2020 Vault Rankings
- New York#1
At a Glance
“Excellent, substantive work on interesting cases.”
“The people, both other attorneys and support staff.”
“Expectation of constant availability.”
“Lack of predictability.”
About Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
Each year, a significant chunk of the world’s dealmaking—major mergers and acquisitions, antitrust and shareholder litigation, big-name restructurings, and multi-billion-dollar real estate ventures—gets cranked through the well-oiled machine that is Wachtell Lipton. Manning the apparatus are a gifted few, whose compensation far outstrips industry standards. While it may not be the biggest or the highest revenue-maker as a firm, it is the most profitable place in the world to practice law. Wachtell Lipton is one of the smallest firms in the AmLaw 100, but it is continually one of the top firms (and usually the top firm) when it comes to PPP, and it stands above the going market rate for first-year associate salaries.
The New York Four
Founded in 1965 by four princes of NYU’s Law Review—Herbert Wachtell, Martin Lipton, Leonard Rosen, and George Katz—this resolutely New York firm still operates from a single Manhattan office. Public interest law champion Katz died young, at 57, in 1989. Rosen remained at the firm as of counsel until he passed away in 2014 at the age of 83. Wachtell and Lipton remain at the firm as active partners. In 1982, Lipton—who recently topped New York Magazine’s list of the most influential lawyers in New York—actually created the “poison pill,” one of the most famous and enduring ways to protect shareholders’ rights.
What sets the firm apart, even rivals concede, is that in a city of razor-sharp competitors, no other quite matches what Wachtell Lipton does. From its early days, the firm steered clear of run-of-the-mill corporate matters, choosing messier, riskier work. As such, Wachtell Lipton relies far less on bread-and-butter clients and politely declines more plebeian (if nonetheless profitable) engagements. The firm was one of the first to link its fees to deal value, a model that became the aspiration of most major M&A houses.
When it comes to M&A, Wachtell Lipton reigns supreme, holding the No. 1 spot in Vault’s M&A ranking for more than a decade. It also regularly places among the top 10 firms in Vault’s General Corporate, Private Equity, and Banking & Financial Services rankings. The firm was involved in the death’s door resuscitation of Chrysler in the 1970s. It also played a key role in the much-publicized acquisition of Getty Oil Company, in which Texaco’s “white knight” offer was heralded as one of the greatest acquisitions in history. In more recent history, the firm has seen great success with LBOs and IPOs, corporate restructurings, and other finance matters. It took the lead on what some observers have called the most complex real estate deal in history: the successful negotiation of a master development agreement for the World Trade Center site following September 11, 2001.
See You In Court
The firm’s litigators are no slouches either, complementing Wachtell Lipton’s corporate practice with high-profile securities, corporate governance, and takeover matters. The firm’s notable cases are many, including Morrison v. National Australia Bank—in which the Supreme Court determined that Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act applies solely to those U.S. securities purchased and sold in the United States—and Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. v. Vulcan Materials Co. in which the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the order to enjoin a hostile takeover of the firm’s client based on improper use of confidential materials.
In response to Covid-19, the firm moved seamlessly to a remote environment and has continued to meet the needs of our clients through this challenging time. We offered a full-length, full-scope summer program entirely remotely in 2020, and we gave offers to return as full-time associates to all of the 2L participants in the summer program. We will be welcoming a full class of new associates in the fall, whether in person or remotely, and we look forward to working with the schools where we recruit to interview law students for our 2021 summer program on the timeline set by those schools.
News & Awards
In a high-stakes takeover battle involving three major energy giants, Wachtell Lipton is guiding Anadarko through its $60 billion acquisition by Occidental, which topped an initial agreement to be acquired by Chevron for $50 billion. The firm is again heavily involved in the key transactions reshaping global industries and economies, ending 2018 ranked #1 in principal representations in both global and U.S. M&A transactions by aggregate transaction dollar value (Source: Bloomberg M&A Advisory League Tables). Among other examples of this transformative work are Altria’s $12.8 billion investment in JUUL Labs, Celgene’s $98 billion acquisition by Bristol-Myers Squibb (Wachtell Lipton has taken leading roles on 7 of the 10 largest pharma/health care deals in history), BB&T Corporation’s $66 billion all-stock merger of equals with SunTrust Banks, the $146 billion combination of T-Mobile and Sprint, and United Technologies’ separation into three independent public companies.
