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They’ve Got Next: The 40 Under 40 - Luke McCloud of Williams & Connolly

July 28, 2022, 9:00 AM

Please describe two of your most substantial, recent wins in practice.
I’m still coming down from the excitement of having the Supreme Court rule in favor of our client Carlos Concepcion in Concepcion v. United States, a case about the interpretation of the First Step Act. I’ve worked on a dozen or so Supreme Court cases, but this was the first case I argued, so the win is especially sweet.

In the IP space, I’m very proud of the work I’ve done for Genentech over biosimilar Avastin. Genentech’s suit against Amgen was one of the first Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act cases to get deep into litigation. The upshot was that I got the opportunity to litigate some novel statutory issues in multiple courts, including an appeal I argued in the Federal Circuit. Genentech ended up reaching a favorable settlement, which I think is a testament to the persistence and creativity of the client and our team at Williams & Connolly.

What is the most important lesson you learned as a first-year attorney and how does it inform your practice today?
Find the people who lift you up and make you a better lawyer. They are key to your personal and professional success.
I began my first year at W&C with a trial. It was a patent license dispute, and although I have a technical background, I had never worked on an IP case and wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. But I ended up having a great experience because I was part of a great trial team. The partners took the time to explain their decision making and went out of their way to give me meaningful work. I briefed motions, prepped witnesses, and got my first argument three weeks after I started at the firm. That experience taught me that when it comes to being fulfilled, the people you work with matter more than the kind of case you work on. In the years since, I’ve been able to work with those same attorneys on different matters, while also branching out and learning from other lawyers specializing in different practice areas. As a result, I’ve grown my skills in ways that never would have happened if I’d been hung up on the label attached to a case.

How do you define success in your practice?
Success starts with helping my client achieve its goals. I want to do whatever I can to get a win for the client. But I also want to make sure that everyone on my team is contributing to that success. My firm is lucky to have an incredibly talented group of associates. We owe it to them to make sure that they learn and grow on the way to achieving victory. Are we staffing our teams in an inclusive way? Are younger attorneys getting real opportunities that will help develop their skills? I don’t think anybody would claim that they have figured the best way to promote associate development. But I am grateful for the attention that the issue gets within my firm, and I’m proud to play a small part in helping grow the next generation of leaders in our profession.

What are you most proud of as a lawyer?
I work primarily in the areas of patent and appellate litigation, and unfortunately there are not a lot of people who look like me in either of those fields. When I was picking firms, I wanted to make sure I was going to a place where diversity and inclusion was a priority. I’m extremely proud of the effort that my colleagues and I have put into improving inclusion not only in the firm but in the practice of law more generally.

Many of our efforts over the past few years have been focused on recruiting. One of the things we’ve found most effective is partnering with diverse law students’ organizations to host receptions where students can be introduced to the firm. I think that’s especially important for people like me who, in addition to being diverse, are also first-generation professionals. I knew very little about law firms or in-house practice when I started law school, and so for me it was invaluable to be able to meet attorneys—diverse and nondiverse—who wanted to tell me about their careers. Being able to provide the same kind of guidance for diverse law students is one of the highlights of my job.

Who is your greatest mentor in the law and what have they taught you?
I had the enormous privilege of clerking for Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Of course, I learned a lot from her about crafting a persuasive opinion and identifying weaknesses in an argument. But the most important lessons Justice Sotomayor taught me came from the life she has lived and the example she sets. I was—and still am—inspired by Justice Sotomayor’s commitment to calling out injustice. She felt an obligation to make the law and the world better where she could, and she challenged her clerks to do the same in their own careers. On a more personal level, I’m always struck by Justice Sotomayor’s kindness and warmth. Whether she’s interacting with her fellow justices, the court staff, or members of the public, Justice Sotomayor treats them with the same respect. Her fundamental decency is a reminder that no matter how contentious a case, or how high you climb, civility matters.

Just for fun, tell us your two favorite songs on your summer music playlist.
“Levitating” by Dua Lipa – It’s like a pool party in song form.

“Nobody Like U” by 4*Town (from the movie “Turning Red”). My daughters like to start the morning with a dance party, and more often than not this is the first song they play.

Luke McCloud has argued in the US Supreme Court and federal appellate courts primarily for pharmaceutical patent cases. He clerked for Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Brett Kavanaugh— the latter when he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and Paul V. Niemeyer of the Fourth Circuit. McCloud recently joined The George Washington University Law School as an adjunct professor co-teaching a patent law class.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Helem at; Kibkabe Araya in Washington at