2019 Vault Rankings
“Close working relationships with partners”
“Typical BigLaw hours”
“Opaque path to partnership”
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 litigation, and evolving Internet law, including “open Internet” policies, privacy, law enforcement, and cybersecurity.
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, who had a way with people and politics.
It was Johnson’s inclination for politics that helped pave the road for the future Steptoe & Johnson. Johnson agreed to serve as Assistant Secretary of War in FDR’s cabinet in 1937. When he was done, he stuck around the capital and established the firm’s Washington, DC presence in 1945. The Colonel didn’t waste time diving back into politics, though—he accepted a position as Harry Truman’s secretary of defense not long after setting up shop in DC.
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.
Steptoe & Johnson LLP is known for its white-collar criminal defense practice, and partner Reid Weingarten is a major player in this area. During his illustrious career, he has represented several high-profile individuals including Enron Corporation’s chief accounting officer, Richard Causey; WorldCom chief executive, Bernard Ebbers; former Secretary of Commerce, Ronald H. Brown; former Secretary of Agriculture, Michael Espy; former Teamsters president, Ron Carey; Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein; and film director Roman Polanski.
Steptoe’s international trade group is similarly well-regarded. The group recently represented SKF Inc. in a long-running anti-dumping suit and the government of China in its first-ever case as a complainant before the World Trade Organization.
Steptoe, like many DC firms, has seen both Beltway business people and politicos come through its doors. Among the firm’s alumni are BET’s CEO Debra L. Lee, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, and President Truman’s Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson. 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 National Security Agency (NSA); the US 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.
IN THE NEWS
Steptoe partner Sarah Gordon has been named to the LGBT Bar’s “Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40” list. Each year, the LGBT Bar recognizes LGBT legal professionals under the age of 40 who have distinguished themselves in their field and have demonstrated a profound commitment to LGBT equality. Most recently, Gordon took the lead in Steptoe’s partnership with the Human Rights Campaign to draft an amicus brief in the pending U.S. Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, involving the baker who refused to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
Steptoe’s Blockchain and Digital Currency practice authored a special report on blockchain, cryptocurrency, and investigations that was published in the February/March edition of Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law The Journal. The report, titled “Blockchain Technology & Regulatory Investigations,” offers advice for companies and counsel on how to respond to a regulatory investigation involving cryptocurrency, other types of crypto-assets, and blockchain technology generally. In addition, the report features a primer on blockchain technology, complete with a visual representation diagram, and a “blockchain glossary” of terms.
For the second consecutive year, Steptoe’s Transportation Group has been named a Law360 Transportation Group of the Year. In a profile published February 8, the editors highlight some of the group’s successes over the past year. They include advising transportation clients on industry-specific issues related to federal preemption, advising rail clients in matters involving complex economic regulatory issues, and helping airlines like Portugal's TAP and Japan Airlines navigate the complex international regulatory environment for air travel.
For the third year in a row, Global Investigations Review has named Steptoe to its GIR 30, an independent guide to the world’s best firms for international investigations. The GIR 30, which was launched in 2015, is part of the GIR 100, an annual guide to the world’s leading cross-border investigations practices. Based on extensive research, GIR editors have selected 100 firms from around the world able to handle sophisticated cross-border, government-led, and internal investigations.
For the second time in three years, The National Law Journal has named Steptoe as the winner of its DC Litigation Department of the Year in its White Collar survey. To select the winners, the editors asked litigation departments in the nation’s capital to describe their practices, including their biggest wins in 2016. The editors also procured feedback from clients. The results are featured in a special report published in the June 2017 issue of the magazine.
Steptoe received special recognition in the 2017 Yale Law Women “Top Ten Family Friendly Firms” survey and ranking. Steptoe was recognized for “demonstrating superior performance” in the “Gender Equity” category. Steptoe was one of three law firms recognized in that category for promoting a partner class in 2016 that was at least 50% female. In 2017, Steptoe promoted a partner class that was 80% female, and the 2018 class was 75% female. Steptoe strives to differentiate itself from other law firms by not only delivering the highest-quality legal services to clients, but also by accomplishing that goal with a talented, creative, diverse, and engaged team of professionals.
1330 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 429-3000
Employer Type: Private
Chair: Philip R. West
Hiring Partner: Patrick Linehan
Total No. Attorneys 2018: 405
1st year: $190,000
Summer associate: $3,654/week
15 out of 15 (2Ls) (2017)
Washington, DC (HQ)
Los Angeles, CA
New York, NY
San Francisco, CA
Compliance, Investigations, Trade and Enforcement:
Anti-Corruption, Anti-Money Laundering, Export Control, Sanctions, CFIUS, Customs, National & Homeland Security, Immigration
White Collar and Securities Enforcement
ERISA Investigations and Litigation, and Labor and Employment
Insurance, Reinsurance & Professional Liability
Regulatory and Legislative:
Government Affairs and Public Policy
Telecom and Technology
Tax, Transactions and Private Client:
Tax & Private Client