Criminal Defense and Government Investigations

Storied History.  Founded in 1967 by legendary defense attorney Edward Bennett Williams, Williams & Connolly was the first major law firm in the United States with a significant criminal defense practice.  Since its founding, Williams & Connolly has been recognized as one of the premier White-Collar Criminal Defense firms in the world.

Top Ranked Practice Group.  Chambers USA named Williams & Connolly the 2023 Criminal Litigation Law Firm of the Year, and has ranked Williams & Connolly as a Band 1 firm in White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations for ten straight years.  Benchmark Litigation has ranked Williams & Connolly as a Tier 1 firm in White-Collar Crime for twelve straight years; and The Legal 500 has ranked Williams & Connolly as a Tier 1 firm in Corporate Investigations and White-Collar Criminal Defense: Advice to Individuals since it began ranking firms in that category.  The Vault Guide to the Top 100 Law Firms has ranked Williams & Connolly as the #1 White-Collar Defense Practice in the United States in ten out of the past eleven years.   

Clients and peers have reported:

  • “If you need someone to fight for you, these are the lawyers you hire.” – Chambers (2023)
  • Williams & Connolly is the gold standard on defending criminal cases for companies as well as individuals.”  - The Legal 500 (2022)
  • “They’re the top white-collar firm in the country.  The team from top to bottom was exceptional and it was a pleasure to work with them.”  - Chambers (2022)
  • “They fight for their clients in ways unmatched by other firms.”  - The Legal 500 (2021)
  • “Their tenacity, commitment and drive is unparalleled.” - Chambers (2021)

Unique Team.  Williams & Connolly’s team is unlike any other top tier White-Collar Criminal Defense practice. 

Our team is comprised entirely of highly-qualified, career defense lawyers.  Each lawyer in Williams & Connolly’s criminal defense practice is homegrown.  Williams & Connolly has rigorous hiring standards, and each generation of Williams & Connolly defense lawyers has been trained by elite defense lawyers from prior generations—from founding partner Edward Bennett Williams, regarded by many as “the best trial lawyer ever to practice” (The Man to See), to senior partner Brendan Sullivan, who has been described as “one of the greatest lawyers ever” with “an ironclad reputation as a white-collar specialist and trial maestro” (Chambers).

Williams & Connolly’s team has vast experience trying criminal cases on the defense side.  More than 30 Williams & Connolly lawyers have represented white-collar defendants in criminal trials, including some of the most significant trials of this century and the last.  Our trial experience is critical to our approach, and to the success of our clients.  We approach virtually every case with the view that it may end with a trial because, in our experience, this leads to the best results for our clients, even in corporate representations where settlement often is the prudent path.  The government knows that Williams & Connolly is prepared and able to take a case to trial when necessary, which provides a distinct advantage to our clients. 

Our lawyers not only have found success in the courtroom, but have shaped the practice of criminal law.  Following Williams & Connolly’s representation of the late U.S. Senator Ted Stevens in what The American Lawyer described as “one of the best criminal defense performances in memory,” the Department of Justice ("DOJ") promulgated new discovery guidelines to address criminal discovery and prosecutorial misconduct, and began training its prosecutors on those guidelines.

Broad Experience.  Williams & Connolly has represented corporate and individual clients in every substantive area of criminal law and at every stage of the enforcement process. 

We have represented Fortune 500 companies (in industry sectors including healthcare, financial services, technology, and manufacturing), Big Four accounting firms, and Am Law 100 law firms.  We have represented CEOs, company founders, board members, general counsel, and other senior executives.  We have represented the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, Cabinet Secretaries, Senators, Representatives, military officers, and other federal, state, and local officials. 

Williams & Connolly often represents clients in bet-the-company criminal investigations*.  For example, the firm represented a multinational media company in a four-year DOJ investigation relating to alleged bribery of foreign officials and phone hacking.  DOJ closed the investigation without bringing charges against the company or any of its employees.  The firm has tried many high-profile criminal cases to verdict.  Williams & Connolly won an acquittal on all counts against former Wall Street executive Ralph Cioffi in what the New York Times called “an early test of the government’s ability to win convictions tied to the subprime mortgage-related investments” and “a major setback for the Justice Department.”  The firm successfully represented President Clinton in the first impeachment trial of a sitting president in more than 125 years.  Williams & Connolly has won repeated landmark criminal appeals.  See, e.g., Cleveland v. United States, 531 U.S. 12 (2000) (limiting the scope of the mail fraud statute); In re Grand Jury Subpoenas, 454 F.3d 511 (6th Cir. 2006) (precluding government taint team from reviewing a private party’s privileged documents); United States v. North, 920 F.2d 940 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (restricting use of immunized testimony). 

*All cases vary and none are predictive

For a description of some of the substantive areas of law where we practice and a list of representative experience, please see the areas below on our website:

Primary Contacts


"Criminal Litigation Law Firm of the Year," Chambers USA, 2023

White Collar Crime - Tier 1, Benchmark Litigation, 2012-2024

#1 White Collar Defense Practice (Nationwide), Vault, 2010-2022

Corporate Crime & Investigations, Chambers Global, 2019-2024

Investigations & Enforcement, International & Cross-Border, Chambers Global, 2020-2023

Corporate Crime & Investigations (Nationwide), Chambers USA, 2015-2023

Litigation: White Collar Crime & Government Investigations (DC), Chambers USA, 2014-2023

Dispute Resolution: Corporate Investigations and White-Collar Criminal Defense, Advice to Corporates, The Legal 500, 2018-2023

Dispute Resolution: Corporate Investigations and White-Collar Criminal Defense, Advice to Individuals, The Legal 500, 2018-2023

White-Collar/Government Investigations, LMG Life Sciences, 2022

Government Investigations Firm of the Year, LMG Life Sciences, 2019

Williams & Connolly Shortlisted for 2024 "White Collar Crime/Investigations Firm of the Year" by Benchmark Litigation

Williams & Connolly Shortlisted for 2024 "White Collar Crime/Investigations Firm of the Year" by Benchmark Litigation

Law360 Recognizes Williams & Connolly as a 2023 “Firm of the Year”

Law360 Recognizes Williams & Connolly as a 2023 “Firm of the Year”
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