Seth P. Waxman


Chair, Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation Practice Group

Waxman, Seth P.

Universally considered to be among the country's premier Supreme Court and appellate advocates, Seth Waxman served as Solicitor General of the United States from 1997 through January 2001. In addition to leading the firm's appellate practice, Mr. Waxman engages in a broad litigation and counseling practice, with particular emphasis on complex challenges involving governments or public policy, intellectual property, regulatory, criminal and commercial issues.
A Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, Mr. Waxman also is a widely respected trial litigator—named as Litigation-First Amendment Law and Regulatory Enforcement Law "Lawyer of the Year" for 2015 by Best Lawyers in America and by Super Lawyers in 2013 as the “number one” lawyer in Washington DC. Mr. Waxman has been accorded both "star" rating by Chambers USA and "leading lawyer" ranking in PLC's Global Counsel Handbook.  


Mr. Waxman's practice spans both federal and state trial and appellate courts. He has delivered more than 70 oral arguments in the United States Supreme Court and many more in the lower federal and state courts. Mr. Waxman's clients range from financial institutions to technology, consumer, industrial and media companies, universities and Indian tribes, and he leads the firm's efforts to counsel tribal governments. He also represents a number of local, state and national governments and prominent business and government executives and professionals. The recipient of numerous professional awards and honors, Mr. Waxman is among a small handful of practicing attorneys elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He holds several honorary degrees, as well as the Jefferson Medal in Law, an honor awarded once a year and only rarely to an attorney in private practice. In recognition of exceptional service to law enforcement, Mr. Waxman holds the extraordinary status of permanent honorary Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Honors & Awards

  • Received the Outstanding Achievement Award from Chambers USA in 2012 for his contributions to the legal profession
  • Named Litigation-First Amendment Law and Regulatory Law "Lawyer of the Year" for 2015; Appellate Practice "Lawyer of the Year" for 2014, "First Amendment Lawyer of the Year" in 2013 and "Bet-the-Company Litigator of the Year" in 2010 by Best Lawyers in America. Listed by Best Lawyers annually in the areas of appellate law, bet-the-company litigation, commercial litigation, intellectual property litigation, white-collar criminal litigations and First Amendment law.
  • Named the "Number One" lawyer in Washington DC by Super Lawyers 2013 and 2014. Also recognized as one of Washington DC's "Top Ten" lawyers in the 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 editions of Super Lawyers.
  • Named to The National Law Journal's 2014 list of Intellectual Property Trailblazers & Pioneers.
  • Selected as "Litigator of the Week" in The American Lawyer's Litigation Daily in June 2014.
  • Named one of the "The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America" by The National Law Journal in 2013 and 2006
  • Ranked as a "Star Individual" leader in national appellate litigation in the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 editions of  Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business, and selected as a leading lawyer in the Native American law category in the 2014 edition
  • Recognized as a "National Star" for his appellate litigation practice in the 2010, 2012 and 2013 editions of Benchmark Litigation. Listed in the 2012 and 2013 editions of Benchmark Appellate for his work in the District of Columbia and Federal Circuit.
  • Listed as a "Leading Lawyer" for Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation in The Legal 500 United States
  • Named a 2013 leading practitioner in patent law by IAM Patent 1000: The World's Leading Patent Practitioners and listed as a leading patent litigator in the 2011 edition of IAM Patent Litigation 250 
  • Recipient of Managing IP's Supreme Court Milestone Case of the Year award for his successful representation of POM in POM Wonderful v. Coca-Cola
  • Selected as DC IP Litigator of the Year in 2014 and named a 2013-14 "IP Star" by Managing IP, a guidebook that identifies leading lawyers in the United States 
  • Named Washington DC's "Leading Lawyer" in the area of appellate litigation by the Legal Times, December 2004
  • Named to Washingtonian magazine's "Washington's Best Lawyers" list in 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2013
  • Recognized by his peers as one of the world's leading litigation attorneys in Legal Media Group's The Best of the Best
  • Listed in the PLC Which Lawyer? Yearbook 2006 as one of Washington DC's leading lawyers in the dispute resolution category
  • Selected "Lawyer of the Year" in 2005 by Lawyers Weekly USA


  • Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2006
  • Honorary Degrees, Georgetown University, American University, 2009
  • Thomas Jefferson Medal in Law, University of Virginia, 2002
  • Judge Learned Hand Award, American Jewish Committee, 2007
  • Exceptional Service Award, National Coalition Against the Death Penalty, 2005
  • Frederick Douglass Human Rights Award, Southern Center for Human Rights, 2005
  • Permanent Honorary Special Agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2001
  • Edmund J. Randolph Award for Exceptional Service, US Department of Justice, 2001
  • Pursuit of Justice Award, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, 1999
  • Pro Bono Publico Award, American Bar Association, 1988
  • Benjamin J. Cardozo Certificate of Merit, Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1987

Publications & News


March 20, 2015

Managing IP Recognizes WilmerHale at Annual North America Awards Dinner

The firm received the Supreme Court Milestone Case of the Year award, and was shortlisted as one of the Patent Contentious Firms of the Year, the Copyright Northeast Firms of the Year and the Pharma IP Litigation Firms of the Year.

