Lawyer Life

Career Advancement Program

At WilmerHale, we take great pride in the quality of our legal work and believe that superb legal skills are best built through a combination of broad work experiences, sound formal training by experienced practitioners, and strong mentoring relationships. The framework of our professional development program is the Career Advancement Program (CAP), which offers hands-on mentoring, a competency-based approach to professional development, flexible career paths, comprehensive training and a competitive compensation package.

At the heart of CAP is a robust mentoring program in which each lawyer has a mentor who takes real ownership for his or her mentee’s career development. The CAP mentor is responsible for the mentee’s competency-based evaluations, informal feedback and coaching, and individual development plan.  

When lawyers have a clear understanding of expectations, they are better equipped to do their jobs. In collaboration with our associates and counsel, we created a set of clearly defined competencies that make for a successful WilmerHale lawyer: commitment, confidence, matter management, oral communication, problem solving, relationship building, teamwork and writing. The competencies describe the knowledge, skills and approaches to legal work and client service that we expect our lawyers to have and apply at different stages in their careers. Ultimately, the competencies capture what our own lawyers say is necessary to succeed in our practice, and echo the feedback of our clients on the qualities they seek in their counsel. 

The competencies also serve as a common language throughout the firm. They help us deliver more meaningful feedback to one another and facilitate each lawyer’s ability to plan his or her own career development. The competencies also help guide us in tailoring our training and development efforts.

CAP offers top-flight lawyer training programs, which include innovative and substantive skills training and “learning by observation.” Highly skilled, seasoned practice managers strive to allocate assignments in support of individual attorney development plans. In addition, periodic upward evaluations ask junior lawyers to give senior lawyers feedback. Through training and "upward" evaluations, the firm puts substantial effort into developing the ability of senior lawyers to train, lead and motivate more junior lawyers effectively.

Additionally, CAP offers a flexible career path structure—associate, senior associate, counsel, special counsel and partner—that promotes lawyer development on a more individualized basis. In order to enhance retention, and to avoid any stigma relating to the pace of promotion, we have a flexible time line for promotion from senior associate to counsel and from counsel to partner or special counsel. 

  • After 3 ½ years, associates are eligible for promotion to senior associate.
  • Senior associates are then eligible for promotion to counsel after three years, but depending upon individual circumstances, that track may be extended up to five years.
  • Counsel are eligible for election to partner or special counsel after two years, but that track may be extended up to four years.
  • Special counsel is a position at the firm intended for lawyers with specialized expertise and skills.

We are committed to recruiting, retaining, developing and promoting the best legal talent. Accordingly, the total compensation package for all lawyers at the firm is highly competitive with that of other major law firms. Our model is performance-based so that individual skill level and contributions are recognized and rewarded.  

Our Career Advancement Program is an investment in the professional development of our number one resource—our lawyers. The quality of our lawyers is what will continue to set us apart. CAP is focused on each lawyer developing to be his or her best. This allows us to compete for and retain clients who recognize the exceptional quality of our substantive legal work and service, and who continue to bring us the challenging projects that make practice at WilmerHale exciting and rewarding.