Williams & Connolly LLP at a Glance


  • “Associates have increased responsibility early on”
  • “Lack of explicit focus on billable hours”
  • “Superb exit opportunities and realistic partnership prospects”


  • “Lack of transparency”
  • “Trial work means hours can be long”
  • “Senior associates at this firm make less than market”

The Buzz

  • “DC litigation super elites”
  • “Strong alumni network”
  • “Anal retentive”
  • “Exclusionary culture”

About Williams & Connolly LLP

Relatively tiny Williams & Connolly has resisted globalization and continues to hold its own against firms ten times its size by following a basic mantra: keep it simple. The firm's 250+ attorneys focus almost exclusively on litigation from a lone office in Washington, DC, positioning Williams & Connolly as a go-to firm for politicos, celebrities, professional athletes, and even other law firms.

A Short, Illustrious History

Legendary litigator-to-the-stars Edward Bennett Williams teamed with Paul Connolly, a former student of his at Georgetown Law, to open shop in 1967. The fledgling firm soon boasted a client list that included the biggest names in Hollywood, politics, and media-a pattern that has continued over time with representation of-among others-John Hinckley Jr., Oliver North, Bill and Hillary Clinton during the Whitewater and Lewinsky years, and Senator Ted Stevens in a case the firm famously succeeded in having thrown out for prosecutorial misconduct.

The personality cult built around Williams-Jimmy Hoffa's lawyer and one-time owner of the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Orioles-brought the firm attention and cemented its reputation as a Beltway go-to. But the firm isn't just about entertainment-it has political ties in high, high places: Elena Kagan, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, is a former associate of the firm. High-flying political connections aside, however, Williams & Connolly's bread-and-butter lies in its representation of such institutions as Google, Intel, UBS, Pfizer, General Electric, Bayer, Bank of America, Office Depot, Merck, 21st Century Fox, The Washington Post, Express Scripts, Mars, Samsung, AutoNation, CVS, Sony, Walt Disney, Eli Lilly, and Sprint.

Shoot for the Stars

Best known for handling high stakes, complex litigation, the firm has a thriving intellectual property practice ranging from pharmaceuticals to electronics, has presented oral argument to the Supreme Court six times in the last five years and serves as national coordinating counsel and trial counsel for large product liability cases. The firm also represents numerous law firms and accounting firms in professional responsibility and other litigation, including over time almost half of the AmLaw 100 and three of the top five accounting firms, making Williams & Connolly the firm that lawyers and other professionals seek out when the going gets rough.

Keeping with its individualist ethos, Williams & Connolly operates without strict departmental boundaries, allowing attorneys to bounce among any number of litigation areas and, thus, creating great flexibility within the firm. That said, successful associates tend to gravitate toward specific focal areas as they become more experienced, as is exemplified by partner Robert Barnett. In addition to litigating for corporate clients such as Deutsche Bank and Toyota, Barnett is one of the foremost representatives of non-fiction literary and television talent in the nation. He has represented the Clintons, Jordan's Queen Noor, Benazir Bhutto, Barack Obama, and Tony Blair on book deals. Barnett has also helped Katie Couric, Sam Donaldson, and CNN contributor Sanjay Gupta remain handsomely paid.

Big Base, No Bonus

As one might expect of a firm that plays by its own rules, Williams & Connolly's no-bonus compensation structure is a bit of an anomaly in the legal arena. The firm, however, endeavors to make up for the absence of stocking stuffers by routinely leading the pack in the race to pay first-year associates exorbitant sums of cash. In April 2015, Williams & Connolly increased its beginning salary again, this time to $200,000, a figure representing a $40,000 cushion over most other BigLaw firms around the nation, including New York.


Where's the Beef?

Williams & Connolly represents ABC and three of its journalists in Beef Products Inc., v. American Broadcasting Cos. Inc., a high-visibility defamation case involving "World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer" in which the plaintiffs have asserted claims of libel and product disparagement arising out of news reports. The case is in discovery and is set for trial in 2017.

May 2016
How Appealing!

