Overview

Introduction

One of the most selective law firms, Williams & Connolly is a litigation standout, known for handling complex, high-stakes matters. The firm has a promote-from-within culture with an emphasis on organic mentorship. Associates have significant autonomy through the free-market assignment system and receive ample support for pro bono pursuits. Recognized for handling high-stakes, complex litigation, the firm has a thriving intellectual property practice ranging from pharmaceuticals to electronics, has presented oral argument ...

Firm Stats


More

Total No. Attorneys (2021)


More

No. of Partners Named (2021)


More

Featured Rankings

Vault Law 100...


More

No. of 1st Year Associates Hired (2020)



More

No. of Summer Associates (2021)



More

Base Salary

1st year: $205,000...

Vault Verdict

Getting through the doors of Williams & Connolly is highly competitive—exceptional grades from a top-ranked law school and clerkship experience are par for the course. The firm also focuses on diversity in hiring, and seeks candidates who are personable and down to earth. The firm isn’t overly social outside of work hours, but lawyers are friendly. During the pandemic, the firm has offered monthly social gatherings via Zoom, as well as virtual Q&As with senior leaders about firm decision-making. Many partners are homegrown, which breeds a culture of mentorship and organic training—though formal training is minimal. Hours can be intense, but associates have control over their schedules and don’t have to meet a billable-hour requirement. Williams & Connolly p...

About the Firm

 

Williams & Connolly continues to hold its own against firms 10 times its size by following a basic mantra: Keep it simple. The firm’s roughly 300 attorneys focus almost exclusively on litigation from a single office in DC, positioning Williams & Connolly as a go-to firm for politicos, celebrities, major American companies and their executives, and even other law firms.

A Short, Illustrious History

Legendary litigator-to-the-stars Edward Bennett Williams teamed with Paul Connolly, a former student of his at Georgetown Law, to open shop in 1967. The fledgling firm soon boasted a client list that included the biggest names in Hollywood, politics, business, and media. Among its clients have been White House royalty like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bar...

