Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr

Last updated on 4 August 2017

Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP (known as WilmerHale) is an American law firm with 12 offices across the United States, Europe and Asia. It was created in 2004, through the merger of the Boston-based firm, Hale and Dorr and the Washington-based firm Wilmer Cutler & Pickering; and employs more than 1,000 attorneys worldwide.[1][2]

Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr


Hale and Dorr, 1918–2004

Hale and Dorr was founded in Boston in 1918 by Richard Hale, Dudley Huntington Dorr, Frank Grinnell, Roger Swaim and John Maguire. Reginald Heber Smith, author of the seminal work Justice and the Poor and a pioneer in the American legal aid movement, joined the firm in 1919 and served as managing partner for thirty years. Hale and Dorr gained national recognition in 1954 when partner Joseph Welch, assisted by associate James St. Clair and John Kimball, Jr., represented the U.S. Army on a pro bono basis during the historic Army-McCarthy hearings. In 1974, James D. St. Clair represented President Richard Nixon before the Supreme Court of the United States in United States v. Nixon. In 1988, partner Paul Brountas chaired the presidential campaign of Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, and in 1990, senior partner William Weld was elected governor. The firm has had a long and mutually profitable relationship with nearby Harvard Law School, alma mater of more than a fifth of WilmerHale's current lawyers, and home of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center.[3]

In 1988, the law firm established a subsidiary as a registered investment adviser. Initially known as Haldor Investment Advisors, L.P., and then Hale Dorr Wealth Advisers. In 2008 Hale Dorr Wealth Advisors became Silver Bridge.[4]

Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, 1962–2004

Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering was founded in Washington in 1962 by former Cravath attorneys Lloyd Cutler and John Pickering, along with a senior lawyer, Richard H. Wilmer. Cutler, who later served as White House Counsel to Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, founded the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in 1962, and served on its executive committee until 1987.

In the 1980s, Cutler led the founding of the Southern Africa Legal Services and Legal Education Project, to aid South African lawyers who fought to implement the rule of law during apartheid. From 1981 to 1993, partner C. Boyden Gray left the firm to serve as White House Counsel to Vice President and President George H. W. Bush. In 2003, partner Jamie Gorelick began serving as a member of the 9/11 Commission.

Combined firm, 2004–present

The two firms merged to form Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in 2004.[1][2]

In 2010, the law firm relocated its administrative support base to a new campus in Dayton, Ohio as it sought to streamline internal business operations across its many offices.[1] The office houses more than 200 employees from existing WilmerHale offices and new employees from the Dayton area. Individuals in the Business Services Center include administrative support staff, bringing together services such as finance, human resources, information technology services, operations, document review and management, and practice management, which will provide improved efficiencies for administrative teams and the firm, and reduce significant operational expenses.[5]


WilmerHale has ranked in the top 20 in the popular Vault "prestige" ranking of the top hundred American law firms and on the American Lawyer "A-List" of the nation's twenty leading law firms based on revenue per lawyer, pro bono work, associate satisfaction, and diversity.[6] According to the British magazine Legal Week, the firm ranked 14th among American law firms in terms of total revenue in 2006.[7]


A Civil Action

In the late 1980s, Hale and Dorr partner Jerome Facher represented Beatrice Foods in a suit by eight families from Woburn, Massachusetts who claimed that Beatrice, along with W.R. Grace, had polluted the town's water supply, resulting in an elevated number of leukemia cases and immune-system disorders. The case was memorialized in the book A Civil Action, by Jonathan Harr, and in a movie of the same name starring Robert Duvall as Facher and John Travolta as plaintiffs' lawyer Jan Schlichtmann.[8] Upon further discovery, the EPA took the case on and W.R. Grace was successfully indicted for making false statements. Both W. R. Grace and Beatrice Foods paid a total $64.9M to clean up the contaminated sites in Woburn, Massachusetts.

Enron and WorldCom reports

In the wake of news articles raising concerns about transactions between Enron and its CFO, Andy Fastow, lawyers from Wilmer Cutler & Pickering represented a special investigative committee of Enron's board of directors in an internal investigation into those transactions. The resulting report, known as the "Powers Report," laid out the facts that have been the predicate for much of the public discussion of Enron since that time.[9]

Similarly, after WorldCom's announcement that it would have to restate financial statements, the firm represented a special investigative committee of WorldCom's board of directors in performing an internal investigation into the accounting irregularities. The investigation resulted in a widely covered written report that detailed a variety of accounting issues as well as the role of management and the board of directors.[10]

Other notable and controversial clients

In 1986, Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering represented corporate raider Ivan Boesky in high-profile Department of Justice and SEC proceedings, as well as multiple class actions based on his participation in insider trading violations.

Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering represented Swiss banks accused of profiting from the Holocaust in their settlement negotiations with plaintiffs. The firm also represented Siemens AG, Krupp AG, and other German companies accused of exploiting forced laborers during the Nazi era.[11]

Since 2005, WilmerHale has represented Senator William Frist in regard to an SEC insider trading investigation.[12]

Pro bono

Both Hale and Dorr and Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering have a long history of involvement in pro bono work. WilmerHale has ranked at or near the top of The American Lawyer's pro bono ranking since the merger. In recent years, the firm has been involved in several high-profile cases.

Guantanamo controversy

A team of WilmerHale attorneys represents the “Algerian Six”, a group of men who fell under suspicion of planning to attack the US embassy in Bosnia and who are now held in the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp.[13]

In 2006, attorney Melissa Hoffer, then part of the team with WilmerHale, delivered a speech in Caen, France, critical of U.S. detainee policy.[14] Other WilmerHale lawyers participating in the case include Stephen Oleskey,[15] and Rob Kirsch.[16]

In January 2007, Cully Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, criticized WilmerHale and other major law firms for representing "the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001," and questioned whether such work was really being done pro bono or might actually receive funding from shadowy sources.[17] In a Wall Street Journal editorial criticizing Stimson, Harvard Law School professor (and former United States Solicitor General under President Reagan) Charles Fried wrote:

"It is no surprise that firms like Wilmer Hale (which represents both Big Pharma and Tobacco Free Kids), Covington & Burling (which represents both Big Tobacco and Guantanamo detainees), and the other firms on Mr. Stimson's hit list, are among the most sought-after by law school graduates, and retain the loyalty and enthusiasm of their partners. They offer their lawyers the profession at its best, and help assure that the rule of law is not just a slogan but a satisfying way of life."[18]

In December 2007, Seth Waxman made the oral argument to the Supreme Court in Boumediene v. Bush which upheld habeas corpus rights for detainees at Guantanamo Bay.[19]

Attorneys and lawyers

Notable attorneys and lawyers, past and present:

Hale and Dorr

Wilmer Cutler & Pickering



  1. ^ a b c Amanda Becker (May 3, 2010). "WilmerHale moving support staff to Ohio". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Anthony Lin (April 20, 2004). "Wilmer Cutler Joins Forces With Hale and Dorr". New York Law Journal.
  3. ^ "WilmerHale Legal Services Center". Harvard Law School. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  4. ^ The Boston Globe, "Hale and Dorr launches "Silver Bridge Advisors", September 29, 2008
  5. ^ "Dayton - Business Services Center". Offices. WilmerHale. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  6. ^ "Recognition". About. WilmerHale. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  7. ^ "Top 50 US Firms 2006" (PDF). Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  8. ^ Dead link May 7, 2013
  9. ^ Dead link May 7, 3013 Houston Chronicle
  10. ^ Larry Schlesinger (June 10, 2003). "WorldCom report: Sullivan masterminded fraud". Accountancy Age. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  11. ^ Michael J. Bazyler (Fall 2004). "Suing Hitler's Willing Business Partners: American Justice and Holocaust Morality". Jewish Political Studies Review. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 16 (3-4).
  12. ^ Dead link NBC News as of May 8, 2013
  13. ^ Melissa Hoffer (April 20, 2006). "Torture in Guantánamo". Cageprisoners Ltd. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  14. ^ Melissa Hoffer. "La leçon de Guantanamo" (in French). TV5Monde. Archived from the original on 2012-07-17. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  15. ^ "Top Pentagon Official Calls for Boycott of Law Firms Representing Guantanamo Prisoners". Democracy Now!. January 17, 2007. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  16. ^ "The folks who brought us Brainwashing and ECT try to clean up: Psychologists, Guantanamo and Torture" article by Stephen Soldz on Counterpunch August 1, 2006, accessed May 8, 2013
  17. ^ "Bush Lawyer Blasts Law Firms For Representing Detainees" post by Peter Lattman on Law Blog [Wall Street Journal] on the cases, trends and personalities of interest to the business community, January 12, 2007
  18. ^ "Stimson Under Fire" post by Peter Lattman on Law Blog [Wall Street Journal] on the cases, trends and personalities of interest to the business community, January 16, 2007
  19. ^ "Supreme Court Rules that Guantanamo Detainees Have Constitutional Right to Habeas Corpus" Wilmer Hale press release, June 12, 2008, retrieved on June 13, 2008

External links

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