Associate Life

At Willkie, we recognize that our associates are our greatest assets, and we are committed to investing in their development by giving them real responsibility from the outset, providing engaging in-house training programs, offering access to active mentors, and fostering true collaboration among lawyers at all levels.


At the same time, we are proud of our long-standing tradition of public service and pro bono work and want to ensure that all of our associates have an opportunity to participate. We seek to accomplish all of this in an atmosphere where people get to know one another personally as well as professionally, building lasting relationships as a result.

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Associate Mentoring

We believe mentoring and constructive feedback are critical to professional development. Partners and senior attorneys are expected to provide real-time feedback to more junior lawyers throughout all matters. In addition, we have established a number of formal mentoring programs.

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New Associate Mentor Program

Upon arrival at Willkie, both new and experienced associates are assigned a partner to serve as their Career Advisor to help smooth the transition into Firm life, provide guidance, and assist with navigating the work assignment system.  Each new attorney is also assigned an Associate Liaison to help with integration and to provide practical tips.

Senior Associate/Partner Advisor Program

Fourth-year and more senior lawyers are assigned a partner advisor as a supplement to existing, informal mentoring relationships.

Women’s Mentoring Circles

The Women’s Professional Development Committee has established cross-departmental associate mentoring circles to provide a framework for increased interaction among women at the Firm.

Senior Associate Advisory Network

A team of senior associates is “on-call” to answer junior associates’ questions related to ongoing projects and to provide career guidance. The Advisory Network also hosts periodic meetings to discuss current matters and practice area developments.

Associate Professional Development

Our focus on associate training and development takes many forms, starting with the daily interaction between partners and associates. Partners work side-by-side with associates on all matters, providing real-time training, feedback, and mentoring throughout an associate’s career.

Under the leadership of our Professional Development Committee – which includes partner and associate members from all practices – we have developed an extensive program of in-house training presentations. Seminars are conducted weekly by senior Willkie lawyers on topics ranging from developments in the law (at introductory and advanced levels) to financial analysis to practical lawyering and business skills. We also frequently invite outside speakers to contribute additional perspective and non-legal expertise.

As a supplement, while every associate develops at his or her own pace, we recognize that there are moments of transition common to all associates and have developed training seminars tailored to those transitions.

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New Associate Orientation

This orientation program includes a comprehensive overview of Firm economics, presentations by the co-chairs of the Firm, and department-specific boot camps intended to provide new associates with the background needed to start their careers.

First-Year Refresh

This annual seminar focuses on approach to practice and includes training sessions on legal research skills, accounting principles, and refreshers specific to the first-year associate.

Fourth-Year Seminar

This program covers a range of topics from the business of the Firm to management workshops and business development. It also offers department-specific skills-development training, including an advanced negotiation workshop for transactional attorneys and interactive workshops on trial practice, deposition skills, legal writing, and oral arguments for our litigators.

Senior Associate Market Briefing

This program is geared towards sixth-year and more senior associates and provides insight into the partnership process and an in-depth look at the Firm’s marketing and business development efforts.

Feedback and Reviews

As an adjunct to all of this, associates also benefit from a comprehensive evaluation program. Associates are evaluated in the spring and fall of each year, and meet with their assigning partners at least once a year to discuss their performance. As part of the review process, associates are asked to complete an Annual Report to reflect on their own performance and to establish professional goals for the coming year. Associates also have the opportunity to provide upstream reviews to partners, counsel, and senior associates.

Attorney Events

Beyond working together, we make it a point to get to know one another on a personal level.

Over 40 years ago, Willkie’s partners began hosting monthly “Informal Gatherings” in the office so that lawyers could socialize and catch up.  The tradition continues across the Firm today.

We also see one another outside the office. Once a year, our New York office hosts an all-attorney event that has taken different forms over the past few years, including a ping pong tournament, an outdoor skating party in Bryant Park, a Central Park Zoo party, an indoor team mini golf, an air hockey and cornhole competition, and a bingo night. There are also department-specific outings ranging from cocktail parties at partners’ homes to dinners to a dodgeball tournament.

The Washington, D.C. office has hosted dinner cruises and outings on the Chesapeake Bay. We are also fortunate to have a rooftop space with stunning views, and cocktails on the roof are a highlight of summer living for our Washington attorneys. The Houston office has hosted partner dinner parties, casino nights, MLB outings, and cooking classes.

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Compensation and Benefits

Willkie is committed to compensating associates at a level commensurate with our peer firms.

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Core Compensation and Benefits Include:

  • Salary of $190,000 per year for first-year associates
  • Lock-step associate compensation system
  • Competitive bonuses
  • Four weeks of paid vacation each year
  • Salary advance to incoming first-year associates
  • Reimbursements for moving expenses, bar review courses, bar examination fees and bar association dues

Other Benefits Include:

  • 18 weeks paid (and 18 weeks unpaid) parental leave for primary caregivers
  • Subsidized health and dental insurance (including spouses and children)
  • Life and disability insurance
  • Fitness allowance and subsidized health club membership
  • Emergency day care center
  • Attorney lounge with cappuccino machine, breakfast, and afternoon cookies
  • Free private banking at Citibank or Chase
  • Technology allowance
  • Independent Counselors on Call, a resource for attorneys to have private sessions on a confidential basis with experienced career counselors. The career counselors help the attorneys develop action plans to achieve their professional goals.

Alternative Work Scheduling:

Willkie recognizes that attorneys who have strong commitments to the practice of law and are engaged in parenting may, at times, find it desirable to adjust or reduce their work schedules. The Firm has an equally strong commitment to providing alternative work schedule arrangements for attorneys at all levels, from junior associate to partner, in appropriate circumstances. For our attorneys who work on a flexible or alternative schedule, there are designated attorneys charged with creating opportunities for exchanging ideas and experiences related to successfully managing career and life challenges.

