Arnold & Porter LLP

Published April 2011

2011 Vault Ranking: 21


Headquartered in Washington D.C., Arnold & Porter is one of the beltway elite firms. Although technically a full service firm, they are most well known for their stellar antitrust work and strong litigation groups. The firm has a wealth of experience in working where business, law, and government intersect.

A relatively young firm, Arnold & Porter was originally founded in only 1946. It was a foregone conclusion that the firm would quickly establish itself among the D.C. elite. The two original founders, Thurman Arnold and Abe Fortas, were both former Yale law professors, with Arnold already having served as a judge on the D.C. Circuit and Fortas on a path to be appointed to the Supreme Court. Much of the firm’s early recruiting came by way of poaching government attorneys from various agencies.

Throughout the firm’s early life, it handled numerous high profile cases that pitted it against the government. Most notably, attorneys from the firm represented Clarence Earl Gideon in Gideon v. Wainwright, establishing a defendant’s right to counsel. It was also the only firm of any consequence to represent individuals who were being investigated by Senator Joseph McCarthy. In 1963, the firm represented one Hugh Hefner against obscenity charges arising from his then only ten year old Playboy magazine.

The firm has since expanded beyond its original roots; it now boasts seven hundred attorneys in nine offices, though still focusing on D.C. Though the firm was affected by the financial crisis just like any other firm, it weathered the economic storm fairly well. The firm was forced to lay off forty-four support staff, but no associate layoffs occurred. The firm instituted a pay freeze in 2009, but ultimately all associates were paid the deferred compensation.

Practice Areas

Arnold & Porter is best well known for its antitrust practice, ranked the best in the nation. The firm has consistently been among the best in the field both from a transactional approach before a given merger or acquisition, and in litigation when a business practice is challenged. In 2006, the firm advised AT&T in its dealings with the Department of Justice and the FCC when it was acquiring BellSouth.

The firm is nationally recognized for their excellent regulatory and government relations work. Its clients have included both corporations engaged in regulated industries, as well as government agencies themselves. The firm advised the Federal Housing Finance Agency when it took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as the housing market collapsed.

The firm also has a very successful intellectual property group. Unlike the D.C. centric government work the firm is mostly known for, Arnold & Porter’s IP practice is evenly spread across the national offices. It includes a wide variety of clients and practice areas, including a very highly rated life sciences division. Clients of the group include AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, among others.

In the Vault practice area rankings, the firm holds the number one spot in Antitrust and number three overall in Antitrust Litigation. Its other top twenty rankings include Products Liability, Labor & Employment, Class Actions, and Appellate Litigation.

Nationally, Arnold & Porter has Band 1 or 2 rankings by Chambers and Partners in Antitrust, Financial Services Regulation, Government Contracts, Government Relations, Intellectual Property, Life Sciences, Privacy & Data Security, and Mass Torts. Within Washington D.C. the firm also has Band 1 or 2 rankings in Bankruptcy and Corporate/M&A.

Summer Program

Getting hired at Arnold & Porter is an accomplishment in and of itself. The firm has a very small summer class, preferring to hire laterals that already have clerkships and other high-end experiences under their belt. The firm has fairly high and inflexible GPA cutoffs for summer associates.

If accepted, summers will experience an eleven week summer program offered in all of the domestic offices. Summer associates are assigned work through an attorney coordinator and a summer associate committee which assures summers the opportunity to work in different practice areas and experience a variety of clients. Summers are expected to complete between eleven and fifteen assignments over the course of the summer.

Summer associates are expected to be in the office during normal working hours, typically leaving at 7:30 in New York, at 6:00 in other offices. Most summers reported that the experience is rarely stressful. Mentors are assigned to summer associates, and there are weekly training sessions. The firm allows summers to attend three attorney lunches each week, with budgets varying from $35 to $55 depending on office. Weekly social events are scheduled, including baseball games, city tours, and rooftop dinners.

In 2009, while the economy was in shambles, the firm still extended offers to 41 of 44 summer associates across all the U.S. offices, for a total of 93%.

Compensation and Benefits

Arnold & Porter follows a lockstep salary system for associates, starting at $160,000. Salaries were frozen for a short period of time in 2009, but in January 2010 it was reversed. Associates were returned to the correct class year and those in good standing received a lump sum payment of the money they would have received had there been no salary freeze in the first place.

The firm is not a leader in terms of bonus amounts, generally matching the market. To be eligible for bonuses, an associate must reach a minimum of 2000 “productive hours.” This is a total of billable hours, pro bono, and business development. At least 1800 hours must be actual billable hours. The firm encourages associates to spend up to 15% of their time on pro bono work. Associates tend to average around 150 pro bono hours per year.

The firm has no real face time requirement, but as in most cases this can vary by partner. Certain senior partners prefer face to face meetings, essentially requiring associates to be in the office during working hours. The firm provides four weeks of vacation time. Most partners respect vacation time, but the expectation by the partners is that a scheduled vacation will not interfere with the associate getting their work done.

Other benefits include an in-house gym and emergency child care in the D.C. office, as well as a full time pre-school program for associates with young children. The firm also pays for attorney lunches during an associate’s first three months at the firm, and pays for lunches with an associate’s mentor for their entire time at the firm.


The firm has a single partnership track that averages eight and a half years to eligibility. Associates who do not make partner on the first try are considered for partner the following year. The firm does not have a strong up or out policy. Like at any firm, making partner is very hard work, but it is achievable.


Any elite law firm will have high expectations in terms of the amount and quality of work, but otherwise Arnold & Porter is fairly laid back and collegial. Casual Fridays at the firm means jeans, not just taking off your jacket. While other firms may have weekly cocktail socials, at this firm it is beer and pizza days in many offices. However don’t let this fool you into thinking attorneys don’t take their jobs seriously.

In terms of politics, the firm tends to have a fairly liberal bent. It has historically worked for fairly liberal causes in terms of pro bono projects, and to this day has a strong partnership with the Legal Aid Society of Washington D.C. However the firm is fairly diverse, and a conservative attorney won’t feel ostracized.