C-level diversity officers tackle diversity in law firms

The American Lawyer sat down with five law firm diversity executives to ask them about the current events and diversity-related trends they see on the job. These C-level executives include Fenimore Fisher of DLA Piper, Yusuf Zakir of Holland & Knight, Lloyd Freeman of Archer, Paulette Brown of Locke Lord and Kori Carew of Seyfarth Shaw.

A common thread that was shared among all responses was a need for these executives to be unapologetically courageous in addressing diversity issues and working to battle them.

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Where are the Black partners in big law?

According to The American Lawyer’s recently released Diversity Scorecard, the firm with the highest percentage of minority attorneys and partners — 32.5% and 23.9%, respectively — also has zero Black partners. Let that marinate.

Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy is a 371-lawyer immigration firm with its primary office in New York. Its top prize in the diversity ranking is a step in the right direction, but I must ask, where are the Black partners?

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This big firm was criticized for lack of diversity. Now it’s No. 1 for black lawyers, new report

ABA JOURNAL — Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP came under fire for its lack of diversity when a photo of promoted partners, which appeared to include one white woman and 11 white men, was posted to social media in December 2018.

The firm found a bit of redemption in March. A report released by the nonprofit group Lawyers of Color found that Paul | Weiss had the highest percentage of black lawyers (8.27%) among the firms polled.

However, of the nearly 400 law firms studied, only 3.2% of lawyers were black, and black lawyers made up just 1.83% of partners. Big Law is working toward being more inclusive, but there is still a long way to go.

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Where are the Black Partners in Big Law?

AMERICAN LAWYER — Vivia Chen, senior columnist at The American Lawyer, wrote this week about new “unicorn” sightings in big law, and by unicorns, she means black partners. Yes, black partners are, indeed, that hard to find.

The good news is that Chen’s list of unicorns has grown some since mid-January. She makes it a point to mention that minor growth is not necessarily a win, but it is less discouraging than no growth. Who knows? Maybe big law will surprise us this year.

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Legal is getting more diverse, except at the top

black lawyer juryA record 16 percent of law firms have minority lawyers working for them, according to The Washington Post. However, minorities holding leadership positions continue to lag behind. The Minority Corporate Counsel Association says only nine percent of law firm leadership positions are held by people of color. “All these conversations and efforts are focused on diversity, but it’s just not changing at the top,” Jean Lee, president and chief executive of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, told the Post. Who’s been benefiting from years of diversity initiatives? Find out in this story from the Post.