March 6, 2015

303 Conservatives File Historic Amicus Brief in Marriage Equality Case Before US Supreme Court

Project Right Side and former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman formally filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court involving four landmark cases slated to be heard on April 28, 2015 concerning government recognition of the freedom to marry.

December 10, 2014

Seth Waxman Named Among Law360’s Appellate MVPs of the Year

Law360 named Partner and Former Solicitor General Seth Waxman as an Appellate MVP of the Year. Law360's annual MVP contest recognizes the most elite attorneys in a wide range of practice areas who have had the most impressive successes in high-stakes litigation, record-breaking deals and complex global matters.

November 17, 2014

WilmerHale Named to National Law Journal’s 2014 Appellate Hot List

The National Law Journal named WilmerHale to its 2014 Appellate Hot List. The annual list honors 20 firms with significant appellate achievements within the year and a strong track record overall.

November 6, 2014

Partner Seth Waxman Recognized Among The National Law Journal’s Intellectual Property Trailblazers & Pioneers

The National Law Journal has named Partner Seth Waxman to its 2014 list of Intellectual Property Trailblazers & Pioneers.

August 18, 2014

Best Lawyers in America® 2015 Recognizes Nearly 100 WilmerHale Partners, Naming Nine “Lawyer of the Year”

Nearly 100 WilmerHale lawyers have been selected for inclusion in the 21st edition of Best Lawyers in America®—a respected peer-review publication in the legal industry.

July 17, 2014

WilmerHale and 17 Partners Rank in Managing IP’s 2014-2015 IP Stars Handbook

Managing IP has released its second annual edition of its IP Stars Handbook—a guide that identifies the leading IP firms and lawyers in the United States—prominently ranking WilmerHale and 17 of its partners.

June 25, 2014

WilmerHale Secures String of Supreme Court and Federal Circuit Wins

Two US Supreme Court decisions handed down on June 12 mark the latest in a string of victories secured by WilmerHale's Appellate and Supreme Litigation Court Practice during the 2013-2014 term.

June 17, 2014

US Supreme Court Issues Unanimous Ruling in Favor of WilmerHale Client POM Wonderful

On June 12, 2014, the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of WilmerHale client POM Wonderful LLC (POM) in an important case involving the intersection of the Lanham Act’s prohibition on false advertising and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act's (FDCA) regulation of food and beverage labeling.

June 13, 2014

Seth Waxman Named Litigator of the Week for Another US Supreme Court Victory

Partner Seth Waxman has been named Litigator of the Week by Litigation Daily for yet another US Supreme Court victory.

Recent Highlights

Mr. Waxman has won landmark rulings in a number of Supreme Court cases, including Boumediene v. Bush, in which the Court ruled that foreign citizens held at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in US civilian courts; Roper v. Simmons, in which the Court declared unconstitutional the death penalty for juvenile offenders; and McConnell v. FEC, in which the Court sustained the constitutionality of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. He has also won victories in the Supreme Court for a wide range of business clients.

Mr. Waxman represents a range of business clients in patent, trade-secret and other intellectual property litigation, in both trial and appellate courts. He has won multiple consecutive cases in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit involving complex issues of patent validity, infringement, and licensing.

Mr. Waxman represents a major financial institution in tackling the multi-dimensional problems caused by claims associated with exposure to asbestos. Under his leadership, our representation includes litigation in insurance coverage and bankruptcy proceedings and strategic advice on constitutional and other issues associated with efforts to achieve a coherent solution to the national asbestos liability crisis.

Mr. Waxman's clients constitute a broad range of public as well as corporate institutions. He won a complete victory for the Government of Canada in a multi-billion-dollar trade dispute involving softwood lumber imports before a NAFTA Extraordinary Challenge Committee proceeding. By special appointment, he advised the Office of the Governor of the State of Connecticut in connection with the state legislature's landmark proceedings to consider impeachment of a sitting governor. He served as counsel to the Commission to Review the United States Olympic Committee, a blue-ribbon commission created by the United States Senate to review and recommend changes to the structure and operations of the USOC. He represented the United Nations in litigation concerning the Oil for Food investigation and several state regulatory agencies in First Amendment and environmental matters.

Professional Activities

Mr. Waxman served as president of Harvard's Board of Overseers from 2010-2011. He was elected to the board in 2005, and has served on its executive committee since 2008. Mr. Waxman also serves on the faculty of the Georgetown University Law Center. He is a director and fellow of several professional, educational and cultural institutions, including the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, the American Bar Foundation, the American Law Institute, the Supreme Court Institute and the Supreme Court Historical Society. He lectures and writes frequently on topics related to litigation, constitutional history and doctrine, the First Amendment, intellectual property and the Supreme Court.


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JD, Yale Law School, 1977, Managing Editor, Yale Law Journal

Rockefeller Fellow, 1974

AB, summa cum laude, Harvard University, 1973, Phi Beta Kappa

Bar Admissions

District of Columbia


The Hon. Gerhard A. Gesell, US District Court for the District of Columbia, 1977 - 1978