2020 Vault Rankings
At a Glance
“We do great work”
“No benchmarks for performance”
“Too many hours for compensation”
About Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell LLP
Denver litigation boutique Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell is known for going to trial and winning on behalf of its Fortune 500 clientele. The high-profile clients who have received WTO's much sought-after litigation expertise come from a wide range of industries, such as manufacturing, insurance, energy and services, and include Whirlpool, General Electric, Michelin, USAA, FCA (fka Chrysler Group), Ford, AT&T, Pfizer, Allstate, McKesson, Electrolux, Mercedes-Benz, , and Vail Resorts, among others.
A Denver Firm
WTO was founded on February 1, 1998 by a group of seven trial lawyers, including Mal Wheeler, Jack Trigg, and Mike O'Donnell, who left a full-service firm in Denver to build a nationwide practice dedicated to complex civil litigation. A still- young firm, WTO has wasted no time making a name for itself. In 2016, the National Law Journal named WTO to its annual Midsize Hot List for the second consecutive year--only 20 firms in the nation make the list. Chambers USA 2017 ranked WTO one of the top 15 litigation firms in the country in the area of product liability and mass torts--recognizing five WTO lawyers in this area, which ties the firm for most in the nation. Chambers also recognized WTO as one of only two commercial litigation firms in Colorado to earn its highest ranking, Band 1, and ranked eight WTO attorneys for commercial litigation--twice as many as the next closest firms in the state. Benchmark Litigation selected WTO as the 2017 Colorado Firm of the Year. The Minority Corporate Counsel Association gave WTO the 2014 George B. Vashon Innovator Award for its women's initiative, the Women in Leadership Lecture Series.
Additionally, the faces of WTO's trial practice are regularly singled out for individual recognition: Benchmark Litigation named founding partner Mal Wheeler to the Top 100 Litigators in the U.S. and managing partner Carolyn Fairless to the Top 250 Women in Litigation in the U.S.; firm chairman Mike O'Donnell was chosen No. 1 among Colorado Super Lawyers for the fifth consecutive year and one-half of WTO's attorneys were selected to Colorado Super Lawyers in 2016; Best Lawyers 2016 named three partners Denver Lawyers of the Year; and BTI Consulting has named three WTO partners as Client Service All-Stars Nationwide in the past three years (based exclusively on client recommendations). Seven of the 41 WTO partners are Fellows of the highly prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers and three are Fellows of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.
In 2017 the Denver Business Journal named WTO the No. 3 Best Place to Work in the extra-large company category and the top-ranked law firm to work for in all size categories. WTO has consistently ranked in the top 5 since 2008, including three appearances at No. 1. The recognition can be chalked up, at least partially, to the firm's unique management philosophy, which follows the wise logic that keeping employees happy is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart way to go. Happy employees mean happy clients.
Litigation Trial Victories
WTO wins in a wide variety of cases, from certified federal class actions to negligence and product liability cases to franchise and distribution cases. In 2016, the firm won eleven appeals, including five in state supreme courts and two in federal circuit courts; nine complete trial verdicts nationwide; and two major multidistrict litigation battles resulting in significant client victories. Examples include two complete defense jury verdicts in ten months for Michelin in product liability trials in Arizona and Florida, shielding the company from $100 million in alleged damages, and Colorado Supreme Court reversal in a case of national importance to the insurance industry. Law360 named that outcome one of the nation’s Top 5 Insurance Rulings of 2016. And it’s not just partners stealing all the glory. In 2016, 84 percent of WTO associates played active courtroom roles, arguing motions and examining witnesses, and 100 percent had direct client contact.
Calling All Clerks
If you want to work at WTO, consider doing a clerkship first. Not only will you be among good company--83 percent of associates here completed state appellate court or federal judicial clerkships-but you'll also have some serious incentive. WTO offers one-time bonuses upon hire immediately following clerkships. An associate receives a bonus of $60,000 for a federal appellate court clerkship, $40,000 for a federal district court clerkship, $25,000 for a state Supreme Court clerkship, and $10,000 for a state appellate court clerkship.
WTO's volunteer efforts go beyond pro bono work. The firm founded the WTO Foundation, its own nonprofit charitable foundation, in September of 2005. Through the Foundation, the firm and its personnel have donated more than $1,800,000 and volunteered thousands of hours to over 100 nonprofits. Eighty-four percent of firm members have participated in Foundation work benefitting organizations such as Legal Aid Foundation of Colorado, American Civil Liberties Union, Denver Kids, Inc., Denver Urban Debate League and Denver Dumb Friends League. The firm's work in areas such as the arts, education, hunger, animal protection, homelessness, children, relief, legal services and disease prevention and treatment won it the Denver Business Journal's 2010 Partners in Philanthropy Award.
IN THE NEWS
Midsize Top 10
For the second time in three years, the rankings and review directory Vault has recognized Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell as one of the nation’s Best Midsize Law Firms to Work For. The firm ranked #8 overall based on research gathered in Vault’s Annual Law Firm Associate Survey. In 2016, Vault ranked WTO #5 in the nation on the same list. Associate engagement is high at WTO. In 2016, 84% of WTO associates argued in court. “When clients ask about WTO’s experience, cost efficiency, and bench strength, this statistic sets us apart,” said managing partner Carolyn Fairless.
Major Whirlpool Win
WTO attorneys defeated class certification efforts brought against Whirlpool in federal court in Illinois. Plaintiffs claimed over 2,000,000 Whirlpool-made ovens were defectively designed and prone to overheating. The litigation was the latest in a series of copycat lawsuits alleging similar defects in Whirlpool ovens. During a five-hour Daubert hearing, WTO successfully demonstrated that the opinions of the plaintiffs’ key engineering expert were unhelpful and unreliable, paving the way for the Court to rule against class certification. WTO associate Laura McNabb delivered closing arguments.
Consecutive Michelin Wins
WTO won its second consecutive defense jury verdict for Michelin in a nine-week product liability trial in Florida. The plaintiffs, including two minors, suffered catastrophic permanent injuries when their vehicle rolled at highway speeds. Plaintiffs sought $80 million in damages. WTO demonstrated that Michelin’s tire was sound and the company was not liable. This was the second high-stakes defense verdict in 10 months. An Arizona plaintiff demanded $20 million, and WTO showed the jury Michelin was not responsible for the accident that occurred. WTO associate (now partner) Theresa Wardon played significant roles in both trials, including cross-examining the Arizona plaintiff.
Twice as Hot
For the second consecutive year, The National Law Journal has named Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell (WTO) to its elite Midsize Hot List. Each year, the NLJ highlights 20 midsize U.S. firms that set the bar for legal services. “These firms embody lawyering at its essence,” wrote the NLJ in its 2016 edition. WTO was recognized for several high-profile victories, including an 11th-hour, emergency federal injunction protecting the name and image rights of Aretha Franklin, secured just hours before a scheduled film festival premier of an unauthorized documentary about the famed singer.
370 Seventeenth Street
Denver, CO 80202
Phone: (303) 244-1800
Chair: Michael O’Donnell
Managing Partner: Carolyn Fairless
Recruiting Chair: Drew Unthank
1st year: $160,000
Summer Associate Offers:
The firm does not offer a summer associate program.
Denver, CO (HQ)
St. Louis, MO
Antitrust & Competition
Construction & Engineering
Consumer Products & Services
Franchise & Distribution
Healthcare Professional Liability
Investigations & Compliance
Legal Professional Liability
Medical Devices & Pharmaceuticals
Oil & Gas
Personal Injury Defense