Lina Dagnew is a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and an emerging talent in white-collar crime litigation and investigations. The depth of her expertise and experience in trial work at such an early part of her career makes her a distinguished litigator in this year’s 40 & Under List. Dagnew speaks with Benchmark Senior Analyst Brittany Sharoff about making partner, her practice highlights, and her perspective on diversity on teams. 



When did you make partner at Paul, Weiss? How did established partners at Paul, Weiss support you on your road to partnership? Did you take any actions intentionally that you would also credit to making partner?

I became partner starting January 1 of this year. I was fortunate enough to have seasoned lead attorneys at Paul, Weiss who trusted me to run matters and build client relationships, gave me opportunities to stand up in court, and advocated for me overall. I started to become more intentional about my career over the past three or so years; besides focusing on rounding out my skillset, I spent some time in the litigation and regulatory in-house counsel departments for a large financial services client, all of which was, I think, important in the partnership evaluations.


Your practice involves antitrust, white-collar, and general commercial disputes. What do you love about your practice?

The fact that it is never dull. The legal and strategic issues we counsel our clients on in these practice areas are almost always complex, nuanced and different across industries, jurisdictions and fact patterns. My practice is dynamic and it keeps me curious and invested.


What are the highlights of your career so far?

On a substantive level, it is the trial work experience in state and federal courts. Your responsibility on trial teams shifts with time. As a younger attorney, I was responsible for a witness; as a more senior attorney, I ran the trial teams with my colleagues. Trying cases to verdict, especially jury trials, is something I greatly enjoy. Separately, I treasure the friendships I have built with many phenomenal people I have met along my career.


Clients always put a lot of trust into their representation. What is the key to successfully building trust with your client?

It goes a long way when you take on their concerns as your own, proactively think about any challenges or opportunities your client may encounter down the line, and become a thought partner on those.


What do you believe are the benefits to having a diverse team working on a case together? Do clients appreciate diversity in the team as well?

Diversity in all forms allows teams to benefit from a range of experiences and perspectives, which matters especially when you are coming up with creative solutions to thorny issues. Clients, in my experience, want teams that reflect a broad array of views, so much of which is shaped by individual backgrounds. Diversity is a value add not just for the client but for the attorneys on the team.


You also maintain an active pro bono practice. How important is pro boo work to you and the firm? Do you have any recent highlights that you’d like to share?

The firm has devoted significant resources to its storied pro bono program, which I think is second to none. Since the early days of my career at Paul, Weiss, I have always incorporated pro bono matters in my practice, and I have always felt 100% supported throughout. I represent pro bono clients in civil and criminal matters in state and federal courts, and administrative proceedings. A recent highlight is supervising associates who successfully obtained a rare form of immigration relief and secured a client’s release from detention following an evidentiary hearing in Georgia.


As a recently elected partner, what advice would you give to associates who are early in their careers?

Your legal career is long, and you do not have to have it all figured out as a junior associate; it is generally a time to learn. However, your reputation is your currency and that starts early on, so be actively engaged in your cases and always endeavor to put your best foot forward.


Often, we have cheerleaders in our lives who help us achieve success by being on the sidelines cheering us on. We also have people who inspire us to achieve. Who is one person that you would consider your biggest cheerleader and one person who you would consider someone you look up to?

I grew up in a tightknit family of five, and I am who I am because of them. They always had unfaltering belief that I could succeed, and a foundation like that makes all the difference. I strive to be as smart, kind and impactful as they are. Setting aside my family, I’ve been fortunate enough to have colleagues, clients and friends as consequential cheerleaders, and one standout group is our support staff in the Paul, Weiss D.C. office. They consistently cheer me on in loud and quiet ways; I’m forever indebted to them.




August 2023