Headline-hitting work couples tangible social impact at this elite American outfit.
Working on WSJ-headlining mega-mergers or fighting for social justice? Who says the modern associate can’t have both? “Paul, Weiss is a great firm for lawyers with progressive values,” beamed one junior. “Of course it’s a BigLaw firm, but everything you hear about Paul, Weiss and its progressive values is true.” Indeed, this is a firm with a long history of engaging with social justice. “That social justice bent is what attracted me to the firm 38 years ago,” firm chairman Brad Karp tells us. “Most of our lawyers likewise joined the firm in significant part because we tend to be the most courageous firm in the world on social justice and safeguarding democracy."
Far from mere lip service, Karp highlights that "we quadrupled our pro bono hours in the last several years, allocating $140 million on pro bono matters, and that doesn’t even include the funding we’ve put toward racial justice groups and Paul, Weiss associates seconded to these organizations." Our survey found Paul, Weiss to be the third highest US firm for the average amount of pro bono hours billed in 2021.
Yet this is by no means just a feel-good, campaigning shop. It’s also an elite firm with revenues in excess of $1.8 billion. “The firm has done extraordinarily well and we’re firing on all cylinders,” Karp tells us. “The amount of $10 billion plus transactions and work on truly bet-the company litigations is extraordinary. We’ve had a spectacular run of late.” Our colleagues at Chambers USA clearly agree, doling out a number of top nationwide rankings for the firm including for its bankruptcy, corporate crime and investigations, and securities litigation work. Its New YorkHQ also receives ‘Elite’ top-tier rankings in bankruptcy, corporate/M&A, general litigation, and white-collar investigations.
Most juniors find home in New York, with a fair few based in DC. The former offers both corporate and litigation work, whereas DC only offers juniors a slice of the litigation pie. The firm also opened a new office in San Francisco last year which takes on a handful of associates and where it recently attracted a number of high-profile lateral partners to help the office grow. “Some of the largest and most important companies in the world are based in Northern California,” Karp explains. “We needed to be there to represent them.” Corporate or litigation-oriented practices absorb most incomers, although smaller practices like tax, real estate, employee benefits, and bankruptcy do take on juniors.
First-year corporate associates are unassigned and float across different groups. Though we were told that “people now give a preference between M&A, finance, securities, and private funds,” associates typically complete two or three rotations of six to eight months apiece before doing so. “It’s good if you want to figure out which group is right for you,” one source said. Litigation juniors similarly come in as generalistsbut “can develop a specialty by working with specific partners.” Work allocation across both corporate and litigation is a mixture between formal assigning partners and organic working relationships. “The mix of both gives you access to a whole range of lawyers,” another junior added.
“…there is a big emphasis on training juniors and giving them experience so they’ll actually be useful mid-levels.”
Sources we spoke to in Weiss’ litigationgroup had done “all kinds of things,” including large class-action defenses, internal investigations, FCPA work, cybersecurity, and general commercial disputes, as well as civil litigation matters. “I’ve primarily been working for large business clients on the class action side,” one junior told us, while another was kept busy “responding to government subpoenas with DOJ or FTC enforcement on investigations.” Scope and matter size naturally dictate a junior’s role, although those we interviewed spoke positively about their responsibilities. “Frankly it’s been a very low amount of document review,” one junior gratefully told us. “I started out doing discrete legal research assignments, but I am now doing substantive work on larger matters, like taking the first draft of briefs, depositions, and witness interview outlines.” Whether working on “a large, breakneck-speed investigation into a hedge fund” or a “smaller, but super interesting contractual dispute with a housing authority,” we’re told “there is a big emphasis on training juniors and giving them experience so they’ll actually be useful mid-levels.”
Litigation clients: Credit Suisse, ExxonMobil and Bloomberg. The firm secured a $50 billion victory on behalf of The Blackstone Group regarding pension funds in Kentucky.
The corporate department straddles M&A, finance, capital markets, IP transactions, and private funds on matters usually in the multimillion/billion-dollar range. “My workflow followed the pandemic market,” one source told us, who was kept busy working with organizations on corporate governance; helping private equity funds raise credit; assisting financially distressed companies; and capitalizing on the “SPAC boom.” Our insiders agreed that “it seems to be the firmwide approach to give everyone a good amount of substantive work.” There’s “obviously the big due diligence tasks,” but sources were pleased with “involvement in some decently cool stuff,” like leading on the sell side of a carve-out where one junior reported being “on the phone to the client every day.” Supervising due diligence projects and having “the first crack at a research memo or SPA” were also commonly reported tasks. “My drafting skills have really built up this year,” one second-year said.
Corporate clients: General Electric, Chevron, and Deutsche Bank Securities. The firm is advising Advance in the $150 billion transaction that combines AT&T’s WarnerMedia business with Discovery.
"It was the moment in The Lord of the Rings where the beacons of Gondor are lit and everyone steps up to the plate."
Associates’ workload doesn’t stop at billion-dollar transactions. Gun violence prevention, voting rights, civil rights, disability rights and racial justice are but some of the pro bono cases that are up for grabs. The firm also established the Coronavirus Relief Center in an effort to streamline all information and resources available to those economically impacted by the pandemic. “It was the largest pro bono effort in our history,” Karp tells us. “It involved 600 lawyers and I’m enormously proud of the complete firm effort at a time of unfathomable need.” Another junior said "it was the moment in The Lord of the Rings where the beacons of Gondor are lit and everyone steps up to the plate for a once-in-a-generation project.”
“I just wouldn’t have had the access or experience on pro bono matters at another firm.”
In case it wasn’t clear: pro bono is a big deal at Paul, Weiss. The result is that “the firmattracts people who share a similar approach of using law for social good,” one junior reasoned, adding that “there’s a soft peer pressure here to take on work. I guess the firm just attracts people who want to do pro bono.” We spoke tosources who had helped bring a claim against the Proud Boys for vandalizing a predominantly Black church; death penalty cases; claims against police force violations; and work with the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. “I just wouldn’t have had the access or experience on these pro bono matters at another firm,” one source reflected.
Pro bono hours
- For all US offices: 104,959
- Average per US attorney: 115
Training was described as “pretty rigorous” in person, with “really helpful weekly training sessions” in the first six months for junior litigators. “Everyone’s extremely accommodating, and I’ve never felt pressured to skip training for billable work,” one source shared. On the other hand, others noted that “there’s been a drop-off in training since the pandemic as it’s hard to keep people engaged on Zoom.” You’re telling us! Collectively though, informal training and mentoring was celebrated across our interviews. “I’m so lucky to work under some great mentors,” one junior found. “If you ask for something, a good faith effort will be made to accommodate you.” Another added: “Informal training and discussions with people have come to the fore recently and have been super helpful.”
Sources also commended the firm’s approach to long-term career planning. “I know a number of people who want to stay and make partner, but I also know lots of people who aren’t looking to stay; the firm is understanding and accommodating of that,” one source explained. Confidential career advice sessions make this more feasible, with the firm “investing in associates regardless if you want to stay.” One source did however note making partner felt more realistic in New York rather than DC.
Hours & Compensation
There is no billable hour target at Paul, Weiss, although sources suggested that 2,000 hours was the loose target to aim for. One litigator described their life as “busy but not insane, with the firm having a healthy approach to work/life balance,” while another in corporate was candid that “some months have been bad.” So how bad is bad? “300 hours in both May and June!” Our survey data shows that the average number of hours worked in the last week by associates was 57 hours; that’s largely in line with other New York firms but slightly above the national average. One junior considered eight hours billable to be an average day, pointing out that “you can disengage around 8pm if you’re not busy.”
“Paul, Weiss is never going to be the first mover, but they will always match the top of the market.”
Sources also welcomed the equitable approach to bonuses. “I really like that the bonuses are fully lockstep,” one source said. “It fosters less competition and pressure to squeeze every hour to hit an arbitrary target.” The sentiment was confirmed in our survey where nearly 100% of respondents agreed that the bonus allocation process was fair and transparent. The firm’s decision to match the recent salary hike came as no surprise to our interviewees. “Paul, Weiss is never going to be the first mover, but they will always match the top of the market.”
With broad “liberal, social justice values” attracting many to the firm, it also shouldn’t surprise that sources considered Paul, Weiss “friendly, collegiate and as low-key as you can imagine.” One source explained: “The common thread here is that everyone is extremely understanding. There’s a strong culture of teamwork and getting along with each other.” We’re told that this is made all the sweeter by the emphasis put on the individual. “I have a distinct personality,” one junior told us, adding that “I wanted a place where I could be me and Paul, Weiss hits that good balance.”
From the top down, sources commended the approach. Brad Karp says: “We’re a firm that is uncommonly focused on culture, values, and professionalism: I guess we feel less like a business than peer firms.” One junior spoke to this dynamic: “Everyone here is just really nice. Partners are kind and respectful of your time and the interpersonal stuff is great.”
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Our sources felt that “attrition rates are higher among women and people of color.” However, we also heard of many positive initiatives in place to address the imbalance. For example, Karp highlighted that the firm has funded several places for 2L students to spend a year at the Center on Race, Inequality and the Law at NYU School of Law as Paul, Weiss fellows. He also highlights that the firm seconded multiple lawyers to the NAACP’s legal defense fund, “free of charge to lead change from within that organization.”
Internally, the firm recently formed a taskforce to field the insights from the firm’s Black lawyers about the changes they wanted to see made. “We got a list and implemented every single item from it,” Karp says. Sources also spoke to well-attended training sessions. “There was mandatory buy-in to a seminar called ‘queerness 101,’ which explained to cis and heterosexual colleagues what queer peers might need.” One junior concluded: “The firm hears criticism and takes it on. It doesn’t just seem to be lip service.”
"We like having a close-knit and unified approach.”
Strategy & Future
Our insiders felt the focus was on slow and incremental growth in New York and DC, alongside more aggressive expansion on the West Coast. “They’re not trying to spread the firm too thin,” one source summarized. “We like having a close-knit and unified approach.” Brad Karp also speaks to what the road ahead looks like for the firm. “Hopefully more of the same,” he laughs. "We will be successful as long as the world’s truly most significant companies continue to call on us to represent them during litigation, regulatory investigations, corporate transactions or restructuring matters."
The firm also recently launched an ESG research initiative with Berkeley Law School, where students will partner with the firm in an effort to “cultivate a cohort of young lawyers” well versed in the implications of ESG. Karp describes ESG as "the most important issue right now facing our clients," adding that “our ESG practice, which launched two years ago, focuses on providing clients with that cutting-edge advice."
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
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
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 the 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
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 Paul, Weiss chairman Brad Karp
Chambers Associate: How would you describe Paul, Weiss’ current market position?
Brad Karp: It’s been a surreal 19 months and a uniquely challenging period, but once again, the firm has done extraordinarily well. We worked on extraordinarily high-profile matters. We also doubled down on our pro bono efforts and we’re leading in the U.S. there. We bent over backwards to maintain and enhance the firm culture through constant communication via town halls.
We are a firm that is uncommonly focused on culture, values and professionalism; we feel like less of a business than peer firms. One of my goals during the pandemic was to identify firmwide projects that the entire firm, including staff, could get behind. Our COVID-19 Relief Center engaged nearly 600 of our lawyers. We’ve been a national leader on organising the bar around voting rights initiatives, reproductive freedom, gun control and LGBTQ rights. All these issues were under attack, so we’ve taken the national lead on defending national liberties. Our firm community has coalesced around these issues.
Overlay that with the George Floyd murder and racial justice issues, where we have also been a national leader there. We are blessed to have three of the most prominent Black lawyers nationally in senior leadership. We’ve used our platform to really bring our firm community together in support of racial justice. Our commitment to this dates back to our involvement in Brown v. Board of Education, where our lawyers worked alongside Thurgood Marshall.
That social justice bent is what attracted me to the firm 38 years ago. Most of our lawyers likewise joined the firm in significant part because we tend to be the most courageous firm in the world on social justice and safeguarding democracy. I’ve tried very hard to use our platform for the good of our society; if the current administration is going to take actions that threaten fundamental liberties, we’re going to speak out and galvanise our lawyers and the Bar to challenge that and stand up for civil liberties.
CA: The firm recently launched an ESG initiative with Berkeley, as well as launching its Northern California office last year – could you tell us about the motivation for this?
BK: The most important issue right now facing our clients is ESG in all its manifestations. There is not a business or industry in America or the world that’s immune from ESG concerns: it will dominate everything going forward. You can’t chat with a client for more than 20 minutes without mentioning ESG.
So businesses need lawyers who understand the legal and practical implications of ESG. Our ESG practice, which launched two years ago, focuses on providing clients with that cutting-edge advice.
Meanwhile, our new Northern Californian office, launched this past year, is already extraordinarily busy. Some of the largest and most important companies in the world based in the region, all facing very significant legal, political, and ESG threats, some of which could be characterized as existential. So we needed to be there to represent them in those kinds of matters, such as our continuing work with Facebook, or our lawyers trying the Epic Games v. Apple antitrust case—probably the most high-profile trial in the past decade.
CA: Can you tell us more about Paul, Weiss’ approach to diversity? What does this look like in practice?
BK: Every point of involvement we could identify where we felt we could make a difference, we’ve jumped in with both feet.
We funded the Center for Race, Inequality and the Law at NYU Law School, which will fund generations of Paul, Weiss fellows. We made very significant contributions to the leading racial justice organizations in U.S. We are involved in racial justice litigation. We seconded multiple lawyers to the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and other organizations fighting racial injustice. We sent those lawyers free of charge to lead change from within. We’re an advisory member on law firms again racism.
Internally we formed a task force focused on inclusion. The task force includes everyone, not just partners and we implemented everything. We also asked our Black lawyers about all the items that would be on their wish list about inclusion, diversity, sponsorship, recruitment and mentorship. They provided a wish list and we implemented every single item on the list. We were not so arrogant to believe we can figure things out on our own. Instead, we reached out to interested stakeholders to hear what they want from our firm to make sure they’re dealing with issues of structural racism and making sure DE&I and belonging is what it needs to be.
CA: Have there been any specific pro bono highlights you’d like to draw our readers’ attention to?
BK: Within a week of the pandemic hitting the U.S., we formed the COVID-19 Relief Center on Paul, Weiss’s home page. As you recall, when COVID struck, business and individuals were devastated and local, state, federal and philanthropic entities announced thousands of relief programs to help those in need. They overlapped and were complicated, so we created this online clearinghouse of information about these programs, which has helped tens of thousands of individuals and small businesses unlock these benefits. It was the largest pro bono effort in our history, with COVID-19 relief efforts overall involving nearly 600 lawyers, and it continues to be relied on by clients and individuals in need, and I’m enormously proud of the complete firm effort at a time of unfathomable need.
On the immigration front, under the Trump administration, families were separated at the border. Fathers and mothers taken from their children who were too young to speak, placing them in different detention centres and failing to provide tracking systems that would ultimately untie them. The ACLU launched a massive class action in California to seek redress from these policies for the families, and we partnered with the ACLU and grassroots organizations to help find and reconnect more than 1,000 separated families. I’m incredibly proud of the work we have done; more than 200 Paul, Weiss lawyers and staff have worked on that effort, which is ongoing today.
Also we are the leading firm in the country on anti-gun violence litigation, trying to mitigate the impact of the extraordinary gun violence that pervades our country. That’s been huge.
On extremism, the U.S. is home to ugly extremism and one of the first and most glaring examples of that was what happened in Charlottesville, where the far right and neo-Nazis attacked peaceful counter-protestors in 2017 during a “Unite the Right” rally. We are trying that civil conspiracy trial this month.
We’ve really put our money where our mouth is: we quadrupled our pro bono hours in the last several years, allocating $140 million on pro bono matters, and that doesn’t even include the funding we’ve put toward racial justice groups and Paul, Weiss associates seconded to these organizations. I’m incredibly proud of these achievements.
CA: With all these successes, what does the road ahead look like for Paul, Weiss?
BK: Hopefully more of the same! My goal is to represent the most important companies in the world on their most important matters. We will be successful as long as the world’s truly most significant companies continue to call on us to represent them during litigation, regulatory investigations, corporate transactions or restructuring matters.
We’ve had a spectacular run of late, representing companies on existential issues. The amount of $10 billion+ transactions we are handling is extraordinary. Add to that is our work on truly bet-the company litigations on massively high-profile matters, and the many important investigations we’ve led over the past year; take our work for Credit Suisse investigating its relationship with the failed hedge fund Archegos Capital, which was lauded as the finest specialist investigation of its kind.
We’ve also tried 22 cases over last 12 months, winning most of them.
You name it, we’re doing it. The firm is operating on all cylinders. We’ve also brought in transcendent lateral partners. Everything is going really well; my role really is to keep us focused on what we are doing well so that we can continue doing it.
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
1285 Avenue of the Americas,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 4
- Number of international offices: 5
- Worldwide revenue: $1,850,437,000
- Partners (US): 155
- Associates (US): 639
- 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 2022: 96
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 1Ls: 20; 2Ls: 96
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office: NY: 96; DC: 11; SF:9
- Summer salary 2022:
- 1Ls: $4,135/week
- 2Ls: $4,135/week
- 3Ls: $4,135/week
- Split summers offered? Yes
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes
Main areas of work
Career Fairs the Firm Attends: Lavender Law, NEBLSA, MidWest-CA-GA Consortium and National Law School Consortium
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, 2022
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
- 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 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 3)
- Tax (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust (Band 3)
- Antitrust: Cartel (Band 3)
- Antitrust: Plaintiff (Band 2)
- Appellate Law (Band 4)
- 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 3)
- Energy: Mining & Metals (Transactional) (Band 1)
- FCPA (Band 4)
- 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)
- SPACs (Band 3)
- Sports Law (Band 4)
- Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 2)