Those with “a love for intellectual stimulation” and a passion for pro bono might want more than a slice of Paul, Weiss.
“OUR goal is to have the very best talent you possibly can have under one roof,” says Paul, Weiss chairman Brad Karp. To that end, the firm's demonstrated a healthy appetite for proven talent, bringing in big-name lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis, Cravath, Dechert and Simpson Thacher in recent years. But Karp insists that “from a law student’s perspective, our goal is to continue to attract the best talent in the world and to nurture that talent. The matters we handle are extraordinarily complicated and invariably cutting-edge, so we want the best minds collaborating on creative solutions. What distinguishes Paul, Weiss is that we're old-fashioned in terms of our culture and values. So many firms are bottom-line motivated. We've done exceptionally well from a profitability perspective, but we're all about the culture.” Juniors supported this sentiment: “I think there is a focus on the core human characteristics of individuals – yes, the job requires a certain level of intellectual rigor, but you have to have a cultural fit.”
"We’re playing a leading role on a wide range of crucial issues that we hope will improve social justice in our country."
Part and parcel of this “cultural fit” is Paul, Weiss' penchant for pro bono.The firm famously worked on landmark cases such as Brown v. Board of Education, and United States v. Windsor. Today, Karp says: "We’re playing a leading role on a wide range of crucial issues that we hope will improve social justice in our country. We have dedicated teams of lawyers fighting to protect a woman's right to choose, to enforce refugee rights, to oppose unconstitutional travel bans, to block voter disenfranchisement, to safeguard LGBT rights, and to improve our criminal justice system."
Back to that bottom line though. “The main thing that attracted me was the impression I got that both litigation and corporate practices were thriving.” It's true: the firm's flourishing. Chambers USA awards it multiple stellar litigation and regulatory rankings, plus impressive marks in bankruptcy, capital markets, tax, media & entertainment, corporate/M&A, and real estate (among numerous others). “The firm's profits have been climbing for the past 20 years and it keeps attracting big-name partners. It continues to go uphill rather than staying stagnant.”
Over half of associates could be found in litigation, roughly a third in corporate, while the remainder were spread across more specific areas like bankruptcy, employee benefits, personal representation, real estate and tax. Both litigation and corporate juniors begin as generalists (corporate juniors work across four sub-groups for their first two years) and both have a formal work assignment system that juniors can take advantage of. “The first couple of assignments are assigned through that, but once you start working with people you like, on subject matters you like, you can pretty much control your destiny within the firm. Then if you need work, you can ask the assigning partner.” Choosing to take work through the assigning system brought benefits. “It can be difficult to say no when a partner directly asks you to work on something, but if there's someone in between, you can be candid and say when you're too busy to take it on.”
Due to the generalist nature of their work, litigators had gathered a range of experiences. Sources mentioned working on bankruptcy matters, M&A litigation, white-collar investigations, securities class actions, and employment cases, among others. Many juniors praised being able to “participate in depositions and witness prep,” getting direct client contact. “It's been valuable; you're not just a fly on the wall watching. I was told from the beginning that 'you need to participate in depositions because you're a lawyer. You can't just sit there and watch.' It was helpful.” One junior found it “a little intimidating at first because I was barely an attorney, but I think the firm provides a lot of support for you to be confident in what you're doing. There's a good balance between supporting you, but letting you run with your assignment.” Other tasks involved discovery, drafting initial versions of motions, and preparing presentations for the government.
The growing corporate practice covers four main groups: funds, securities, M&A, and finance – the largest being M&A. “Usually when we start out, we can indicate what group we're interested in and can get assigned to those matters, but generally you're free. We're encouraged to try out tasks within all of the four corporate groups.” Clients include large multinational corporations from the energy, technology, media, sports and entertainment industries, plus private equity companies. Similarly to litigation, “one thing the practice does well is getting younger associates client contact very early on. I feel like I've been able to get more than you'd expect from a second or third year.” On top of early client contact, juniors had conducted legal research and due diligence, drafted contracts and negotiated nondisclosure agreements. “The partners are more than happy to give you substantial work as long as you're ready for it, though it does depend on the type of deal or clients.”
Training & Development
When they first start, juniors can expect intensive training during their first week, followed by periodic sessions over the next few months. Litigators remembered “training on how to prepare litigation documents, how to do doc review, how to actually produce the documents, as well as any ethical issues tied into the practice.” Corporate juniors had training on each of the various corporate sub-groups and on the “junior associate-specific tasks” within those. Both sides also receive training on computer equipment and the firm's available resources.