Associate Reviews


  • People at W&C generally love what they do and love the firm. People pride themselves on not letting zealous advocacy equate to rudeness, and there is very little tolerance for treating others badly even in times of high stress. Lawyers regularly socialize in the lunchroom and after hours, but people also have full personal lives that they devote time to outside the firm.
  • The firm is a tight-knit group, and it prizes the W&C ethos: very smart, hard-working, [and] tough but warm and collegial.”
  • The pandemic has made this challenging to assess, but overall there are opportunities to socialize (via Zoom) at least once a month, and these are fairly well attended. The staple of firm culture pre-pandemic, the lunch room, has been difficult to replicate in the virtual WFH environment, but the firm has done a good job of offering opportunities for smaller zoom meetings regularly.”
  • W&C's culture is a perfect fit for friendly introverts who have lives outsides the office. Everyone is incredibly kind and welcoming, but there isn't an expectation of going out to happy hour 3 times a week. People have lives and families outside the firm. That said, the one-office culture means that everybody is well-connected within the firm.”
  • “Associate/partner relations are very strong. Associates are treated well and our development is prioritized.
  • There are exceptions to every rule, but this is one of the firm's great strengths. Almost everyone in the partnership started out as a summer associate or at least a baby associate here at W&C, and the partnership recognizes that its future leadership depends on cultivating its young attorneys. Partners are generally accessible, interested in our growth, and collegial in the way they work with associates and staff teams. Reviews are conducted annually and are a little opaque, but I frankly don't think that's much of a surprise--seems pretty standard as law firms go.”
  • During the pandemic we have had regular Q&A sessions with senior leaders for associates, and I hope that is a permanent development. I have several partners that I feel comfortable reaching out to with personal or professional questions. I think the commitment to mentoring associates is more than just a talking point—I feel like partners are invested in my professional development.”
  • I feel like the partners I work for wake up every day determined to defy the stereotype of the cold, demanding, uncaring Big Law partner. The nature of Big Law means that you will sometimes be asked to work long hours, but in my experience, partners do the best they can to limit the extent to which their requests will require you to work late nights or weekends. Praise is a regular and important part of the conversation, both in one-on-one discussions and in front of other colleagues during meetings. Partners encourage me to speak up and voice my opinion, even when my opinion disagrees with their own.”
  • I am thankful that the firm has remained extremely busy during the pandemic. However, I work significantly more than I would like. The firm feels stretched for senior associates.”
  • I work long hours because the job demands it, but we don't have a billable-hour requirement. We also don't get bonused based on hours, which has its pros and cons. I'm given a lot of work to do but I am trusted to do the work and I have flexibility as to where and when I work. …”
  • It is empowering to control your own docket, but that can lead to feast-and-famine days, weeks, and months. We thankfully have no billable requirement. And that's no fiction. I have never heard any mention of a person being asked about their hours.”
  • “… Even before the pandemic, the firm never placed much of a value on ‘face time.’ As long as you’re generally turning in high-quality work in a timely manner, people don’t seem to mind when or where you get your work done. The firm trusts you to be a responsible adult and doesn’t micromanage aspects of your work style. This goes hand-in-hand with the unlimited vacation days. Worrying about allocating your PTO is not an effective use of your time, or the firm's. …”
  • Our pay dips below market somewhere between year three and five depending on other firms' bonuses. While I would love to make more, I am happy enough with the tradeoffs to stay: no worry about making hours for bonuses, free health care, free lunch, first class for all travel, and a realistic path to partnership.
  • The firm generally provides a higher base salary in lieu of any bonus. This traditionally means that junior associates are compensated about the same as their peers that use the traditional compensation model, but more senior associates receive less. In light of the multitude of additional bonuses currently paid by peer firms, compensation for all associates has fallen behind.”
  • The firm doesn't offer bonuses. I chose the firm in part for that reason. I'm completely satisfied with our compensation, which recently increased. There's no relationship between hours and compensation here, which I prefer.”
  • There are no bonuses and thus no relationship between your billable hours (for which there is no minimum) and your compensation. The compensation for junior associates is market rate, but the compensation for senior associates is less than at many peer firms when taking into consideration the bonuses at peer firms. Of course, I'd like to see the compensation be matched across the board. Still, I knew this discrepancy when I picked the firm. The lawyers here seem happy despite this.”
  • Clients come to W&C with unique, novel problems, not run-of-the-mill issues they've dealt with a thousand times. As such, we take on fascinating, cutting-edge cases that often make headlines.”
  • The work I have done varies greatly. As a new associate I was given the opportunity to write sections of briefs and conduct legal research. But I also have done a large amount of fact development (document review, case chronologies, deposition preparation, etc.).”
  • Within my first six months at the firm (as a new/junior associate) I had taken depositions, argued motions in hearings, drafted substantive pleadings, and presented at major client meetings. I have not yet come across any assignment that I wasn't invited to do because of my level.”
  • The vast majority of my time is spent researching, drafting briefs, preparing for depositions, and attending client calls and court hearings.”
  • The firm's COVID-19 adaptation was seamless.”
  • The firm is more focused on data security and privacy than innovation, but I've had no problems working remotely. We had a mostly seamless transition to remote working during the pandemic.”
  • Remote working has gone as smoothly as I could have possibly hoped. The firm's technology in general could be easier to use, but we have an amazing Help Desk staffed 24/7 by people who always get me through whatever issue I'm having.”
  • I think the firm prioritizes data security over user friendliness, and sometimes I wish we could just use Zoom, even with the risks from hackers and cat filters. That said, we have 24/7 tech support, which I’ve used more than once, and I’m always grateful for our incredible staff.”
  • “Early in the pandemic, the firm presented a program on trauma and wellness, and it may sound dramatic, but it really helped me contextualize the weirdness of March 2020.
  • “I'm not aware of any wellness efforts taken by the firm.”
  • “Partners take an interest in my personal growth and well-being. The younger crop of partners especially seem comfortable talking openly about the importance of work-life balance, the need to ‘turn off’ work and enjoy the rest of your life, the benefits of therapy and taking mental health days, etc. Emotional intelligence is prized as much as intellectual intelligence. In terms of specific firm programs, there is unlimited vacation and you're encouraged to use it. There are virtual events, including happy hours, Diversity Initiative and Women's Initiative events, and a book club.”
  • “The firm believes that the best way to learn is by doing. Formal training is minimal but the attorneys provide a lot of guidance. The firm assigns new associates an associate mentor as well as a partner mentor, but every attorney I've worked with—from senior partners down to junior associates—seems eager to be an informal mentor to whatever extent would be helpful. My partner mentor helps me navigate the free-market system and found me a great new matter to work on that deals with a subject area I had expressed interested in. I have informal associate mentors whom I text and call almost every week with questions.”
  • It is a sink-or-swim environment after your first couple days of orientation, but one can often find a partner, whether from something formal like the firm's Women's Initiative or just informally through the firm's open-door culture, to teach one to swim.”
  • As a new associate, the firm assigned me a partner and associate mentor. We have bi-weekly check-ins and they assist with managing my workload, finding new work, and generally navigating life as a young associate.”
  • Individual partners take a great interest in associates' development. Training and mentoring happens organically.”
  • Promotion to partnership is extremely realistic. Last year every associate who was up for partner was elected to the partnership. I think if you enjoy the firm and the work and are generally diligent and pleasant to work with, you have an extremely good shot.”
  • My colleagues who have left the firm have gone on to fantastic jobs in the government, private sector, and a firms in other cities.”
  • Partner prospects are generally better than most firms, due to the [nearly one-to-one partner-to-associate] ratio.”
  • With a small summer associate class size, a ‘promote from within’ culture, and a high partner-to-associate ratio, promotion to partnership feels like a real possibility if I decide that I want that for my career. But if I decide that I don't want to become a partner, W&C has an incredible range of exit opportunities. … If someone is leaving to go to another law firm, it's almost always due to a city move, as opposed to some other firm within the DC region. People regularly go in-house and into government as well.”
  • The firm treats pro bono cases like any other case. Hours are billable, and the firm will pay for experts and support staff to help out.”
  • All pro bono hours are counted, and there is no cap. I handled all sorts of pro bono matters such as a landlord-tenant case, a security clearance revocation, and a Fifth Circuit habeas appeal. I've also recently represented individuals with criminal charges arising from BLM protests. I brought those matters to the firm myself.”
  • Pro bono cases are billed just like paying clients and there's a strong push for every associate to get involved in pro bono cases. I've worked on two pro bono cases since joining the firm.”
  • “… The firm has a wide variety of pro bono opportunities, including criminal appeals, asylum cases, and work related to domestic violence and veterans' issues. I recently participated in the ‘Street Law’ program in which you coach high school students at a public DC high school for a mock trial competition. This was an extremely rewarding experience. Also, the firm has a Secondment Program in which attorneys who have spent two years at the firm can go spend six months working for the Maryland Public Defender's Office on their W&C salary. …”
  • The Diversity Initiative is dedicated to improving the representation of and experience of diverse associates. Diverse associates are paired with a mentor via the Diversity Initiative upon arrival at the firm. The firm has an active LBGTQ+ affinity group and is taking steps to be more inclusive to the trans and nonbinary community, including normalizing putting your pronouns in your email signature. Going part-time seems to be a regularly used opportunity by working mothers. The firm offers billable credit for diversity-related work and activities.”
  • The firm has taken various diversity-related efforts, including firm committees for various affinity groups, firm-sponsored events highlighting history and achievements of under-represented members of the legal community, and diversity training.”
  • I think that diverse attorneys are front and center, and the firm’s growing numbers of diverse partners are discussed freely. Diversity in hiring and retention is discussed as an imperative, not just a nice thing to have.”

