Wilkinson Walsh Lures SCOTUS Clerks With $350K Bonuses, Hires in 3 Cities

The trial boutique Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz has hired two clerks from the most recent U.S. Supreme Court term, and in the process it appears to have set a new high for incoming associate bonuses.

The hires, Elizabeth “Betsy” Henthorne and John James “JJ” Snidow, join the firm’s Washington, D.C., office from the chambers of Justices Elena Kagan and Anthony Kennedy, respectively. Wilkinson Walsh will award them hiring bonuses of $350,000 each, name partner Sean Eskovitz said, compared with bonuses that have topped out at $300,000 and $330,000 for former high court clerks in recent years.

Supreme Court clerks typically join law firms as third-year or midlevel associates, since they are several years out of law school.

“Our value pitch here is we’re going to recruit and continue to recruit and train the best lawyers of this generation,” and to eventually grow them into partners, Eskovitz said Monday. “If we think they’ve got the talent and the work ethic to succeed, we are more than willing to pay the market.” Eskovitz added that he believes Wilkinson Walsh is at the same rate and competitive with other firms’ pay scales.

The firm also announced five other new associate hires, in Washington, Los Angeles and New York, on Monday. They are Angela Cai in New York, Roxana Guidero in Los Angeles, and Brian Czarnecki, Sarah Neuman and Anastasia Pastan in Washington. All clerked on federal appellate courts.

Henthorne and Snidow are among the first clerks from the 2016-17 term to land at law firms. But the legal industry should expect more announcements soon.

Many of the three dozen Supreme Court clerks each year are sought-after Big Law hires. In 2016, Kirkland & Ellis picked up six clerks, the most among any firm. In the four years before that, Jones Day led the pack in Supreme Court clerk hires, with 10 in 2015 alone.

Wilkinson Walsh, a trial litigation boutique, opened in January 2016 when its six founding lawyersspun off from some of Big Law’s premiere firms. The hires this week raise the firm’s leverage from about two lawyers for every partner to three lawyers for every partner.

The firm has nine partners, for 36 total lawyers among three offices. It operates offices in Washington and Los Angeles, with the New York office set to formally open in the coming months.

The firm expects to add two more lawyers by the end of the year, Eskovitz said.

One of Wilkinson Walsh’s name partners, Alexandra Walsh, clerked at the Supreme Court for Justice Stephen Breyer, as did three other Wilkinson Walsh partners and counsel.

The firm’s clients thus far include the National Collegiate Athletic Association in a trial over college athletes’ compensations; the National Football League in an antitrust suit related to a broadcast deal; Facebook in a trade secrets dispute; Philip Morris subsidiary Altria Group Inc. in a class action defense; and the paper company Georgia Pacific, which earned a class action suit dismissal early this month.

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