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Tributes to Kirtee Kapoor: A wonderful man & pathbreaking India head of elite US firm Davis Polk [UPDATE-2]

Kirtee Kapoor: Inspired a generation of Indian lawyers who went abroad
Kirtee Kapoor: Inspired a generation of Indian lawyers who went abroad

Kirtee Kapoor, the head of Davis Polk’s India group and one of the first of a new generation of Indian-trained lawyers to make partner at top international firms, has passed away after having been hit by a train earlier yesterday morning in California.

Kapoor had become a partner at the top tier US firm Davis Polk in 2007, having joined the firm in 1999, making him one of the first in a long line of Indian-educated lawyers to make partnership at US and international firms.

He was a corporate partner in the firm’s Menlo Park and New York offices, and had previously also spent time in the firm’s Frankfurt and Hong Kong offices, advising start-up founders, corporates and funds.

According to an internal firm email:

It is with great sadness that we inform you that our partner Kirtee Kapoor was fatally struck by a train today. Kirtee was with Davis Polk for 18 years, practicing in our New York, Hong Kong and Northern California offices.

He will be remembered as a great partner of the firm, a steadfast friend to so many and a wonderful man for all. We will miss keenly his optimism, warmth, honesty and wisdom.

Kapoor was a 1997 Delhi University LLB graduate and valedictorian, completed a 1998 BCL at Oxford University in 1998 and a 1999 LLM at New York University’s (NYU) School of Law.

“He was the first of the lot of us Indians in foreign firms to be elected to a global law firm,” said one Indian partner at a foreign law firm said, adding: "Kirtee was an extremely well-liked person and well-respected lawyer - a thorough gentleman.

“He will be missed by many.”

We have reached out to Davis Polk for comment.

Update: A Davis Polk spokesperson commented:

We are profoundly saddened by the death of our partner Kirtee Kapoor.

Kirtee will be remembered as a great partner of the firm, a steadfast friend to so many and, above all, a wonderful person. We will miss keenly his optimism, warmth, honesty and wisdom.

Our deepest sympathies go to Kirtee’s wife and daughter.

Update 7 June 2017: We have reached out for thoughts to several of his friends.

Latham & Watkins partner Rajiv Gupta told us in an email:

The news has come as a completely shock and disbelief. Kirtee was a dear friend and a wonderful person in addition to being an excellent lawyer.

It is a big loss for the legal community. He will be dearly missed...

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Arun Balasubramanian said via email:

Kirtee’s passing is a great loss, to the legal community and personally.

Our friendship goes back to the mid-nineties, when we were part of a small group of Indian lawyers who went abroad for graduate studies. Armed with little more than a limited amount of scholarship funds and an unlimited amount of hope, we made our way through degrees in England and the US, followed by jobs at law firms in New York.

That was a time when the path was less well trodden than it is now.

Kirtee walked that path with giant strides, proving along the way that with the brains, determination and an unwavering commitment to doing the right thing, no glass ceiling is too hard to break.

Professionally, I knew Kirtee as a terrific lawyer and a thorough gentleman, doing his best for his clients and always fair and even-handed in his dealings with his colleagues and folks across the table.

At a personal level, he touched many lives with his warmth, generosity and kindness, and was a loving family man to his wife and daughter. Kirtee was and will remain an inspiration to all in our profession who believe that no matter what our origins are, we can and must aim high.

I will miss him very much, and wish him peace.

Allen & Overy Hong Kong-based India capital markets head Amit Singh said:

Kirtee and I were together in the same college in England in the mid nineties and then worked for several years in the same firm. I remember Kirtee as an extremely intelligent and optimistic man. A self made man and an inspiration to future generations of Indian lawyers, his presence will be sorely missed.

My thoughts go out to his family and particularly to his wife and daughter.

Davis Polk has published an in memoriam on its website:

We are deeply saddened by the death of our partner Kirtee Kapoor, whom we lost on June 5.

Kirtee was a truly wonderful man. His optimism, warmth, honesty and wisdom were inspiring. He will be remembered as a great partner of the firm, a beloved colleague and adviser, and a steadfast friend to so many.

Born in Bangalore, India, Kirtee earned his LL.B. from the University of Delhi Faculty of Law, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Student’s Law Review and Moot Court Society President. He received his B.C.L. from Balliol College, University of Oxford and was an Inlaks Scholar. He was a Hauser Global Scholar and Graduate Editor of the Journal of International Law and Politics at New York University School of Law, where he earned his LL.M.

Kirtee joined Davis Polk’s New York office as an associate in 1999, and over the next 18 years spent time in several of our offices advising clients on significant M&A matters and in investments and other transactions around the world. He was elected to the partnership in 2007 and moved to Hong Kong later that year. In 2015, he joined our Northern California office.

We will miss Kirtee tremendously. Our deepest sympathies go to his wife and daughter, and we extend our most heartfelt condolences to all of his family, colleagues, friends and clients.

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