Progressive Hypocrisy At The Highest Levels: The Case Of Paul Weiss

A core mission of this blog has been making fun of sanctimonious progressives who demand that others be forced to take actions and make sacrifices that the progressives themselves would never make in their own lives. The climate follies provide nearly infinite examples. Almost as many examples can be found in the realm of “diversity, equity and inclusion.” This week we have an example of a progressive icon at the very highest level caught with its pants down in “diversity” hypocrisy.  Oh, what fun!

Have you heard of the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, sometimes known just as “Paul Weiss”?  If you haven’t, you should have.  It is one of those New York-based firms at the very pinnacle of the U.S. legal firmament.  It has around 1000 lawyers and about 200 partners, plus or minus.  The firm represents a who’s who of corporate America in corporate transactions and litigation.  According to the American Lawyer, in 2017 the partners at Paul Weiss earned an average of over $4.5 million per head.  That is not a typo.  Expectations are that profits for 2018 will be up substantially.

In a post way back in June 2014 titled “Is Lack Of ‘Diversity’ At Big Law Firms A Crisis?” I summarized some of the strange history of the New York legal practice, particularly the long-time division of the profession into Jewish and non-Jewish firms.  From the late 19th through mid-20th centuries, thousands of Jews, many the children of recent immigrants, flooded into the legal profession, in numbers far exceeding their percentage of the overall population; but the then-prestigious “white shoe” firms nakedly discriminated against the Jews.  As a result, many Jews formed their own start-up firms, some of which then grew to become powerhouses by the late-20th century.  Today, many of these firms continue to have substantial pluralities of Jews in their ranks of attorneys, and even more so at the top levels of leadership.

Paul Weiss is one of these originally-Jewish firms, indeed one of the oldest among them, as well as one of those with the greatest ongoing success.  According to a firm history on the Paul Weiss website, it was founded in 1875 when two Jewish guys (Julius Frank and Samuel Weiss) opened their start-up partnership at 243 Broadway.  (That address is across from City Hall and well outside the prestigious Wall Street business district of the time.)  The Paul Weiss firm history asserts that “The firm was the first major New York City firm to break down the barrier of Jews practicing with Gentiles,” which could well be true, although they don’t give the year when that took place.  It could easily have been 50 years after the firm was founded. 

The transformational moment for Paul Weiss came in 1946, when then-head Louis Weiss (son of founder Samuel) recruited two prominent Gentile lawyers from the recently-ended Franklin Roosevelt administration to join the firm:  Randolph Paul (former General Counsel of the Treasury Department) and Lloyd Garrison (former head of the War Labor Board).  Paul and Garrison became name partners.  The firm history asserts that this recruiting coup “catapulted the firm into the ranks of the City’s first-tier legal powerhouses.”  Given these New Deal roots, you will not be surprised to learn that Paul Weiss has long been closely associated with the Democratic Party.  Although the firm as a firm has no explicit political affiliation, and there have been a smattering of Republicans there over the years, Paul Weiss’s partner ranks have included a long list of prominent Democrats, from Adlai Stevenson (presidential candidate in the 50s) to Ted Sorenson (President Kennedy’s White House counsel and co-author) and many others. In 2016, Paul Weiss partners famously gave major support to the Hillary Clinton campaign.

And given what you have already read, obviously Paul Weiss is without peer among law firms in grandstanding and sanctimony about “diversity.”  Needless to say, they have a section of their website devoted to “Diversity & Inclusion.”  Highlight:

Our firm has been committed to inclusion since its founding — a dedication that has shaped the intellectual and cultural character of Paul, Weiss over many decades. Most elite law firms profess a devotion to diversity and inclusion, but none can match Paul, Weiss’s history of putting it into practice.

Continue from there to learn of the long list of awards and honors that Paul Weiss regularly wins for its lip service to the diversity cause:  the 2018 Women in Law Empowerment Forum Gold Standard Certification, the #5 ranking on the American Lawyer “A-List” of firms (awarded based on “revenue per lawyer, pro bono commitment, associate satisfaction, racial and gender diversity and the percentage of female equity partners), the #6 ranking in Law360’s 2018 Diversity Snapshot, a New York City Bar Association award for being the only firm to have “participated in the [Association’s] Diversity Fellowship Program every year since the program began in 1991,” etc., etc., etc. 

So how many partners does Paul Weiss have who are women or members of minority groups?  If you look for that on their website, you will not find it.  The only way you will find out is by going through all the partners of the firm (they have photographs), through each letter of the alphabet, and counting them by hand.  I got as far as the letter C.  Out of 35 partners (or partners-elect) whose names begin with the letters A through C, 6 are women and 2 are black.  That gives percentages for that sample of 17% for women and 6% for blacks.  The numbers may be a little higher if you go through all the way to Z, but not much higher.  The fact is that, despite decades of trying, no major New York law firm has been able to get the percentage of women partners up much higher than 25%, nor the percentage of black partners up much higher than 7%.  Certainly, it is no surprise that Paul Weiss does not broadcast its actual statistics on this issue.

Anyway, December is the time of year for partner announcements among the big firms, for new partners who will ascend effective January 1.  Paul Weiss made its announcement on December 7.  Here it is, from their website.  Hmmm, no pictures.  But it turns out that they did post pictures on LinkedIn.  Here you go:

New Paul Weiss Partners

New Paul Weiss Partners

Oops!  What just happened?

The New York Law Journal wrote up the story on December 18:

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison has gotten an earful over one showing its latest partner promotions.  The firm’s now-deleted post on Linkedin this month announcing its new partner class of 12 attorneys—an image dominated by white men and showing only one (white) woman in the lower right corner—generated a burst of criticism on social media, including by some general counsel.

They took the picture down after posting it on LinkedIn.  Yeah, that will help!

Caught with his pants down, Paul Weiss chair Brad Karp (ethnicity not mentioned on Paul Weiss’s website – you’ll have to guess!) went into full progressive guilt mode:

In a statement to ALM, Brad Karp, Paul Weiss chairman, said, “We certainly can—and will—do better. I regret the gender and racial imbalance in our newly elected partnership class (one woman, one Latino, one LGBTQ partner, only 25 percent diverse), which resulted from an idiosyncratic demographic pool and which I can assure you will not be repeated.”

“We intend to continue to play a leadership role in diversity in terms of race, gender and sexual orientation. We look forward to being judged not by our words, but by our results, in the years to come,” Karp said. “There is no more important issue to me (and the firm’s leadership) than diversity and it is critical to me that Paul Weiss maintain its historic leadership role as a firm that champions diversity in terms of race, gender and sexual orientation.” . . .  Karp also noted that about one-third of the firm’s partnership are diverse, including women, people of color and LGBTQ partners,

Note that in asserting his diversity statistic there, Karp has just lumped Asians in with the women, blacks, and LGBTQ.  Are you curious as to how many of each?  Start counting the pictures!

Let’s face it, this is just one of those issues on which a high pooh-bah of political correctness, such as Karp, will never give you an honest answer.  So you can just enjoy watching him squirm.