By Karen Savage
More than 600 law school students across the country signed a petition pledging not to work for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, the law firm defending ExxonMobil in a series of climate change-related cases.
Representatives of the #DropExxon campaign on Friday visited Paul, Weiss’ Manhattan office to deliver the petition, which says the students will boycott the firm unless it drops Exxon as a client. The firm has defended the company in dozens of lawsuits filed by municipalities across the country seeking to hold Exxon accountable for its role in climate change and for deceiving the public about it for decades.
“We won’t work for you as long as you’re working for ExxonMobil—and literally hundreds of students from your top recruitment schools have made the same pledge,” said William Rose, a student at NYU School of Law, who helped deliver the pledges. “If you want our generation’s talent, stop helping to destroy our generation’s future.”
The students also delivered a copy of the 2020 Law Firm Climate Change Scorecard, which was released last week by Law Students for Climate Accountability, an organization of law school students committed to holding the legal industry accountable for its role in climate change.
“Our research found that Paul, Weiss worked on more litigation exacerbating climate change than any other law firm,” said Tim Hirschel-Burns, a Yale Law School student and co-author of the scorecard. “Too many firms are failing to take the climate crisis seriously, but Paul, Weiss is among the worst of the worst.”
Paul, Weiss has faced increasing scrutiny for its representation of Exxon, which employs it to defend the company against allegations that the oil giant engaged in an ongoing, systematic campaign of lies and deception to hide from the public what the company knew for decades—that burning fossil fuels overwhelmingly drives climate change.
#DropExxon organizers disrupted Paul, Weiss recruiting events held last year at elite law schools including Yale, New York University, Harvard, and Michigan. They vow to continue to pressure Paul, Weiss to drop Exxon by protesting at future events and by continuing to collect student pledges.
“Ted Wells, a partner at Paul Weiss, worked for years defending Big Tobacco as the industry trotted out fake experts and promoted conspiracy theories to shirk responsibility for the health impacts of smoking. Wells is using the same unethical playbook today to shield Big Oil,” the student signatories said in the pledge, adding that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has called Paul Weiss’s legal strategies “absurd” and “blatantly obstructionist.”
Paul, Weiss did not immediately return a request for comment.