Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Grading Law Firm Diversity

Diversity Anupam Chander over at Law School Innovation reports that a group of Stanford law students have started grading law firms on diversity:

The students are handing out “diversity report cards” to the big law firms, ranking them by how many female, minority and gay lawyers they have.

“Many of the firms have atrocious, appalling records on diversity,” said Michele Landis Dauber, a law professor at Stanford and the adviser for the project, called Building a Better Legal Profession. The rankings are at www.betterlegalprofession.org.

In New York, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton got the top grade, an A-minus. At Cleary, the project says, 48.8 percent of the associates are women, 8.7 percent are black, 8.3 percent are Hispanic and 4.5 percent are openly gay.

Herrick, Feinstein, by contrast, got an F. Its numbers: 37.7 percent women, 4.9 percent black, 1.6 percent Hispanics, and no openly gay people.

... The numbers were provided to a central clearinghouse by the firms themselves. “Our process is simple,” the student group said in explaining its methodology. “Cut, paste and rank.” Firms in the top fifth received A’s, in the second fifth B’s, and so on. Overall grades were arrived at by averaging grades for partners and associates in five categories: women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and gay people.

At least around here (southern Ohio and Kentucky), most big-and-medium-sized firms are sold on diversity.  It's not out of altruism -- it's because their clients demand it.  But the firms have a difficult time recruiting minority lawyers if the law schools aren't producing enough of them and the bar exams further reduce the pool disproportionately.  And law schools have a difficult time recruiting minority law students if the colleges aren't producing enough of them and the LSAT further reduces the pool disproportionately..  And so on and so on.  That's why I'm a huge supporter of pipeline projects like Wingspread -- they won't solve the underlying problems, but they at least can help address some of the symptoms.

rb

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