Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Conley on Racial Equity in Private Firms

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

One of the wonderfully rewarding aspects about jumping into academia after so long in the practice is to realize that part of the job description of professional teacher is (or should be) to be a professional learner.  (That we are professional learners even in business was part of my management philosophy, so perhaps that says something, but I don't know quite what.)

That's an introduction to my recommendation of a tremendously interesting article, methodologically J_conley_2 and substantively, by John Conley (North Carolina, left), who I featured in a post yesterday.  The article is "Tales of Diversity:  What Lawyers Say About Racial Equity in Private Firms," 31 Law & Social Inquiry 831 (2006).  Professor Conley is an anthropologist and law professor, so the first part of the paper is an explanation of the scholarly discipline of ethnographic narrative - what you can learn and just how much you can generalize from what people say about their culture - in this case, lawyers about their jobs and their firms.  The second part is a report on what lawyers in different kinds of firms actually say about racial diversity.  The abstract follows below the fold, but as Larry Solum would say: download it while it's hot!

Here is the abstract:

This paper reports on what a narrative study of the legal profession has revealed about diversity in private law firms. Since 1995 I have taught a course about the legal profession that revolves around interviews with lawyers representing the breadth of the legal profession. Over nine iterations, I have completed over 100 such interviews. They have yielded narratives on such topics as how various kinds of practice groups work, how legal careers evolve, how lawyers' professional and personal lives interact, how lawyers feel about their profession, and what they believe are their most difficult moral and ethical challenges. The topic of diversity in various practice settings has also figured prominently in most of the interviews. All of the lawyers interviewed have expressed enthusiasm for diversity as a value to be pursued. However, almost without exception, private-firm lawyers have admitted that their respective organizations have made unsatisfactory progress. When asked to analyze their firm's performance, most provide explanations that do not augur well for the diversification of the private bar in the near future. Their narratives implicate as causal factors the history of individual firms, the nature of intimate business associations, the profession's dominant hiring and promotion models, and, in most cases, the absence of external pressures to diversify

Abstracts Highlights - Academic Articles on the Legal Profession, Associates, Law & Society, Law Firms, Partners, Straddling the Fence | Permalink

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