Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP - The Inside View

Juniors at this Big Apple leader are an upbeat bunch, and a high percentage of partners began their careers here.

“IF you want to do litigation or white collar defense work in New York, there's no place better than Paul, Weiss!” boasted an associate. Growing revenues and profits for the twentieth consecutive year, Paul, Weiss offers much more than its headline litigation practice, with the firm earning multiple Chambers USA rankings in areas including corporate/M&A, capital markets, bankruptcy/restructuring, media & entertainment, IP, and financial services regulation.

Chair Brad Karp informs us that the firm is focusing on five key practice areas” –  public M&A, private equity, litigation, white collar defense, and restructuring. It's also added some serious weight in the past year thanks to a spate of top-dollar lateral hires: “Scott Barshay joined us this April from Cravath. His world-leading expertise has enhanced our public M&A practice. David Bernick is as skilled a trial lawyer and strategic counselor as you'll find in the US. He joined us in May. We also hired Rick Rule in August,” who Karp proudly describes as “America's leading antitrust and merger clearance lawyer.”

As impressive as these hires are, some 80% of Paul, Weiss' partners came up through the ranks. Entry-level hiring remains a priority, and this is reflected in “a supportive learning environment where you're given every opportunity to prove and push yourself.”

The Work



Although litigation is the firm's largest practice, many juniors join the corporate group and rotate through subgroups before specializing in their third year. A handful of juniors join the smaller practices of tax, real estate, personal representation, employee benefits, and bankruptcy.

“Assignment is a three-pronged system,” we were told. “When you start, an assigning partner allocates you work based on your availability and your interests. After you've worked on a few cases people start to reach out to you, and if you want to get involved you just need to let your assigning partner know. You can also reach out to partners and ask them to get involved with cases too.” Rookies appreciated this flexibility, commenting “it's great to be able to pursue matters you're specifically interested in, but it often surprises me how interesting some of the cases assigning partners have put me onto have been. It's nice to have someone point you in certain directions from time to time.”

Paul, Weiss' litigators are generalists, so “it's completely up to you where you take that. If you want to do exclusively securities work you can do that. Some people do choose to specialize, but many stay as generalists because they like going into court. There's no pressure either way.” As such, juniors had worked on a wide range of matters, touching on areas such as IP, antitrust, securities, mass tort, white-collar, and FCPA [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] compliance. “The variety of different cases on offer meant that you really get a comprehensive legal education,” and rookies here had analyzed financial documents, drafted interview outlines, prepped partners for witness interviews, presented to the government and assisted companies with compliance programs.

"It often surprises me how interesting some of the cases have been."

Over in corporate, juniors are unassigned until their third year when they specialize in one of the subgroups, which include securities, M&A, finance, funds and IP. “For the first three months you're really just trying to get your head around various sorts of matters coming in, so there's lots of basic stuff to get you started: due diligence, drafting ancillary documents, stuff like that.” Nevertheless, transactional juniors were “surprised” to be given opportunities for client interaction from an early stage. “You won't begin with anything too complex, perhaps the odd email or memo, but it helps you to get familiar with the client and means you feel comfortable to take on more complex stuff later on.” Supervisors are “willing to give give you more responsibilities quickly, as long as you're ready,” which some saw as a double-edged sword: “It is easy to get swamped as you rise through the department and become more of a go-to for clients,” we heard. “You need to feel comfortable delegating to more junior associates when that happens.”

Training & Development



When they first start, juniors can expect an “intensive first week of training,” as well as “more periodically-spaced sessions over the next few months.” Generally, though, training is offered on-the-job. “Paul, Weiss correctly recognizes that juniors learn more by working on briefs than sitting in seminars,” one source observed.

Associates are kept up-to-date with a formal annual evaluation, as well as regular feedback. “It usually lasts about half an hour,” one litigator told us. “You sit down with your assigning partner and they'll read out reviews of your performance submitted by all of the senior associates, partners and counsel you've worked with. Then you get the chance to tell them what you'd like to work on going forward. It's a good opportunity to voice your interests, as your assigning partner can then work toward staffing you on matters that will help you achieve your goals.”

For more ad hoc queries, juniors felt comfortable seeking out advice themselves: “I don't think anyone wants new starters feeling like certain partners are unapproachable or untouchable,” said one. “People realize that our work product will always be better if we're in the know and comfortable with who we're working with, so there never tends to be a problem with knocking on doors for advice.”

