WilmerHale - The Inside View

WilmerHale to the chief: Meet the top litigation outfit offering a clear pipeline into government (from WH to the WH).

Having ex-government officials knocking around in the office next door isn’t a guarantee at a DC law firm, but spend any time at WilmerHale’s DC HQ and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was: “It’s a bit of a revolving door at WH,” one associate told us, “one where associates often join the government in some capacity and then return to the firm later on.” While DC is the biggest of the firm’s US offices, WilmerHale’s HQ is actually split between the Capital and Boston. However, associates were pleased to tell us that “NY has become equivalently important. It’s growing and it’s up there with the firm headquarters in terms of star power and market share.” This development also comes in a season of change for the firm, with a new office building in DC complete with “lots of high-tech resources that we were lacking before.”

“…it’s up there with the firm headquarters in terms of star power and market share.”

While the firm’s top-tier Chambers USA rankings span the likes of antitrust, appellate law, financial services regulation, government relations, intellectual property, life sciences, Native American law, and privacy & data security to name a few, it’s litigious work where the firm gets the most shine, with top-tier litigation practices in New York, Massachusetts and DC. In fact, of the associates we spoke to, it was a relatively even split between those drawn to the firm for its government links, and those with their eye on a top litigation practice: “I was interested in a firm with a high-profile litigation practice,” one explained, “one where I would be working on the kinds of cases that were in the news, and that’s where WilmerHale came in.”

Career Development

One of the big positives for associates at WilmerHale is that intentions to transition into a government role aren’t taboo: “The firm embraces the fact that some people leave, and they are supportive of whatever kind of development you want.” Even to the extent that the firm will “provide advice and help you network, whether that’s to lay out the route to partnership, or to pivot to government, without any selfishness.” For those with an eye on partnership, one associate got the sense that “it is informally guaranteed that there is one new partner every year. The presence of the one-tier partnership means I’m more likely to make counsel.” That said, the current crop did mention a good mix of home-grown talent among the existing partnership too.

The firm’s Career Advancement Program sees associates assigned two mentors the moment they join the firm, one of which will be a partner. The general consensus was that mentors were “moderately hands-on.” “Everyone has very good intentions, but people are busy,” one associate told us, “a higher percentage of the mentoring comes from working with members of the senior team.” But this was no bad thing: “After a couple of months of working together, you reach a more informal relationship.”

Strategy & Future

The big shift at WilmerHale has been the switch to a single managing partner – New York-based Anjan Sahni – where there were previously two spread between Boston and DC. Sahni, who was appointed in January 2024, took over from co-managing partners Robert T. Novick and Susan W. Murley. In particular, WH's litigation, investigations and regulatory practices will still be the focus for the firm and will continue to grow in 2024. For associates, the general consensus was that there was a “sense of excitement” for what was ahead. There have been changes too in the firm’s lateral strategy: “The corporate group is definitely growing, through laterals and also returns of people that have been here previously,” said one source.

The Work

The big three – DC, Boston and New York – house the most associates, with the offices in Denver and California also taking on a good number. Litigation stands out as the biggest sphere of recruitment in all of them, followed by the transactional, regulatory & government affairs, IP, and securities & financial services groups. For those that join as litigators, WH leans into a generalist approach for the first few years, before associates select a specific practice group. The firm uses centralized staffing when it comes to assigning work, but once relationships develop, you’re likely to be brought on to other matters: “If you work with someone and they enjoy working with you, they’ll ask if you want to jump across and work on something.”

There’s no denying that WH’s litigation department is the marquee practice area at the firm. Associates begin life as generalists, “then in your fourth year, you select a practice group, giving you the freedom to choose who you affiliate with.” The practices on offer include the likes of general commercial, white-collar and government investigations, securities, appellate, IP and more. The associates we spoke to were impressed with the firm’s openness to allow them to try their hand at various things under the litigation umbrella: “I’ve done everything that there is! I’ve put together an argument in federal court, conducted witness interviews by myself, provided substantive briefs, and assisted with and oversaw discovery and document review.” In addition to the work itself, sources praised the opportunity for face-to-face time with clients that was on offer. As one put it: “I’m touching base with different clients constantly and I’ve been able to work on a number of different government presentations, which has been a neat way to work on my advocacy.”

Litigation clients: Walmart, Shell, Apple. Represented pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences in a patent infringement trial against the US government - the first US government lawsuit against a pharma company of its kind.

