Law School Discussion

Nine Years of Discussion
;

Author Topic: Glass ceiling for minorities?  (Read 2118 times)

back2square1

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
Glass ceiling for minorities?
« on: December 07, 2005, 02:05:17 AM »
Hey guys,

I have been following this board for a while now but have yet to post. So here goes.

For a qualified ethnic lawyer, how low do you think the glass ceiling is (assuming there is one)... In a biglaw firm? In a small private firm? In public service? Which types of law are more minority friendly?

Personally, there has never been a doubt in my mind that there is a glass ceiling for minorities in all areas of the law, and at all firms or governmental organizations. If you take a look at the partner rosters for some of the top 10 law firms, you'll find that there are hardly any "non-traditional" profiles (names + pictures). While this is obviously due in part to the small number of minority lawyers working at these places to begin with, my gut tells me that this is not the full story. The law seems like one of those last remaining fields that has yet to embrace minority groups (or be embraced). The other lordly professions like medicine (and to a lesser extent ibanking) seem much more minority-friendly-- you hear of lots of Indian doctors or Asian bankers. But what do you think when you hear of a Hispanic, African-American, Indian, or Asian lawyer? Those words just don't jive.

This problem never really bothered me until I realized that in a little over 8 months, I too will be entering this profession. Now seems like a good time to find out what kinds of obstacles I will likely encounter. Anyways, please respond with your thoughts. As always, let's keep it respectful people. 

Groundhog

  • Global Moderator
  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 4010
    • View Profile
Re: Glass ceiling for minorities?
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2005, 06:11:59 AM »
Hispanic and black lawyers face much more difficulty in school in general, as well as law. Asian lawyers, not so much. They're a rare minority that is actually overrepresented, probably due to their culture's emphasis on education and money.

As always, I'd expect public interest law to be more open than private work. But, times are a changin', and the partners probably represent what the best of the law schools were like 30 years ago, and not today. I wouldn't be surprised if you were one of the first big minority partners, if there aren't some already. :)

Slow Blues

  • Guest
Re: Glass ceiling for minorities?
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2005, 09:17:15 AM »
I don't think it's that low. True, the ceiling still exists to an extent (not just for minorities but for women as well). The culture at many firms is still very much an 'old boys' network. That's changing without a doubt, as Groundhog said, but "non-traditional" profiles still have an uphill battle.

However, looking at the partner rosters for just the Top 10 firms is not telling you the whole story. A partnership at a jumbo firm is extremely hard to come by, regardless of color. The number of minority associates at most firms is small. The number of associates that rise to partner at someplace like Morrison Foerster is very small. So, you're not going to see a large number of minority partners anytime soon.

A partnership at a smaller firm will be easier to attain. I'd bet if you were to scan the ranks of some smaller regional firms, you will see many more minority and female partners. Over time, you will see more minorities and women at the very highest echelon in the largest firms. If you've demonstrated an ability to do good work, grow the business, and impress clients, whatever color you are, you will get promoted. If you make mistakes, miss deadlines, or annoy clients, then you don't deserve to be a partner.

I've read studies that suggest minorities are much more likely to leave private practices to go into public interest or government work. And also more likely to forsake private practice in favor of public interest law straight out of law school. That's also probably another reason why you're not seeing a lot of minority partners.

Hybrid Vigor

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 1930
  • prestigious
    • View Profile
Re: Glass ceiling for minorities?
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2005, 05:26:25 PM »
Hey guys,

I have been following this board for a while now but have yet to post. So here goes.

For a qualified ethnic lawyer, how low do you think the glass ceiling is (assuming there is one)... In a biglaw firm? In a small private firm? In public service? Which types of law are more minority friendly?

Personally, there has never been a doubt in my mind that there is a glass ceiling for minorities in all areas of the law, and at all firms or governmental organizations. If you take a look at the partner rosters for some of the top 10 law firms, you'll find that there are hardly any "non-traditional" profiles (names + pictures). While this is obviously due in part to the small number of minority lawyers working at these places to begin with, my gut tells me that this is not the full story. The law seems like one of those last remaining fields that has yet to embrace minority groups (or be embraced). The other lordly professions like medicine (and to a lesser extent ibanking) seem much more minority-friendly-- you hear of lots of Indian doctors or Asian bankers. But what do you think when you hear of a Hispanic, African-American, Indian, or Asian lawyer? Those words just don't jive.

