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 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 75 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

  • Named to the inaugural Legal 500 US Hall of Fame list in 2017
  • Named a 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 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 2009-2016 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 2007-2016 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, 2015 and 2016 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 2013-2016 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


  • 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

Publications & News


March 24, 2017

WilmerHale Lawyers Selected for Inclusion in The Legal 500 US Hall of Fame

Charlene Barshefsky, Reed Freeman, Robert Finkel, Robert Novick, Seth Waxman and William Lee are the six WilmerHale partners who have been selected for inclusion in the inaugural Legal 500 US Hall of Fame.

February 14, 2017

WilmerHale Named Appellate Group of the Year by Law360

The practice achieved four major wins before the Supreme Court in 2016 in addition to several victories before the Federal Circuit and appeals courts. 

January 25, 2017

Licensing Technology Developed with Public Funds: Should Patent Assertion Entities Receive Exclusive Licenses to Federally Owned Patents?

The utilization of Bayh-Dole to license government-owned patents to patent assertion entities raises interesting policy considerations. This article, co-authored by Seth Waxman and published by the ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law in the November-December 2016 issue of Landslide Magazine, provides a brief introduction and overview of these issues using some illustrative patent licenses granted by federal agencies to patent assertion entities.

December 28, 2016

WilmerHale Named to The National Law Journal's Appellate Hot List

The winners were selected based on their federal and state appeals court victories in the US during 2016.

December 9, 2016

WilmerHale’s Seth Waxman Receives Distinguished IP Professional Award

Waxman received the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation's Ninth Distinguished IP Professional Award, given to “an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in the IP community and a lifetime commitment to invention and innovation.”

August 15, 2016

WilmerHale Lawyers Named Among the 2017 Best Lawyers in America®, Six Recognized as Lawyers of the Year

Best Lawyers in America®—a respected peer-review publication in the legal industry—recognizes 101 WilmerHale lawyers and names six partners as Lawyers of the Year in its 23rd edition.

June 22, 2016

The Legal 500 United States 2016 Recognizes 111 WilmerHale Lawyers Across 30 Practice Areas

The guide's rankings are based on a series of criteria, including client feedback, interviews with private practice lawyers, and its own research.

May 27, 2016

WilmerHale Lawyers and Practices Recognized in 2016 Edition of Chambers USA

Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business announced its final rankings for the 2016 edition, with WilmerHale ranking among the nation's best in 47 practice area categories. Chambers also ranked 82 WilmerHale lawyers as leaders in their respective fields.

May 17, 2016

WilmerHale Attorneys and Practices Recognized in 2016 edition of IP Stars Handbook

The fourth edition of the IP Stars Handbook—a Managing IP guide that identifies the leading IP firms and lawyers in the world—has been released and it prominently ranks WilmerHale and 19 of its partners.

March 21, 2016

MIP Names WilmerHale Patent Contentious Firm of the Year and Natalie Hanlon Leh Colorado's Outstanding IP Litigator of the Year

In addition, the firm was recognized for its role in two “Milestone Cases of the Year:” Akamai Technologies v. Limelight Network (Fed. Circuit, August 2015), in which the firm argued on behalf of Akamai, and Authors Guild v. Google (Court of the Appeals for the Second Circuit, October 2015) in which the firm represented Google.

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.