2021 Vault Rankings
At a Glance
“The best parts of the firm [are] the people and the culture they create.”
“The type of work I do is really interesting.”
“Lack of training.”
“As with any large firm, the hours can be very demanding.”
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, Hong Kong, 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.
News & Awards
Steptoe's Los Angeles office joined a coalition of more than two dozen law firms, bar associations, and nonprofits in an initiative to increase pro bono services for local residents and businesses struggling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 5, 2020, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the "LA Represents" pro bono initiative to provide pro bono legal services to LA residents facing hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In December 2019, Steptoe announced the expansion of its cross-border investigations, compliance and enforcement practice in Asia with the launch of a new Hong Kong office led by Wendy Wysong and her team, Ali Burney and Nick Turner, who joined Steptoe as partner and of counsel respectively. They focus their practice on cross-border financial crime, including conduct implicating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other anti-corruption laws, economic sanctions, export controls, and anti-boycott laws.
Steptoe expanded its partnership with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in October 2019 by taking on complex litigation matters involving the rights of the LGBTQ community. HRC announced its partnership with Steptoe and other firms to combat attacks on LGBTQ equality in the United States and abroad. HRC and Steptoe are working to pursue strategic litigation in state and federal courts to aggressively address discriminatory actions by those who target the LGBTQ community.
In August 2019, Steptoe launched its inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Annual Report. The report, presented by the firm's Diversity & Inclusion Committee, provides an overview of the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion efforts, highlights, and accomplishments from the past year. Steptoe's diversity reflects a broad cross-section of the firm, which is recognized in the firm's affinity groups: Asian Lawyers, Black Lawyers, Latin Lawyers, Steptoe Pride, and the Women's Forum.
- On July 17, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Nathan of the Southern District of New York dismissed with prejudice the government’s Iran sanctions criminal case against Ali Sadr, who was found guilty by a jury in March. The judge’s decision stemmed from a June 5 request by the U.S. attorney for the SDNY to dismiss the case on the grounds that “it would not be in the interests of justice to further prosecute this case.” The stunning move by the U.S. attorney came after Steptoe doggedly pursued proof that the government failed to comply with its discovery obligations, leading to post-trial revelations that prosecutors suppressed a significant volume of exculpatory evidence and made multiple misrepresentations to the court.
- 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 US history.
- 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.
- Top Firms for Diverse Partnership, 2020 – Yale Law Women
- Best Law Firms for Minority Partners, 2019 – Law360
- Mansfield Rule 2.0 Certification, 2019 – Diversity Lab
- Best Law Firms for Women, 2019 – Working Mother
- Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality, 2018-2020 – Human Rights Campaign
1330 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 429-3000
Chair: Philip R. West
Hiring Partners: Patrick Linehan and Patricia Palacios
Total No. Attorneys 2020:
250 - 500
1st year: $190,000
Summer associate: $3,465/week
Hedy J. Aponte
Legal Recruiting Manager
No. of U.S. Offices: 5
No. of International Offices: 4
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.