This problem never really bothered me until I realized that in a little over 8 months, I too will be entering this profession. Now seems like a good time to find out what kinds of obstacles I will likely encounter. Anyways, please respond with your thoughts. As always, let's keep it respectful people. 

I think its hard for members of ALL minority groups in private practice - some are not "underrepresented" in law schools but I am sure that they are still underrep'd in firms and such, especially as you move up the food chain. This is particularly a problem for Asians - I think we tend to discount the discrimination we still face. Asian Americans are often perceived as being smart but not as being great communicators or leaders. In Silicon Valley, one of the most diverse industries/workforces, there are many Asians (Indian/Paki, SE and East Asians) at the lower levels, but as you move up management you see fewer and fewer faces of color. In law,  Blacks are often perceived to be moving, persuaive speakers (think Johnnie C or MLK) but of course, not thought of as being particularly smart. There are stereotypes facing every group and I don't think that the "over represented" minorities will necc have it easier, especially in firms.


As usual, I agree with SlowBlues as far as rising up the partnership ranks. I think that as long as you come correct with your work, you can move up the ladder. I've always felt that being a woman and a person of color can only help me so long as my Is are dotted and Ts crossed. As long as my work product is 2nd to none and all my other ducks are in a row - there will be nothing stopping me from getting to the top - ESPECIALLY with the big push for "diversity". If I'm the only Black/Asian/female on the partnership track, it'll be THAT much easier for the partners to remember my name :) But as someone who will have "all eyes on you" so to speak, you have MUCH smaller margin of error for making mistakes. People will be looking for a reason to bring you down, whether its subpar work or indiscretions in your private life. You can't make the same goofs as your "mainstream" peers. One big booboo will cost you your reputation. You have to think strategically about who will be able to help you, who will be looking to hurt you, and move from there. Your eyes have gotta be on the prize and not on the obstacles. I could be overly optimistic about all this, but I can't think about it any other way and still succeed.
Die Luft der Freiheit weht

back2square1

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
Re: Glass ceiling for minorities?
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2005, 07:23:25 PM »
As usual, I agree with SlowBlues as far as rising up the partnership ranks. I think that as long as you come correct with your work, you can move up the ladder. I've always felt that being a woman and a person of color can only help me so long as my Is are dotted and Ts crossed. As long as my work product is 2nd to none and all my other ducks are in a row - there will be nothing stopping me from getting to the top - ESPECIALLY with the big push for "diversity". If I'm the only Black/Asian/female on the partnership track, it'll be THAT much easier for the partners to remember my name :) But as someone who will have "all eyes on you" so to speak, you have MUCH smaller margin of error for making mistakes. People will be looking for a reason to bring you down, whether its subpar work or indiscretions in your private life. You can't make the same goofs as your "mainstream" peers. One big booboo will cost you your reputation. You have to think strategically about who will be able to help you, who will be looking to hurt you, and move from there. Your eyes have gotta be on the prize and not on the obstacles. I could be overly optimistic about all this, but I can't think about it any other way and still succeed.

Hmm, interesting thought about the "all eyes on you." I'd have to agree with you on that one. As a lawyer of colour in a room full of white people, you'll get more attention just by virtue of the way you look. But I'm just not sure that simply by crossing your t's and dotting your i's you can move up the food chain like everybody else. Again, I'm only saying this simply because I haven't SEEN all that many successful minority lawyers. But like somebody pointed out before, it's really hard to discern whether this is due to the paucity of ethnic lawyers in the first place or a selection of another sort.

I guess it remains to be seen just how much of a pure meritocracy America really is. 

Grapestomper

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 13
    • View Profile
Re: Glass ceiling for minorities?
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2005, 06:25:17 AM »
I've read studies that suggest minorities are much more likely to leave private practices to go into public interest or government work. And also more likely to forsake private practice in favor of public interest law straight out of law school. That's also probably another reason why you're not seeing a lot of minority partners.

Actually, there was a paper done by Kornhauser from NYU Law and some other guy that followed the career choices of minority law students at Michigan and NYU.  The results were that certain minority groups were actually much more likely to pursue elite firms as opposed to public interest work.  It's really a fascinating paper: if you look around on Kornhauser's site you might be able to find it. 

SCgrad

  • Guest
Re: Glass ceiling for minorities?
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2005, 07:34:31 AM »
It is still there but it is a little skewed towards people already there verses people posting on this board.  If you are of the mind that things have gotten better for minorities, that means they were worse before.  I don't think you have to go back to far into the past to see a difference.  Since getting to the top or near the top is not something you can do in a short time, you can't judge the current climate by who is at the top now. 

