Bloomberg Law
July 28, 2022, 9:01 AM

They’ve Got Next: The 40 Under 40 - Rachel Reisberg of Wachtell Lipton

Lisa Helem
Lisa Helem
Executive Editor
Kibkabe Araya
Kibkabe Araya
Special Projects Assistant Editor

Please describe two of your most substantial, recent wins in practice.
Some of the most gratifying transactions on which I’ve advised have been spinoffs, which typically involve complex tax issues and a longer lead time, affording the opportunity to work closely with, and get to know both personally and professionally, the client’s internal tax and legal team over a significant period. Achieving a successful result in United Technologies Corp.’s (now Raytheon Technologies Corp.) simultaneous tax-free spinoffs of its Carrier and Otis businesses and its subsequent merger with The Raytheon Company in 2020—the largest aerospace merger in history—was both challenging and rewarding. The same is true for IAC/InterActiveCorp’s back-to-back 2020 and 2021 separations of the Match business and the Vimeo business from its remaining businesses, each of which presented unique technical complexities and involved the creation of intricate transaction structures.

What is the most important lesson you learned as a first-year attorney and how does it inform your practice today?
What we “practice” is law, but what we “do” is help people. The humanity of the practice drives me. Substance is important—I love that tax law is inherently “puzzle-like” and presents constant intellectual stimulation and challenge—but it wouldn’t suffice to propel and sustain me.

The demands of an M&A-focused tax practice can be difficult, especially for a first-year climbing a steep learning curve. I remember the hourslong meetings, jotting down unfamiliar code sections that were part of the tax lexicon I didn’t speak; overnight calls with team members; late nights proofreading. Those experiences, which sound terribly exhausting in the abstract, I remember fondly thanks to the people with whom they were shared: colleagues marching toward a common goal and clients depending on our good counsel. Moments of professional triumph—signing once issue-laden deals and winning hard-fought negotiations—are motivating not because of substantive issues presented, rather because of the people alongside whom I succeeded. The part of the practice that generated the most apprehension as a first-year—the ostensible challenge of difficult work at difficult hours—led to moments of deep satisfaction and personal connection because of the people involved. People remain at the heart of the practice.

How do you define success in your practice?
Success is having my clients view me as a trusted adviser, one on whom they can depend to achieve their long-term goals. I define success in my practice as my client’s success—the two are inextricably linked. I may work many hours, days, weeks, even months on a project, and the client may ultimately determine, for strategic reasons or otherwise, to abandon it. Not every deal that’s explored makes it to the closing table, and it’s easy to view that as a loss or a professional failure. It certainly doesn’t seem like success. But, if I’ve provided valuable advice, facilitated my client’s strategic goals and contributed to the client’s long-term success, and developed a personal and professional relationship based on mutual respect, that’s a worthwhile achievement. Beyond the day-to-day accomplishments (which are critical), I strive to have clients who choose me as a long-term partner on whom they can rely.

What are you most proud of as a lawyer?
I’ve been lucky to have had many moments that have brought a great sense of professional accomplishment—some mundane (the “aha” moments of finding a technical tax solution) and others more exceptional (the successful completion of a transformative deal).
What brings me the greatest pride is observing (either as a participant on the frontlines or a spectator on the sidelines) the consistently outstanding achievements of my WLRK colleagues.

Our practice is collegial and team-oriented, with lawyers at all levels that are unfailingly dedicated to helping one another achieve success for our clients. Beyond lawyers, our non-legal staff provides constant support at the highest levels. On a daily basis, I am in awe of, and motivated and inspired by, the collective effort and the extraordinary results our team delivers to and on behalf of our clients. There is a uniform integrity, dedication, and strong work ethic across our team that allows not only us to depend on each other, but enables our clients to rest assured that we can, and will, achieve success. It is a source of deep personal pride to be counted among this group of peers and to have been elected to join its partnership.

Who is your greatest mentor in law and what have they taught you?
My greatest mentors are my Wachtell tax partners, and it is difficult to select one among the five of them. This group has taught me the importance of approaching the practice holistically, with the mindset that we can add value by applying ourselves critically to every aspect of a matter.  Working with my partners over the course of my career, I gained the confidence to question what others view as the fixed starting point, opening the door for legal innovation, finding new solutions, and avoiding the constraint of what’s been done before. I may be a “tax lawyer,” but delivering a good “tax” result is only part of the story. Clients engage us to help them achieve multifaceted and complex goals. The art of great lawyering is to provide legal counsel that is both technically flawless but also strategically valuable. My partners have taught me to balance grappling with the legal weeds while simultaneously stepping back to see the entire forest.

Just for fun, tell us your two favorite songs on your summer music playlist.
“Eyes of the World” by Grateful Dead—It’s a little lazy, a little nonsensical, and a lot relaxed and fun—the ideal summer day.

“Midnight in Harlem” by Tedeschi Trucks Band—The beautiful music/vocals, mellow mood, and summer memories associated with this song make me smile in spite of the bluesy lyrics.

Rachel Reisberg counsels clients in high-profile, billion-dollar acquisitions, mergers, and spinoffs. She has co-led coordination of her firm’s Seizing Every Opportunity Law program, which provides rising first-year law students from underrepresented groups the opportunity to work at the firm for the summer.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Helem at; Kibkabe Araya in Washington at

Learn more about Bloomberg Law or Log In to keep reading:

Learn About Bloomberg Law

AI-powered legal analytics, workflow tools and premium legal & business news.

Already a subscriber?

Log in to keep reading or access research tools.