 

Why Work Here


Diversity at Williams & Connolly LLP

"Williams & Connolly LLP remains committed to diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our firm culture and work. That commitment starts with our leadership. The firm's Chief Diversity Partner devotes all of this time to fostering diversity and inclusion at the firm. The D&I Committee works regularly with Executive Committee and other firm leaders to discuss and implement its initiatives. While Williams & Connolly seeks to move its diversity efforts beyond a simple numbers driven approach, as a result of our initiatives, in 2019 our..."

Getting Hired Here


  • “The firm is extremely competitive and generally hires individuals at or near the top of their class at the most elite law schools in the country. Most candidates have clerked or will clerk, and most served on the law review at their law school. The firm does seem to be very interested in hiring a diverse group of attorneys, and it also seems to have a genuine interest in trying to find grounded, down-to-earth people among that narrow group of top graduates from top law schools.”
  • “Almost all successful candidates are applicants from top law schools with clerkship experience or future clerkship plans.”
  • “You have to want to litigate. Clerkships [are] highly valued. Must be personable though. No clerkship is more valuable than being a nice person. We are trained [for interviews] and have guidelines.”
  • “The firm did a great job of rolling incoming clerks into a class with other incoming associates and including us all in virtual social events. My firm mentors also helped explain any aspects of the firm I was unfamiliar with. And each case team integrated me seamlessly as a new member.”
  • Why do you want to work in litigation? Why do you want to work at Williams & Connolly? Why do you want to be in DC?”
  • Varies by interviewer. Generally questions about interest in litigation and the DC market, as well as questions that explain prior work experience.”
  • I do a lot of interviewing. I tend to ask questions to get of sense of whether candidates have really thought about what kind of work they want to do and what kind of environment they want to be in. ‘I want to litigate in DC,’ doesn't tell us much. That said, I know most candidates won't know exactly what they want to do, but candidates should be able to articulate what substantive areas of law they want to try.”

Perks & Benefits