Davis Polk, one of the country’s most prestigious law firms, recently withdrew job offers to three students who the firm said led organizations at Harvard and Columbia that issued statements blaming Israel for the October 7 Hamas attack that killed more than 1,400 Israelis.
On Tuesday, the company said it was reconsidering that decision in the case of two of the three students who objected to the dismissal and said they did not authorize the letters, which had no individual signatories. The potential reversal highlights the complexity for both employers and employees in dealing with what has quickly become one of the most emotionally divisive issues in recent decades.
A New York law firm said two of the students had leadership roles in groups that signed the Colombia letter and one was affiliated with Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups, which jointly wrote a letter holding the Israeli regime responsible for deadly violence.
The company did not provide student details or the two offers it is reconsidering.
Davis Polk said in a statement that the views expressed in some of the statements signed by law school student organizations in recent days are directly inconsistent with our firm’s value system. The company added that to ensure we continue to maintain a supportive and inclusive work environment, the student leaders responsible for signing these declarations are no longer welcome at our company.
Davis Polk’s president and managing partner, Neil Barr, said in an interview Tuesday that the company does not want employees who support the atrocities of the Hamas attack working for it.
Last week, a large number of law students who were promised employment by Davis Polk at Columbia, Harvard and other schools contacted us to say that they disagreed with statements issued by organizations of which they were a part that blamed Israel for the events of October 7. homicides, said Davis Polk spokeswoman Katie Moss.
Many students also said they had resigned from these or similar groups after the Harvard and Columbia student groups published their statements, Moss added.
Davis Polk said it is working with students who opposed the layoffs, but has not yet made a decision on whether to reverse course.
The situation at Davis Polk highlights the challenges of bringing controversial and political issues into the workplace and raises a new question: Can an employer hold an employee or potential employee personally liable for any action taken by an individual’s affinity group? ?
Another law firm, Winston & Strawn, recently withdrew an offer of employment made to NYU law student Ryna Workman, president of the university’s Student Bar Association, who wrote a message to her student group stating that Israel bears full responsibility for this massive death .
In recent days, some big Wall Street investors, including hedge fund manager William Ackman, have called on corporations to refuse to hire students who are members of groups that have signed affidavits implicating Israeli policies as the cause of the attacks. Mr. Ackman took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to demand that Harvard release the names of members of these student organizations.
Davis Polk is known for his work representing the largest financial institutions and corporations in mergers, restructuring and litigation advisory. Ms Moss said the company made its own decision to withdraw the offers.
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