Formal reviews happen once a year. In addition to being reviewed, juniors have the opportunity to conduct 'upward reviews.' Associates “get to review anyone we work with who is two years our senior or more. It has often led to improvements in teaching and behavior based on that feedback, which I feel is important.”
“We're the nice New York firm: we're courteous to opposing counsel, to each other – we're just polite. It is discouraged to be competitive, cutthroat, or mean.” This amiable modus operandi ensured that “the firm is very welcoming for first-year associates. Coming into a law firm is very daunting, but Paul, Weiss makes it feel as seamless as possible.” Once they've crossed the threshold, associates found that “bringing your perspective to the table is something that is valued here.” In fact, while being “a place where people appreciate hard work,” Paul, Weiss' people are “very much human, and humane.”
“...very much human, and humane.”
Like most humans, Paul, Weiss' associates like to let their hair down occasionally. “The firm does a lot of events for us, but I think associates naturally bond and hang out outside the firm.” Some of these events included a casino night, Shakespeare in the Park, a firm retreat, and various holiday events. The highlight of the social calendar is perhaps the annual MoMA summer garden party, which “everyone at the firm is encouraged to go to.”
Sources also placed importance on the firm's forward-thinking outlook. “There's an understanding that the legal profession is changing, and Paul, Weiss wants to be a part of that change.” Juniors raised the example of “President Trump announcing the travel ban; the firm moved quickly to help lawyers who wanted to be on the ground helping people, and encouraged people to go if they wanted to. When the firm cares about issues, it acts.” Many felt “our chairman is very much for taking us into a new era for the firm.”
Hours & Compensation
There's no official billing target at Paul, Weiss, with bonuses paid in lockstep. Sources agreed the annual average is about 2,000-2,100 billable hours, “but that's not a hard requirement. People will well exceed that and others won't reach it – it's not really an issue.” In other words: “People work as hard as they can without burning themselves out.” On an average day, juniors might get in to the office at 9:30am and hope to get out by 7pm, though some leave earlier and log back in at home. Busier periods can see attorneys arriving closer to 8am, and leaving anywhere up to 2am. One source “had a five-week stretch of those hours.” Juniors understood hours could be “up and down,” telling us: “When you're on a live deal or case, it's going to be awful, but once it's signed or closed, it's quieter and you can enjoy that.”
The firm has three US offices, with its New York HQ taking the vast majority of attorneys. DC and Wilmington, Delaware make up the rest of the US presence, while globally, the firm has offices in Toronto, Beijing, Hong Kong, London, and Tokyo. The DC office is “almost exclusively litigation-focused,” while NY runs the gamut of the firm's practices.
“Every floor has a kitchen stocked with about 24 different drink products."
The New York office benefits from a handy midtown Manhattan location, and sources loved how “every floor has a kitchen stocked with about 24 different drink products – it's only a small thing, but it's awesome.” One floor was recently turned into the new conference center “with cutting-edge equipment and all the new gadgets.” The only grumble interviewees had related to “space issues.” Specifically, juniors told us that “from second year you get your own office, but it's a small internal office. You don't tend to get an external office until fourth year. It can be claustrophobic, especially in the summer – sometimes you don't see daylight.”
“A lot of firms pay lip service to pro bono, but I think Paul, Weiss is better than others.” One only has to look at the firm's history to show it doesn't just talk the talk on pro bono, but walks the walk. “It was explained by partners that if the firm has committed to taking on a pro bono matter, then it is to be treated in the same manner as a paid matter, with the same level of professionalism and diligence.” Naturally therefore, pro bono hours are counted the same as billable hours. Juniors had got their teeth into matters including criminal appeals, asylum cases, housing discrimination cases, and transgender legal name changes, among others. Besides the feel-good factor of doing something good for those in need, pro bono also provided juniors with “more hands-on, substantive experience. Partners recognize and encourage that.”
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: 100,563
- Average per attorney: 100
“In this industry diversity is a major issue, if not a crisis, but I think our firm makes great efforts to support and encourage diversity, both in recruiting and supporting those here.” The firm has a number of initiatives and programs in place, one of which is a mentoring program for diverse associates. “It's a three-year program where you're assigned to a partner mentor and they guide your development as a diverse associate at the firm. Although all partners respect diversity, you feel more comfortable discussing issues with your specific diversity mentor.” Sources also mentioned “a special program for women above a certain level of seniority, where they counsel you on the best path to partner.” Paul, Weiss also has a number of affinity groups: Asian-Pacific Lawyers, Black Lawyers, Family, Latino Lawyers, Pride @ Work, and Women.