Culture



With that approach in mind, it's no surprise juniors were pleased with the working environment at Paul, Weiss. “I couldn't ask for more,” said one. “There's a reason that a lot of people who paralegal here come back to work as associates. People here tend to have a good sense of humor, and though the work can be tough no one is out to make your life crazier than it has to be.”

"I wouldn't worry if I cursed in front of a colleague.”

The firm's “friendly, relaxed” atmosphere allows for a little breathing room: “It's not a super buttoned-up place,” one rookie reflected. “OK, its not Quinn Emanuel – we wear trousers not jeans, and if you're meeting a client you're expected to be in a suit – but I wouldn't worry if I cursed in front of a colleague.”

Good working relationships lead to active social lives and “most would be happy to go for drinks after a hard day's slog.” More scheduled social opportunities include a weekly cocktail party on Fridays in New York, as well as an annual summer event, held at MoMA. “They rent out the whole museum!” juniors exclaimed. “The food is great, there are plenty of drinks floating about, and you're welcome to go off and explore the museum at your leisure!”

Hours & Compensation



There's no billing target at Paul, Weiss, but the consensus among associates was that “superstars bill anything up to 2,600 hours a year, whereas 1,800 is probably seen as a bit slack. Most people average at around 2,000-2,100.” Juniors appreciated not having a target hanging over their head: “People ask if it puts pressure on us to overcompensate, but that's not the case,” reasoned one deal-doer. “I just try to approach it deal-by-deal, and it's nice not to have to worry about a number while I'm doing that.”

"Our clients pay a lot of money and expect us to be ready to go..."

Juniors tend to start work at 9am and leave any time between 7.30pm and 10pm. That being said, we did hear of a few all-nighters “in exceptional circumstances,” so “be ready to work hard when you get here. Our clients pay a lot of money and expect us to be ready to go when they need us.” As for vacations, “you're expected to keep on top of your emails, but the traffic tends to slow down,” said one caller. “No one made any requests of me while I was away, so it wasn't like I had to pull out my laptop periodically to keep people happy.”

Offices



Paul, Weiss may have eight offices but the vast majority of the people are in the New York HQ. At the time of our calls, junior associates based in the Big Apple covered a range of different practices such as litigation, corporate, real estate, bankruptcy and tax. DC is much smaller in comparison and “does more government-facing work, FCPA stuff, white collar investigations, and some IP too.” Still, plenty of New Yorkers had worked on teams with colleagues in both DC and Wilmington, Delaware: “It's a New York-centric firm, and case teams often stretch across several offices, depending on which locations best suit our clients.” A base in Toronto makes up the firm's North American contingent, while further afield Paul, Weiss has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, London and Tokyo.

"Awestruck by what's hanging on the walls.”

There have been ongoing renovations in the New York office for the last few years, and associates were happy to report that “it's all feeling pretty homely.” There's a subsidized cafeteria, a physical therapy center offering massages to stressed attorneys, and an “incredible” art collection too. “Often I'll just go to a floor I haven't been to before and end up awestruck by what's hanging on the walls,” one marveled.

Diversity



“Looking back through its history, Paul, Weiss has a proud record for always being a liberal and accepting place to work,” sources beamed. In 1927, the firm was one of the first to allow Jews to practice with Gentiles; in 1949, it hired an African American associate, Harvard grad and ex-SCOTUS clerk William T. Coleman, at a time when few if any did; and in the early 1950s Carolyn Agger joined to become the first female partner at a major law firm.

Nowadays, “there's still work to be done at the partner level,” which juniors described as “not that well represented, particularly when it comes to ethnic minorities.” Still, many were encouraged by the fact that “our network of affinity groups is really busy, and doing insightful research into the ways in which lawyers of different demographics tend to perform. This is helping us better understand how the focus and structure of our training can help facilitate professional advancement for all of our lawyers.”

"Paul, Weiss has a proud record for always being a liberal and accepting place to work.”

Pro Bono



When it comes to pro bono, juniors felt “you're free to join case teams that are interesting to you.” The firm attracts “a good selection of higher profile work aimed at systemic change, and smaller cases where you're empowered to take strategic decisions.” In New York, a designated pro bono associate and counsel “sit all the first-years down and present them with a list of available cases. Having the whole variety of cases readily available was really helpful, because it means you can get stuck in before you've even got a full network of contacts in place.” The pro bono committee also serves as “a good sounding board for strategic decisions.”

