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Witness for fired BigLaw associate describes 'cavalier' body language, refusal to help in a pinch

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A witness for a fired Davis Polk & Wardwell associate described a partner’s unusual email in testimony Tuesday. Image from Shutterstock.

A witness for fired Davis Polk & Wardwell associate Kaloma Cardwell described a partner’s unusual email in testimony Tuesday.

Rocio Clausen, a lawyer who was a professional development manager for the law firm, said the 2015 email from then-Davis Polk partner Sophia Hudson sought performance reviews for Cardwell to get a read on him, Law360 reports. Such requests are unusual because they are usually made when associates are making mistakes or experiencing other problems, Clausen said.

Clausen’s testimony appeared to reinforce the opening statement by Cardwell’s lawyer David Jeffries, who contended that the email was part of the firm’s scheme to retaliate against the Black associate for complaints about racial disparities, according to Law360.

But Clausen’s testimony about a 2016 meeting with Cardwell didn’t appear as helpful. Clausen said Cardwell had refused to help out when additional lawyers were needed for an assignment from the firm’s credit group, according to Law360 and

Clausen said Cardwell thought that the assignment would take away from his work with the mergers and acquisitions group, in which he was involved. Cardwell said “African American men were generally disadvantaged” in the legal field, and he didn’t want to hurt his M&A prospects, Clausen testified.

Clausen said Cardwell was working fewer hours than other M&A lawyers, and his refusal to help “was very upsetting to me.”

Clausen said Cardwell’s relaxed body language during the meeting was “cavalier.” She demonstrated by leaning back in her chair, according to

“I have never experienced that before,” she said. “The associates work extremely long hours—70, 80, occasionally 90 hours, and everyone’s a team. You need your people to be a team.”

Clausen said first- and second-year associates are worried and have a lot to prove. Cardwell’s reaction “is not the traditional response, especially as an associate at a big, very very good law firm,” Clausen said.

Lawyers representing Davis Polk did not ask questions on cross-examination.

The trial is happening to determine whether Davis Polk retaliated against Cardwell after he complained about alleged discrimination. Other claims of racial discrimination were tossed by U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods of the Southern District of New York last February, Law360 reports in a separate story.

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