Strategy & Future
“Historically we've been a litigation-heavy firm, but our corporate practice has been really booming recently. It's becoming comparable to litigation.” Chairman Brad Karp estimates thatthe split between transactional and nontransactional work is "about 50:50; the firm is more balanced today than it has been at any time in our history.” Other than that shift, sources reckon: “People generally feel very comfortable. This is a place where you're going to have a stable job, with stable clients. It's not going anywhere.”
Still, juniors reckoned: “The firm is very focused on being the top firm in the world. Not in an arrogant way, but in a concerted, conscious way.” Brad Karp tells us: “We're focused on five key practice areas: litigation, white-collar/regulatory defense, public company M&A, private equity, and restructuring. Our goal is to ensure that we remain the world's leading law firm in each of these five practice areas.” Nevertheless, juniors emphasized that “we're not trying to steer away from those Judge Rifkind values – we step up when firms need to step up. We still want to be that firm.”
When involved in recruiting, juniors said that first and foremost, they look for "someone who is passionate about the law, and can be articulate about the law." Sources explained: "There tends to be a lot of conversations in the office about law itself, and if a candidate cannot have that conversation, I don't think they will do well in the office." However, juniors did express that they "want to get to know the candidates as human beings" as well. Many looked to see "if the candidate had a sense of humor," on top of whether they'd be "capable and willing to do the work."
Juniors added that “students need to show their passion for being at Paul, Weiss, the work we do, and their passion for learning. None of us come in knowing everything. A willingness to be open-minded and accept criticism will go a long way."
Interview with chairman Brad Karp
Chambers Associate: What highlights from the past year would you want to flag up to student readers interested in your firm?
Brad Karp: We had another sensational, record-breaking year: we have a wonderful client roster, continually adding new exciting matters for Fortune 100 companies, extraordinary talent, and a unique culture that prizes collaboration, professionalism and community engagement. Some recent matters we've handled include work for 21st Century Fox in its internal investigation of sexual harassment claims against Bill O'Reilly and others, which has garnered a lot of front-page coverage. We continue to represent the NFL in a variety of matters, including its historic concussion class action settlement. We're representing Exxon Mobil in novel, climate change-related investigations by a number of state attorneys general. We also represented Citigroup in several trials over the past year, including winning the dismissal of a $5 billion claim by Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. We’re representing Qualcomm in its $121 billion takeover battle with Broadcom. We represented Xerox in its $18 billion transaction with Fuji Xerox. We handled a dozen public M&A transactions valued in excess of $10 billion. We’re representing a number of biotech innovators in cutting-edge patent litigations. We represented Apollo in closing its largest private equity fund in history. The year was our busiest and most successful ever.
On top of our work for paying clients, our pro bono practice is also busier, by a wide margin, than at any point in our firm’s history. We’re playing a leading role on a wide range of crucial issues that we hope will improve social justice in our country, much like we did in working with Thurgood Marshall to desegregate public schools in Brown v. Board of Education and, more recently, in establishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in Windsor v. United States. We’re currently leading a private bar initiative to prevent the rash of senseless gun violence, promote sensible gun control and hold gun manufacturers liable for their conduct. We also have dedicated teams of lawyers fighting to protect a woman's right to choose, to enforce refugee rights, to oppose unconstitutional travel bans, to block voter disenfranchisement, to safeguard LGBT rights, and to improve our criminal justice system, to name just a few of our pro bono initiatives.
CA: Given that our readers won't be joining your firm for another couple of years, what's the general strategy going forwards? What do you hope the firm will look like in a couple of years?
BK: I expect that our firm will look much like it does now, with a continued emphasis on representing the most important clients in the world on their most important matters, in an environment that values talent, excellence, and community engagement. On the practice front, we're focused on five key practice areas: litigation, white-collar/regulatory defense, public company M&A, private equity, and restructuring. Our goal is to ensure that we remain the world's leading law firm in each of these five practice areas.
CA: Where will the firm be investing? Any plans to open new offices? This time last year the firm had added some notable lateral hires: will this be a continuing trend?
BK: I don't believe we're going to open up any new offices. We will continue to strategically grow our practice in the five key areas I mentioned. We may seize an opportunity to pick up a superstar from government or from another firm if it benefits our firm strategically. We're a pretty conservatively run firm. Our goal is to have the very best talent you possibly can have under one roof, provide clients the best service possible, and, hopefully, consistently achieve extraordinary results. From a law student’s perspective, our goal is to continue to attract the best talent in the world and to nurture that talent. The matters we handle are extraordinarily complicated and invariably cutting-edge, so we want the best minds collaborating on creative solutions. What distinguishes Paul, Weiss is that we're old-fashioned in terms of our culture and values. So many firms are bottom-line motivated. We've done exceptionally well from a profitability perspective, but we're all about the culture. We're collaborative and supportive, and one of my most important responsibilities is to safeguard these traditions and resist increasingly powerful opposing market forces.
