Paul, Weiss caters to associates hungry for pro bono public-interest cases and big-ticket commercial matters alike.
“There is a strong culture of acceptance and support here, whilst focusing on making the world a better place.” Not how you’d expect a description of a billion-dollar international law firm to begin, but PW has a history deeply rooted in pro bono work for causes including reproductive rights, gun violence, criminal justice, economic empowerment and civil rights. Chairman Brad Karp elaborated: “Our progressive culture and broad-based community engagement distinguish us. These are evident in our fervent commitment to pro bono and involvement in the most important issues facing our society today.”
Not only are Paul, Weiss hearts in the right place, their brains are pretty good too: within its five key practices (commercial litigation; white-collar and regulatory defense; public M&A; private equity; and restructuring), the firm is a force to be reckoned with. Chambers USAhands the firm an impressive list of rankings nationwide, including top spots for bankruptcy, corporate crime and investigations, and securities litigation. The HQ in New York also leads the market in bankruptcy, IP, commercial and securities litigation, white-collar crime, and media and entertainment, while the DCbase picks up lesser antitrust and litigation nods.
“Our progressive culture and broad-based community engagement distinguish us.”
The vast majority of junior associates work from New York, though a few are based in DC; the firm also has a US office in Delaware and overseas bases in Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Tokyo and Toronto. Many we spoke to were sold on Paul, Weiss by the general camaraderie. “The culture resonated with me,” one shared. “The people who work here are both intellectual and warm.”
Although the firm’s corporate or litigation practices house most juniors, other sizable departments include tax, real estate, employee benefits and bankruptcy. The assignment system functions as a “hybrid” and associates can either get staffed on cases by the central workflow coordinator or directly express interest in matters from a ‘bucket’. Interviewees explained how this works: “Depending on the individual or firm need, you’ll get reached out to by senior attorneys. If there’s nothing coming your way, the assignment system kicks in.” Although many found the system pretty useful, a few had a more stressful experience, suggesting that “work isn't always distributed equally.”
As well as general commercial matters, litigation associates get busy in areas like antitrust, white-collar investigations and regulatory, anticorruption and cybersecurity. DC juniors are most likely to get onto appellate cases, but associates across the firm are encouraged to sample multiple subsections. From the get-go, they were able to source hands-on work: “In my first year I’ve attended depositions. I’m also often the main person on call with clients," an interviewee enthused. Associates we spoke to were particularly passionate about investigations and antitrust. One outlined their exciting-sounding experience: “We track down potential bribery and corruption issues within companies, and then report the unlawful conduct to the government."
“My litigation matters during my first year have been both factually and legally fascinating.”
It’s not all exciting FBI-style sleuthing: typical cases involve preparing witnesses for depositions, drafting and legal research. Antitrust can similarly come with a down-to-earth dimension, as was the case for one associate staffed on a case concerning advertising in grocery stores. Keeping busy with “discovery requests, doc review, research and motions to compel,” they and others were left impressed with their colleagues. “Paul, Weiss litigators are the best of the best,” one proudly announced. “My litigation matters during my first year have been both factually and legally fascinating.”
Litigation clients: CBS, ExxonMobil, National Football League. Represented Amazon in a putative class action alleging the site had raised the prices of products sold by third-party sellers, violating antitrust law and the company’s own fair pricing policy.
The Paul, Weiss corporate practice (here too, most juniors are based in New York) splits into M&A, finance, capital markets, IP transactions and private funds subgroups, but juniors can typically sample work from each of them in the early going. Hedge funds and private equity firms make up a sizable chunk of the client base: “We almost exclusively work on the sponsored side in all aspects of a fund’s launch,” a source told us. The M&A team advises on mainly buyer-side deals spanning sectors such as construction, technology and telecommunications. Whatever they tried their hand at, junior insiders felt they played a valuable role on deals despite the firm’s high-end practice: “I am sometimes the only associate on matters.” When positioned in supporting roles alongside other associates, common responsibilities included “writing up comments, first cuts of agreements and final reviews,” but client contact was also available. Day-to-day our sources got stuck into working on fund documents, reviewing private placement memoranda and drafting amendments to larger deal documents.
Corporate clients: Chevron, Kraft Heinz, IBM. Advised the CBS Special Committee of the Board of Directors on the company’s merger with Viacom to form a media giant valued at over $14 billion.
It may handle mega mergers, but some of the highest-profile Paul, Weiss matters have been pro bono, including winning the reversal of the Scottsboro Boys’ conviction before the US Supreme Court; working on briefs in Brown v. Board of Education; and arguing the first legal test on gay marriage in New York. Firm chairman Brad Karp brought us up to speed on the latest pro bono matters: “In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others, we are fighting every day to help bring about racial justice.” As part of that fight, PW has brought cases in partnership with the NAACP, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Volunteers of Legal Service and many more.
