I got an email and a link from Alex, a retired lawyer who said this:
At this link there is a letter that a bunch of law firms sent to the Deans of law schools – likely triggered by what happened at Harvard and other schools.It’s a “get-your-act-together” letter. And the statement “your students who hope to join our firms after graduation” implies that they may not want to hire students from certain law schools.I was on the hiring committee of a major law firm (which wasn’t a signatory here) and I never saw such a joint statement issued before. The firms are clearly concerned that the schools might be fostering an ideology that the firms don’t want to be associated with.
Alex said a bit more, but first I’ll show the letter, which was signed by 41 law firms
November 1, 2023
Everyone at our law firms is entitled to be treated with respect and be free of any conduct that targets their identity and is offensive, hostile, intimidating or inconsistent with their personal dignity and rights. We prohibit any form of harassment, whether verbal, visual or physical.
Over the last several weeks, we have been alarmed at 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 outside groups engaging in acts of harassment and threats of violence, as has also been occurring on many of your campuses.
As educators at institutions of higher learning, it is imperative that you provide your students with the tools and guidance to engage in the free exchange of ideas, even on emotionally charged issues, in a manner that affirms the values we all hold dear and rejects unreservedly that which is antithetical to those values. There is no room for anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism or any other form of violence, hatred or bigotry on your campuses, in our workplaces or our communities.
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.
We trust you will take the same unequivocal stance against such activities as we do, and we look forward to a respectful dialogue with you to understand how you are addressing with urgency this serious situation at your law schools.
Very truly yours,
[41 law firms, see at the the link]
Alex added this when I asked him if he approved of the letter:
Do I approve? I would have voted to sign the letter and was surprised/disappointed to see my 800-plus lawyer firm not on the list.However, I hope that the ““your students who hope to join our firms after graduation” sentence isn’t meant to say that the firms are threatening to forego hiring all students from those schools, since that would be too broad of a stroke. That’s how CNN interpreted it – “Top law firms signal they won’t recruit from college campuses that tolerate antisemitism.”Surely there are students at the schools who decry antisemitism and are appalled by the actions of their fellow students and their administrations. I don’t think they should be punished for the sins of others. Rather, I think the burden falls on the law firms to vet the students carefully to make sure that they are hiring those that are qualified, fit into the culture of the firm, and won’t become a P.R. burden.
I agree with Alex. Note that the statement decries all forms of bigotry, not just antisemitism but Islamophobia and other forms of racism. As a private corporation and not a university, law firms can choose any criteria they want to hire new lawyers, and that means they’re free to reject applicants who have proven to be bigots. Colleges and universities are more constrained in their hiring because, after all, even the most vile bigotry is still freedom of speech, protected by the First Amendment. But I don’t make the rules for private businesses and corporations, and if they wish they can delve into an applicant’s past and reject them if they show signs of “violence, hatred, or bigotry.”
This is going to have law students shaking in their boots. While they are free on campus to say whatever they want about issues like the war, they also know they have to live with the consequences. So in the end this may reduce the amount of hatred on American campuses. After all, money talks, especially to lawyers. (This is not to slur the good lawyers I know!)
Give your take below. While firms can refuse people like the ones they describe, should they? This does impede their freedom of speech on campus, but of course nobody denies that freedom of speech comes with consequences.