Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Big Law Recruiting Confronts Rising Student Activism

National Law Journal, Big Law Recruiting Confronts Rising Student Activism:

Student activism has surged in 2024 as pro-Palestine protests erupt on college campuses from Columbia University to UCLA. The Israel-Hamas war and the resulting death toll have now drawn more students out to protest than any event this century, according to several history professors interviewed for this article.

Count some law students among the activists. From Harvard Law students grilling Big Law partners about commitments to diversity and inclusion to a law student disrupting the dinner of a law school dean, the legal sector hasn’t been immune from the uproar.

Large law firms, each hiring dozens of first-year associates a year, are now confronting a young generation that feels more obligated to stand up to authority than its predecessors. Could that become an issue for an industry looking to hire professionals who can put their personal beliefs aside for the good of a firm and its clients?

“I’m part of a generation which takes pride in the number of times we were arrested in protests, and I would say that this generation is absolutely the same,” said Mark Naison, a professor of history and African and African American studies at Fordham University. “I haven’t seen anything like this since the 1960s.”

Some lawyers at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom got an upfront view of outspoken students at a 1L reception at Harvard Law School in late February.

According to a video posted on Instagram, students asked Skadden lawyers about the firm’s funding of “an apartheid state” and questioned Skadden’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The video, posted by Law Students for a Free Palestine, was edited so that not all questions and answers were fully recorded. ...

To understand Gen Z law students, law firm employers should consider that they grew up during an isolating pandemic and experienced the George Floyd protests in their late teenage years or early 20s. Three in four Gen Zers are very concerned about climate change, according to Pew Research, and many are now viewing the Israel-Gaza conflict in real time on TikTok. ...

For the past four years, Law Students for Climate Accountability has published a ranking of law firms based on their ties to the fossil fuel industry.

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