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Black Law Students / Re: Clerking??
« on: April 07, 2009, 08:07:25 AM »
I think you should be able to get something, although having a short list certainly decreases your odds.  Not being on a journal isn't that much of a hindrance coming from YLS, esp. for district court clerkships, although I will admit that it's kind of odd given how many journals we have and the fact that most people did at least one first semester.  Working a year or two won't really matter one way or the other, since it's so common, although it might be useful to the extent that you develop a relationship with someone that knows a judge personally.  I would suggest applying for clerkships in the early summer and really tailoring your cover letters to the judges that you're considering.  Highlight your strengths and connect them to something about the judge.  You would also increase your chances by saying that you'd be willing to clerk for either the 2010 or 2011 clerkship year.  For instance, my judge has already finished hiring for 2010, so if you said that that was all you wanted, then the clerks would probably screen you out.

As for district v. appellate, both have their advantages.  District is great if you want to get a good feel for motions practice and see a trial in action.  Appellate is great for learning how to comb through a record and assess (and develop) points of's much more academic (but with real-world impact).  Some district court judges will "ride circuit" and sit on an appellate panel once a year or so, in which case you can also get a taste of what an appellate clerkship is like.  Having made it through 8 mos of my appellate clerkship, I can say that the experience is awesome.  I was indifferent between appellate and district coming in...and honestly, I still am.  That said, when I was applying, I went back and forth between doing 1 or 2 years of clerking (i.e., district then appellate), and now I'm absolutely sure that I'd want to do only one year.  Lol I'm tired of being poor.

Thanks Alci.  ;D

Being poor is not so bad ITE. Everyone is :)

In all seriousness, your reply is very helpful. I know I've talked with you about this in the past and your answers have always been very illuminating.

Glad you clarified that you've spoken to Alci in the past. He was the first person who came to mind when you posted your issue.
Is it correct to assume that you would now recommend some journal involvement for most law students? (Or just for those who might later consider clerking?)
Also, congrats and good luck.

Where Are Black Law Students?

Black Excel created the telling list below based on "diversity" data collected by
U.S. News Report for specific law schools for 2003. Go to the link below for the
latest data.

• Howard University (DC)---88%
• CUNY, Queens College-NYC---15%
• Rutgers State University-Newark, NJ---15%
• Thomas M. Cooley Law School (MI)---23%
• George Washington University (DC)---12%
• Touro College (Jacob D. Fuchsberg)---11%
• Georgetown University (DC)---10%
• Vanderbilt University (TN)---13%
• University of Maryland---11%
• Catholic University of America (DC)---9%
• Duke University (NC)--9%
• Loyola University of New Orleans---11%
• Oklahoma City University--7%
• Tulane University (LA)---10%
• University of Baltimore (MD)--14%
• University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill--10%
• Florida Coastal School of Law---11%
• Temple University (PA)--7%
• University of Cincinnati--9%
• University of Buffalo (NY)--7%
• University of Arkansas--10%
• Washington & Lee University (VA)---13%
• Ohio State University---8%
• College of William and Mary (VA)--9%
• John Marshall Law School (IL)--7%
• Indiana University (Bloomington) ---7%
• Indiana University (Indianapolis)--9%
• Wayne State University (MI)--10%
• Georgia State University---10%
• University of Georgia---11%
• University of Dayton (OH)--6%
• University of Detroit (Mercy)--11%
• University of Tennessee--12%
• Louisiana State University--10%
• University of Memphis---10%
• Mercer University (GA)---9%
• Capitol University (OH)---8%

For the lastest date, go to

March 11, 2009
Study Offers a New Test of Potential Lawyers
Just what makes a good lawyer? In trying to answer that question, professors at the University of California, Berkeley, have come up with a test that they say is better at predicting success in the field than the widely used Law School Admission Test.

The LSAT, as the half-day exam is known, does not claim to predict much beyond a student’s performance in law school. But critics contend that it does not evaluate how good a lawyer someone will be and tests for the wrong things. They also say it keeps many black and Hispanic students — who tend to have lower scores — out of the legal profession.

Marjorie M. Shultz, a law professor who retired last year from Berkeley and is one of the study’s authors, said she began to examine the issue after California voters approved Proposition 209, which banned consideration of race in admissions.

“Proposition 209 and the reduced numbers of minority admits prompted me to think hard about what constitutes merit for purposes of law school admission, and to decide LSAT was much too narrow, as well as having big adverse impact,” Professor Shultz said.

