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Paul, Weiss Wants Fun Intellectuals

Vivia Chen

September 26, 2011

Radwaner,Valerie Today we are chatting with Valerie Radwaner, the hiring partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, the 700-lawyer New York powerhouse.

Maybe you'll think this is unfair, but I've always thought of Paul, Weiss as this very intense, intellectual firm where people work really, really hard. Is that true?
I think a label is just a label. We work hard, but we're respectful of people's interests outside of the firm.

What kind of interests do people pursue in their off-time?
All kinds--arts, sports. For instance, recently I talked to an associate who wanted to take dance lessons . . . . We do everything we can to accommodate people's interests.

I guess you're saying that it's not a complete grind. Tell me more about the fun side of Paul, Weiss.
I know this sounds trite, but I really look forward to coming to work here. And every Friday night, from 6 to 8 P.M., we have a firmwide cocktail party. Every week it's on a different floor, and the energy is tremendous. We have food--pigs in a blanket, chocolate chip cookies--and we serve alcohol!

So Friday cocktails is when people let down their hair?
I wouldn't say that. We just want to relax at the end of the week; there are no stories to tell.

That's too bad. In any case, can you describe what you look for in a new hire?
We look for someone who's smart, personable, and interesting--someone who has intellectual curiosity that goes beyond the mundane.

Okay. But what does that mean, exactly?
We look for those who have achieved on an academic level, but we also look for nonlegal achievement--what their greater interests are, leadership roles they've had. We look for someone who's gone the extra mile in certain areas--like being a top pianist, someone who wrote a thesis that's been published, or volunteered for Habitat for Humanity in Costa Rica. We see people on law review, so it's a question of looking beyond that.

If you've got top grades, played piano at Carnegie Hall, and helped make the world a better place, I assume you can go to any elite firm you want. So what makes Paul, Weiss different from Cravath, Sullivan & Cromwell, and all those other firms?
I would never say anything negative about those firms. We have a great culture here. This firm has a collaborative atmosphere, there's mutual respect among lawyers, and people are challenged intellectually.

Frankly, every firm claims to have a great culture. Can you describe what's really unique about the Paul, Weiss culture?
"Familiar" is a better word to describe the culture [here].  For example, our partners appreciate a keen sense of humor, and I often see partners and associates bonding over a good laugh. Needless to say, everyone is respectful, but nothing brings teams together like humor.

I noticed that in the recent American Lawyer survey of midlevel associates, Paul, Weiss had a rather middling score--ranking in the 40's. Were you disappointed?
I didn't have any expectations about the midlevel survey. I'm focused on our recruitment season and fall interviews. 


See other hiring partner interviews: Baker BottsBoies, Schiller; Debevoise & Plimpton; Jones DayFenwick & WestK&L Gates; Kramer LevinPaul, HastingsPepper Hamilton; Quinn Emanuel; Sidley & AustinSkadden; Susman Godfrey; and Vinson & Elkins.


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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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