“There are literally hundreds of organizations the firm couples with,” so our associate sources had taken on all sorts. Litigators had worked on criminal tasks like robberies, drug conspiracy allegations, landlord disputes and unemployment benefit appeals, whereas corporate insiders had helped transgender people change their names, worked on Iraqi refugee programs and assisted at family law clinics.

There's no specific pro bono hours target, but most of our sources had plenty of stories to recount. “The fact that pro bono hours are counted like any other hours helps,” juniors commended. “Partners appreciate it's an important tool for facilitating our development, and boosting the firm's profile.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys:  74,167
  • Average per US attorney: 74

Strategy & Future



With the firm performing well financially, Paul, Weiss' core practices – public M&A, private equity, litigation, white collar defense, and restructuring – are set to remain a priority in the years ahead. According to Brad Karp, “we believe that, in view of prevailing market conditions and business opportunities, we're operating in the right practice areas and the right geographic locations, we have the right mix of clients and a rich talent base to help us best serve those clients.”

Moving forward, “our principal goal is to represent the most important clients in the world on their most important matters, while delivering exemplary client service and results.” As for the path to achieving this, Karp is playing his cards close to his chest. “In the next year at least, I don't see us opening up offices in any new locations. As for practice areas, we'll be looking to continue to make strategic investments in the five key areas I mentioned earlier.”

 

 

Get Hired



Paul, Weiss is by no means a small firm, but with a partner headcount of around 140, it is less populous than many of its peers. “80% of our partners are home-grown, and most are based in New York,” outlines chairman Brad Karp. “This structure fosters collegiality and creates a culture where our lawyers form extremely close working bonds with each other.”

We asked junior associates for their view on how the firm's size affect its recruitment. “It's a close-knit set up so a lot of partners place as much of a premium on personality as they do on grades,” informed one. “We need interested, excited people who have done their research and can eloquently explain their enthusiasm.”

When it comes to boosting your application form, any extracurricular commitments can really help your personality shine through: “Do something interesting with your life,” another junior advised. “I interviewed people this summer who in addition to working in finance had taken culinary classes, worked in media, or done Teach for America. Strong personalities are common here.”

A strong personality may help your cause, but Paul, Weiss isn't looking to hire hotheads. A “proactive, not aggressive” approach is a better fit by far. “It's a working environment where you're more likely to get what you want if you ask for it,” we were told. “You need to be able to at least feign confidence, and not be afraid to be a little imposing at times. People here actively hunt out cases that interest them, and though asking for work doesn't always work out, often it does.”

As for the next few years, there's plenty of opportunity of the horizon says Brad Karp: “Recruitment has been off the charts,” he tells us. “The firm is 'hot' and we're fortunate to be called upon to handle the most interesting and important matters in the world. Our recruitment trajectory is pointing due north.”

 



Interview with chairman Brad Karp



Chambers Associate: Hi Brad, how would you describe the firm's current strategy?

Brad Karp: We have focused our energies on five key practice areas: public M&A; private equity; litigation; white collar defense; and restructuring. We have made significant investments in each of these priority strategic areas, and are market leaders in each. Over the past year, as part of this strategic effort, we have made a few significant lateral hires, which is fairly unusual for us.Scott Barshay joined us this April from Cravath, and his world-leading expertise has enhanced our public M&A practice. David Bernick is as skilled a trial lawyer and strategic counselor as you'll find in the US. He joined us in May. We also hired Rick Rule in August; Rick is America's leading antitrust and merger clearance lawyer. We view these hires as important strategic investments, which further reinforces our global market-leading position.

CA: So things are going well then?

BK: Absolutely. We have been very fortunate. For 20 consecutive years, we have increased our revenues and profits and we anticipate that 2016 will be another record-breaking year.

CA: What's driving that financial success?

BK: We believe that, in view of prevailing market conditions and business opportunities, we're operating in the right practice areas and the right geographic locations, we have the right mix of clients and a rich talent base to help us best serve those clients. Our principal goal is to represent the most important clients in the world on their most important matters, while delivering exemplary client service and results.

CA: Are there any new areas on your radar you'd like for the firm to break into?

BK: In the next year at least, I don't see us opening up offices in any new locations. As for practice areas, we'll be looking to continue to make strategic investments in the five key areas I mentioned earlier.

CA: What about the firm's culture. Anything unique or distinctive about life at Paul, Weiss?

BK: We believe that our culture, traditions and values are unique and very attractive to law students. Our pro bono commitment is unmatched. Not only do we handle thousands of matters pro bono each year, but we also handle cutting edge matters of social justice. Perhaps the best recent example of this is our representation of Edith Windsor before the Supreme Court where we established a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Sixty years earlier, our lawyers handled Brown v. Board of Education in the Supreme Court, which ended segregation in our public schools. Beyond our pro bono work, our firm is renowned for its commitment to diversity, training and mentoring.

CA: How would you say that approach differs to less traditional firms?

BK: Law firms have increasingly become pure businesses, beholden to the bottom line. Of course, economic success is important to us, but there are other values just as important that are increasingly overlooked by other firms. Every Thursday afternoon at 1:00 pm we have a partners' lunch, and one of the topics that always comes up is the importance of being a professional organisation that is inclusive and promotes worthy values.

CA: Does the firm's size help to breed that inclusive feel?

BK: Paul, Weiss is by no means small, but it's also a fraction of the size as many of our peers. We have approximately 140 partners, which is almost quaint in today's world. Eighty percent of our partners are home-grown, and most are based in New York. This structure fosters collegiality and creates a culture where our lawyers form extremely close working bonds with each other.

CA: How's recruitment looking over the next few years?

BK: As with the other metrics we discussed, recruitment has been off the charts. The firm is 'hot' and we're fortunate to be called upon to handle the most interesting and important matters in the world. Our recruitment trajectory is pointing due north. We're having a blast!

 

 

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

1285 Avenue of the Americas,
New York,
NY 10019-6064
Website www.paulweiss.com

  • Head Office: New York, NY 
  • Number of domestic offices: 3
  • Number of international offices: 5
  • Worldwide revenue: $1,221,848,220
  • Partners (US): 129
  • Associates (US): 550
  • Summer Salary 2017  
  • 1Ls: $3,500/week
  • 2Ls: $3,500/week
  • Post 3Ls: $3,500/week
  • 1Ls hired? Yes
  • Split summers offered? Yes
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? Yes
  • Summers 2017: 131
  • Offers/acceptances 2016: 139 offers, 115 acceptances

Main areas of work
Paul, Weiss is widely recognized as having leading litigation and corporate capabilities, and the firm has developed equally strong practices in the areas of bankruptcy and corporate reorganization, employee benefits and executive compensation, intellectual property, personal representation, real estate and tax law.

Firm profile
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP is a firm of more than 900 lawyers, with diverse backgrounds, personalities, ideas and interests, who collaborate with clients to help them conquer their most critical legal challenges and business goals. Our long-standing clients include many of the largest publicly and privately held corporations and financial institutions in the United States and throughout the world. We have an unwavering dedication to representing those in need through our pro bono efforts, and have long been a leader in promoting diversity within our firm and the legal profession.

Recruitment details
• Number of 1st year associates: 118
• Number of 2nd year associates: 92
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $180,000
• 2nd year: $190,000
• Clerking policy: Yes

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2017:
Boston College, Boston University, Berkeley, Brooklyn, Cardozo, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Howard, Lavender Law Job Fair, McGill, Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, Patent Law Job Fair at Loyola, Penn, Stanford, Texas, Toronto, Virginia, Washington University in St. Louis, Yale

Summer details
Summer associate profile:
You should have a strong academic record and life experience and initiative and commitment to excellence in the practice of law.

Summer program components:
The summer associate program at Paul, Weiss is more than just legal training. It’s your introduction to the rich variety and depth of life in one of New York’s most unique law firms. You’ll have the opportunity to shape your summer experience at Paul, Weiss. Choose one department to call your home, or select a variety of work from a number of different practice areas. You’ll be mentored by a team of lawyers including associates, counsel and partners. Your mentors will help you make connections with other lawyers at the firm and make informed decisions about the work you choose. You’ll receive training in both substantive areas of law and practical legal skills in a mix of highly interactive small group trainings, individual skills development workshops and more traditional classroom style presentations.