The Law School Admissions Council, which administers the LSAT, helped finance Professor Shultz’s research, which has not appeared in any scholarly journals. Nonetheless, Wendy Margolis, a council spokeswoman, defended the LSAT, saying that how a student does in law school “has a great deal to do with ultimate success as a lawyer.”

Ms. Margolis added, “We think it would be difficult to predict success as a lawyer prior to law school.”

But that is exactly what Professor Shultz and Prof. Sheldon Zedeck, a colleague in the university’s psychology department, wanted to do.

To find out what applicant traits should figure in admissions decisions at law schools, they coordinated individual interviews, focus groups and ultimately a survey of judges, law school professors, law firm clients and hundreds of graduates of Berkeley’s law school.

They asked, among other things, “If you were looking for a lawyer for an important matter for yourself, what qualities would you most look for? What kind of lawyer do you want to teach or be?”

The survey produced a list of 26 characteristics, or “effectiveness factors,” like the ability to write, manage stress, listen, research the law and solve problems. The professors then collected examples from the Berkeley alumni of specific behavior by lawyers that were considered more or less effective.

Using the examples, Professor Shultz and Professor Zedeck developed a test that could be administered to law school applicants to measure their raw lawyerly talent.

Instead of focusing on analytic ability, the new test includes questions about how to respond to hypothetical situations. For example, it might describe a company with a policy requiring immediate firing of any employee who lied on an application, then ask what a test taker would do upon discovering that a top-performing employee had omitted something on an application.

More than 1,100 lawyers took the test and agreed to let the researchers see their original LSAT scores, as well as grades from college and law school.

The study concluded that while LSAT scores, for example, “were not particularly useful” in predicting lawyer effectiveness, the new, alternative test results were — although the new test was no better at predicting how well participants would do in law school. Unlike the LSAT, the new test did not produce a gap in scores among different racial or ethnic groups.

But participants might have performed differently on it, had they taken the test when they were applying to law school. Professor Shultz said this was one reason the next step in the research should include tracking test takers over time, from when they apply to law school through their careers.

David E. Van Zandt, dean of the law school at Northwestern, said he would welcome a supplement to the LSAT to evaluate applicants, a sentiment echoed by other law school deans.

John H. Garvey, dean of Boston College Law School and past president of the Association of American Law Schools, said, “It would be good for us and for other schools to have other measures that complement the LSAT and that would help us identify promising candidates.”

While his school’s admissions decisions involved much more than just LSAT scores — grades, work experience, recommendations and the like — Mr. Garvey said that more and possibly better predictive information would be helpful.

“Everybody would be happy for that,” he said. “There is not that much magic in the LSAT that we wouldn’t be willing to add to it to accomplish our more important goals.”

Both Professor Shultz and Ms. Margolis, the Law School Admission Council spokeswoman, said the next step was to survey lawyers nationwide, not just alumni of Berkeley, to test the measures of lawyer quality in a bigger pool.

Sept. 30
A Crack in the Dominance of the LSAT?

While more and more colleges are questioning the use of the SAT, the use of standardized tests for law and medical school admissions is much more widely accepted. The American Bar Association, for example, views the use of admission tests as a key way to measure the suitability of law schools for accreditation. And as a result, the Law School Admission Test is routinely required by law schools.

As a result, more than a few eyebrows have been raised in the past few days by word that the University of Michigan’s law school will start admitting a small share of its class without LSAT scores. Michigan says that the goal of its Wolverine Scholars program is to attract more students from its home state. But because Michigan’s law school is considered to be among the best in the country and because the LSAT is so routinely a major part of law school admissions, the move is attracting scrutiny in the legal blogosphere.

By no means is Michigan abandoning the LSAT. The program is open only to Michigan undergraduates with a grade point average of at least 3.8. Sarah C. Zearfoss, assistant dean of the law school and its director of admissions, said that only about 5-10 students will be admitted this way, out of a class of 360, and that the primary goal is to attract more Michigan students. Michigan’s law school is unusual among public law schools in its relatively low proportion of in-state residents — 22 percent. (By comparison 70 percent of students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law school are from the state; at the University of California at Los Angeles, the figure is 60 percent.)

Michigan’s description of its new programs gives this explanation for why it is not requiring the LSAT: “The law school’s in-depth familiarity with Michigan undergrad curricula and faculty, coupled with significant historic data for assessing the potential performance of Michigan undergrads at the Law School, will allow us to perform an intensive review of the undergraduate curriculum of applicants, even beyond the typical close scrutiny we devote, and have confidence in our ability to assess an applicant’s academic strengths and the likelihood of outstanding engagement with the law school. For this select group of qualified applicants, therefore, we will omit our usual requirement that applicants submit an LSAT score.”

Many law school bloggers have jumped to the conclusion that the law school is trying to improve its rankings in U.S. News by attracting students with very high grades but perhaps those students who wouldn’t score well on the LSAT. In this scenario, Michigan gets more points for a higher GPA and its LSAT average could rise, too. (Both grade and LSAT medians are part of the magazine’s methodology for law schools.) Michigan’s move is being called “a new low in ‘gaming’ the U.S. News rankings,” and there is much speculation that this is all about the magazine.

Zearfoss said there is no such strategy at work. The number of students who will be admitted this way is such a “fractional sliver” of the class that “this couldn’t be a successful route for manipulating the rankings, even if we were so inclined,” she said. Michigan has “well considered policy objectives” for the program, she said, adding that the law school has never made decisions based on “blind obeisance to rankings.”

She said it was surprising to find so much skepticism at “one very small outside-the-box” move by a law school, especially when “many organizations are examining the appropriate use of standardized tests.”

In fact some experts on standardized tests agree that what’s significant here isn’t the rankings, but the idea that a top law school would go on record saying that it’s possible to make informed admissions decisions, even in a minority of cases, without the LSAT.

Robert Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, called the move “a step in the right direction.” He said he believes Michigan and other law schools don’t even need such a high GPA to make such a shift, but that the principle involved is what’s important. “Top-notch performance in a rigorous undergraduate curriculum is a better predictor of readiness for graduate school than any multiple-choice exam,” he said.

He also said that, for all the concern among educators about the hysteria over SAT scores and the growth of the test-prep industry, things are even worse for professional school testing, which he said “makes the pre-SAT frenzy look mild — nearly every person who sits for the LSAT, MCAT or GMAT has paid for some form of coaching.”

Law schools that don’t use the LSAT are shunned by the ABA. The refusal of the Massachusetts School of Law to require the LSAT was among several disputes that led to years of fighting with the ABA over its refusal to accredit the non-traditional law school. (Having lost in court, at this point the law school says it no longer wants ABA recognition and can operate without it.) The Massachusetts School of Law requires all applicants to have interviews and to take an essay test it has developed, and argues that its method helps to identify talented students who might not have earned great LSAT scores.

Lawrence R. Velvel, the dean of the school, said that the LSAT “is all about elitism — it’s about saying your law school is better than another law school because you have better LSAT scores.” While Velvel said his law school does not track students’ race and ethnicity, he said that well more than one fourth of students are from minority groups and that many students come from relatively modest economic backgrounds. The “interests of the public at large,” he said, demand that law schools not rely on tests on which wealthy students have advantages.

Asked about Michigan’s new program, he said, “I don’t care what Michigan does because we’ve known for 20 years that we are right. I simply consider that Michigan is the first very small inroad in the rest of law schools to doing what we know is right, and what is increasingly taking place in fields other than law.”

Michael A. Olivas, a professor of law at the University of Houston who has served on many national committees on legal education, said it was important not to overstate the significance of Michigan’s move. He noted that Bowdoin College went SAT-optional decades ago and for a long time, not many colleges followed, and even today, SAT-optional isn’t the norm for highly competitive colleges. So Olivas predicted a “modest” impact.

Still, he said that just as Bowdoin “got people thinking,” Michigan will also prompt other law schools to think about their approaches. “It’s a good idea to have alternatives floating around,” he said.

One person who thinks that Michigan is making a mistake is Ellen Rutt, associate dean for admissions at the University of Connecticut’s law school and chair of the Law School Admissions Council, which runs the LSAT. She noted that the ABA requires a test and said that LSAT was “the gold standard.”

In addition, Rutt questioned how Michigan would respond if many students with high grades applied, as could be possible at an institution as large as that university. “You have to discriminate among them somehow,” she said. “I think they are losing something very crucial to the admissions process” for “comparability” and providing “greater precision in predicting first-year performance,” she said.

— Scott Jaschik


Michigan law school’s plan to waive the LSAT
Skip the LSAT, Head Straight to Law School!


