartel (Band 1)
    • Appellate Law (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Derivatives Recognised Practitioner
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations (Band 2)
    • FCPA (Band 2)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 3)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Broker Dealer (Compliance & Enforcement) (Band 1)
    • Government Relations (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • International Arbitration (Band 3)
    • International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 2)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions (Band 4)
    • International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 3)
    • International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences (Band 1)
    • Native American Law (Band 3)
    • Privacy & Data Security (Band 2)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 4)
    • Securities: Regulation (Band 1)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 3)