Paul, Weiss serves the BigLaw experience alongside an intention to be at the vanguard of areas like ESG, pro bono and diversity.
“Our practices are focused on tomorrow's challenges,” chairman Brad Karp tells us. “We have a tech practice that represents most of the largest, best-known technology companies in the world; a growing ESG group, a market-leading AI group and a Civil Rights and Racial Equity Audit group." When the latter group launched in July 2022, it became one of the first of its kind in the US. And Paul, Weiss is no stranger to being part of legal history firsts, as Karp explains: “We were the first firm to hire an African-American associate, and we were the first to make a woman partner. We have been a leader and we will continue to be at the vanguard of change on those matters of greatest consequence to our nation."
“Paul, Weiss has always had a strong proclivity for pro bono.”
The other area that sealed the deal for associates was pro bono – more or less every associate we interviewed underlined it as a key reason for joining the firm. “Paul, Weiss has always had a strong proclivity for pro bono,” said one junior, while another exclaimed that “they let us do serious amounts of pro bono!” More on that later, but for now it’s safe to say that Paul, Weiss’ excellent market reputation – in areas such as corporate M&A, white-collar crime and investigations, commercial litigation and funds – also contributed to our interviewees’ desire to start their legal career at the firm. “Our goal today is the same as it has been for the past 15 years: it’s to represent the most important clients in the market with their most important issues, all while being a leading firm in those efforts,” Karp summarizes for us. Have a look at Chambers.com to see which practice areas the firm really excels in.
Strategy & Future
“The economic markets and geopolitical developments have been extraordinarily turbulent. It has been a challenging period,” says Karp, “but we had an exceptionally strong year, and we are optimistic about our prospects. We haven’t made any structural changes to our firm, and we haven’t let go of partners, associates or staff – that's not how our culture operates. We remain the go-to adviser for the world’s largest private equity firms, public companies and financial institutions on their most important matters.”
“Over the past decade we have developed market-leading practices in core areas such as public company M&A, private equity, litigation, white-collar and regulatory defense, and restructuring,” adds Karp. “We’ve made strategic investments, which have paid off.” Among these hires are “one of the nation’s leading experts in cybersecurity matters,” as well as laterals in areas such as corporate, litigation, antitrust, restructuring, funds and executive compensation. Karp highlights the relatively new San Francisco base (it opened in 2021), which has a heavy focus on private equity transactions and technology litigation, and explains that geographically, “we’re in a strong position, but we will continue to look for strategic ways to maximize our opportunities.”
Most of the associates on our list were based in the New York HQ, but a handful could be found in DC and San Francisco. Paul, Weiss’ broad corporate and litigation practices take on the vast majority of juniors, but groups like real estate, executive compensation, and tax also house a few each. For their first 18 months to two years, corporate associates get the chance to rotate between a variety of the department's subgroups including M&A, capital markets, finance and private funds: “You can learn different areas of law and really broaden your horizon,” one contented source concluded. Across the board, “we have a central staffing team that works with the assigning partners in each practice group. We report on our availability, and they assign us based on the matters that need coverage – you don’t need to beg for opportunities!” This associate added that “it means people don’t get lost in the system,” while another emphasized that “it’s a lot fairer – with free market you have to go out of your way and not everyone is comfortable with that. Bigger personalities stand out and issues of equity might show up.”
“...the team is lean – I can take on more responsibility for drafting and get used to preparing partnership and subscription agreements.”
The funds side of the corporate practice involves “representing big private equity firms with fund formation and investment management. We handle investor documents, as well as regulatory matters.” Work with smaller funds was deemed more appealing as “the team is lean – I can take on more responsibility for drafting and get used to preparing partnership and subscription agreements, as well as regulatory filings.” M&A work takes place on “a large scale – around 85% of my transactions are in the millions. I get exposure to both public and private M&A deals and conduct due diligence, organize calls, manage logistical tasks, and write a monthly article on the M&A market.” For those in leveraged finance, it was a case of “working for equity firms and assisting their negotiations for companies,” while in capital markets juniors helped “publicly traded companies with their disclosures and private companies with their IPOs and bond offerings.”
Corporate clients: Amazon, Chevron, IBM. Advised General Electric on the combination of its jet leasing unit with AerCap Holdings, in a deal worth over $30 billion.
“We research complex events when the government thinks there may have been misconduct.”
“As a generalist, you get to do all sorts of litigation,” a source told us. “I’ve had good exposure to cases including shareholder lawsuits over a merger, internal investigations for public companies, and cryptocurrency-related lawsuits.” The investigations side can see associates “representing boards of directors and corporate executives. We research complex events when the government thinks there may have been misconduct, so we’re conducting interviews and figuring out what happened. How does the company work? And how do we help them to navigate this situation?” For those who were more focused on patent litigation, “the client base varies from big pharma companies to medical device groups to tech companies. There are typical lawsuits in the federal district courts, and we also look to international bodies when it comes to multinational cases.” Our sources had prepared and second-chaired depositions, drafted briefs and motions, and attended meetings with clients. “I’ve been able to do things I didn’t expect to do this early. A partner allowed me to write deposition outlines, be the attorney on record, and ask questions on a paid matter with lots of money at stake,” one junior enthused, adding: “At Paul Weiss, if you demonstrate that you are committed to excellence, you will be rewarded for it.”
Litigation clients: Apple, Pfizer, Uber.Recently represented Apple during antitrust actions related to the App store.
Several sources expressed that “the prospects for partnership are not great” and felt that “there are not too many homegrown partners, as the firm hires a lot of laterals at that level.” However, “they are pushing to make more homegrown partners and say it’s a priority, so I hope that’s true – we'll see what the new partner class looks like.” Some were more optimistic and said that “for those who stay, there are opportunities.” If associates are looking to leave (like most BigLaw firms, many leave around the midlevel point), then Paul, Weiss is also “invested in helping associates to try something else beyond the firm: they’ve got career coaches here, and there are regular panels of alumni who talk about what they did after leaving.” So, if you want to channel your inner Olivia Pope and go into government or even check out in-house opportunities, the firm will reportedly help.
“If you are tasked with something ahead of schedule, you can find what you need to allow you to develop that skill.”
Our sources were very much in agreement when it came to the quality of the training they received. “They take training very seriously,” said one litigator, adding: “They are invested in making sure we succeed, so as a midlevel you can start taking the lead, drafting major briefs and motions, and appearing in court.” A corporate junior explained that “there are lots of resources we can use for our development: if you are tasked with something ahead of schedule, you can find what you need to allow you to develop that skill. They bring in professionals who help us to refine our writing, develop a book of business and pitch. They’ll also pay if you want to go to a conference.” Others spoke of the potential mentorship opportunities that can arise via the firm’s ‘Connect Circles’. Launched in 2020, the 36 circles across the North American offices consist of partners, counsel and associates. The groups host informal gatherings and workshops. Of course, good ol’ fashioned networking also provides the opportunity for mentorship: “The partners will give me personal invitations to events, as well as tips on how to succeed beyond the basics.”
Associates tended to agree with this source, who felt that the culture was characterized by an emphasis on “mutual assistance – in times of stress, people can either put it on others or come together, and my team opts for the latter.” Another junior told us that “if you’re on a case team and you tell them that you’re busy, people will take on your assignments and you’ll do the same for them in return.” Overall, it’s a “culture of collaboration – having someone yell at you is unheard of!” This was felt to have a positive impact on communication (“people are open – I can ask questions if an assignment isn’t clear, and people are willing to help attorneys”) and the social life at the firm: “There’s a strong emphasis on bringing people together – they'll send us emails about events and there are weekly happy hours as well as other firm-sponsored get-togethers.”
“...they chartered a sailing boat for everyone in our class.”