Posted By Dan Slater On September 25, 2008 @ 5:07 pm In Law School

UPDATE: Given all the hand-wringing over Michigan law school’s plan to waive the LSAT for Michigan undergrads who have at least a 3.8 GPA, we rang up Sarah Zearfoss, the dean of admissions, to get the inside dope.

“When it comes to this ‘gaming the rankings’ allegation,” says Zearfoss, “I think there are two important pieces. First, the number of people I’m contemplating admitting [on the Wolverine Scholars Program] is between 5 and 10. We have a first-year class of 360. So it wouldn’t have any effect on the LSAT median, and I don’t see how it could have any effect on the GPA median either. Second, there are only 200 people in the entire University of Michigan junior class who have a GPA of 3.8 or higher. Obviously, most of them don’t want to apply to law school, and of those who do, many won’t choose this program.”

She continued: “So if gaming the rankings isn’t our motive, then the question is, what is our motive? Michigan is in an unusual position. We’re a national school and a public institution. We know, from all kinds of anecdotal evidence, that our position as a national school often discourages people in our own backyard from applying. This is a way for me to to signal that I view Michigan as a strong institution.”

So why is 3.8 the magic GPA? “We looked at a lot of historical data,” explained Zearfoss, “and that’s the number we found where, regardless of what LSAT the person had, they do well in the class. As you get below that number, there’s a little less certainty.”
_____________________________ ____________________

Imagine this: No six-week LSAT review course. No struggling with those blasted “logic” problems. No horrendous pre-game anxiety dreams in which you show up at the testing site without pants or No. 2 pencils (or maybe that was just us).

A world of LSAT-free law school admission is coming to Michigan law school, according to a report on its Web site announcing the Wolverine Scholars Program. Here’s how it works: UM undergrads who have at least completed their junior year and at most are scheduled to graduate in Winter or Spring 2009 and who have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.80 are eligible to apply to the law school without taking the LSAT.

The Web site says:

      The Law School’s in-depth familiarity with Michigan undergrad curricula and faculty, coupled with significant historic data for assessing the potential performance of Michigan undergrads at the Law School, will allow us to perform an intensive review of the undergraduate curriculum of applicants . . . and have confidence in our ability to assess an applicant’s academic strengths and the likelihood of outstanding engagement with the Law School. For this select group of qualified applicants, therefore, we will omit our usual requirement that applicants submit an LSAT score. . .Because we wish to encourage broad participation in this program, we will waive the usual application fee for anyone applying under the Wolverine Scholars program.

Columbia, Missouri |
Achievement gap
Black students fall behind

By HENRY J. WATERS III, Publisher, Columbia Daily Tribune
Published Friday, November 14, 2008

"Lawson and Stephens have talked about building a target school or classrooms for failing black students led by blacks." ???

Achievement gap
Black students fall behind

By HENRY J. WATERS III, Publisher, Columbia Daily Tribune
Published Friday, November 14, 2008

Despite the 2003 transformation of West Boulevard Elementary to a "model school" focused on closing the achievement gap between black and white students, recent test results show the problem has worsened. MAP scores show blacks now do worse in Columbia schools than across the state and the gap is even wider here, partly because local white students outperform their statewide peers. Nothing wrong with white outperformance, of course, so the issue is poor performance by blacks, not merely the achievement gap.

During the five years of the experiment, the district spent more each year per student at West Boulevard than elsewhere on extraordinary efforts aimed at raising test scores among the school’s minority population, without the desired result. Now Chief Academic Officer Sally Beth Lyon says the district will "go back to square one," reappointing its Achievement Gap Task Force.

School board member Steve Calloway says the district is failing "some of our kids." Rosie Tippin says the district doesn’t understand black kids. Black boys in particular think education is not cool, she says, so they conscientiously remain dumb. Calloway and Tippin are the black members of the board.

From an outside perspective, it seems more accurate to say black kids are failing themselves by not taking advantage of the opportunity offered by Columbia Public Schools. The school district should do anything it can to improve the learning level of all students, particularly the lowest achievers, but it’s not fair to say the district is failing.

Except in this important regard: Columbia schools lack black male teachers and other mentors.

If this is a failure, it is widespread. School districts everywhere struggle to hire black male teachers, so rare is the breed. But, as local activists Lorenzo Lawson and Nathan Stephens point out, this is a crucial factor leading to poor achievement among black students, particularly boys, and when boys opt out, girls usually are close behind.

