The Diversity Scorecard and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP – A Short Profile and Commentary
Paul, Weiss just sent its alumni a reprint from the newest issue of the Minority Law Journal which features:
2) the article “Practicing What They Preach” by Tamara Loomis, subtitled “The lawyers of Paul, Weiss have long fought the good fight for civil rights. Now the firm is working to add color to its own ranks.”
We will add some additional insights regarding the diversity article at the end of this posting, but first, some information about Paul, Weiss might be appropriate [please note that the following remarks are those of LawPundit alone and may in no way be attributed to the firm, with whom we have no connection at the present time, except for our “alumni” status]:
Paul, Weiss – Profile of the Firm
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP [known in the trade as Paul, Weiss] is an international New York City based law firm which the Law Pundit joined, first as a summer associate in 1970, and then as an associate after graduating from Stanford Law School in 1971. Paul, Weiss had, and still has, inter alia, a strong practice mixture of corporate law, information technology law and entertainment law. See the Vault and Excite for a varying profile of the firm.
The Beginnings of Paul, Weiss
Much in the later development of Paul, Weiss can be understood from the fact that two Columbia Law School graduates and close friends, Louis Weiss, Jewish, and John Wharton, Protestant, started their own law firm because no established law firm would hire both of them. In those days, Christian and Jewish in law just did not mix. The establishment of Paul, Weiss thus marked the coming epoch of political change.
The beginnings of the firm involved Paul, Weiss clients who developed the modern entertainment branch in its infancy. Founder John Wharton was the lawyer and executor for songwriter Cole Porter, who wrote the music for Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer, the first “talking” motion picture. Since this connection to cinema came early, the firm got in on the ground floor of the entertainment business many years ago.
Based on their experience, Paul, Weiss then became attorneys for famous artists and fashion designers such as Andy Warhol and Calvin Klein, while other partners of the firm, e.g. Robert H. Montgomery served as counsel to movie stars such as Marilyn Monroe.
Some years after the Law Pundit left the firm for academia, Paul, Weiss played an important legal role in the development of the DVD standard (Digital Versatile Disc) which we use today.
This was not the only activity of the law firm in the newly developing field of digital information technology.
Indeed, Paul, Weiss represented the National Music Publishers Association and it was the NMPA with whom Napster settled in the famous Napster copyright infringement action several years ago. A new suit involving Napster and made against Bertelsmann is in progress.
Similarly, in a recent peer-to-peer file sharing copyright infringement case, Paul, Weiss represented the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in a legal action involving Grokster and Kazaa, both of the latter serving as file-sharing platforms.
Paul, Weiss has also represented the EMI Group and EMI Music.
Moreover, Paul, Weiss has a long-standing relationship to AOL Time Warner, the largest communications company in the world, a relationship formed over decades in part by the efforts of Paul, Weiss lawyers, such as Peter Haje, who became Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Time Warner and thereafter Counsellor to AOL Time Warner.
Essentially, the law firm helped to make the music, movie and entertainment industry what it is today.
Yet, politically, Paul, Weiss has always been known to be among the most “liberal” of all the so-called major US law firms. Ordinarily, this would not be at all expected, but it makes sense given the history of the firm.
The ranks of Paul, Weiss law firm partners included Adlai Ewing Stevenson, Lloyd Kirkham Garrison, Ramsey Clark, Morris B. Abram, Arthur Goldberg, Edward N. Costikyan, Theodore Sorensen (today, of counsel to the firm), and Judge Simon H. Rifkind, lawyer inter alia to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and to Charles H. Revson of Revlon. Judge Rifkind was the last “patriarch” of the firm in the old tradition.
Follow the above links for a stunning display of one law firm’s “legal diversity”.
The emphasis on new technology, glamour, entertainment and politics thus has a long law firm tradition at Paul, Weiss. This flair was also combined with a foresight toward coming societal and legal developments.
For example, to my knowledge, Paul, Weiss was the first major law firm in New York City to move out of crowded Wall Street into Midtown Manhattan, signalling a move followed by many other major New York City law firms.
Paul, Weiss was also the first major law firm to hire a black lawyer – William Coleman, Jr. – who finished first in his class at Harvard Law School in 1946 and who commuted to Paul, Weiss in New York City from Philadelphia, his home town, because no major law firm in Philadelphia would hire him. For the full story see William Coleman, Jr.
[Recall that this is less than a mere 60 years ago.]
Paul, Weiss was also among the first major law firms to elect a woman as partner.
All commentators have pointed out that Paul, Weiss is “different” than all other big law firms, but defining that difference has not been easy. Perhaps the core of the difference was reflected in Judge Rifkind’s repeated policy statement “that a law firm is a profession and not a business organization,” quoted by Michael Orey, in Paul, Weiss: Profits and Principle, The American Lawyer, June, 1987. The Law Pundit certainly agreed in his younger days, when the firm Paul, Weiss was selected over many other firms for its “Renaissance” atmosphere. These were the brightest of the bright. Indeed, even those who were not of the same political persuasion as the Paul, Weiss lawyers knew who the best litigators in the country were – e.g. then U.S. Vice-President Spiro Agnew (who WAS effectively represented … by Paul, Weiss).
At the time that the LawPundit selected Paul, Weiss, it was – in his opinion – the best law firm in the country, and it still may be, but that is for others to judge.
Paul, Weiss – The Diversity Issue
The Minority Law Journal “Diversity Scorecard” now shows that Paul, Weiss ranks first among large New York law firms and second nationally in the percentage of minority attorneys (partners & nonpartners).
This is not surprising as such. What IS surprising is that this is a RECENT development. Prior to that, the staunch “liberals” at the firm were apparently not practicing what they were preaching. Their first black partner was elected only in 1994. Tamara Loomis goes into this issue in depth in her article, which is definitely a “must read” for anyone interested in minority diversity trends in law in the United States.
Our Recollection of Events
The Law Pundit is surprised that one name does not appear in Loomis’s article, Leroy Bobbitt, now of Santa Monica, recently chosen among the top black lawyers in America by Black Enterprise Magazine.
In the early 1970’s, the Law Pundit had adjoining offices at Paul, Weiss, with another associate, Leroy Bobbitt, a Stanford Law graduate, and, as one says today – a man of “color”, who was not only highly respected as an attorney but was one of the most flamboyant, best-dressed (his trademark) and well-liked lawyers in the entire firm. When Bobbitt left Paul, Weiss, nearly everyone came to the party. He was that well liked.
Bobbitt surely would have made partner at Paul, Weiss in the late 1970’s, but he was on a seven to eight-year track for partnership. That was apparently simply too long. If the Law Pundit recalls correctly, and it would be up to Bobbitt to confirm or amend this recollection, Bobbitt stated that he only left Paul, Weiss because Loeb & Loeb in Los Angeles had made him a better offer both in terms of the shorter time it would take to become partner and also in terms of the more individual leadership opportunities open to him in entertainment law on the West Coast. Besides, I think he missed California, where I was invited to visit him and his family in Culver City some years later and where he was prospering. Hollywood had called, and he went. As far as I know, his leaving had very little to do with the internal policies of Paul, Weiss, but, then again, one would have to ask Bobbitt and the partners specifically about that to be sure.
In any case, as the current black partner Theodore (Ted) Wells, Jr. is quoted as saying:
“On a relative basis, it [Paul, Weiss] is significantly ahead of many of its peer firms….
and this was also the case in the days when I was an associate at the firm.