If an organization were to take the diversity temperature of major law firms, it might use as a thermometer the sort of data that Building a Better Legal Profession has come up with. According to Above the Law’s David Lat, this “grassroots movement” has an up-to-the-minute prognosis of which firms are really healthy, as far as diversity and other market-based topics–such as pro bono work and associate attrition–and which are ailing.
First, a little background on Building a Better Legal Profession, a 501(c)3 non-profit. The now-national effort was spawned by students at Stanford Law School. Its stated mission is to seek “market-based workplace reforms in large private law firms”. The premise is to provide what they refer to as “quality of life criteria”; information that will help students trying to decide which school to attend after graduation; universities wondering which school reps to invite on-campus and clients exploring which firm to hire.
The “report cards” are based on publicly available information compiled by the National Association of Law Placement, or NALP, and, based on firms’ demographics and self-reported data on billable hours and other such information, they reveal which firms embrace which issues (as well as which firms haven’t done so, as of yet).
Now, to the highlights of the findings: Stanford law and sociology professor Michele Dauber, who is on BBLP’s national board of directors, had this to say about Manhattan’s Pryor Cashman in the BBLP’s “Rouges’ Gallery”: “No Black or Hispanic partners and no Hispanic associates and no openly gay lawyers.” (“In defense of Pryor Cashman,” writes the ATL blogger, “it is not a huge firm.”)
Also, “Quinn Emmanuel’s LA office has one Black partner — and the NY office…has no Black or Hispanic partners.” According to Professor Dauber, “[O]ne is nothing to write home about.”
It turns out that Boson, too, rates poorly when it comes to diversity. “Boston still reigns as the worst market for diverse lawyers,” notes Dauber. She goes on to say: “Apparently the fact that Massachusetts has a Black lawyer as governor and that the President of the United States and the First Lady are both Black lawyers has made no impression…”.
As far as Asian lawyers are concerned, there is a large gap between associates and partners—the largest gap of any so-called minority. “An example,” says Dauber, “is Clifford Chance in New York, with 26.8% Asian associates but only 2% Asian partners.”
Becoming aware of such inadequacies is the first step in addressing them. In addition, this sort of a database is likely to help students, universities and clients decide how to chart their life courses on a healthier path and, as such, will prove useful.
To learn more, go here: http://abovethelaw.com/2011/05/new-data-on-law-firm-diversity/
To learn more about the non-profit, go here: http://betterlegalprofession.org/mission.php