The Passing of Retired Partner Carolyn Cox

The Passing of Retired Partner Carolyn Cox

Attorney News

After graduating from Agnes Scott College and Yale Law School, Carolyn clerked for legendary federal judge Frank M. Johnson when he was Chief Judge of the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Judge Johnson continued to consult Carolyn through the rest of his life. 

Carolyn joined Wilmer Cutler & Pickering in 1975 and remained at WilmerHale until her retirement in 2010. Carolyn was a member of the Litigation/Controversy Department, and, in her first few years at the firm, she worked on a dispute that became the longest arbitration ever conducted under the rules of the American Arbitration Association until that time. In later years, Carolyn litigated and arbitrated termination and discrimination disputes, negotiated executive compensation and separation agreements, designed affirmative action plans and conducted independent investigations of harassment complaints, and advised employers on Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, the DC Human Rights Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and similar statutes. She also represented clients in acquisitions, dispositions, mergers, joint ventures, partnerships, formation of real estate investment trusts, initial public offerings, financings and workouts, and commercial real estate transactions.

In light of the breadth of Carolyn’s experience, the depth of her expertise, the incisiveness of her mind, and the respect and affection she earned from her partners, she was the obvious choice—indeed, the only choice—to serve as Wilmer Cutler & Pickering’s first general counsel. She continued to serve as co-general counsel and as co-chair of the Ethics Committee at WilmerHale until her retirement. Carolyn’s encyclopedic knowledge of the rules of professional conduct, and her uncompromising ethical standards, made her the first and last word on a wide range of knotty professional responsibility problems. She also played a pivotal role in designing and implementing the firm’s new business conflicts clearance process; for many years, she personally conducted the conflicts review for thousands of new matters.

As Wilmer Cutler & Pickering’s third woman partner, Carolyn was a pioneer and a role model. She provided advice and encouragement to the women who followed her, and they benefited immeasurably from her wisdom and kindness. Carolyn also had a wry sense of humor, often at her own expense. She was a unique, and uniquely beloved person, a mentor to many, and a friend to many more.

Carolyn was a prolific reader and writer whose interests spanned well beyond the practice of law. In 2021, Carolyn’s book The Snatch Racket, a riveting account of the kidnapping epidemic of the 1930s, was published by the University of Nebraska Press.

A memorial service will be held at 11 o’clock this Thursday, September 15, at Gawler’s Funeral Home, 5130 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington.