Are you all-in for BigLaw life but don't want to compromise on "helping the little guy"?
PERUSE the annals of US history and you’ll find Paul, Weiss’ lawyers involved in momentous cases such as Brown v. Board of Education, Gray v. Sanders (the Supreme Court case responsible for the 'one person, one vote' standard) and US v. Windsor (which recognized the right to same-sex marriage). Look to the top of the firm today and you’ll find a chairman leading the charge to continue that legacy. In 2018 Brad Karp penned separate op-eds in the New York Times to express his opposition to the Trump administration’s immigration policy, and to support the repeal of a law preventing lawsuits against gun manufacturers. Further down the scale you’ll find lawyers pursuing pro bono causes ranging from voter disenfranchisement to LGBT rights. Junior associates were suitably enthused: "Our pro bono cases are a reminder that you are using your law degree for the purpose which it was intended: preserving the rule of law and helping the little guy. We really believe in using these tools to protect people in all different ways."
But don’t be mistaken, Paul, Weiss is still a bustling BigLaw firm. Across the firm’s New York HQ and its office in DC, there are corporate and litigation practices stuffed full of driven lawyers clocking long hours. The firm’s white-collar crime and commercial litigation standing is exceptional, with Chambers USA recognizing it as one of the elite in New York. The firm’s flourishing corporate efforts receive Chambers USA’s lavish praise too, and the firm recently advised IBM on its $34 billion acquisition of software company RedHat, one of the largest ever US tech acquisitions.
"We do it because we are interested in it and it just so happens that people pay us a lot of money."
The firm is currently riding a ten-year wave of continually rising profit, with industry figures swooning over the firm’s exceptionally high profit-per-equity-partner (PEP) score. Our associate sources reckoned there was more than money motivating Paul, Weiss’ lawyers, however. “We find intellectual challenges in the work. We do it because we are interested in it and it just so happens that people pay us a lot of money."
Strategy & Future
The firm has been cashing in on the healthy state of the public M&A market recently, but chairman Brad Karp lets us know that the firm anticipates a change. “The public markets have been going like gangbusters," he tells us. "We've been able to increase our market share exponentially in public company M&A and private equity deal work. Beyond that, because of our market-leading restructuring capabilities, we are positioned to take advantage of the market dislocation that is likely to take place over the next 12 to 18 months.”
Despite some big headline hires from Cravath and Kirkland in recent years, Karp stresses that Paul, Weiss “has operated an incremental growth model for decades. We have strategically invested in our core practice areas to ensure they remain market-leading. Because we're in the talent business, we are always on the lookout for compelling talent opportunities. A recent example involved our hiring of renowned Supreme Court litigator Kannon Shanmugam to launch a Supreme Court practice. I expect we will follow much the same strategy over the next few years.”
Roughly half of associates make themselves at home in litigation, with a little over a third heading to corporate. Far smaller departments like tax, real estate, employee benefits and personal representation (a broad private client practice) split the remainder. The vast majority head to New York, but DC takes a handful each year. Associates’ work is handed out by assigning staff who will "try to tailor assignments to your interests as much as possible," while also monitoring how busy associates are. But the system isn’t watertight. Sometimes senior staff sought out juniors personally. “While the firm makes it clear that you shouldn't overburden yourself, when someone in a managerial position comes to you it’s harder to say no face-to-face."
The corporate department is predominantly based in New York, and is split into four groups: funds, M&A, financing and securities. The M&A team advises on a flurry of multibillion-dollar deals, spanning sectors such as construction, technology, telecom and tech. But juniors start off being 'unassigned', meaning they can be pulled into doing work for any of the four groups. Associates reckoned that "within a year you’ll be pretty homed in on a specific group." When starting, juniors tend to be tasked with organizing and addressing low-level documents, with the complexity of the work ramping up over time. For example, a securities or financing matter might see a fresh-faced associate draft ancillary documents; a junior with a few years' experience, on the other hand, might draft memos or the registration statement, a key document "giving investors what they need to make an investment decision. You have to deal with plenty of financial reporting and these documents run into the hundreds of pages." Corporate associates admitted that some of their work could grate. "The one bane of every lawyer’s existence is signature pages," moaned one source. "It involves getting the sign-off from all the relevant parties – it takes a lot of coordination, and people just don't like to sign documents."
Corporate clients: Qualcomm, IBM, Kraft Heinz, Apollo Global Management and J.P. Morgan Asset Management. As well as the IBM-Redhat deal, lawyers advised the giant semiconductor manufacturer Qualcomm on the attempted $130 billion acquisition by Broadcom. The department also worked for Canadian fertilizer company Agrium on its $36 billion merger with Potash Corporation, a crop nutrient company.
The array of litigation at the firm is equally broad. There’s work up for grabs on bankruptcy matters, M&A litigation, white-collar investigations, securities class actions, employment cases and more. During their time there our sources had noticed "a large emphasis on securities litigation" along with a fair bit of internal and government investigations; a particular focus in DC associates’ work could be described as a split between fact-finding or legal analysis. As one source recalled: "For the first half of the year I had one screen open on Westlaw, and the other on whatever analysis I was writing up. My second half has been investigations, which requires less legal analysis and more factual summaries." Those not working on investigations took on "a whole pantheon of things: writing up interview memos, reviewing documents, doing document productions, drafting depositions and also attending depositions." Given how broad the work was, the pros and cons tended to be relative to each associate’s mix. Those who enjoyed legal research and analysis disliked the fact-heavy investigatory work, while those with a nose for unearthing the facts preferred "blocking off all of my cases and really becoming an expert on one situation. I loved the team environment, with us all digging together."
Litigation clients: The NFL, ExxonMobil, Citigroup and 21st Century Fox. On the investigations side, the firm acted for the former CFO of multinational mining company Rio Tinto after the SEC made allegations of fraud regarding a mining project in Mozambique. In commercial litigation, the firm came to the aid of medical company Alere after Abbott Laboratories, which had agreed to purchase Alere, suffered from buyer's remorse, and tried to pull out of the deal.
Litigation and corporate associates couldn’t be sure of how realistic becoming a partner was. "I’m not that familiar with the path,” said one interviewee, “and very few of us are even contemplating making partner. Paul, Weiss is a BigLaw firm and a decent number of people leave before the fourth year." Sources noticed alumni heading off to "clerk, go to pro bono organizations, the government or lateral over to other firms." This seemed to be an accepted part of the Paul, Weiss process. “There aren’tany bad feelings when you leave – it's quite the opposite. I think people are very supportive of you pursuing other opportunities." But those few associates working in bankruptcy felt "there's a more realistic chance of making partner. The group has been growing, there's an emphasis on promoting internally and there will be a need for additional partners." All associates must wait until the fifth year for feedback on their chances. “They have an informal sit-down and let you know if you are on track."
Given what we said at the outset, it’s no surprise associates had great things to say about their pro bono involvement. "People treat it equally to client work," explained one. There is no formal limit on the number of hours associates can commit to pro bono. One source remembered a time when they had "been very busy on billable work and had to drop some cases. I was also going to drop my pro bono assignments but I was told that I shouldn't drop them because they were on a really important social issue." Associates are usually staffed on matters by responding to firm-wide emails, with juniors being able to "get work in two days' time – you could even get work that afternoon if you really wanted it." In the past the firm has partnered with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Transgender Legal Defense’s Name Change Project, the Center for Reproductive Rights, The Bronx Defenders and Sanctuary For Families. Sources reported working on issues including asylum, family separation, voting rights, veterans’ benefits and even "shaken baby cases.” Although most cases were available across offices there were some specific local opportunities. DC associates could join a program teaching local high schools about legal issues and monitoring students in mock trial classes, while New York associates had more housing work available to them.
Pro bono hours
- For all US offices: 113,079
- Average per US attorney: 110
"We also have various sports teams where the firm sponsors everything from your registration fees to cabs."
Looking at the firm's leadership, you might suspect a certain political leaning. "No one is saying this is a liberal law firm," an associate firmly clarified, "but many of the associates, a percentage of the partnership and the firm's chairman are left-leaning." Sources felt this was self-perpetuating. "Some of the high-profile cases attract a certain type of person," mused one. "When you are interviewing at a firm and the people you meet act and think like you, that certainly encourages you to join." Our observant interviewees also noticed a difference between the transactional and litigious practices, judging the transactional floors to be chattier, while litigation was seen as "a pretty quiet, bookish place." Still, outgoing lawyers have plenty of opportunity to be vocal at weekly cocktail hours in New York. "We also have various sports teams where the firm sponsors everything from your registration fees to cabs. There are various social events too – we sometimes do karaoke – and partners will host different things at their houses – one does a Fruit Ninja competition."
Diversity & Inclusion
Associates pointed to a number of steps the firm has taken to make the firm more inclusive. “There have been multiple training sessions since the summer concerning unconscious bias, which included the entire partnership." There are a range of diversity networks that run regular events, a diversity mentoring scheme and SEO internships, and the firm has also introduced gender-neutral bathrooms. However, most sources we spoke to had noticed a lack of diversity, particularly at the top. “It is not having the best effect on people. I don't know how people would imagine themselves in similar positions without seeing people like them holding those positions." The firm's diversity figures are roughly in line with the average for firms in our guide across gender and ethnicity at both partner and associate levels. It fares slightly better in terms of LGBT lawyers.
"It puts less pressure on you to spend more time on something where you wouldn't otherwise."
Hours & Compensation
"There is no billable hours target and pay is on a lock-step basis, meaning you automatically get your bonus at the end of the year, and there’s an unwavering commitment to always give whatever our peers are.” Associates found these policies to be a welcome relief. "I like the system," said one. "It puts less pressure on you to spend more time on something where you wouldn't otherwise, and takes away the incentive to poach others’ work." One associate did acknowledge the flip side: "It can be frustrating when you know someone is working less and getting paid the same." Having no firm hours target also doesn’t mean an easy '9 to 5'. We heard of regular 10pm finishes and even busier periods can "easily last for two weeks." Moreover, leaving the offices doesn't mean an escape. Laptops and smartphones mean "you are on call 24/7. There is a lot of activity between 10am and 6pm but that period doesn’t represent all the time it takes to get your work done." As a result, associates did sporadically work from home, particularly in litigation. This was less true in DC where there was more of a preference for lawyers to be in the office.
Interview with chair of the firm Brad Karp
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: $1,439,775,000
- Partners (US): 132
- Associates (US): 615
- 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 2019: 117
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019:
- 1Ls: 10; 2Ls: 121; SEO 1Ls: 3
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office:
- NY: 119; DC: 15
- Summer salary 2018:
- 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
Boston College, Boston University, Berkeley, Brooklyn, Cardozo, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Howard, Lavender Law Career Fair, McGill, Michigan, NEBLSA Annual Job Fair, 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
USA Guide, 2019
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 1)
- 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 3)
- 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: Equity: Issuer Representation (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 2)
- 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 2)
- Retail: Corporate & Transactional (Band 3)
- Securities: Litigation (Band 1)
- Securities: Regulation (Band 2)
- Sports Law Recognised Practitioner
- Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 2)