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Paul Weiss's New Partners Aren't All White Men!

Vivia Chen

December 10, 2019

 
 

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After suffering an embarrassment last year over its lack of diverse new partners, Paul, Weiss,  Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison has promoted three women and four men, including one LGBT lawyer, to partner.

All residents of the New York office, they are Jonathan Ashtor, Rachael Coffey, Alexia Korberg, Caith Kushner, Kyle Seifried, Brette Tannenbaum and Austin Witt.

This update might not qualify as earth-shaking news except that Paul Weiss got crowned last year as the mascot for Big Law’s diversity problem. You might recall that the New York Times featured a report about the firm’s blindingly white, largely male partnership class on its front page (12 white partners—with only one lonely woman in the mix). The Times article followed a LinkedIn post by the firm announcing its new class that featured a composite photo of the monochrome bunch.

For a firm that’s historically had a very solid diversity record, the publicity was a heavy burden to bear. Ranked No. 21 on ALM’s 2019 diversity scorecard, Paul Weiss is actually one of the few firms with a relatively high black equity partner rate—4.4%.

Last year’s partnership class, according to Paul Weiss chairman Brad Karp, was a bit of an anomaly. “The pool for this year’s class was more diverse, consistent with the demographic composition of prior years’ pools and the pipeline in future years,” he said. “The diversity demographics of last year’s partnership pool were idiosyncratic and I would expect will never again be repeated.”

Besides making sure that this new partner class is more diverse, Paul Weiss improved its gender and diversity record through lateral hiring. Among the seven lateral partners hired so far this year, five are women. The lateral pool also includes three very high-profile lawyers of color: Kannon Shanmugam, Loretta Lynch and Jeannie Rhee.

Yet, despite those hires, the firm must have felt pressure about this year’s new partnership elevations.

Karp suggests that nothing was left to chance. “Following the controversy surrounding last year’s partnership class, we formed an inclusion task force, comprised of partners, counsel and associates,” he said. “The task force has met continuously throughout the year, with the goal of setting the most bold and audacious goals in the industry and beyond in terms of diversity and inclusion.” He adds: “Failure in this regard is not an option for us.”

Very lofty sounding, but it looks like the firm did succeed in meeting its objective: It’s out of the woods as the diversity disaster of Big Law. That crown can now go to a much more deserving firm.

But Paul Weiss can hardly declare total victory. All the new partners are still white.

Bottom line: There’s still plenty of work to be done.

vchen@alm.com

On Twitter: @lawcareerist

 
 

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About The Careerist

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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