Seth P. Waxman


Co-Chair, Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation Practice

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. In January 2016, The American Lawyer named him "Litigator of the Year." Mr. Waxman was also named Appellate/Litigation "Lawyer of the Year" for 2018, Litigation - Intellectual Property "Lawyer of the Year" for 2016 and Litigation - First Amendment Law and Regulatory Enforcement Law "Lawyer of the Year" for 2015 by Best Lawyers in America, and, in 2014, Super Lawyers deemed him 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 80 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.


  • Distinguished IP Professional Award, IPO Education Foundation, 2016
  • 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

Other Recognition

  • Named to the inaugural Legal 500 US  Hall of Fame list in 2017
  • Named 2016 "Litigator of the Year" by The American Lawyer
  • Received the Outstanding Achievement Award from Chambers USA in 2012 for his contributions to the legal profession
  • Named Appellate/Litigation "Lawyer of the Year" for 2018; Litigation - Intellectual Property "Lawyer of the Year" for 2016; 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. He has been selected to the Washington DC Super Lawyers list each year since 2007, and is recognized as one of Washington DC's "Top Ten" lawyers in the 2009-2017 editions.
  • 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 2007-2017 editions of  Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business and selected as a leading lawyer in the Native American law category in the 2014-2017 editions
  • 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 2013-2017 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 2013-2016 IP Star by Managing IP, a guidebook that identifies leading IP 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, 2011, 2013 and 2015
  • 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

Publications & News


May 17, 2018

WilmerHale Partners and Practices Named Among Managing Intellectual Property's 2018 IP Stars

Managing Intellectual Property's 2018 IP Stars Handbook recognizes WilmerHale and 19 of its partners as leaders in the field. IP Stars identifies lawyers based on their knowledge, outcomes achieved for clients and unique strengths in the given practice area.

May 15, 2018

SCOTUS Overturns LA Death-Row Inmate’s Conviction in Win for WilmerHale’s Seth Waxman

In a case argued by Partner Seth Waxman on behalf of a Louisiana death-row inmate, the US Supreme Court on Monday, May 14, 2018, overturned several murder convictions and ordered a new trial after finding that the condemned man's trial attorney violated his constitutional rights.

May 3, 2018

WilmerHale Lawyers and Practices Recognized in 2018 Edition of Chambers USA

Chambers and Partners announced its rankings for the 2018 edition of Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business, with WilmerHale listed among the nation's best in 50 practice area categories. Chambers also ranked 95 WilmerHale lawyers as leaders in their respective fields.

February 20, 2018

Supreme Court to Decide Future of Sports Betting: Implications for Tribal Casinos

The Supreme Court's forthcoming decision in Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association will have profound implications for sports betting in the United States and will potentially open the door to such betting in tribal casinos across the country.

February 8, 2018

Law360 Names WilmerHale a Native American Practice Group of the Year

The firm has been recognized by Law360 as a Native American Practice Group of the Year, highlighting some of the firm's most favorable settlements in water, land and natural resources disputes, and litigation in district and appellate courts.

October 31, 2017

WilmerHale Named to The National Law Journal's Appellate Hot List for the 10th Consecutive Year

The National Law Journal named WilmerHale among the best of the nation's firms with significant appellate practices, giving it a spot on the publication's 2017 Appellate Hot List.

October 15, 2017

60 Minutes: Redemption

In a 60 Minutes segment that aired on October 15, Seth Waxman shares his reflections as a mentor to Shon Hopwood, a Georgetown Law professor who served 12 years in prison for armed bank robbery.

August 16, 2017

WilmerHale Lawyers Named Among the 2018 Best Lawyers in America®, Nine Recognized as Lawyers of the Year

Best Lawyers in America®—the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal industry—recognizes 107 WilmerHale lawyers and names nine partners as Lawyers of the Year in its 24th edition.

August 10, 2017

DC Lawyers Support Record-Breaking Legal Aid Fundraising Campaign

Lawyers in WilmerHale's Washington DC office raised $135,000 for the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia's annual Generous Associates Campaign, a fundraiser run by associates at DC law firms each summer.

July 24, 2017

WilmerHale Recognized in IAM Patent 1000 2017

The firm and several of its partners are ranked in IAM Patent 1000 2017 – The World's Leading Patent Professionals.

Recent Highlights

Mr. Waxman has won landmark rulings in many 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, including Medtronic, Monsanto, ABC, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Chase, Ford, Household Credit, and POM Wonderful.

Mr. Waxman represents clients in patent, copyright, 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'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.