Paul L. Caron

Friday, May 24, 2024

Sullivan & Cromwell's New Hiring Policy Is Problematic

Sullivan & Cromwell

Following up on my previous post, Sullivan & Cromwell To Ramp-Up Vetting Of New Hires Amid Wave Of Pro-Palestinian Protests:  Vivia Chen, Sullivan & Cromwell's New Hiring Policy Is Polarizing and Worrisome:

The esteemed law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell recently issued a statement about how it will vet prospective hires, and it is both curious and troubling.

Alarmed by the spread of student protests over Israel’s military actions in Gaza, the Wall Street firm said it will “review resumes for participation in pro-terrorist groups and other similar activities” and conduct a “thorough review of the candidate’s online presence, school website [and] news reports,” according to The American Lawyer.

What’s more, S&C will require submission of “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.” The firm also plans to hire third-party specialists to do background checks.

The firm’s chair Joe Shenker told Am Law: “What we have seen on campuses is antisemitic behavior, both physical and verbal. And that behavior doesn’t require context, just like a lynching doesn’t require context. It’s wrong, and we won’t tolerate it.” He added, “what is new is that there is a view that if that hate is directed at Jews, then it is different somehow. It is not.” 

Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a terrorist group?

There’s a lot to unpack here but what got my immediate attention was the part about listing “all campus organizations the student has been or is currently a part of ....” It reminded me of Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare when he badgered Americans by asking: “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?”

I doubt I’m the only one to make that association—and that is unfortunate for S&C’s brand. So I’m baffled why the firm feels it’s necessary to adopt and announce this policy. Is there a danger that Big Law—or S&C, in particular—is being infiltrated by potential terrorists or their sympathizers? Or is the firm sending out a warning that only candidates with certain leanings will be welcomed?

While I agree that employers have the right and responsibility to do background checks to weed out candidates who advocate racism, antisemitism, misogyny, homophobia, or intolerance in general, I find S&C’s policy problematic on many levels.

Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink