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Davis Wright Tremaine

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Davis Wright Tremaine
Davis Wright Tremaine logo.jpg
Headquarters Seattle (WA)
Number of Offices 9
Number of attorneys 564
Practice Areas Full-service
Davis Wright Tremaine Pay Scale
(all numbers in thousands of dollars)

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP is a national business and litigation law firm with offices across the United States and in Shanghai, China.[1]

The firm served as lead counsel for 30,000 plaintiffs in consolidated proceedings on behalf of fishermen, processors, Alaska natives, landowners, businesses, and others injured as a result of the spill of 11.8 million gallons of North Slope crude oil into the coastal waters of Alaska by the Exxon Valdez.[2] The plaintiffs were ultimately awarded almost a billion dollars in damages and interest.

The firm also successfully represented CBS in its long-running effort to overturn fines imposed by the Federal Communications Commission over the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl.[3][4]


Firm founder John Davis, who recently celebrated his 101st birthday, founded the firm in 1944 based on a series of what he called Real Aims: “1. Financial independence. 2. Good reputation among fellow men, especially for ability and integrity. 3. Enough time off to enjoy living.”[5] His firm merged with Wright, Simon, Todd & Schmechel in 1969. In the 1980s, the firm opened offices in Anchorage, AK; Washington, DC; Bellevue, WA; and Los Angeles, CA. It merged with Ragen, Tremaine, Krieger of Portland, OR in 1990[6] and added more than 20 lawyers from Heller Ehrman LLP in 2008.

Davis Wright was the first U.S. firm with legal authority to maintain a law office in Shanghai, and has been operating in the country since 1994.[7] Alumni of the firm include Gary Locke, former Governor of Washington state, and now the U.S. Ambassador to China.

In 2012, Davis Wright was ranked 96th largest law firm in the United States by the National Law Journal, based on attorney headcount. The firm was ranked No. 114 by gross revenue on the AmLaw 200 that same year.[8]

The firm received Band 1 rankings in the 2016 Chambers USA guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business in 13 practice areas across 5 states, including Corporate/M&A, Commercial Litigation, Energy, Labor & Employment, Media & Entertainment, and Real Estate. The firm was again extremely strong in the rankings for First Amendment Litigation – Nationwide, with more lawyers ranked nationally than any firm in the country.[9]

The media practice group is widely recognized as a national leader. The firm’s team of 70 media lawyers was honored in 2013 with the Chambers USA Award for Excellence, designating Davis Wright as the firm that “has excelled above all others” in this practice area.[10] In 2012, Davis Wright was named Law Firm of the Year in the Communications practice area by Best Lawyers and U.S. News.

Assistance to Guantanamo captives

Davis Wright Tremaine partners Bud Walsh and Rick Cys prepared the habeas corpus petition for Abdul Haleem, one of the captives held in extrajudicial detention in the United States Guantanamo Bay detention camps, in Cuba.[11]

Charles "Cully" Stimson, then Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs, stirred controversy when he went on record criticizing the patriotism of law firms that allowed employees to assist Guantanamo captives: "corporate CEOs seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists."[12] Stimson's views were widely criticized; the Pentagon disavowed them, and Stimson resigned shortly thereafter.

Malpractice Suits

Davis Wright Tremaine, like many large law firms, has been the subject of numerous malpractice lawsuits, filed by disgruntled former clients. Of particular note however, was a suit alleging that they played a key role, in assisting retirement home operator Sunwest Management Inc. in its running of a $400 million Ponzi scheme. The lawsuit, which was filed by a group of Sunwest investors, alleged that Davis Wright Tremaine encouraged individuals and businesses to invest in Sunwest, even though they were aware of the company’s financial troubles. The suit was resolved before trial, when Davis Wright Tremaine agreed to pay a $30 million settlement to the plaintiffs, the largest malpractice award in the history of the State of Oregon.[13]

Davis Wright's largest office is headquartered in Seattle, Wash.


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