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Davis Polk says black lawyer fired for poor work, not his race

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP claim evidence gathered in racial discrimination and retaliation from former black associate shows he was fired for consistently poor work, which has not improved despite help , and that his federal lawsuit should be dismissed without trial.

Senior lawyers from three of the firm’s independent practice groups had documented “increasingly troubling issues with” the performance of Kaloma Cardwell at the end of his sophomore year, Davis Polk and a group of eight individual lawyers also sued in a motion for summary judgment.

This included neglect of assigned tasks, forming incorrect legal conclusions, failing to meet deadlines and being unavailable “when tasks needed to be completed in real time,” the firm told the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. New York on December 3.

As a result, Cardwell’s work often had to be redone and other lawyers sometimes had to be assigned to “his cases to take over,” said Davis Polk.

Cardwell was regularly briefed on his performance shortcomings on assignment work and in three formal reviews, the firm said. Still, his performance continued to fall short of the level required of Davis Polk’s associates, which became increasingly of concern as he rose through the associate rank, he said.

This was the case despite the company “devoting significant, high-level resources” to the development of Cardwell, Davis Polk said.

Evidence of Cardwell’s continued substandard work includes the fact that he delivered a draft important customer article that was intended for publication “in which he expressly acknowledged that he had not confirmed” whether the case law referenced in the draft could be cited as good law and an inability of the partner to locate Cardwell for more than 10 hours, despite repeated attempts, on a separate assignment, the firm said.

Cardwell also prepared a disclosure project on another assignment that included inapplicable sections of cases “describing entire analyzes that were not relevant,” and his work on another assignment showed that he “didn’t “failed to appreciate the difference between two key (and very different) types of legal agreements,” said Davis Polk.

In his fourth year as a Davis Polk partner, Cardwell was unable to perform “at the level expected of a mid-level associate, and, indeed, in some respects, was reaching an unacceptable level. for an associate at any level, “the firm said.

This led to the decision to tell him he had to look for a job elsewhere, which the company supported by keeping Cardwell on the payroll at his full salary for three months while he searched for a new job, a said Davis Polk. He even extended that deadline for another three months at Cardwell’s request, but now admits he didn’t use it to look for a new job, the company said.

The same evidence shows that Cardwell was not fired in retaliation for “his strong and vocal interest in diversity and inclusion issues” and complaints about bias within the cabinet, according to the motion.

Affidavits, Diversity

Davis Polk supported the motion with affidavits from several of his current and former attorneys, including four of the attorneys named as individual defendants.

An affidavit from a partner who serves as general counsel for the firm said that in November 2021, approximately 35% of Davis Polk’s U.S. attorneys and 26.8% of his attorneys around the world “who were promoted associates since 2016 are of different racial or ethnic origin. and / or LGBTQ +. Four of its partners, including one from the corporate department, “identify as black or African-American,” the affidavit states.

Other documents show that “Cardwell received a salary and bonus in accordance with” company practice and policy, according to the affidavit.

Cardwell sued in November 2019. He was subjected to rigged performance appraisal processes and other racial bias during his four years in Davis Polk’s New York office and was denied the work and was eventually fired for complaining of bias towards enforcement authorities, he said.

David Jeffries of New York represents Cardwell. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP represents Davis Polk and the individual defendants.

The case is Cardwell v. Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, SDNY, # 19-cv-10256, motion for summary judgment 12/03/21.