“We are fighting every day to help bring about racial justice.”
Racial justice issues aren’t the full story of pro bono at Paul, Weiss – junior associates have also recently worked on asylum matters, immigration issues, nonprofit formations and LGBTQ+ cases. “As a corporate associate I’ve still been able to get involved with litigious pro bono work,” a source confirmed. “I’ve been really invested in cases and got a lot of responsibility, taking ownership of big tasks.” Cases are organized by a pro bono coordinator that “floats matters to associates when they come in” to see who has capacity.
Pro bono hours
- For all US offices: 155,975
- Average per US attorney:166
The COVID-19 pandemic brought additional challenges to the usual tricky business of training junior lawyers. Brad Karp explains how PW has navigated such issues: “We’ve put in place elaborate systems including new mentorship circles, to ensure that we can all stay connected.” Partners deliver multiple trainings a month for first-years, one of which is usually mandatory. Our sources were left impressed with the programs: “Training is very interactive, usually involving group work and discussion." Associates also receive training on soft skills including public speaking; “the firm is very good at providing resources for us to facilitate our own career development,” we heard. Discussions about the partner track typically begin around fifth year. Pleased with their Paul, Weiss training and career options, some were looking for opportunities that only a time machine could offer: “I wish I could make the day longer than 24 hours! Training and career development don’t count toward billable time.”
Hours & Compensation
That said, the firm doesn’t technically have a billable hour target. Most of our junior interviewees aimed for for 2,000 hours including pro bono and client development opportunities. Typical days ran from roughly 9:30am to 8pm for juniors; when extra busy, associates can expect to be at the grindstone until past midnight. When the going gets tough, the firm provides associates with resources to help make longer nights bearable, including free dinner and rides home from the office. We also heard that senior lawyers encourage juniors to leave as soon as they’ve finished during quieter periods.
“Some of my matters are staffed quite leanly, which can lend itself to long and demanding hours.”
“The hours are frankly quite long overall,” a source admitted to us, “but I can easily leave at 4pm when it’s quiet to make up for overtime. Associates check in if they notice you’ve been working late.” Some juniors were critical of PW’s approach to associate working hours, citing a lack of distinction between work and personal time. “Some of my matters are staffed quite leanly, which can lend itself to long and demanding hours,” one noted, making the case that early responsibility isn’t always a good thing for associates’ wellbeing. “Needing to be available on nights and weekends can also be tough.”
This interviewee and others sought better boundaries, sufficient breaks between busy assignments and more flexibility when trying to book vacation time. Others suggested that “complaints about long hours may be at least partly down to the pandemic and teething issues with working from home full-time,” a problem that’s been common to many workplaces throughout 2020.
“Working at 4am is never fun, and never will be, but I’ve been with teams cracking jokes in the early hours,” an insider declared. “That definitely makes it more bearable.” The Paul, Weiss commitment to social justice lures a certain type of person to the firm. “I was attracted to the public commitment to socially progressive causes,” one such junior declared, finding also that the attorney ranks displayed “a good mix of lawyerly intensity and good-natured personalities.” Drawing a very general comparison between departments, interviewees described corporate as more “buttoned-down, a bit more relaxed and informal” than litigation. They also suggested that associates keep each other on their toes: “People here are interesting, and a little sharp-humored.”
“A good mix of lawyerly intensity and good-natured personalities.”
Reading between the lines of acceptance and support running through the firm’s international network, juniors noted additional characteristics in certain offices. New York acts as the firm’s hub and, as it’s much larger than other bases, comes with a less close-knit office-wide culture. Interviewees from DC were keen to boast about regular socials including lunches, movie nights, bowling, golf, laser tag and chocolate tasting. Dieting might not be so easy here… “Paul, Weiss takes its food seriously! There are always lunches, dinners, snacks, you name it.”New York juniors considered their office to be more ‘siloed’, with larger departments each housing more of a micro-culture. That was no obstacle to fostering strong relationships, and we heard from various practice areas that “associates stop by each other's offices for quick chats all the time.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Since the last time we surveyed PW, partners have been making huge efforts to improve upon previous diversity struggles and controversies, according to our junior interviewees. New partner hires have helped improve numbers: according to figures provided by the firm, ethnic minority partner numbers grew from 11% to 14% between 2016 and 2020. “I’ve been on teams with many diverse individuals,” we heard from a source. “Senior staff are keen to make sure teams are balanced.” To help them navigate their early career, each ‘diverse’ junior associate is paired with a mentor via the Colleague Connect Circles program. The firm also has the usual rundown of affinity networks for Black, Latinx, Asia-Pacific and women attorneys, plus Pride and family groups. Each runs its own events, which have recently included a karaoke night and a book club (“we read a selection of books written by female authors”).