The corporate offering at WH includes a healthy mix of M&A, venture capital, and capital markets. As is the case in litigation, associates are able to jump onto a number of different kinds of deals and get a taste of a bit of everything: “They make sure you spend some time on everything from venture capital to M&A,” one told us. The associates we spoke to were clear that this was a big selling point too: “I loved the exposure to different corporate markets. I knew they were a successful practice group, which is why we attract the big company names and deal sizes.” As for typical tasks as a junior, “it varies according to the group or size of the deals,” one source told us, but often included the likes of “checking against rules and filings, signature pages for closing M&A deals, due diligence across all transactions, communicating with clients, and following up on questions.”

Corporate clients: Infinity Pharmaceuticals, HawkEye 360, WeWork. Represented lingerie and apparel company AdoreMe, which sold to Victoria’s Secret for $790 million.

“There are lots of opportunities to move things forward and keep things on track.”

The broad regulatory & government affairs practice group umbrella encompasses several subgroups covering energy, environment & natural resources, trade, cybersecurity, defense & national security, antitrust, and strategic response. The main hub of the regulatory and government affairs work is the firm’s DC office, but you’ll find plenty of associates and partners across the country working on matters together. As one associate told us: “I primarily work with a partner on the West Coast and other members of my team on the East Coast, but there’s no pressure or need to move to a different office.” Associates in regulatory & government affairs also spoke of a good mix in the work: “The work I’ve got to do has been really awesome, it has been so diverse!” Typical junior tasks included taking note of “talking points for partners during meetings with government officials and a lot of it is project management, which is great.” Worth a mention was the “big air of team spirit. There are lots of opportunities to move things forward and keep things on track, so partners can have their plates cleared.”

Regulatory clients: Facebook, Intuit, Tesla. Represented the University of Pennsylvania in a suit alleging that the university had violated antitrust laws in regard to its scholarship program.

Pro Bono

Associates were unanimous that the firm’s approach to pro bono was a big part of the draw: “It has the effect of incentivizing people to take on more. We’re highly encouraged to do so and get experience.” All of an associate’s pro bono hours count towards their billable target, and there’s no cap, meaning associates can take full advantage. The enthusiasm is infectious too: “WilmerHale is up there with the best firms in the country for pro bono!” The associates we spoke to had worked on everything from asylum applications to criminal appeals and abortion rights matters: “Following the Dobbs decision we did a ton of work in Planned Parenthood and have spent hundreds of hours challenging some of the laws that have been introduced.” Other cases can be brought in by associates themselves: “Most people use it to get their first appearances in depositions. Relatively few things get turned down.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all (US) attorneys: 135,720
  • Average per (US) attorney: 125

Hours & Compensation

Billable Hours: 2,000 for full bonus

To ensure you get your full bonus, you’ll need to hit your 2,000-hour target. That being said, “it’s easy to hit that in New York, given how busy we are,” one NY associate chimed in. The general feeling was that the uncapped pro bono hours (as well as 50 billable hours for diversity-related work) softened the blow, and even when things were busy: “I don’t feel like I’m just passed the buck, it’s not a sink-or-swim kind of environment.” What’s more: “If things have become untenable, then we have our practice manager to go to, so it’s nice to have people looking out for you that way.” One sticking point for almost all the associates on our list was the introduction of a new in-office policy requiring attorneys to be in the office for three days a week (where previously being fully remote was an option): “I think it had a negative impact on morale,” one commented.


Associates at WilmerHale painted the picture of a “quiet, thoughtful culture,” at the firm, set around forming natural bonds with colleagues: “We’re not necessarily the most social firm, we respect each other’s social lives and we’ll all go home and have dinner with our families,” one associate told us, but they explained that “people can do that in smaller, informal groups, of course. Not to mention that on the plus side - we’re very drama free!” This more relaxed culture seems to largely stem from the attorneys' passion for their jobs, with one source highlighting a collaborative and kind environment where “people are dedicated to the work not just as a means to an end.” Some voiced a desire for more social events outside of an affinity group context (where there are monthly social events with a budget from the firm), but associates were quick to point out that there was plenty of room for common ground: “At interview, the people I met made me stop and think, ‘I want to be like this person when I’m a seventh year. They were all super-confident and smart.”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

“I’ve noticed a significant growth in diverse attorneys at the firm, across the country,” one source mentioned when asked about the firm’s representation, adding: “We have active affinity groups, and the firm makes sure our staffing is fair and unbiased.” There were a host of positive comments around the accessibility and popularity of affinity group events too: “The LGBTQ affinity group and others like it are really well attended.” As for gender diversity, we heard “the firm is mostly women” with an active Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), which is made up of “a group of women at the firm, across all levels, that put on social events and host speakers.” The pride for the female attorneys was strongly felt as one source exclaimed: “It was great to show up and see all these wonderful, amazing women!”

