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DC-based Steptoe & Johnson is drawn to candidates with clerkship or government experience, and the right personality is a must. The firm is dedicated to associate development, with early opportunities for challenges and genuinely invested partners. 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.

Firm Stats


Total No. Attorneys (2021)


No. of Partners Named (2021)


Featured Rankings

Vault Law 100...


No. of 1st Year Associates Hired (2020)


No. of Summer Associates (2021)


Base Salary

Washington, DC:...

Vault Verdict

Steptoe values factors including clerkship or government experience and personality fit, and it will look beyond T14 schools to find candidates that check the boxes. The culture here is kind, cordial, and inclusive from the top down. Associates can choose how social they want to be; aside from a few firm-sponsored events, get-togethers tend to be organized by associates. Partners are respectful, reasonable, and invested in associate development. Transparency is an area of critique, as associates feel they don’t have enough insight into decisions, especially those regarding promotions and compensation. The billable-hours requirement of 2,000 hours seems high to some, while others find it entirely reasonable. The bigger complaint is around bonuses, which trend below market. The work...

About the Firm

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. 

Cavaliers Unite

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 ...

Associate Reviews

  • “Everyone treats each other professionally and cordially. Partners I have worked with are generally respectful of an associate’s time and workload. My practice group never fails to show our paralegals appreciation for their invaluable work.”
  • “Steptoe has a very inclusive culture. There aren't too many official events, but the attorneys interact after hours frequently.”
  • “Overall, Steptoe has a culture of respect and professionalism. Given the pandemic, it's been harder than usual to get attorneys to interact outside of working hours, but even then, in my experience, that was not the expectation. The firm recognizes that people have lives outside of work that take precedence, so it's more of an informal thing; associates can get together as they please, but they're not required to do so for the most part. Day to day, Steptoe is a pretty normal place to work. For the most part, people treat this as a job and not a lifestyle. Everyone is respectful, courteous, and generally friendly, including to staff.”
  • “Associates are frequently good friends with each other and frequently get together after work and on the weekends to hang out. Day to day, the atmosphere is very friendly with a good working relationship between attorney and staff.”
  • “Partners are very pleasant to work with and show a lot of respect and gratitude towards associates. The management tries to be transparent about its decision-making, but the performance reviews, promotions, and salary and bonus information is not readily available. Reviews are annual.”
  • “In my experience, most partners treat associates with respect and appreciate that you have a life outside of work, so long as you meet them halfway and communicate effectively about managing work responsibilities.”
  • “I've had really positive relationships with the partners I work with. They have been very appreciative of late nights/long hours/quick turnarounds and generally try not to create unnecessary fire drills. I also think the partners I've worked with are genuinely interested in my professional development.”
  • “The partners I work with at Steptoe treat associates with respect and as colleagues. In my experience, partners are focused on mentorship and giving associates substantive assignments and opportunities for hands-on experience. The firm is not transparent in its decisions relating to compensation. The firm should do more to explain the compensation and bonus structure that is given to all associates.”
  • “Billable-hours requirement is 2,000, which is a bit high, but 150 hours of pro bono counts.”
  • “There is an ebb and flow to the amount of work and my responsibilities. Sometimes the associates are a bit overloaded, but management is kept aware, and some partners work very hard to try and find solutions.”
  • “I have never felt like I had too little work. Of course, some months are busier than others, but there is always work to go around.”
  • “I have a lot of autonomy as to when to get the work done. The work volume is significant but manageable. Work flow is flexible. Billable-hour requirements are reasonable.”
  • “I'm very happy with my salary and bonus as a second/third-year associate (it is an enormous amount of money to be paid in any career). However, I recognize that our bonuses are pretty well below market, so to the extent that could be improved, it would certainly move the needle. We did take a pay cut during the pandemic, but those pay cuts are no longer in place and most associates have been ‘trued up.’"
  • “Compensation is market level, but bonuses are well below market. The firm cut pay in 2020, and rather than give a COVID bonus, reinstated associate salary based on the number of hours worked.”
  • “Bonuses are below market and vary based on the number of hours billed. The structure is unnecessarily complex, and it is nearly impossible to receive a market bonus unless an associate bills an extremely high number of hours.”
  • “The firm's compensation structure is good. Salaries are top of the market. The bonuses don't match peer firms but there is less pressure on having super-high billable hours.”
  • “There are plenty of high-quality and substantive assignments. If you do good work, you will be able to pick and choose from offers.”
  • “Yes, I spend a lot of time on substantive legal work that is appropriate for my level. I perform legal research, conduct document review, and sometimes will use my language skills (Chinese) to help communicate with clients.”
  • “Given that I am still relatively junior, there is still plenty of non-substantive work, such as putting together binders or doing document review. But I have been given the opportunity to write and research entire briefs on my own; I am scheduled to take expert depositions in the near future; I have negotiated settlement agreements; and I even had the opportunity to argue a motion before a state court judge recently.”
  • “I work on matters almost exclusively at or above my level. I primarily draft advice for clients on the applicability of regulations to their business needs. I also submit license applications to government agencies.”
  • “The firm has responded very quickly and adequately to the pandemic, getting everyone online remotely immediately. The technology is not top notch, but any reasonable requests are usually accommodated. A technology stipend or some extra supplies to aid in the remote environment would have been nice, but the firm is working on new policies.”
  • “I think the firm could do better about providing a technology budget to its associates, but overall the transition to working from home as a result of the pandemic has been smooth. There haven't been significant technological hurdles or issues that have popped up.”
  • “Generally speaking, the firm has adapted well to the remote work demands of the pandemic. Some of the firm electronic systems (for example the document management system) are a bit outdated and/or difficult to use.”
  • “The firm provides a free subscription to the Calm application, which [is] greatly appreciated. Otherwise, I am not aware of other initiatives for wellness. I do think this is an area that this firm, and others, can improve on.”
  • “We have designated first-response mental health awareness colleagues.”
  • “Like most firms, there is certainly talk of wellness, but the reality is that this is a stressful and difficult job. Programs and meditation sessions are great, but the best way to improve attorney wellness is to allow them to work less, which seems unlikely to happen. I do not recall any COVID specific wellness initiatives.”
  • “The firm seems to emphasize employee wellness. Pre-COVID, there were a range of meditation and other wellness offerings, as well as access to a nice office gym.”
  • “The firm is very supportive of formal training and encourages associates to seek out opportunities. The firm has a broad base of internal and external training options available. The senior attorneys are very open to mentoring others informally.”
  • “There is little formal training offered at Steptoe, but I think it’s probably on par with most firms. Much of the training is informal and the product of partners taking an active interest in associate development.”
  • “The firm provides a formal mentoring program and a lot of topical practical training. The topics rotate, and they are pretty good at offering training consistently.”
  • “… The firm is less formalistic in terms of mentoring; while you do have an assigned partner mentor, for the most part, it is the relationships you cultivate yourself that will serve you in the long run at the firm. Sitting down for feedback from a partner you are working with, or seeking more work from a partner you enjoyed working [with], are quite common things to do, and those build out the informal side of mentoring at Steptoe.”
  • “The firm offers Of Counsel positions, as well as equity and non-equity partner positions. The firm is very transparent about the associates' position on each track and provides training and opportunities accordingly. It also assists with exit strategies for in-house and government jobs.”
  • “Partnership process is pretty black box, though it looks like the firm is attempting to be more transparent about it by having assessment meetings with fourth- and seventh-year associates to go over how they are doing and what their future opportunities look like at the firm.”
  • “The firm at least appears to offer a realistic opportunity for associates to make partner. The firm also emphasizes that it is invested in helping you maximize career opportunities if making partner is either not your desire or is not feasible.”
  • “The firm places an enormous emphasis on pro bono work and [provides] credit for such work that counts towards the billable minimum. There are opportunities that associates can take on at all levels, from a few-hour commitment to a full case responsibility commitment. The firm partners with veteran and domestic violation clinics, among others.”
  • “The firm is committed to pro bono, but caps the number of pro bono hours that count as billable hours. There is also a sense that billable work comes first.”
  • “The firm is always promoting the availability of high quality pro bono work, including working on amicus briefs. I am currently working on a pro bono case for a former employee of the firm who purchased a vehicle that has had many mechanical issues.”
  • “Pro bono work is encouraged. A partner is designated as a point person for such matters. Colleagues are encouraged to come forward with initiatives. A weekly newsletter highlights new and ongoing pro bono work.”
  • “The firm leadership has prioritized diversity and seems genuinely interested in improving racial and gender diversity in the firm. I have seen some progress in the firm’s lateral partner hires, but internal promotions of minority associates are not as apparent.”
  • “The firm is trying to be mindful of systemic racism and advancing diversity, going so far as to start a task force, but as with all other firms, the progress feels slow.”
  • “The firm has an array of strong and effective programs that have resulted in a very noticeable emphasis on diversity of all forms. The culture supports the programs, rather than relying on the programs to attempt creating a culture.”
  • “Our incoming summer associate classes seem to have been becoming more and more diverse, which is great. The firm has been expanding its recruiting footprint, has revamped our parental leave policy, has various affinity groups, and leadership seems genuinely invested in recruiting and retaining diverse lawyers. Yes, the firm offers billable credit for diversity-related work/activities.”

