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Nearly one year after lawyers at Dewey Ballantine infuriated members of the Asian-American community by performing a stereotype-laden parody song at their annual dinner, the law firm is again dealing with allegations of racial insensitivity, this time stemming from a partner’s joke that was e-mailed to all of the New York firm’s employees. Last week, an employee sent a firmwide e-mail advertising the availability of some puppies for adoption. Douglas Getter, a London-based American who heads Dewey Ballantine’s European mergers and acquisitions practice, then sent a firmwide reply. “Please don’t let these puppies go to a Chinese restaurant!” Getter wrote in his e-mail. His joke, derived from stereotypes about Asian predilections for eating animals Westerners consider pets, drew immediate criticism from others at the firm, and Getter sent out an apology. The firm’s co-chairmen, Sanford Morhouse and Morton Pierce, also issued a response. “This afternoon an offensive e-mail was circulated by a partner,” Morhouse and Pierce wrote. “Comments of this nature are inconsistent with the values of this firm and will not be tolerated. We extend our immediate apologies to the entire Dewey Ballantine community.” Dewey has 582 lawyers worldwide, with almost 350 in New York. In an interview last week, Morhouse said the firm’s executive committee would be meeting shortly to determine what further action should be taken. Getter could not be reached for comment. Last March, the firm issued an apology after the New York Law Journal, a sister publication of The National Law Journal, reported that at a Jan. 31, 2003, annual dinner, the firm had parodied the closing of its Hong Kong office with a version of “Hello Dolly” retitled “The Dirge of Long Duck Dong,” an apparent reference to the stereotyped Chinese exchange student in the movie Sixteen Candles. Morhouse stressed that neither the dinner, which has been discontinued, nor last week’s incident should be taken as representative of the firm’s character. He said Asian and Asian-American lawyers were “tremendously well regarded” and “highly valued” at the firm. Grace Yoo, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, applauded the swift response by Dewey, but said she was troubled that a partner felt comfortable enough to send such an e-mail.

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