Kirtee Kapoor: Inspired a generation of Indian lawyers who went abroadKirtee 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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Like +2 Object -0 omg 06 Jun 17, 21:45
this is so unfortunate .... what distressing news. may his soul rest in peace.
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Like +8 Object -0 Tragic 06 Jun 17, 22:04  interesting
Terrible news. A complete gentleman and excellent lawyer. Condolences to his family.
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Like +25 Object -0 Depressed 06 Jun 17, 22:47  interesting  top rated
Terrible, terrible news. The single most inspiring Indian lawyer out there. Entirely self-made. Came from Delhi University and rose to the top of one of the best firms in the world. Anyone who knows anything about international law firms knows that making partner at Davis Polk (or Cravath or Sullcrom) is a lot more challenging than at other firms which have seen Indian partners. Kirtee was a true star and had the potential to lead Davis Polk. Huge loss.
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Like +2 Object -0 Guest 06 Jun 17, 23:05
Rest in peace and my deepest condolences to his family..
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Like +34 Object -1 Thank you 06 Jun 17, 23:45  interesting  top rated
My first introduction to Kirtee was much before I actually met him. As a clueless law student having applied and being offered admission at Oxford and NYU and facing dilemma of making the winning choice, I was guided by one of my Professors at Law Fac with Kirtee's example and with the words that people go on to study at NYU even after their education at Oxford and the destinee's child me had got this opportunity to study straight at NYU which would be foolish not to accept. Even without knowing Kirtee he had in a way determined my path to go on and become a US qualified corporate lawyer. Towards the end of my LL.M when I was struggling to get interview calls from any US law firm, a common friend mentioned her senior at Davis Polk who had been working in NYC for a few years and may have some suggestions. Happy to accept any advise, I remember my first meeting with Kirtee in the Davis Polk cafeteria where his tough and brutally honest words made more of an impact than other encouragements. I wasn't the first to be inspired by Kirtee and his subsequent achievements from being elected Partner at Davis Polk to all other professional achievements and his humility and controlled nature, would have inspired many more and hope it continues to do so long after. He was my first mentor, a friend and a legend who will be missed.
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Like +2 Object -1 Inspired 07 Jun 17, 01:23
He was truly an inspiration for all Indian lawyers in top international firms. It's a great loss to our community.
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Like +2 Object -1 Headinthesand 07 Jun 17, 09:09
Terribly upsetting news:((
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Like +1 Object -0 HS 07 Jun 17, 09:57
Rest in peace, Kirtee.
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Like +1 Object -0 Guest 07 Jun 17, 11:03
This is a terribly upsetting news. I have worked with Kirtee and it was a pleasure to know someone of his intellect and aptitude.
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Like +1 Object -0 Lexpert 07 Jun 17, 12:05
Had interacted with Kirtee a few years ago when he was in Singapore. A consummate lawyer and a thorough gentleman, he will be missed! Heart-felt condolences to his loved ones! @Kian - please collect all the comments on this story and send it across to Davis Polk.
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Like +7 Object -8 Headinthesand 07 Jun 17, 12:52  controversial
This is so tragic if it is true. Did anyone at Davis Polk observe his state of mind, speak to him?
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Like +1 Object -1 HK Friend 08 Jun 17, 16:49
Indeed this is very tragic. I don't believe that this could be an intentional act - he was a person full of life, ambitions and positivity. He can never do anything like this. He was a happy man. if something was not fine, someone must have definitely seen a change in his behaviour in the last few days. Someone can not reach such a decision overnight. I hope he had asked for help at the right time.

My friend, Kirtee, you are being missed dearly. May you be in peace.
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Like +0 Object -0 Guest 07 Jun 17, 22:59
Kirtee and I have studied together in st xavier school jaipur . He is truly a remarkable person . He was my close buddy in school and I will miss him a lot . Indeed a sad news and difficult to believe .
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Like +1 Object -0 RIP 08 Jun 17, 11:53
The industry lost a gem of a lawyer. Inspiration to several young lawyers like me. Heartfelt condolence to his family. May his soul rest in peace.
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Like +0 Object -0 Guest 08 Jun 17, 14:50
A sad loss for the Balliol community: Kirtee Kapoor (Balliol 1997), died in a train accident:— Balliol College (@BalliolOxford) June 7, 2017
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Like +0 Object -0 kianganz 09 Jun 17, 15:42
I'm really sorry for everyone's loss, he seems to have been beloved by many.

In respect of the cause of his death, we won't publish any comments speculating on this until the coroner reaches a verdict, probably in the coming weeks:

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Like +7 Object -0 Guest 09 Jun 17, 16:44  interesting
It is a real shock. He was an outstandingly bright person fondly remembered by his faculty, and someone who inspired further generations. I had met him in the cafeteria of Davis Polk when I just joined Master's at Columbia and had issues regarding courses to choose. His advise was simple, blunt and straight forward. As I recollect he was asked to/was considering relocating to Germany for Green Card/Immigration purposes that time. I believe he moved soon thereafter and I didn't touch base that often. However, one advise from the meeting that stuck with me since then effectively meant that don't think by achieving X target all issues of life get sorted out. Sadly and unfortunately, even in this tragedy, that's message: However, bright and successful, one can't control life and death.
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Like +0 Object -0 PMM 17 Jun 17, 16:59
Äi ajal-ei-Gulcheen tujhsey nadaani hui
Phool wo toda jis-sey gulshan mein veerani hui
[O Plucker of life's flower, you made a mistake
You plucked that one which has rendered the garden desolate]
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