Law Schools

BigLaw firms ask law school deans to respond to antisemitism in campus protests

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“The American Bar Association unequivocally condemns the attacks of Hamas on Israeli citizens that have killed hundreds,” said ABA President Mary Smith. Photo from Shutterstock.

Updated: Deans of the nation’s top law schools received a letter Wednesday signed by major law firms, encouraging them to condemn the anti-Israel protests and harassment flaring up on campuses.

The letter, which has since been signed by several additional large firms bringing the total number to over 40—including Debevoise & Plimpton; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; and Kirkland & Ellis—warns that the rise of antisemitism at universities since the Oct. 7 start of the Israel-Hamas war could have consequences that spill over to the students’ entrance into the workforce.

Last month, Davis Polk & Wardwell, also a signatory of the letter, rescinded job offers to three law students who participated in or had leadership positions in groups that issued statements siding with Hamas in its attack on Israeli citizens.

Two students had signed a letter at Columbia University, the New York Times reported. The third was affiliated with the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups. The groups all blamed Israel for the Hamas attack.

“As employers who recruit from each of your law schools, 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,” according to the letter. “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.”

This week, a junior at Cornell University was arrested on a federal criminal complaint charging him with posting threats to kill or injure Jewish student on campus, according to the Department of Justice.

Recently, pro-Palestinian demonstrators banged on the glass walls of the Cooper Union Library in New York City, where Jewish students, some wearing yarmulkes, took shelter, the Washington Post reports.

After someone attempted to burn an Israeli flag at a pro-Palestinian protest near Tulane University, at least two students were assaulted, according to the Washington Post.

“I am a 70-year-old Jewish man, but never in my life have I seen or felt the antisemitism of the last few weeks,” wrote Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of California at Berkeley School of Law and an ABA Journal contributor, in a column this week for the Los Angeles Times. “When do we stop being silent, and when do we say the antisemitism must be condemned and it is not acceptable on our campuses? I believe this must be that time.”

ABA President Mary Smith issued statements Oct. 9 and Oct. 17.

“The American Bar Association unequivocally condemns the attacks of Hamas on Israeli citizens that have killed hundreds,” Smith said.

Updated Nov. 3 at 12:10 p.m. to reflect that the letter to the law school deans has since been signed by several additional large law firms.

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