The Lifetime Achievement Award honors attorneys “who have left an indelible mark on the legal profession through their substantive area of work as well as a strong public service component, whether that be through government work, diversity and inclusion efforts or some other form of public service.” Reserved for distinguished professionals, the award honored only seven individuals.
Lee was recognized for his accomplishments over his 40-plus-year career, which include his work on the Iran Contra investigations, exceptional career as a trial lawyer and leader of the intellectual property bar, and decades in academia including currently serving as Senior Fellow of the Harvard Corporation. Lee was also the first Asian-American leader of an Am Law 100 law firm and one of the engineers of Hale and Dorr’s 2004 “merger of equals” with Washington DC’s Wilmer Cutler & Pickering to form WilmerHale. Lee is also known for mentoring up-and-coming attorneys. Susan Murley, WilmerHale’s co-managing partner, who has worked with Lee for more than 30 years at the firm, said “he sees developing the next generation of lawyers not as an obligation, but a privilege. Everything, for Bill, is a teaching moment. He takes time to step back, identify mistakes and use them as learning opportunities and ways to improve for next time.”
Lee’s mentorship goes beyond WilmerHale to Harvard Law School, where he lectures in the January Experiential Term for first-years, “a class he helped develop more than a decade ago to teach students to exercise real-world judgement.”
Lee and other honorees will be recognized at The American Lawyer Industry Awards on Wednesday, December 4, at The Roosevelt in New York.