On that note, hearing about a trip where “they chartered a sailing boat for everyone in our class” gave us major FOMO, but as this associate pointed out, feeling content at the firm also had a lot to do with finding time outside of it for a personal life: “They’re becoming more focused on quality of life and balancing working from home with coming into the office. That’s reflected in the benefits that they give, which include working from home reimbursements, but also subsidized breakfasts and lunches for when we come into the office.” This source did highlight that like most firms, “we’re still a bit in flux as we return to the office, so the culture is still working itself out.” At the time of our calls, “we just instituted two mandatory office days, which will create more of a sense of community.”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: no requirement
“I’m so happy there isn’t a billable requirement or target!” one relieved source exclaimed. “It’s good to know that there wouldn’t be a problem if work slowed down.” We also heard that “you are told in a general sense whether you’ve billed above or below your peers.” Compensation at Paul, Weiss is lockstep, which means that associates will get an evenly distributed bonus if they are in good standing. This went down very well with our interviewees, who agreed that “lockstep is the best way to do it,” because it “encourages collegiality” and means that “no one is fighting for work or to get a bonus.” However, for those who go above and beyond, the firm can decide to give them a discretionary bonus on top of the lockstep amount.
“People care, which has been reassuring!”
“The work comes in waves,” another junior noted, which translates into fluctuating hours for both litigators and transactional associates. “Things are busy right now,” a litigator told us, “so I’m working 60 hours a week, but normally it would between 45 and 50 hours.” For corporate juniors, “there’s nothing you can predict when you have a deal closing! But usually it’s an eight to ten-hour working day.” Sources did agree that “we get support when the hours are tough – the staffing people reached out to me when they saw my hours for the last month, and they wanted to give me some recovery time before I started a new deal. People care, which has been reassuring!” How did our interviewees push through the long hours? “I go with it because I know it won’t last, plus these are the times when you learn the most and challenge yourself!” one resilient associate informed us.
Interviewees described the firm as a “pro bono powerhouse. All firms do pro bono work, but Paul, Weiss’ pro bono is mission-oriented. There is a clear vision on what types of causes they take part in and how they want to impact the community,” one junior explained. “Paul, Weiss has always been on the right side of history,” another stated.
“...if you care about a cause, the firm can give you about 50 options to consider!”
We were told that matters tend to be topical and reactive to current issues. On the litigation side, “we address high-profile matters surrounding gun control, anti-Asian hate crime, and reproductive rights.” In addition, “there has been an increase in the amount of immigration cases we’re taking on in relation to individuals from Afghanistan and Ukraine. The firm is helping wherever they can.” A corporate associate remarked that they had a similar amount of access to opportunities as their litigation counterparts, and spoke of assisting BIPOC-owned and managed businesses. Others had drafted documents for nonprofits and assisted with housing and startup advisory clinics. Ultimately, “if you care about a cause, the firm can give you about 50 options to consider!”
Pro bono hours
- For all US offices: 81,936
- Average per US attorney: 92
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
“The firm does pretty well compared to its peers,” felt one interviewee, before adding: “I have seen the firm taking active steps to reach under-represented groups and they are paying attention to first-generation lawyers.” Other agreed that “the firm is very good at recruiting minorities and women at the more junior levels, but we can always do better. One challenge is making sure that diverse lawyers move up and succeed.” On this point, a source highlighted “new mentorship initiatives for diverse lawyers that help with career development from an early stage – mentorship needs to happen from that stage to open up the path to partnership if they want that.” Another noted that “the firm is trying to build up that pipeline to the partnership” for those from under-represented groups.
“...making space for conversations to take place.”
This source, meanwhile, was glad to tell us about diverse role models in the senior levels at the firm, including “deputy chair Valerie Radwaner and partners like Loretta Lynch [former Attorney General of the United States] and Joshua Hill.” A concluding highlight for this junior was the way in which the firm is “making space for conversations to take place – for example, we have listening circles where women can talk about issues that are related to them and those spaces have been really helpful.” The firm even runs Paul, Weiss Kids Book Club: every Heritage month, a partner and their kids will read aloud to the firm's lawyers and their children over Zoom, providing a space to celebrate diversity.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
Paul, Weiss participates in OCI programs at more than 25 law schools, where partners and associates from across the firm’s offices and practice areas meet and interview prospective summer associates. The number of students interviewed varies by school. The firm also participates in resume collections; attends a variety of career fairs; and accepts direct applications. Typical interview questions are “based on a candidate’s resume and previous academic/work experiences, and are aimed at discerning whether a candidate is driven, committed to excellence, and wants to be part of the Paul, Weiss team,” Paul, Weiss' hiring team tells us.
Top tips for this stage:
“We are looking for ambitious, well-rounded candidates that have a strong academic record, intellectual curiosity and are excited to jump into complex high-stakes matters.” – Paul, Weiss hiring team
During callbacks, candidates will typically have four interviews – two with associates and two with partners. Questions focus on “the candidate’s interest in Paul, Weiss and our practices.” The firm provides candidates with a variety of opportunities to learn more about the firm's market-leading practices, including through meals with the firm’s lawyers, and office tours and follow-up meetings with lawyers. One junior associate recalled getting their offer after the callback: “When I was deciding between firms, Paul, Weiss partners took the time to meet with me to guide me through the decision-making process. Their support speaks to the commitment to mentorship and collaborative culture I later found at the firm.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Paul, Weiss is looking for candidates who are driven, team-oriented and dedicated to delivering exceptional service to our clients. We are seeking applicants with diverse backgrounds and experiences, who want to work on substantive, high-stakes and extremely rewarding matters within a supportive environment focused on collaboration and success.” – Paul, Weiss hiring team
The firm's hiring team tells us that the summer associate program at Paul, Weiss is “more than just legal training. Summer associates are welcomed as part of the team from day one, working alongside lawyers on complex, important matters for the firm’s most sophisticated clients.” The program gives summers the “opportunity to experience the firm’s dynamic, collegial environment and to shape their summer experience by choosing one department to call home, or selecting assignments across a number of different practice areas.” Summers are paired with a partner and an associate mentor who “help them make connections with other lawyers at the firm and guide them in their work.” Summer associates also receive robust training, focused on substantive topics relating to corporate and litigation practice areas, as well as individual skills development. Some highlights include hearing from the firm’s partners about their experience working on headline-grabbing matters, shadowing firm lawyers to learn about their day-to-day work, focusing on practical skills like writing and communication, and gaining individual coaching. “Paul, Weiss is extremely invested in associate training and development, starting from the moment summer associates walk in the door,” says the firm’s hiring team.
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.” 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 an iconic New York City art museum, 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. Lawyers who want to achieve the highest excellence in lawyering and work in a fast-paced, stimulating environment will thrive at Paul, Weiss. Summer associates should embrace the myriad opportunities available to learn more about the firm’s high-stakes matters and should strive to deliver exceptional work product on every assignment. Summers should also explore a variety of practice areas and assignments, and take time to learn about the firm’s core practice areas. We also encourage summer associates to attend as many trainings, events and networking opportunities as possible, and meet lawyers across the firm to get the most out of your summer experience.” – Paul, Weiss hiring team
“At Paul, Weiss, you will work on today’s most critical matters and learn from the best.Our lawyers handle industry-shaping transactions and bet-the-company litigations for the world’s best-known companies—and we love what we do. It’s an exciting time to join our firm.” – Paul, Weiss hiring team
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
1285 Avenue of the Americas,
Main areas of work
Summer associate profile: We welcome motivated, talented law students who want to achieve the highest level of excellence in lawyering and practice in a fast-paced, collegial environment.
Summer program components: Our summer associates are part of deal teams and case teams from day one, giving them the opportunity to experience our fast-paced, collegial work environment and introducing them to life at one of the world’s most prestigious law firms. They gain unparalleled experience working alongside nationally leading lawyers on complex, important matters for the biggest names in the business world—and get the chance to interact with clients in meetings, fireside chats and more. Summer associates shape their own experience by working with one department or exploring a variety of practice areas. We offer comprehensive training, and each summer associate is assigned a partner and associate mentor, who guide them in their work and help them make connections across the firm. At Paul, Weiss, you will work on today’s most critical matters and learn from the best.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
- Chancery (Band 3)
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 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: Takeover Defense (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 2)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 2)
- 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 3)
- Tax (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Antitrust: Cartel (Band 3)
- Antitrust: Plaintiff (Band 2)
- Appellate Law (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- 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 2)
- FCPA (Band 4)
- Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 2)
- Hedge Funds (Band 2)
- Investment Funds: Regulatory & Compliance (Band 3)
- Mining & Metals (Band 1)
- 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)
- SPACs (Band 3)
- Sports Law (Band 3)
- Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 2)