Wachtell Lipton continues to be the firm most called upon by major corporate boards and CEOs under attack by shareholder activists. In the first four months of 2019, the firm has taken leading roles in nearly all major activism defense situations, including those involving Bed Bath & Beyond, Dollar Tree, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, eBay, and Yelp, among many others.
Wachtell Lipton’s litigation department spent the past year pushing path-breaking cases for the firm’s clients in federal and state courts across the country and arbitral fora around the world. As they have for decades, the firm’s litigators played key roles in some of the year’s highest-profile governance and M&A matters, including representing Match in a $2 billion claim arising out of a valuation of Tinder, Celgene in multi-forum state and federal stockholder litigation challenging its $98 billion tie-up with Bristol-Myers Squibb, a major Latin American bank in successful international arbitration over a stockholders’ agreement, and Verizon in a post-trial appraisal victory stemming from its acquisition of AOL. Outside of the corporate law space, Wachtell Lipton litigators fought on behalf of JPMorgan in defending a $1.5 billion claim arising out of the General Motors bankruptcy, and numerous clients in non-public regulatory and white-collar matters related to environmental liabilities and cross-border financial investigations.
- Originated the shareholder rights plan, or “poison pill,” fundamentally (and forever) reshaping takeover battles in the United States.
- Trendsetting takeover, transactional, and corporate governance litigation; litigated the Revlon, Household, and other cases in the 1980s that set the doctrinal framework for all subsequent deal litigation.
- Following the tragic events of 9/11, Wachtell Lipton was called upon to represent the leaseholder of the World Trade Center in two landmark jury trials with its property insurers that ultimately led to securing the funds to rebuild the site.
- During the financial crisis, the firm played a pivotal role in most of the key rescue and acquisition transactions involving the nation’s major financial institutions, including through its representation of the United States Treasury in connection with the rescues of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
- Who’s Who Legal Corporate Governance Firm of the Year, 2019
- More lawyers ranked in Band 1 of Chambers USA Corporate M&A Category than any other firm
- Ranked #1 in 2018 in principal representations in both global and U.S. announced M&A transactions by aggregate transaction dollar value (Source: Bloomberg M&A Advisory League Tables)
- The American Lawyer Dealmaker of the Year, 2019 – Adam Emmerich
Why Work Here
Wachtell Lipton is dedicated to providing advice and expertise at the highest levels and to achieving extraordinary results for our clients. We seek individuals who are talented, motivated and committed in order to maintain our record of excellence. Our associates, paralegals and administrative staff are critical to this mission. Our lawyers and staff work closely together across departments comprising an elite legal team. We are committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment.
Wachtell Lipton is an equal opportunity employer. As such, it adheres to an employment policy that prohibits discriminatory practices or harassment against applicants or employees based on any legally impermissible factor(s) including, but not necessarily limited to, race, color, religion, creed, sex, national origin, age, citizenship, marital status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, disability or any protected military or veteran status.
51 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019
Phone: (212) 403-1000
Executive Committee Co-Chairs: Edward D. Herlihy & Daniel A. Neff
Hiring Partner(s): By committee
Total No. Attorneys 2019:
250 - 500
1st year: $195,000
Summer associate: $3,750/week
Summer Associate Offers:
35 out of 35 (2Ls) (2019)
No. of Summer Associates:
36 total (35 2Ls; 1 1Ls) (2019)
Elizabeth F. Breslow
Director of Recruiting & Legal Personnel
New York, NY
Executive Compensation & Benefits
Restructuring & Finance
*See firm website for complete list of practice areas and industries.