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Exxon Firm Paul Weiss Target of Protest at Yale Law (Corrected)

Feb. 7, 2020, 2:02 AMUpdated: Feb. 7, 2020, 6:12 PM

Harvard and Yale Law students are calling for fellow students across the country to pledge to boycott Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison until the firm drops ExxonMobil as its legal client.

Students launched their boycott outside the firm’s first-year recruitment reception at a restaurant in New Haven, Conn. on Thursday, ratcheting up the protests that took place last month at a similar event at Harvard Law School. The students are objecting to what they say is Paul Weiss’s legal assistance aiding “decades of disinformation to obstruct climate action.”

Several dozen students waved placards and chanted “Drop Exxon,” and “Paul Weiss, you can’t hide. We can see your greedy side.” The protestors were mostly dressed in business attire and stood across a glass barrier from reception attendees meeting with representatives of the law firm.

The protesting students also chanted: “As long as you work for Exxon, we won’t work for you.”

Protesting students are urging fellow students at other law schools not to interview with Paul Weiss, and are trying to organize at a third law school that firm recruiters are set to visit.

The Yale Law encounter, which students livestreamed, is part of a broader interest in academia about involvement with the fossil fuel industry. Earlier this week Harvard University faculty voted for the school’s endowment managers to divest from fossil fuel companies.

At the Yale protest, students called out states, counties, and cities where Paul Weiss is representing Exxon in efforts to “evade accountability for climate damages.”

Paul Weiss issued a statement to Bloomberg Law on the protest.

“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 defense of ExxonMobil in a securities fraud case in which the court found, after trial, that plaintiff’s claims were entirely without merit,” said firm Chairman Brad Karp. “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.”

On its website, Paul Weiss noted that it has won “a complete defense verdict” for ExxonMobil in New York state court, fending off the state attorney general’s claims that investors had been misled about the growing risks of climate change to the fossil fuel giant’s business.

Also pending is a ExxonMobil securities matter in Massachusetts, and around a dozen climate liability cases by local governments around the country that are trying to hold major oil companies responsible for their contributions to climate change.

The protestors chose the recruitment reception because it is used to impress students “with visions of impactful work and successful careers,” said Camila Bustos, a second year Yale Law School student.

The student protesters singled out Paul Weiss’s “extreme tactics” in its representation of Exxon. They noted that the firm represented ExxonMobil in various state and local efforts to hold the industry giant accountable for alleged climate fraud. Those are proceeding through the courts.

ExxonMobil did not immediately respond to request for comment on the Yale protest.

(Changed location of protest in paragraph two. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Olson in Washington at egolson1@gmail.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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