Get Hired 

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus


OCI applicants interviewed: 1,330  


Interviewees outside OCI: not tracked  


WilmerHale spreads its wings across the country to recruit candidates from 26 law school OCI programs and recruited at four job fairs last year. 2021-2022 saw members of the hiring committee and alumni conduct around 1,300 OCIs. The firm searches for candidates who know what they like about WilmerHale and can see themselves fitting into the bigger picture. Beyond a strong academic record and relevant prior experience, the hiring team is looking for candidates who work well in teams and build relationships. Those with strong leadership, problem-solving and analytical skills will thrive at the firm, as will excellent writers and oral communicators. Applicants should be prepared to talk confidently about everything on their resume, including any awards or journal contributions.  




Applicants invited to second stage: 682  


Successful candidates are called back to the offices (or remotely) to meet a mix of associates and partners for between two and two and a half hours. These attorneys will also range in practice area specialties depending on the candidate’s interests voiced upon the scheduling of their interview. The firm provides applicants with an interview schedule so that they have the chance to research the interviewers in advance and learn about their practices. WilmerHale advises that candidates review firm news and look at recent press releases as interviewers expect applicants to be reasonably well educated about the firm’s basics. Aside from that, it’s always a good idea to be yourself during the interview process as finding the right fit is as important as finding top talent.  


Summer program


Offers: 280 


Acceptances: Undisclosed 117 


The structured summer program at WilmerHale will not only allow summer associates to undertake intellectually stimulating assignments from a range of practice areas, but they will also accompany lawyers to depositions, hearings, trials, client meetings, negotiations and closings. Case teams will split the summers up to witness various litigation, investigations and deals, as well as encourage them to participate in existing pro bono opportunities. The firm treats its summers as fully fledged junior associates by having a training program in place to assist in their professional development and to give them a sample of the training and development provided to attorneys.  


The training topics include research, negotiation, deposition, presentation skills, legal writing, case studies and mock trials and departmental panels and meetings. Formal mid-summer reviews with co-chairs are in place to account for the progress.  


Work aside, a partner/counsel and an associate will be assigned as advisers to each summer to mentor them through the firm. There’ll also be plenty of opportunities for summers to join in at office-wide meetings and lunches. Summer associates who typically stand out are team players who take initiative and ownership of their work. The firm also advises summers to treat the experience as a real job, show enthusiasm, demonstrate attention to detail, ask for feedback and understand how to solicit and incorporate that feedback into their work.  


Top tips:     


“It would be helpful to understand the kind of work Wilmer does, but also read into the public interest work and figure out the spirit of the place.” –a third-year associate.    


Lateral Hiring


Lateralling to WilmerHale is a possibility if there’s a practice need. The firm generally hires 50 to 60 attorneys laterally in a calendar year, from a variety of firms. Lateral hires are chosen based on specific practice area expertise or geographic location, so WilmerHale routinely considers candidates from government agencies for its regulatory and contested matters practices. We’re told that the corporate/transactional, intellectual property and intellectual property litigation, investigations and regulatory spaces are the ones to keep an eye on for lateral hiring. 



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

2100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC,
DC 20037

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 200 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 —and 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 2024:
University of California-Berkeley, Boston College, Boston University, University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Loyola Law School - LA, University of 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, 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
Instagram: @WilmerHale

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Environment (Band 5)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 2)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
    • Venture Capital (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Media & Entertainment (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Life Sciences (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Technology (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 6)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Antitrust: Cartel (Band 1)
    • Appellate Law (Band 1)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Derivatives (Band 3)
    • FCPA (Band 1)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 3)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Broker Dealer (Compliance & Enforcement) (Band 1)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Litigation) (Band 3)
    • Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Government Relations: Congressional Investigations (Band 1)
    • Government Relations: Federal (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Appellate (Band 1)
    • International Arbitration: The Elite (Band 4)
    • International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 2)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions: The Elite (Band 4)
    • International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 5)
    • International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 3)
    • Life Sciences (Band 1)
    • Native American Law (Band 3)
    • Native American Law: Appellate (Band 1)
    • Privacy & Data Security: Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 4)
    • Securities: Regulation: Advisory (Band 1)
    • Securities: Regulation: Enforcement (Band 1)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 3)