William F. Lee

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William F. Lee
Nationality American
Occupation Lawyer
Known for Iran-Contra investigation, Harvard Board

William F. Lee (b. 1950) is a leading American intellectual property and commercial litigation trial attorney. As co-managing partner of WilmerHale, Lee was the first Asian-American to lead a major American law firm.[1] He is also Senior Fellow of the Harvard Corporation, the governing board of Harvard University.[2] [3]

Education and family[edit]

Lee was born in Philadelphia in 1950 to Chinese immigrant parents who arrived in the United States in 1948.[4] Lee received an A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1972, an M.B.A. with Distinction from Cornell University in 1976, and a J.D., magna cum laude and Order of the Coif from Cornell Law School in 1976.

Lee is married to Leslie Lee. He has three children and four grandchildren.[5]


Law firms[edit]

Lee joined the Boston-based law firm of Hale & Dorr in 1976. He chaired the firm's Litigation Department for four years and served as managing partner from 2000 to 2004.

In 2004, Hale & Dorr merged with the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering to form Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr. Lee served as co-managing partner of the merged law firm, which is now known as WilmerHale, from 2004 to 2011. Since the merger, WilmerHale has grown to thirteen offices in five countries with nearly 1000 lawyers and one billion dollars in revenues annually.

Lee’s practice focuses primarily on intellectual property and commercial litigation. Lee has tried more than 100 cases to judgment and has argued more than 50 appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and other Courts of Appeals.[6] He has served as lead trial counsel in several notable cases, including representing Apple in the “smart phone war” patent litigations. In August 2012, a jury awarded Apple more than $1 billion for infringement by Samsung.[7]

Government service[edit]

From July 1987 to June 1989, Lee served as associate counsel to Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh in the Iran-Contra investigation. In that capacity, Lee was responsible for certain portions of the grand jury investigation and resulting indictments.

In the 1990s, Lee served as a special assistant to the Massachusetts Attorney General for the purpose of investigating alleged incidents of racial bias in the Commonwealth’s courts. He was also appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts to serve on a special Judicial Nominating Committee for the selection of judges for the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

In May 2000, Lee was one of 15 attorneys to be named by the chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to the court's Advisory Committee. Lee has also served on the Advisory Committees of the United States District Courts for the Districts of Massachusetts and Delaware.


From 1995 to 2002, Lee served was the John A. Reilly Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School where he taught intellectual property litigation. Starting in 2008, Lee helped to develop the Problem Solving Workshop, a problem-based course for first-year law students and the final installment of Harvard’s curriculum reform at the law school.[8] Lee is now the Eli Goldston Visiting Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School where he has taught the Problem Solving Workshop each year since 2010.[9]

In June 2002, Lee was elected to the Board of Overseers of Harvard University. In April 2010, Lee was elected as a fellow of the Harvard Corporation effective July 1, 2010. He succeeds James Houghton as a member of Harvard’s ten-member primary governing board.

Lee is also a member of the Visiting Committee at Cornell Law School.


Lee is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Lee was recognized by peers in every issue of The Best Lawyers in America since 1995/1996. He was named one of "The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America" by the National Law Journal in June 2000 and again in June 2006. In the 2000 selection he was commended for a "long record of favorable jury verdicts," achieved while leading the firm to a dominant presence in technology nationally and internationally and in pro bono services locally. In the June 2006 selection, NLJ praised his leadership in the merger that formed WilmerHale and again for his significant involvement in notable trials, including a recent victory in an infringement case against Hewlett-Packard Co. on behalf of EMC Corp that was settled in 2005 for $325 million while on appeal.[10]

Community involvement[edit]

Lee has previously served as vice chairman of the board of the Boston University Medical Center University Hospital, a trustee of the Boston Medical Center, and an overseer of the Museum of Science.


  1. ^ Glater, Jonathan D. (April 20, 2004). "2 Law Firms Plan to Merge, Creating One of Global Size". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-07-25. 
  2. ^ van der Pool, Lisa (2011-01-11). "Bill Lee: Still making his case". Boston Business Journal. 
  3. ^ http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/10/corporation-transitions-planned-for-2014/
  4. ^ Smith, James (2010-04-12). "Harvard Corporation elects leading lawyer". Boston Globe. 
  5. ^ "Bill Lee to join Harvard Corporation". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 2017-02-17. 
  6. ^ http://www.wilmerhale.com/william_lee/
  7. ^ Wingfield, Nick (24 August 2012). "Jury Awards Billion to Apple in Samsung Patent Case". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ http://www.law.harvard.edu/news/bulletin/2010/summer/classroom.php
  9. ^ http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/directory/index.html?id=893
  10. ^ "William F. Lee". WilmerHale. 

External links[edit]