Major US law firms call on law schools to condemn ‘antisemitism, Islamophobia’

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Sullivan Cromwell law firm in New York City, U.S., July 27, 2022. REUTERS/David Dee Delgado/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

Nov 2 (Reuters) – More than two dozen major U.S. law firms sent a letter on Wednesday to the deans of the nation’s top-ranked law schools expressing concern over a wave of antisemitism and intimidation on university campuses amid the latest fighting between Israel and Hamas.

The 27 firms urged 14 of the top-ranked law schools in the U.S. to take a “unequivocal stance” against discrimination and harassment and said they “look forward” to learning from law schools how they are addressing the situation on their own campuses.

“There is no room for antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism or any other form of violence, hatred or bigotry on your campuses, in our workplaces or our communities,” reads the firms’ letter, which cites reports of antisemitic harassment, vandalism, and rallies calling for the elimination of Israel on college campuses.

A Sullivan & Cromwell spokesperson said on Thursday that senior chair Joseph Shenker spearheaded the letter to the law schools known in the legal industry as the “T-14,” as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Other signatories include some on the nation’s biggest and most profitable law firms, including Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Latham & Watkins; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

University of California, Berkeley law dean Erwin Chemerinsky said on Thursday that he welcomes the firms’ statement condemning antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism but was unclear on next steps.

“I am unsure what the law firms are asking law schools to do, but it is certainly our role to protect the freedom of speech of all of our students, while also ensuring that there is a conducive learning environment and preparing students for the practice of law at the highest levels of the profession,” Chemerinsky said.

Palestine Legal, an organization that seeks to protect the rights of people in the U.S. to speak out on behalf of Palestinians, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the firms’ letter.

Spokespeople from the other law schools receiving the letter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A Columbia Law spokesperson referred to dean Gillian Lester’s Oct. 31 message to students that said the school was convening a working group to examine its conduct rules and would continue to limit access to its building for those outside the law school.

The law firms’ letter comes after at least two big firms, Winston & Strawn and Davis Polk & Wardwell, have rescinded offers to incoming associates who had made or signed on to public statements supporting Palestine in the wake of Hamas’ deadly attacks in Israel.

Read more:

Law firm Davis Polk revokes job offers to Harvard, Columbia students over Israel statements

Anti-Israel comments prompt Winston & Strawn to rescind NYU law student’s job offer

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at [email protected]

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