Feb 14, 2020 News Comments Off on NYU law students adopt campaign to drop Exxon
A protest on Tuesday was the third in a month by students at top law schools against Paul Weiss in a bid to pressure the firm to end its representation of ExxonMobil.
This time a group of New York University law students protested during a recruiting reception hosted by Paul Weiss. Thirty students from NYU School of Law disrupted a Paul Weiss recruiting event Tuesday evening—marking the third time in a month that aspiring lawyers from an elite law campus have targeted the firm over its representation of ExxonMobil in climate change litigation.
It’s the latest sign that the law student-initiated #DropExxon campaign against Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison is spreading. Harvard law students held the first protest Jan. 15, followed by Yale students Feb. 6.
Protest organisers are already circulating a national pledge in which signers vow not to interview with the firm for summer associate positions or work there until the firm drops Exxon as a client. And they say they hope to see more direct confrontations with the firm in the run-up to the summer’s on-campus interview season and are in talks with students at other law schools.
“We’re showing that these protests against Exxon and the company’s advocates aren’t just one-off events,” said Anne Tewksbury, a first-year law student at NYU and an organiser of the Tuesday protest at the tony Manhattan restaurant Del Posto. “Top law students across the country are serious about holding firms that profit from climate destruction accountable for who they represent. We’re sending a clear message to Paul Weiss about our values as a generation.”
On Wednesday, Paul Weiss Chairman Brad Karp reiterated an earlier statement defending its Exxon work.
“We are proud of the outstanding work we do for a wide range of commercial and pro bono clients in their most challenging and high-profile matters, including our recent defence of ExxonMobil in a securities fraud case in which the court found, after trial, that plaintiff’s claims were entirely without merit,” Karp said. “Paul Weiss is committed to free speech and debate, just as we are committed to the principle that we represent our clients and safeguard the rule of law zealously and to the best of our abilities.”
Many major law firms hold recruiting receptions for first-year law students at top schools, giving partners and associates the chance to have informal conversations with prospective summer associates and encourage them to interview with the firm. NYU is fertile recruiting ground for Paul Weiss—it hired more new associates from the Manhattan school than any other law campus in the country in 2019. Harvard was third, with Columbia providing the second-most new associates to the firm last year. About a third of the NYU students in attendance of Tuesday’s reception participated in the protest.
“I don’t think any of us believe that, because of three protests, they’re going to drop Exxon as a client,” said NYU law student Emily Stewart in an interview Wednesday. “They just won a $1.6 billion case, but I do think having Harvard, Yale and now us behind it—we’re a major part of their recruiting pool—will have an impact. We’re having consistent actions and letting Paul Weiss know, ‘We’re going to hold you accountable.’ You can’t tell us that you’re this progressive firm to recruit people, but then claim to be neutral when you’re representing Exxon and treat it like it’s just another client.”
Paul Weiss is representing Exxon in multiple cases related to climate change. In December, a New York judge dismissed the state attorney general’s $1.6 billion securities fraud case against Exxon, which alleged that the oil company misled investors over climate-change related disclosures. A similar case is pending in Massachusetts.
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