Stephen W. Preston


  • Chair, Defense, National Security and Government Contracts Practice

Stephen Preston heads WilmerHale's Defense, National Security and Government Contracts Practice. His work includes investigations, litigation, federal procurement, civil fraud, foreign investment in the United States, cybersecurity, strategic counseling and crisis management.

From 2009 to 2015, Mr. Preston served as General Counsel of the Department of Defense and, before that, as General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency. He is the first person to have held both these Senate-confirmed positions. During his six years in the administration, he played a leading role in ensuring that the United States' intelligence activities and military operations fully complied with domestic and international law. He was a key legal advisor on many of the country's most challenging and consequential national security endeavors, including the operation against Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Mr. Preston previously served in positions at the Pentagon and the US Department of Justice between 1993 and 2000, including as General Counsel of the Navy from 1998 to 2000. When not in government, he has practiced law at WilmerHale, initially from 1986 to 1993, then from 2001 to 2009, and now since 2015.

For his contributions while in office, Mr. Preston has received the highest awards presented to civilians by the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as the Department of State, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of the Navy.

Professional Activities

Mr. Preston has written and spoken widely on topics relating to law and national security, and he has testified before Congress on several occasions.

Mr. Preston serves on the Board of Directors of the National Defense Industrial Association, as counselor on the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law, on the Board of Directors of the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation, and as counsel to the Board of Trustees of In-Q-Tel, Inc. He is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and he has been active with the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Law and National Security and with the Intelligence and National Security Alliance's Legal Affairs Roundtable.

In 2015, Mr. Preston received an adjunct faculty appointment to teach at Yale Law School as the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Distinguished Visiting Lecturer in International Conflict and Security Law. He was appointed to the President's Intelligence Advisory Board in 2016.


  • President's Intelligence Advisory Board Medallion (2016)
  • United States Intelligence Community Seal Medallion (2016)
  • National Security Agency Intelligence Under Law Award (2016)
  • Department of State Distinguished Honor Award (2015)
  • Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal (1995, 2000, 2015)
  • National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal (2012, 2013)
  • CIA Director’s Award (2010, 2011, 2013)
  • CIA National Clandestine Service Donovan Award (2013)
  • Central Intelligence Agency Distinguished Intelligence Medal (2012)
  • Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award (2000)

Insights & News


  • Education

    • JD, Harvard Law School, 1983

      magna cum laude Editor, Harvard Law Review
    • BA, Yale College, 1979

      summa cum laude Phi Beta Kappa
  • Admissions

    • District of Columbia

  • Clerkships

    • The Hon. Phyllis A. Kravitch, US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, 1983 - 1984



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