Diversity and Inclusion

Willkie believes that everyone benefits from a diverse and inclusive workplace. To that end, we strive to hire lawyers with different backgrounds in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and culture.

Our Diversity and Inclusion Committee is central to these efforts and summer law clerks learn about the Committee immediately upon arrival. The Diversity and Inclusion Committee is involved in summer law clerk orientation, takes an active role in mentoring, hosts at least one summer law clerk event, and seeks to involve summer law clerks in our broader diversity and inclusiveness program.

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Our Women’s Professional Development Committee (WPDC) also participates actively in the summer program. The WPDC typically hosts a networking event for summer law clerks, participates in mentoring, and includes summer law clerks in ongoing programming.

We reinforce all of this effort through partnerships with law-school affinity groups including APALSA, BLSA, LALSA, LAMBDA/OUTLAWS, SALSA, and Women’s Law Associations, sponsoring receptions, career nights, mock interview programs, moot court competitions, and seminars with these groups.

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Pro Bono

We take great pride in our pro bono program. It has earned us numerous awards, including inMotion's (now known as Her Justice) 2013 Commitment to Justice Award; Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, Inc. honored us for significant pro bono contributions and a Willkie partner received the organization’s 2013 Pioneer Award; Sanctuary for Families’ 2013 Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Award; and several Willkie attorneys were honored by The Legal Aid Society in 2014 with Pro Bono Publico Awards for exceptional service to the Society and its clients. Additionally, a Willkie partner was named as one of the New York Law Journal’s 2014 “Lawyers Who Lead by Example” in recognition of his exceptional pro bono contributions, and the firm and 27 Willkie attorneys were recognized by the New York State Bar Association as Empire State Counsel® honorees for their extraordinary pro bono contributions in 2014. We strongly encourage our attorneys to meet their pro bono responsibilities by providing essential legal services for the indigent and disadvantaged. We regularly advise our attorneys with respect to new pro bono opportunities as they arise.

All pro bono work undertaken by associates is considered the responsibility of the firm, and a partner is assigned to each matter to render advice, assistance and supervision. Lawyers working on pro bono matters have available to them the full resources of the firm. For billing purposes, time committed to pro bono matters is treated no differently than time committed to any other client.

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  • Willkie has participated in an externship program at MFY Legal Services for more than 10 years through which, on a rotating basis, the firm maintains a full-time attorney permanently on assignment at MFY. This highly popular externship is one of the oldest and most successful of its kind among large New York firms.  In 2012, the firm was honored by MFY for its overall dedication and longstanding support for the organization.
  • In 2008 the firm established a similar externship with Her Justice, at the Queens Family Justice Center. Like the MFY externship, the new Her Justice externship is a rotating position for a period of four months during which the extern is given a full case load in Family Court and Supreme Court, including hearings and trials on family law issues.
  • For a number of years the firm has incorporated one and two-week public interest externships into our Summer Associate program, as well as offering numerous opportunities to work on pro bono matters in-house throughout the course of the summer.

Transactions and Major Projects

We work closely with a number of legal services organizations that link lawyers to needy individuals and institutions serving the disadvantaged.  We also have an active practice representing asylum seekers and other persons with complex immigration problems.  Among these organizations are:

  • The Legal Aid Society
  • Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
  • Her Justice (formerly inMotion)
  • MFY Legal Services
  • The Innocence Project
  • NY City Bar Association Refugee Assistance Program

Additionally, we act as general counsel to a number of organizations providing services for the poor, including Women in Need and City Harvest.

In the three years following the World Trade Center attacks, our lawyers devoted thousands of hours to the assistance of WTC victims, obtaining monetary compensation for eligible clients and providing advice on bankruptcy and trusts and estates matters.

Our London office was recently named  a legal partner for Advocates for International Development (A4ID). Through A4ID, Willkie provides pro bono legal advice to clients in development organizations and other sectors working towards poverty eradication and sustainable development. 

We have also worked on a number of major special projects and litigations, including:

  • our work as one of the first law firms to partner with Project Corazon, a nationwide coalition run by the Lawyers for Good Government Foundation, created to help reunite and assist immigrant and asylum-seeking families separated at the U.S. border;
  • our work, in collaboration with Bloomberg, on more than a dozen clemency petitions as part of the Clemency Project 2014, an initiative addressing the large number of federal prisoners who, if sentenced today under current sentencing laws and policies, would likely have received a substantially lower sentence for their nonviolent crimes;
  • our representation of Habitat for Humanity, on a completely pro bono basis, in the securitization of mortgages to raise millions of dollars for the construction of new homes for the needy;
  • our service, pro bono, as one of the principal outside counsel for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts;
  • our filing of amicus briefs in the Second Circuit and Supreme Court on behalf of a detainee charged with terrorist-related crimes in United States v. Padilla;
  • our work on behalf of  the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s Medicaid campaign, which is striving to provide healthcare access to low-income transgender New Yorkers;
  • our representation of 92 amicus plaintiffs from 15 states  in a case before the United States Supreme Court, regarding the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage; and
  • serving as counsel for the Innocence Project, which is acting as an amicus curiae in a lethal injection case  before the United States Supreme Court.

Finally, many of our lawyers have spent large portions of their careers in various areas of public service, including one as Governor of New York, one as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, one as President of the Bar Association of the City of New York, and numerous others in various departments of government.  One of our former partners, Chester J. Straub, serves on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, while another is a bankruptcy judge in the Eastern District of New York.  In short, we have a long history of commitment to and investment in the many spheres of public interest work.