“Senior staff are keen to make sure teams are balanced.”
In order to help everyone at Paul, Weiss deal with the stresses that come with legal practice, the firm has an online wellness center where attorneys can access counseling and other wellbeing resources. Some in smaller offices felt left out of the conversation at times, however, and a DC source complained that “New York gets access to most of the opportunities and events” within the diversity and inclusion programs.
Strategy & Future
Asked to summarize a turbulent 2020, chairman Brad Karp notes that law firm life has been defined by broader events. “It’s been an interesting year to say the least,” he notes, “given the pandemic and the racial justice reckoning.” Worldwide hardships haven’t slowed down progress at Paul, Weiss: “We’ve added star power to our partnership; intensified our efforts to lead the bar on diversity and inclusion; our practice areas are stronger than ever; and we’ve deepened our historic relationships with the civil rights community,” Karp lists.
“We’ve deepened our historic relationships with the civil rights community.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 1,017 (NY office)
Interviewees outside OCI: 147 (NY office)
Paul, Weiss participates in OCIs at over 25 law schools, where partners interview potential summers. The number of students interviewed varies by school. The firm also participates in resume drops and diversity job fairs Lavender Law and NEBLSA, and also accepts direct applications. Typical questions are “based on a candidate’s resume and previous academic/work experiences, and also explore the candidate’s interest in the practice of law,” Paul, Weiss' hiring team tells us.
Top tips for this stage:
“Once I was in the door doing interviews, I felt I could genuinely be friends with the people. It felt like a real conversation, not an interview.” – a junior associate
“Candidates should demonstrate they are well‐rounded, including having a strong academic record, varied life experiences and commitment to excellence in the practice of law.” – Paul, Weiss hiring team
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 482 (NY office)
Callbacks consist of four interviews – two with associates and two with partners or counsel. Questions here focus on “the candidate’s interest in Paul, Weiss and our practice.” One junior associate recalled getting their offer after the callback: “When I was trying to decide between firms, it was special that partners were willing to take time and meet with me to help me through decision making process. It made it an easy decision!”
Top tips for this stage:
“Paul, Weiss is looking for candidates with diverse backgrounds and interests who are passionate about the practice of law and have a genuine interest in our firm.” – Paul, Weiss hiring team
Offers: 261 (NY office)
Acceptances: 99 (NY office)
The firm's hiring team tells us that the summer associate program at Paul, Weiss is “more than just legal training.” The program gives summers the “opportunity to shape their summer experience, by choosing one department to call home, or selecting a variety of work from a number of different practice areas.” Summers get designated both a partner and associate mentor who “help them make connections with other lawyers at the firm and guide them in their work.” Summers’ training consists of small group sessions, individual skills development workshops and classroom-style presentations.
One junior told us “I was so satisfied with my summer experience that I didn’t look elsewhere afterwards," and the firm says “most students who summer at Paul, Weiss will return as junior associates.” It’s not uncommon for members of the summer associate class to defer their start date to do judicial clerkships. Incoming associates are extended an offer to join a particular department upon completion of the summer program.
Notable summer events: Shakespeare in the Park, a firm-wide reception at the Museum of Modern Art, a private suite for a Yankees game, a sunset sail around Manhattan, an ‘Iron Chef’ style cooking competition and many more unique networking opportunities.
Top tips for this stage:
“Be proactive and engaged. Explore a variety of practice areas and assignments. Try to attend as many trainings, events and networking opportunities as possible to get the most out of your summer experience.” – Paul, Weiss hiring team
Interview with Chairman Brad Karp
CA: Many law students struggle to distinguish between law firms. What would you identify as unique characteristics of Paul, Weiss?
BK: Paul, Weiss is at the pinnacle of the legal market. We have five broad areas in which we believe we have the strongest practices in the world: litigation; white-collar and regulatory defense; public M&A; private equity; and restructuring. In addition, our progressive culture and broad-based community engagement distinguish us. These are evident in our fervent commitment to pro bono and our involvement in the most important issues facing our society today.
CA: Can you tell us about any developments at the firm over the past year that you would like our readers to know about?
BK: The past year has been interesting, to say the least, given the pandemic and the racial justice reckoning. Despite all the upheaval, we’ve still had a record-breaking 12 months, under every metric. We’ve added star power to our partnership; we’ve intensified our efforts to lead the bar on diversity and inclusion; our practice areas are stronger than ever; and we’ve deepened our historic relationships with the civil rights community. Our stellar financial performance notwithstanding, what I’m most proud of is the investment we have made in pro bono work; we've increased our pro bono hours by 70% since last year, as we continue to fight every day for social and racial justice.
CA: Could you tell us more about the firm’s efforts towards helping the racial injustice within the US?
