The Diversity Crisis: Are Clients Easing Off?

, The American Lawyer

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Corporate legal departments have long led the charge for diversity at law firms. A decade into the fight, GCs may be turning their attention elsewhere.

Originally appeared in print as Battle Fatigue

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  • Lawrence James

    Overall great article on the state of diversity in law firms. I suspect law firms are perpetuating the same biases we see in the larger business community especially related to visible minorities.

    However, I will chide you on one statement in the article that I believe helps to erroneously perpetuate stereotypes of African Americans at work. It was stated that Kimberley Harris (a black female attorney) LASHED OUT with her statement. Really? She articulated a point of view. To characterize it as "lashing out" contributes to the Angry Black Woman/Man phenomena experienced by so many in the work place who offer a point of view different than the mainstream. In the end, these inadvertent characterizations hurt the very people the article highlights by continually reinforcing a negative perception of who they are and what they are concerned with. The fact is traditional diversity is moving to the back burner and is being diluted in favor of concepts like "thought diversity" which will only continue to erode the emphasis on and presence of racial and gender minorities in the workplace. The result of which will be fewer minorities with seats at the table and even fewer sitting at its head. If firms are actually interested in developing their African-American associates there are things they can do to make it happen. My forthcoming whitepaper details what needs to happen to grow and develop these executives. I can be contacted at ljames@rhrinternational.com

  • Ron Jordan

    Law firms don‘t get, Tom because in house counsel hasn‘t kept on the road map in denying business( profits), diversity especially amongst black partners I talk to is a conversation. Throwing black attorneys at large firms under the bus, again, is telling them that their talents are not worth the law degrees they all have. DuPont and Micro-Soft and other in house counsel have amassed a budget to distribute hundreds of millions of dollars of work to minority and women owned law firms. The work is going mostly to women owned law firms, the majority of women owned law firms are "white women" where is the parity in that equation? Am 100 and 200 black law firm partners are put outside the box of profitability because in house counsel has abandoned their goals. Denying a firm profitability with diversity as a stand alone issue, says to law firms, that diversity and especially pointing to black attorneys within the Am 100 and 200 law firms is not important. Law firms have three main issues to maintain for continued work from their clients, rates, relationships and a good legal product. The other issue is diversity and inclusion, which every law firm has as a statement on their websites, but without a purposeful and demanding in house corporate legal department then all the awards and all the tables being bought to attend diversity conferences is just another cut of a thousand cuts to black lawyers trying to achieve and be successful. I will leave you with this, the legal business has put in obstacles for success for black lawyers, get a law degree from a great law school, work hard, no life work balance and be able to assimilate into the majority law firm culture. The black attorneys I represent have done what was asked of them and now they are being abandoned because in house corporate General Counsel‘s don‘t have the heart and soul to stay the course.

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