Williams & Connolly represented Bank of America in a recent Second Circuit appeal in which the court reversed a $1.27 billion judgment against the bank, concluding that the government did not prove that a Bank of America unit had committed fraud when it sold packages of mortgage loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the wake of the financial crisis. The court of appeals remanded the case with an order to enter judgment in favor of the Bank.

December 2015
Bailing out a Bond Man

In the only criminal case against an individual in connection with TARP, Jesse Litvak, a bond trader with Jefferies & Co., was convicted of securities fraud and other offenses and sentenced to two years of imprisonment. Mr. Litvak retained Williams & Connolly to handle his appeal to the Second Circuit. On December 8, 2015, the Second Circuit reversed Mr. Litvak's conviction for fraud and making false statements. The court also vacated Mr. Litvak's conviction on several counts of securities fraud and remanded the case for a new trial on those counts.

August 2015
Flash Boys

Williams & Connolly represented the NYSE in two sets of class actions lawsuits relating to high-frequency trading, a topic that has received wide public attention recently through Michael Lewis's book, Flash Boys. One alleged that the national securities exchanges violated the securities laws by allowing some customers advance access to market information, which those customers allegedly used to the detriment of the plaintiff-class. Following defendants' motion to dismiss, the court dismissed the case with prejudice in August 2015. The second class action made similar allegations under state law. In April 2015, the court granted defendants' motions to dismiss with prejudice.

May 2015
It's Not TV. It's HBO.

Williams & Connolly represented HBO as lead trial counsel in the first major defamation case to go to trial against a national television broadcaster in years. Mitre Sports, a major soccer ball manufacturer, brought this action against HBO, asserting that a segment on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" falsely portrayed the company as using, or turning a blind eye to the use of, child labor in the manufacture of soccer balls in India. Mitre sought tens of millions in damages. After a four-week trial-and only five hours of deliberations-the jury returned a verdict in HBO's favor.

January 2015
Hack the Planet

Williams & Connolly was lead counsel for News Corp in the four-year U.S. DOJ investigation regarding the alleged bribery of public officials in London and the alleged interception of voicemail messages by its U.K. newspaper subsidiary, News of the World. In January 2015, DOJ notified Williams & Connolly that it was closing the investigation without bringing charges.

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Williams & Connolly LLP

725 Twelfth Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 434-5000


  • Employer Type: Private
  • Executive Director: Jennifer Scott
  • Managing Partner: Kevin Hodges
  • Hiring Committee Chair: Daniel P. Shanahan
  • Total No. Attorneys 2016: 331

  • Base Salary
    Washington, DC
    1st year: $200,000
    2nd year: $215,000
    3rd year: $230,000
    4th year: $250,000
    5th year: $270,000
    6th year: $290,000
    7th year: $310,000
    Summer associate: $3,845/week

  • Summer Associate Offers
    The firm says: “Because nearly all of our summer associates obtain judicial clerkships, formal offers are only extended after the clerks receive permission from judges to request offers. Typically, all summer associates who request offers are welcomed for permanent employment.”

  • Major Departments & Practices
    Administrative Law
    Business Acquisition and Consolidation
    Civil Litigation and Trial Practice
    Class Action
    Commercial Litigation
    Congressional Investigations
    Corporate Governance and Compliance
    Counseling for Private Company Formation, Non-Profits, Joint Ventures, LLC’s
    Credit Facilities
    Criminal Defense and Government Investigations
    Directors and Officers Liability
    Economic Sanctions
    Employment and Labor
    Employment Relationships, Counseling and Advisory Services
    Executive Compensation
    False Claims Act and Qui Tam
    FDA Regulation
    Federal Programs, Aerospace and Defense, and Government Contracts
    Financial Services Litigation
    First Amendment and Media
    Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
    Health Care Fraud
    Intellectual Property Litigation
    International Arbitration
    International Litigation
    Product Liability, Torts, and Medicine
    Professional Liability
    Public Corruption
    Real Estate
    Representation of Authors, Former Government Officials and Television Correspondents, Anchors, and Producers
    Securities Enforcement
    Securities Litigation
    Sports Business
    Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation
    Tax Controversy
    Tax Planning
    Trade Secrets
    Trademark and Copyright
    Transactions and Business Counseling

Major Office Locations

  • Washington, DC