INTERVIEW: REBECCA RABINOWITZ, CORPORATE PARALEGAL, WATCHELL, LIPTON, ROSEN & KATZ (NYC)

Rebecca Rabinowitz is from Brookline, Massachusetts. She entered JHU in the fall of 2011, intending to study Political Science. During the second semester of her freshman year, she took a seminar about Abraham Lincoln and decided to switch her focus to history—and she has never looked back! She graduated from Hopkins in May 2015.

While at Hopkins, Rebecca was involved with the Hopkins Organization for Programming (HOP), the JHU Tutorial Project, the Pi Beta Phi Sorority and Senior Leadership Consultants. She served as a Course Assistant for the JHU Center for Leadership Education’s Leadership Theory class in her senior year and spent the fall of her junior year in Rome with the IES Language and Area Studies Program.

Rebecca’s had a goal to attend law school since she studied the Supreme Court in her American History class during her junior year of high school. She is currently applying to law school this fall and plans to matriculate in the Fall of 2017. She has worked as a Paralegal in the Corporate Group at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in New York City since August, 2015.

Describe a day in the life of a Corporate Paralegal at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

I arrive at the office by 9:30 AM each morning. If there are any outstanding tasks from the previous day, I get started on those. The mornings can occasionally be slow, giving me a chance to get some coffee, read the news and catch up with my co-workers. Our workflow relies on the attorneys, so we generally don’t receive the bulk of our assignments until late mornings – after the associates meet with the partners or client calls take place. The type of assignments we do can really vary—compiling initial diligence materials about a potential target, such as indexes of public, debt or compensation related documents, and researched corporate profiles are some examples. We are also responsible for filing transaction documents with the various states, and preparing documents for filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. I’m also one of the paralegals responsible for maintaining the corporate transaction list, an internal database of all the Wachtell transactions, and I also work closely with an antitrust partner in support of his involvement with the American Bar Association.

When I leave the office really depends. If I have no outstanding tasks at 5:30 PM, I’ll leave at 5:30 PM (although I may have to remote in to work from home if work comes up late at night). The hours aren’t really set – I’m expected to work late at night, early mornings, and on the weekends, as needed. It is challenging to outline a typical day, because I still receive new, unfamiliar requests, even after one year in my role at the firm. But that is one of the reasons why I enjoy my position – it provides a great learning opportunity. The chance to learn, for example, about the cycle of a transaction and the work of the separate deal teams (i.e., corporate, restructuring and finance, employee benefits, etc.) will help me to become a capable lawyer.

What made you choose this particular position and has it met your expectations?

I opted to pursue a position as a paralegal with Wachtell because I wanted to gain practical experience in the law before committing to law school. As a college student, I always enjoyed courses in the law – so I liked it in a theoretical sense, but before entering three additional years of schooling and taking on the financial burden of law school, I wanted to learn more about life in the legal field and the work of lawyers at a large corporate firm. In terms of what drew me to Wachtell, a corporate law firm famous for its work in merger and acquisitions, I knew that I had no interest in criminal law or litigation and wanted to pursue an area that was less combative. (I don’t want to argue all day!) I was intrigued by the intersection of law and business and was interested to know more about the mergers and acquisitions that help to shape the economy. Wachtell is a major player in its field, so I decided that if I was going to work as a paralegal, I would work at the best firm that I could.

My work at Wachtell has lived up to my expectations. I’m learning about real-world applications of the law, and gaining exposure to Big Law, experiences that are tremendously beneficial.

Did you pursue anything else during your interim years before beginning law school? How did you go about researching each of these opportunities?

The only “time off” I’m hoping to take prior to law school is the two years during which I’m serving as a paralegal at Wachtell. When I thought about post-graduate opportunities, I wanted to do something that would give me tangible exposure to the legal field. When researching paralegal positions, I relied on a list of major law firms that offer post-graduate paralegal programs, circulated by the pre-law office sometime during the first semester of my senior year at Hopkins.

What do you think you have gained from the experiences and from taking time off before law school? Given the choice, would you do it again?

I think the real-world law firm experience I’ve gained from being a paralegal is very valuable. I have gained insight into the culture and experience of working in a big law firm. That being said, working as a paralegal has been demanding and exhausting at times. There are long hours (I never pulled any all-nighters in college, but I have pulled several while at my current position), a need for my constant availability and a lack of control over my schedule. However, I’ve learned a lot at Wachtell, and I think the skills and insight I’ve gained will serve me well after law school. Knowing what I do now, I would choose to take time off before law school to work as a paralegal again.

What types of undergraduate opportunities did you pursue that led to your decision to apply to law school?  Were there any other experiences that you felt were particularly helpful in strengthening your application to law school?

As a History major at JHU, I engaged in a discipline that involved a high degree of reading and writing. I think that type of coursework will serve me well in law school (and as a lawyer!), as I can expect to do a lot of reading and writing while in law school and afterwards. In terms of helpful experiences, I think the best thing to do is to seek out practical experiences that will help you determine if you actually want to go to law school and want to work as a lawyer. While in college, I completed a legal internship with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office; this experience, coupled with my time at Wachtell, has helped me to solidify my long-term interest in the law.

Contact Information:

Rebecca Rabinowitz can be reached at rmr825@gmail.com.

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