Covington & Burling

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Covington & Burling LLP is an American multinational law firm. Known as a white-shoe law firm, it is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and advises clients on transactional, litigation, regulatory, and public policy matters.[1] The firm has additional offices in Beijing, Brussels, Frankfurt, Dubai, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Seoul, Shanghai, and Boston.


Judge J. Harry Covington and Edward B. Burling founded Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., on January 1, 1919.[2][3][4]

In 1988, Covington opened a London office, followed by a Brussels office in 1990. In 1999, Covington merged with a 60-lawyer New York firm called Howard, Smith & Levin and also opened its first West Coast office in San Francisco.[5] In 2008, Covington entered into a strategic alliance with Institution Quraysh for Law & Policy, a Qatar-based transnational law firm and think-tank, for the joint provision of legal and consulting services in the Middle East.

Pro bono work[edit]

Covington's pro bono work focuses on providing legal services to people in local communities. Attorneys at the firm can participate in a six-month rotation program and work at each of three DC-based legal service organizations: Neighborhood Legal Services Program, the Children's Law Center, and Bread for the City.[citation needed]

Covington's pro bono work includes representation in Buckley v. Valeo, Griffin v. Illinois,[6] and Korematsu v. United States. They supported the District of Columbia in District of Columbia v. Heller, arguing that the District's ban on the possession of handguns and its storage provisions for other firearms in the home is not implicated by the Second Amendment.[7]

Representation of Guantanamo Bay inmates[edit]

Attorneys at Covington & Burling have been Guantanamo Bay attorneys for Ahmed al-Ghailani,[8] fifteen Yemenis, one Pakistani, and one Algerian being held at Guantanamo Bay. The firm obtained favorable rulings that detainees have rights under the Fifth Amendment and the Geneva Conventions.[9] The court ruled in March 2005 that the government could not transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay to foreign custody without first giving the prisoners a chance to challenge the move in court.

According to The American Lawyer's annual pro bono survey, Covington lawyers spent 3,022 hours on Guantanamo litigation in 2007, "the firm's largest pro bono project that year". Lawyers from the firm who have become administration officials, such as Lanny Breuer, have been advised by ethics officials to recuse themselves in matters involving detainees represented by their former firms, but not from policy issues where they were not personally and substantially involved.

Covington also co-authored one of three petitioners' briefs filed in Boumediene v. Bush, "and was responsible for several detainee victories" in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, though they did not participate in litigation over the Guantanamo Bay prison itself.[10]

Pro bono accolades[edit]

  • First in Pro Bono Hours per Lawyer, 2019 and 2020—The American Lawyer[11]
  • Law360, Pro Bono Firm of the Year, ranked No. 1 (2015).[12]
  • DC Bar Association, Thurgood Marshall Award for commitment to excellence in the fields of civil rights and individual liberties (2006).[13]

Notable clients[edit]

State of California[edit]

The State of California hired Covington & Burling attorney and former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder to fight the Trump administration.[14][15]

Commonwealth of Australia[edit]

According to press reports and filings with the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, Covington & Burling assisted the government of Australia in pursuing the legislation to create a new visa category reserved exclusively for nationals of Australia following the enactment of the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement.[16] The Covington team included Stuart Eizenstat, Martin Gold, Roderick DeArment, David Marchick, Elizabeth Letchworth, Les Carnegie, and Brian Smith.[16] On November 20, 2012, the LegalTimes reported that the Embassy of South Korea had hired Covington & Burling to advise on a similar visa for Korea. Covington of counsel Brian Smith and senior international policy adviser Alan Larson reportedly led the matter, assisted by senior counsel Martin Gold and associate Jonathan Wakely.[17]

Current and former attorneys[edit]


  1. ^ Center, Southern Poverty Law (July 17, 2020). "Federal Lawsuit Seeks Damages for Traumatized Migrant Families Torn Apart by Trump Separation Policy". YubaNet. Retrieved April 26, 2023.
  2. ^ "Edward Burling Jr., 94, Senior Partner at a Top Law Firm". The New York Times. December 3, 2002.
  3. ^ Center, Southern Poverty Law (July 17, 2020). "Federal Lawsuit Seeks Damages for Traumatized Migrant Families Torn Apart by Trump Separation Policy". YubaNet. Retrieved September 4, 2020.
  4. ^ "Украина против России: услуги американских юристов уже обошлись в $28,3 млн". ukranews_com (in Russian). July 17, 2020. Retrieved September 4, 2020.
  5. ^ "A brief historical note". 2015. Archived from the original on February 17, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  6. ^ "Griffin V. Illinois | Findlaw". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  7. ^ Gary Emerling (January 5, 2008). "Fenty arms self with new lawyer to defend gun ban". Washington Times.
  8. ^ Covington & Burling partner takes on defense of Guantanamo death penalty case May 29, 2008 The AmLaw Daily
  9. ^ "Public Service Activities 2007" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 29, 2008. Retrieved July 14, 2008.
  10. ^ Joe Palazzolo, Some Justice Department Lawyers Have Gitmo Conflicts March 2, 2009 Legal Times
  11. ^ "Covington & Burling LLP | Company Profile |". Vault. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  12. ^ "Pro Bono Firm Of 2015: Covington & Burling - Law360".
  13. ^ "Legal Beat: June 2006". Archived from the original on June 14, 2006. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  14. ^ "California braces for a Trump presidency by tapping former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder for legal counsel". Los Angeles Times. January 4, 2017.
  15. ^ "California draws a very big gun to stand up to Trump: Eric Holder". January 4, 2017.
  16. ^ a b "Covington & Burling LLP | News | Covington Helps Australia Secure Unprecedented Visa Legislation". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  17. ^ "Covington Assisting South Korea on Visa Issue – The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times". November 20, 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2016.

External links[edit]