Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison

District of Columbia

Review

Dispute resolution

Paul Weiss’s litigation department has seen no shortage of “good years” over the course of the past decade. However, it would not be an exaggeration to describe the past year as simply extraordinary. The firm has continued to go from strength to strength in building its profile through strategic hiring, mentoring and grooming of younger staff, and maintaining a level of prestige among its peers. Its stable of stars, already strong and comprehensive, got a substantial boost in 2020 when it lured two DC-based key players, antitrust specialist Bill Isaacson and trial luminary Karen Dunn, to its bench from Boies Schiller. These recruits are unanimously viewed by the community as a material coup and, coupled with a continuing amplification of talent in its flagship New York office, have built quite a buzz around the firm. “I have even heard rumblings about them opening an office in California, and I would be shocked if this didn’t play out.” The speculation proved to be correct; the firm launched an office in the Silicon Valley in July 2020, staffed with two more Boies Schiller recruits, securing a foothold on the West Coast. That office, and in particular the firm’s white-collar bench depth, was augmented further with a one-two punch of star power via the January 2021 recruits of Melinda Haag and Walter Brown, two universally beloved practitioners formerly with Orrick. This latest amplification firmly secures Paul Weiss’s standing in this capacity, bookending it with equal horsepower on both coasts. It would be somewhat of an understatement to mention that the firm has also done quite well in terms of taking on – and winning – landmark cases.      

      Indeed, the firm kicked of 2020 with a milestone win for ExxonMobil in its contentious climate change litigation. Suing under New York’s infamous Martin Act, a New York Attorney General wanted $1.6 billion in damages from ExxonMobil, alleging that the energy giant made material misstatements about how it accounted for climate-related risks, which in turn had a material impact on investors. In December 2019, after a 12-day trial, a New York State Supreme Court Justice sided with the defense. This landmark climate-change lawsuit in New York state court is believed to be the first such case ever to be tried to verdict. Ted Wells, not only the firm’s most recognizable trial lawyer but arguably one of the most celebrated trial lawyers in the country, and Dan Toal led the defense. This remarkable triumph landed the firm an “impact case” award at the 2020 Benchmark awards ceremony, and further cemented Wells’ prestigious position as a “hall of fame” award recipient at the same gala. Toal’s profile is gaining momentum as well; one peer confirms, “Dan has a bunch of work for MLB. He’s a trial lawyer in his late forties and really smart. I view him and Susanna Buergel as Paul Weiss’s superstar trial lawyers at relatively young ages. These people are really coming into their own.”
     David Bernick is representing Dow Chemical and its corporate parent DowDupont in defending numerous class actions alleging that Dow, together with several other manufacturers and sellers, conspired to raise prices for methylene diphenyl diisocyanate and toluene diisocyanate, chemicals primarily used in the production of polyurethane products. “David Bernick does incredibly complex tort litigation,” offers a peer. “He is representing Juul, which is facing a lot of litigation.” The aforementioned pair of Dunn and Isaacson is acting for Apple in defending against antitrust claims from Epic Games, maker of the popular Fortnite game, that Apple abused its position concerning the downloading of games through its app. Dunn and Isaacson also represent Amazon in a putative class action brought on behalf of consumers alleging that Amazon’s “fair pricing” policy, which requires third-party sellers not to use pricing practices that harm customer trust, has raised the prices of products sold by those third-party sellers, violating antitrust law.

     Brad Karp, who remains the firm’s Chairman (a post he has held since 2008) and the one many credit with the firm’s astonishing upward trajectory and strategic build-out, is also still a renowned securities advocate. Karp and Lorin Reisner achieved a landmark victory for Blackstone in July 2020 when the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously held that beneficiaries of the state’s pension plans lacked standing to bring their claims on behalf of the fund or the Commonwealth. Participants in Kentucky’s public pension fund had sued Blackstone’s alternative asset management unit and other hedge funds, claiming that they unlawfully encouraged the pension fund to invest in inappropriately risky funds of hedge funds while the state fund’s financial condition was deteriorating. Their lawsuit sought damages of $50 billion—equal to the entire funding deficit accrued over two decades. Reisner also represents former CEO of Iconix Brand Group in a pending criminal securities fraud trial as well as a parallel SEC litigation. The charges involve certain accounting and financial reporting issues at Iconix. Dan Kramer is also acknowledged by a peer as “the stock-drop king!”
          In the intellectual property capacity, a more recently developed practice within the firm, patent specialists Nicholas Groombridge and Eric Stone receive numerous peer plaudits. One IP contemporary testifies, “There are only so many firms that do biologics work on any serious level, literally a group of about five, and Paul Weiss always seems to be in there as one of them. Nick Groombridge is their show horse and the charming trial lawyer, but Eric has also really come up. He is really a workhorse and deserves more credit.”

     In the firm’s DC office, Kannon Shanmugam, an appellate authority who has argued a near-record number of cases before the Supreme Court for someone of his relatively vintage, has notched yet another appearance through his representation of Goldman Sachs and former executives as petitioners in a matter in which the respondents allege that the client violated securities laws by making a series of generic and aspirational statements such as “our clients’ interests come first.” After several decisions at lower courts, the Supreme Court granted Goldman Sachs’s petition for certiorari.