2020 Vault Rankings
At a Glance
“High-level work in an elite practice group.”
“Hours can be tough.”
“The below-market bonuses.”
“Lack of partnership prospects.”
About Steptoe & Johnson LLP
Steptoe & Johnson LLP got its start representing the airline industry, as well as pipelines, railroads, and foreign companies whose assets had been seized during World War II. Today, the firm serves as counsel to a number of blue-chip clients and is routinely ranked among the top firms for international trade, insurance, tax, intellectual property, energy, white collar criminal defense, and the ever-evolving arena of internet law.
In 1913, Philip Steptoe and Colonel Louis Johnson, both graduates of the University of Virginia School of Law, combined forces to form Steptoe & Johnson in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The match verged on cliché: a pairing of the introverted Steptoe with the extroverted Johnson, adept at politics and people. Johnson agreed to serve as Assistant Secretary of War for FDR in 1937. When he was done, he stuck around the capital and established the firm’s Washington, DC, presence in 1945, after which he moved on to serve as Harry Truman’s secretary of defense.
In 1980, the West Virginia and DC offices of the firm split in two, creating a name confusion that persists even today—Steptoe & Johnson LLP, which goes by Steptoe, is not to be confused with the still-in-existence Steptoe & Johnson PLLC in West Virginia. With offices throughout the U.S. as well as in London, Beijing, and Brussels, the former now has more than 400 attorneys—roughly 260 of whom are located in the DC office.
In the Pipeline
Steptoe is known for its white collar defense practice, and partner Reid Weingarten is a major player in this area. In addition to counseling and defending individuals and companies on criminal prosecutions and investigations, the firm also regularly conducts internal investigations.
The firm’s energy group is also highly regarded. In the electric power space, the firm advises clients in the electric industry on various multi-disciplinary areas, including antitrust, investigations, litigation, M&A, power markets, PURPA and distributed energy resources, transmission and power development, and regulatory matters, to name some. Steptoe lawyers also have deep experience in oil and gas pipelines, aiding clients as with creation, financing, and operation of oil pipelines around the world.
Like many DC firms, Steptoe has seen both Beltway business people and politicos come through its doors. Among the firm’s alumni are BET’s CEO Debra L. Lee and Montana governor Steve Bullock. Boasting government experience, the firm’s roster includes attorneys who formerly served under the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, and Treasury; the Securities and Exchange Commission; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; the FBI; the FTC; the IRS; the NSA; the U.S. Senate Banking and Finance Committees; and the Office of the Vice President. The firm is also home to former members of the House and Senate to round things out.
News & Awards
In its June 2019 issue, The National Law Journal named Steptoe’s Insurance Group a DC Litigation Department of the Year. This marked the third time in five years that the group has won the award. To select the winners, the editors asked litigation departments in the nation’s capital to describe their practices, including their biggest wins in 2018.
In March 2019, Steptoe’s Transportation Group was named a Law360 Transportation Group of the Year. This marked the third consecutive year that the group has won the award. In a profile, the editors highlighted some of the group’s successes over the past year, including defending major railroads in high-stakes litigation concerning issues of agency deference and federal preemption, and helping airlines and energy companies navigate complex accident investigations.
In February 2019, The American Lawyer published an article covering the launch of Steptoe’s Talent Sponsorship program, which pairs associates with partner mentors at the firm. The voluntary program is designed for diverse associates at the firm to enhance and expand upon the professional development opportunities that all associates receive. The program also aims to ensure that the firm maintains a talented group of diverse attorneys that may potentially advance to senior levels at the firm.
In October 2018, Global Investigations Review named Steptoe to its GIR 30, an independent guide to the world’s best firms for international investigations. This marked the fourth consecutive year that the firm has been selected for the list, which is part of the GIR 100, an annual guide to the world’s leading cross-border investigations practices.
- In a precedent-setting victory, Steptoe secured a complete defense acquittal for David Rainey, the highest ranking BP executive charged in the fatal 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
- In what Law360 ranked as one of the top 10 copyright rulings of 2015, a federal court jury in Virginia returned a $25 million verdict in favor of Steptoe client BMG, finding Cox Communications guilty of willful contributory copyright infringement.
- Steptoe partner Jim Barnette, who leads the firm’s lobbying efforts on behalf of Facebook, helped prepare CEO Mark Zuckerberg for his April 2018 testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. At the beginning of the hearing, Barnette, who was sitting directly behind Zuckerberg, was openly praised by the committee’s vice-chair.
- Steptoe represented the von Pezold family in a successful claim before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes against the government of Zimbabwe over a “racially discriminatory” land reform program. This matter netted Steptoe a 2016 The American Lawyer award for Global Dispute of the Year: Investment Arbitration.
- Chambers Diversity & Inclusion award for Corporate Social Responsibility, 2019
- Working Mother’s “Best Law Firms for Women,” 2019
- Yale Law Women’s “Top Ten Firms for Gender Equity” and “Top Ten Firms for Family Friendliness,” 2019
- Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality,” 2019
- Leadership Council on Legal Diversity “Top Performer,” 2016, 2017, 2018
1330 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 429-3000
Chair: Philip R. West
Hiring Partner: Patrick Linehan
Total No. Attorneys 2019:
250 - 500
1st year: $190,000
Summer associate: $3,465/week
Summer Associate Offers:
17 out of 18* (2Ls) (2018) *One offer postponed due to clerkship.
No. of Summer Associates:
22 total (19 2Ls; 3 1Ls) (2018)
Los Angeles, CA
New York, NY
San Francisco, CA
Washington, DC (HQ)
Compliance, Investigations, Trade & Enforcement:
White-Collar and Government Investigations
Anti-corruption, Export Controls, and Sanctions
Litigation & Arbitration:
Insurance, Reinsurance & Professional Liability
ERISA Investigations and Labor & Employment
Regulatory & Legislative:
Government Affairs & Public Policy
Tax, Transactions & Private Clients:
Tax & Private Client
*See firm website for complete list of practice areas and industries.