Building a ‘DC Practice’ from NYC

Building a ‘DC Practice’ from NYC

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When I was considering different firms for my second summer, my starting point was that I would be working in New York. My partner works in book publishing in the city, and I hope to practice here after law school, so I was set on spending my summer in New York. But I also had three strong areas of interest—white collar investigations, appellate litigation and cybersecurity—and I was keen to try all three during the summer. I chose WilmerHale because it would permit me to build a practice in these areas from a city that's generally known to be home to a different kind of lawyer.

As I spoke to lawyers in the New York offices of various other firms, they made it clear that I had a set of “DC interests.” While many firms have white collar and investigative practices in New York, it turns out that appellate litigation and cybersecurity work was harder to come by. Of the firms that had strong practices in these areas, virtually all said that their appellate and cybersecurity lawyers were in Washington, DC. Most described their New York offices as focused on transactional law, tax law and general commercial litigation. Others didn't have a dedicated appellate group, so working on appeals would require working on a litigation team, waiting for it to finish, and then hoping to stay on for the appeal. I got a lot of recommendations to move south for the summer or, alternatively, develop an interest in mergers. Intending to do neither, I was keen to find a place that would let me do the work I liked from the city I love.

I had an early hunch that WilmerHale would fit the bill. I already knew that WilmerHale had top-shelf practices in all three of my interest areas. It handles some of the world's most complex white collar investigations; it has an appellate and Supreme Court group headed by a former Solicitor General of the United States; and it has some of the world's leading experts on cybersecurity and data protection.

At every stage of the interview process, I asked whether I'd be able to work on these things from New York. I liked the answers I got. Both partners and associates told me that they were attracted to WilmerHale because they liked the same, stereotypically “DC practice areas,” but were firmly planted here in New York. Getting good white collar work would be straightforward, because there are many New York partners in the firm's Investigations and Criminal Litigation practice. And while the bulk of the appellate and cybersecurity partners sit in DC, they assured me that cross-office staffing is the norm, and it's easy to work on any kind of matter, wherever that practice group is based.

After four weeks here at the firm, I can confirm that they were right. I've already worked on matters related to white collar crime, appellate litigation and cybersecurity. Almost every matter to which I'm assigned has a team that includes partners, associates and summer associates from multiple offices. I recently joined a pro bono matter with a senior partner from the DC office. The matter involves administrative law, another DC Circuit specialty. Getting on the team was as easy as my interviewers promised: Emails arrive daily with staffing requests for matters from across the firm, and it doesn't appear that location is a criterion for getting involved.

So, if your legal and regional interests don't match up in the usual ways, WilmerHale might also be a good fit for you.