Diversity at Steptoe & Johnson LLP

"Steptoe's continued success depends on ensuring that the diverse experiences of all of our lawyers contribute both to the first-class work that we do for our clients and to the congeniality of our workplace. Our lawyers and professionals come to the firm with a wide range of skills, diverse backgrounds, and unique perspectives. We support career paths that enhance and maximize individual and team strengths through a refined process for staffing client matters. We strive to create teams with a diverse balance in which all of our lawyers and..."

Getting Hired Here

  • “Strong writing and analytical skills are required; the best candidates are also kind, genuine, and friendly people that would contribute to the firm's strong, positive-working-environment culture.”
  • “The firm is as competitive of many of the similarly ranked firms on Vault's list. Steptoe is not exclusively hiring every person who graduated summa cum laude from a T14 school; they do hire qualified individuals who are a ‘personality fit’ for the firm and the particular office. Journal and clerking experience are both plusses as well. As far as I can tell, the firm does not have guidelines for interviewers.”
  • “The firm tends to hire from T14s or people with strong government experience.”
  • “I was hired as a senior associate. This means that practical experience, prior employers, specialized skills, post-graduate studies, references, and publications have all played a much bigger role than diplomas or networks.”
  • “By the time I've gotten a candidate's resume in hand, I assume they've been vetted for the academic credentials that would be required. The questions I ask are more about what the candidate is looking to get out of their experience at Steptoe as well as what they are like personally. …”
  • “The firm wants to get to know the candidate as an individual. The firm will ask about prior work experience, publications, and what a candidate did their 1L summer.”
  • “I was introduced to many colleagues during introductory [meetings with] various practice groups by the practice leaders. I was introduced to multiple colleagues who made an effort to have virtual coffee with me. I had very formative IT and library onboarding training sessions. I had multiple calls with the office manager, with the account manager, [and] with the BD manager.”
  • “The firm is quick to trust law clerks, but the integration into the culture and working teams had to be a bit more self-driven than I think it should be.”
  • “I didn't have a problem with integration, but it mainly consisted of learning on the job from senior associates.”

Perks & Benefits