Sullivan & Cromwell Takes the Lead


About seven months ago, two dozen major law firms joined to send a warning letter to the deans of major law schools throughout the United States, urging them to address rising discrimination and harassment within their schools and particularly the escalation in activity that targeted Jewish students.

According to the Nov. 1 letter: “Over the last several weeks, we have been alarmed by reports of anti-Semitic harassment, vandalism, and assaults on college campuses, including rallies calling for the death of Jews and the elimination of the state of Israel. Such anti-Semitic activities would not be tolerated at any of our firms. We also would not tolerate groups engaging in acts of harassment and threats of violence, as has also been occurring on many of your campuses.”

The letter encouraged the deans to make clear to their students that the law firm signatories — representing many of the most prestigious law firms in the country — have zero tolerance for any form of discrimination or harassment and implying that the firms’ interest in recruiting at the schools could be at risk if antisemitism concerns were not addressed.

The move by the law firms made a big splash. But there was some question about whether and how the firms would follow through on their warning. Were they going to monitor activity at the schools to which the letter warning was sent? And how would they follow through on the demand that the schools transmit to students the law firms’ concerns?

In the months since the letter was sent, we haven’t heard much about the issue. In the meantime, pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protests and disruptions — along with deeply disturbing antisemitic threats, harassment and attacks — exploded on campuses around the country, including at many of the schools to which the November warning letter was sent.

Last week, we got the first indication of both the seriousness of purpose and the promise to be more vigilant in screening job applicants by one of the law firm signatories.

According to an announcement from international legal powerhouse Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, the firm’s candidate vetting process will now include a review of social media postings by applicants, news reports that feature applicants and a review of the groups with which applicants affiliated while in school. The firm will employ third-party specialists to assist with the background checks and will review “lists of all campus organizations the student has been or is currently a part of and monitor activities from those groups that do not align with our ethical standards.”

We are encouraged by the Sullivan & Cromwell pledge. And to the extent it makes pro-Hamas demonstration warriors nervous that their hateful extracurricular activity might jeopardize their career path, that’s a good thing.

Sullivan & Cromwell took the lead in getting other members of Big Law to sign on to the November warning letter. We hope the other firms will also join in the commitment to pursue a vetting effort with teeth, that weeds out job applicants who participate in pro-terror activities and spew antisemitic hate.

There is no place for antisemites at our nation’s most prestigious law firms.


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