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Universities are cautioned by law firms about antisemitism on campus

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DealBook|Law Firms Warn Universities About Antisemitism on Campus



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Two dozen major Wall Street firms sent a letter to top law schools to crack down on discrimination and harassment amid an escalation in incidents targeting Jewish students.


A New York State Police car parked outside Cornell University's Center for Jewish Living.
Campuses of universities like Cornell say they have seen a rise in antisemitic episodes since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.Credit...David Bauder/Associated Press

With universities across the United States grappling with a rise in antisemitism since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, elite law firms are putting schools on notice. In a letter to some of the nation’s top law schools obtained by DealBook, about two dozen major Wall Street firms warned that what happens on campus could have corporate consequences.

“We look to you to ensure your students who hope to join our firms after graduation are prepared to be an active part of workplace communities that have zero tolerance policies for any form of discrimination or harassment, much less the kind that has been taking place on some law school campuses,” the firms wrote.

Among the firms that signed the letter are:

  • Cravath, Swaine & Moore

  • Debevoise & Plimpton

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

  • Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

  • Skadden

  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

Another signatory, Davis Polk & Wardwell, last month rescinded job offers over letters blaming Israel for the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

The letter follows a series of recent antisemitic episodes at universities. Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York sought this week to reassure Jewish students at Cornell after online posts threatening violence against them. Students at other schools have said they feel increasingly unsafe amid rallies and other acts that, in some instances, have become violent.

And school leaders have been criticized for equivocating in their responses to both the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel and to antisemitism more broadly. (The University of Pennsylvania, which has faced a donor revolt, on Wednesday announced measures that include a task force on antisemitism.)

Big Law carries huge clout. Students at the schools that received the letter — 14 top institutions, along with others that have strong ties with the signatories — compete aggressively for jobs at the firms after graduation. And deans keep a close eye on job placement statistics.

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