CA: What is the split between contentious and non-contentious work?
BK: It's pretty balanced, about 50/50, between litigation/regulatory and transactional. The firm is more balanced today than it has been at any time in our history.
CA: What practice areas are hot right now?
BK: Each of my children is equally awesome! In all seriousness, each of the five key practice areas I mentioned is world-class and growing. In addition to these five practices, I would include pro bono as a sixth. We've increased our firm revenues, profits and pro bono hours for 23 consecutive years, so the firm is on a very strong upward trajectory. I don't want to jinx things, but right now everything is going according to plan, and we're very well situated strategically for the future.
CA: What makes Paul, Weiss stand out from other well-known New York firms?
BK: Our talent and our culture. I believe we have the best talent of any law firm in the world, under one roof. We're focused on the five practice areas that are crucial to our firm's success, and we’re disciplined and resist the temptation to dabble in other areas. We don't want practices where we cannot credibly claim to be the best in the world. We've rejected the 'all things for all clients in all jurisdictions' model. Perhaps most important, we have achieved our success without compromising our core values, culture and traditions.
CA: What do you look for in your associates?
BK: We’re in the market for brilliant and interesting associates, individuals with a really high IQ and a really high EQ. We want individuals who have wide-ranging interests. We're looking for talented, dynamic, diverse, fun people, with spark and passion, and a concern for the broader community.
CA: What was Paul, Weiss like when you joined and how has it changed since?
BK: The firm has not really changed in terms of ethos, values, culture or professionalism. I was a summer associate at the firm in 1983 and its core values today remain essentially the same, which is remarkable. Obviously, the firm is much larger, the client base much broader, the reputation more prestigious, and the revenues and profits much greater than 35 years ago. But our core values – our commitment to pro bono, to diversity, to community engagement, to excellence – are unchanged. The Paul, Weiss of 2018 is not materially different from the Paul, Weiss I joined in 1983 – and I hope the same can be said in another 35 years.
CA: Any advice or words or words of wisdom for our student readers as they try to enter the legal profession?
BK: Keep your mind wide open, because you'll find so many varied opportunities to use your law degree. I continue to believe that practicing law at a leading law firm, provided it’s the right fit, is one of the most rewarding ways of spending your life. But be sure to have fun. Work should be enjoyable and exciting, if you do it right and choose the right platform. I hope you give Paul, Weiss a chance.
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
1285 Avenue of the Americas,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 3
- Number of international offices: 5
- Worldwide revenue: $1,301,773,000
- Partners (US): 132
- Associates (US): 612
- Main recruitment contact: Pamela Davidson, Chief Legal Personnel & Recruitment Officer
- Hiring partners: Neil Goldman and Catherine Nyarady
- Chief Inclusion Officer: Danyale Price
- Women’s Initiative Director: Anne Weisberg
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 101
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018:
- 1Ls: 7; 2Ls: 136; 3Ls: 2; SEO 1Ls: 3
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office:
- NY: 138; DC: 10
- Summer salary 2018:
- 1Ls: $3,500/week
- 2Ls: $3,500/week
- 3Ls: $3,500/week
- Split summers offered? Yes
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes
Main areas of work
Boston College, Boston University, Berkeley, Brooklyn, Cardozo, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Howard, McGill, Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, Patent Law Job Fair at Loyola, Penn, Stanford, Texas, Toronto, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Washington University in St. Louis, Yale.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
In addition to participating in on-campus recruiting programs, Paul, Weiss also interviews select strong candidates who submit their applications directly.
Summer associate profile:
You should have a strong academic record, 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 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.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 2)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 1)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
- Media & Entertainment: Corporate (Band 1)
- Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 2)
- Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 2)
- Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Antitrust: Cartel (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 4)
- Corporate Crime & Investigations (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 3)
- Energy: Mining & Metals (Transactional) Spotlight Table
- ERISA Litigation (Band 3)
- FCPA (Band 3)
- Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 2)
- Investment Funds: Hedge Funds (Band 2)
- Investment Funds: Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 2)
- Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 3)
- Retail: Corporate & Transactional (Band 3)
- Securities: Litigation (Band 1)
- Securities: Regulation (Band 2)
- Sports Law Recognised Practitioner
- Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 2)