BK: At Paul, Weiss, we have always had a deep commitment to racial justice, going back nearly a century. Paul, Weiss is the law firm that vacated the convictions of the Scottsboro Boys before the Supreme Court. In that case, nine young Black men were falsely accused of raping two white women back in the 1920s in Alabama. A Paul, Weiss partner, Walter Pollak, secured their freedom. Fast forward to today, and in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others, we are fighting every day to help bring about racial justice. Currently, approximately half of our pro bono work is focused on racial justice issues. We are partnering with the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and many other civil rights groups. Prompted by our Black Lawyers’ Network, this year we are encouraging our lawyers to become engaged in grassroots racial justice efforts, and we are expanding the pool of diverse candidates we recruit to the firm. We recently rolled out more than a dozen new initiatives aimed at strengthening our diversity and inclusion.
CA: The associates we spoke to took pride in the culture of the firm. How would you describe the firm's culture?
BK: Paul, Weiss is an extremely team-oriented, collaborative, transparent and non-hierarchical firm. Since the pandemic, we have had to work much harder to preserve our culture in a remote working environment. During an incredibly stressful time, we are trying to be even more communicative and transparent, while being sensitive to the mental health of everyone in our firm community. Lastly, as I have stated earlier, pro bono and community engagement remain the touchstone of our firm’s culture.
CA: What are the main challenges that law firms and their lawyers will have to navigate/adapt to in the future?
BK: Right now, with the vast majority of our staff and lawyers working remotely, we are operating in uncharted territory. Among the challenges that accompany a purely virtual environment are training, mentoring and supervision. With incoming associates, we must ask ourselves how we will train them and inculcate our culture and values. To navigate these challenges, we have put in place elaborate systems and measures, including new mentorship “circles,” to ensure that we stay connected and everyone feels that they are an integral part of the Paul, Weiss community.
CA: What is the firm’s five-year plan?
BK: Our goal since 2008, when the Global Financial Crisis began, has been to ensure that Paul, Weiss is positioned to thrive during both robust and challenging market conditions. This has meant investing heavily in countercyclical practice areas, building upon our historic leadership in diversity, strengthening our ESG (environment, social and corporate governance) capabilities, and maintaining our core values and culture. Over the 13 years that I have served as the firm’s chair, we have judged our success by our practice, our partnership and our culture. Our goal is to be the very best law firm in the world, and to handle the most important matters for the most important clients in the world, and to do so in a firm that has a professional and respectful culture and stands for social good.
CA: Looking back at your career and the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give to students who are about to enter the legal industry?
BK: I would tell students to make sure that they love what they do, no matter which law firm or organization they may be at. Make sure you find somewhere you feel comfortable culturally and find the work satisfying and inspiring.
CA: What's been the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career?
BK: I have learned the importance of mentoring. This means finding someone who is willing be generous with their time, take a personal and professional interest in your success and advancement, and promote you to clients and to the community. As someone who has
benefitted from generous mentors during my career, I believe it is absolutely essential to pay it back and to mentor others, and take satisfaction in the success of your mentees.
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: 6
- Worldwide revenue: $1,543,730,000
- Partners (US): 146
- Associates (US): 647
- 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 2021: 69
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1Ls: 11; 2Ls: 118
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: NY: 121; DC: 8
- Summer salary 2021:
- 1Ls: $3,700/week
- 2Ls: $3,700/week
- 3Ls: $3,700/week
- Split summers offered? Yes
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes
Main areas of work
Recruitment outside OCIs: In addition to participating in the above OCI programs, resume collects and diversity job fairs, Paul, Weiss also interviews select strong candidates who submit their applications directly for 2L, 3L and post‐clerkship positions.
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 is an introduction to life at one of New York’s most unique law firms. Summer associates at Paul, Weiss have the opportunity to shape their summer experience, by choosing one department to call home, or selecting a variety of work from a number of different practice areas. Summer associates are assigned partner and associate mentors who help them make connections with other lawyers at the firm and guide them in their work. Summer associate training consists of a mix of highly interactive small group sessions, individual skills development workshops and more traditional classroom‐style presentations.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 1)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 5)
- Antitrust (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 2)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 1)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 1)
- Media & Entertainment: Corporate (Band 1)
- Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 3)
- Private Equity: Buyouts (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)
- Antitrust: Plaintiff (Band 2)
- Appellate Law (Band 4)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Equity: Issuer Counsel (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: High-Yield Debt (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Securitization: ABS (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: Securitization: Whole Business (Band 1)
- Corporate Crime & Investigations: The Elite (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 2)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
- Energy: Mining & Metals (Transactional) (Band 1)
- FCPA (Band 3)
- Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 2)
- Hedge Funds (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 5)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 2)
- Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Retail: Corporate & Transactional (Band 2)
- Securities: Litigation (Band 1)
- Securities: Regulation: Enforcement (Band 2)
- Sports Law (Band 4)
- Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 2)