I'm not trying to give false hope or wish away America's problems.  Discrimination certainly still exists, but it could be a much more even playing field for the people posting on this board when they become lawyers.

aryels

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 69
  • "I think I know the formula..."
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Glass ceiling for minorities?
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2005, 08:11:37 AM »
True, the ceiling still exists to an extent (not just for minorities but for women as well). The culture at many firms is still very much an 'old boys' network.

The instructor of my Con Law course said exactly the same thing.

I also noticed during my many paralegal interviews and observations that I met with only one woman lawyer, and the others were all white men--most of whom asked little or nothing about education and skills and abilities, but seemed more interested about who I know, my marital status, etc. None of the law firms asked about letters of reference or recommendation, certificate awards, etc.
I usually felt more as if I was interviewed for a potential client/lawyer relationship and was almost always offered a business card. It seemed that the larger the firm, the less likely to make it past the front desk, while at one of the small firms I felt as if I was expected to handle my own interviews and then bill myself for the consultation fees.

The only black lawyers and one Hispanic lawyer whom I have observed (at court) were practicing criminal defense at state and federal levels.

Interestingly enough, lawyers do not discuss their own personal lives during an interview. Only two of the lawyers interviewed kept family pictures in the office. While it seemed white men could much more easily enter as an associate of a firm directly from law school, only the woman lawyer was in solo practice and, after establishing a clientele, was invited to join a law firm.

The only encouraging thought that I have concerning the matter is that one person's glass ceiling is someone else's glass floor.



"I enjoy being in school. I've learned so much already, with taking economics and law, and I have marketing and statistics coming up next."

TripleSpeed

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 15
    • View Profile
Re: Glass ceiling for minorities?
« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2005, 12:03:18 PM »
I don't think it's that low. True, the ceiling still exists to an extent (not just for minorities but for women as well). The culture at many firms is still very much an 'old boys' network. That's changing without a doubt, as Groundhog said, but "non-traditional" profiles still have an uphill battle.

However, looking at the partner rosters for just the Top 10 firms is not telling you the whole story. A partnership at a jumbo firm is extremely hard to come by, regardless of color. The number of minority associates at most firms is small. The number of associates that rise to partner at someplace like Morrison Foerster is very small. So, you're not going to see a large number of minority partners anytime soon.

A partnership at a smaller firm will be easier to attain. I'd bet if you were to scan the ranks of some smaller regional firms, you will see many more minority and female partners. Over time, you will see more minorities and women at the very highest echelon in the largest firms. If you've demonstrated an ability to do good work, grow the business, and impress clients, whatever color you are, you will get promoted. If you make mistakes, miss deadlines, or annoy clients, then you don't deserve to be a partner.

I've read studies that suggest minorities are much more likely to leave private practices to go into public interest or government work. And also more likely to forsake private practice in favor of public interest law straight out of law school. That's also probably another reason why you're not seeing a lot of minority partners.

Word.  I totally agree with you.  You're gonna be a great lawyer hope to meet u in law school.

sunfunliving

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 1052
  • My baby in Haiti....Tamarah
    • Yahoo Instant Messenger - sunfunliving
    • View Profile
    • :) Study Guide Info :)
    • Email
Re: Glass ceiling for minorities?
« Reply #9 on: December 26, 2005, 10:58:00 AM »
I was invited to attend the American Bar Association Minority Pipeline Conference. The conference was attended by mostly law school deans and admissions deans. I was asked to participate as a K-12 educator by one of the law schools that I am applying to. (I am a principal of a school, minority and am applying to law school.)

The reality is that law is dominated by white/caucasion culture. Minorities are severly underrepresented and do NOT reflect the diversity of our country. I.E. if there are 40% hispanics in one area, there should be 40% hispanics in the law field....right?

The most underrepresented minority is African America Males, next come African American Females, with Hispanic Males and Females....Asian are the highest represented minority and have made huge increases.

However, especially AA males have not made any progress in terms of numbers attending law schools.

This pipeline conference was about law schools coming together and brainstorming/coming up with programs starting as early as elementary school, to mentor students, to get them interested in law and providing them the means of being able to succeed to attend law school. Medical schools and engineering programs have been more successful than law schools. CLEO is one good program, but overall more programs need to be established and schools are working on this.

Vera :)
LSAT - The PERFECT Study Plan (2,4&6 Month PrepGuide) - ask me about it! :)

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ih=013&item=230036283031&rd=1&sspagename=STRK%3AMESE%3AIT&rd=1