I’ve discussed this issue often with Lawson and Stephens and have become convinced they are absolutely right. A few black kids can succeed in a district like ours, but it’s an extraordinary achievement. The youngster has to literally escape his own culture to succeed in a white school, and despite the presence of growing numbers of black students, Columbia schools can accurately be described as white, meaning the role models, the authority groups, are essentially white.

One can say it’s up to the black students to take advantage of what these whites are offering, which is everything one can expect, but they can’t fill the crucial peer model role.

Lawson and Stephens have talked about building a target school or classrooms for failing black students led by blacks. Sadly, we have such a student clientele, and public money is available for their continuing education if they can be kept in the system.

An ethnic role model presence is necessary. No such presence will be created using the traditional methods even our good school system uses. Until the district is ready to look further, the achievement gap will persist. To their credit, local school officials have tried hard with traditional approaches that, in retrospect, were bound to fail. Now, what do they have to lose by talking with Lorenzo and Nathan? They are thoughtful men who have some pertinent ideas, if our minds are open enough to let them in.

Black Law Students / Re: Post Your Interesting News Articles Here
« on: November 20, 2008, 05:17:30 PM »
Connecticut Post

Lawyer: Alcohol testing device is racist

Staff writer
Updated: 11/20/2008 12:17:25 AM EST

A lawyer representing a man arrested in Fairfield for drunken driving says the state's breathalyzers discriminate against black people.

"They are KKK in a box," said lawyer James O. Ruane of Shelton. "We really have some racist machines here."

Ruane represents Tyrone Brown, 40, of Burritt Avenue, Norwalk, who was arrested April 9 by the state police on Interstate 95 in Fairfield and charged with drunken driving.

A breath analysis administered at state police Troop G in Bridgeport found Brown had a blood-alcohol content of 0.188. The legal limit is 0.08.

In a motion filed Tuesday in Superior Court, Ruane asked a judge to suppress his client's breathalyzer test results, contending the device used by the state police, and most other local police departments, the Intoxilyzer 5000, discriminates against blacks. Brown is an African-American.

Assistant State's Attorney Mark Durso declined comment on the motion.

Ruane claims the lung capacity of a black man is 3 percent smaller than a white man and, therefore, black men's test results vary from the sobriety standard set by the device.

He said Dr. Michael Hlastala, a lung physiologist at the University of Washington, examined research of other lung physiologists and, based on his studies, has determined the Intoxilyzer 5000 does not effectively test the blood-alcohol content of black men.

"He looked at all the research and came up with the bigger picture and found the common
thread," he said.

Ruane said he intends to have Hlastala testify on Brown's behalf.

"The data is very clear," he said.

Black Law Students / Re: 1L's & Current Black Law Students
« on: November 11, 2008, 08:23:23 AM »
Thanks!  Although you'll have to forgive this old man for being amused by the congrats for making law review 2.5 years ago :D.

Hey that's one thing that never seems to get old though in our profession oddly enough.  I've been in practice for over a year and recruiters still call me talking about "I see you made law review. Congrats."   :D

Hats off to you both.

"Of the 420 black students who entered the top 18 law schools in 1991, only 24 of them would have been admitted in the absence of affirmative action."


"Defending the Race"
by David Orland     
A Review of John McWhorter’s Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, The Free Press (New York, 2000).

This is a great moment for black America. In ways that would have been unthinkable just 30 years ago, black Americans today enjoy a place at the table of public life. Institutional barriers to black advancement are long departed. Jim Crow is dead. More black students graduate high school and university than ever before, swelling the ranks of the robust and growing black middle class. And white racism, once a virtual given in any encounter between the races, is today a marginal phenomenon, the preserve of a tiny band of closely monitored and universally reviled yahoos. On almost every indicator, black America seems close to attaining the mountaintop famously evoked by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every indicator but one, that is. Despite the apparent strides made in the direction of social equality, black college students continue to post starkly lower test scores and grades than their white and Asian counter-parts. It has long been assumed that academic performance is a function of wealth: that the greater the number of middle class or better families in a given population, the greater the number of academically successful children it will produce. And yet as any number of recent studies have shown, the conventional wisdom fails in the case of African-Americans. Though the children of middle class black families do perform at a higher level than those of their co-ethnics who are impoverished, they still perform significantly worse than the similarly placed children of white and Asian families.

In Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, John McWhorter, a Professor of Linguistics at UC, Berkeley, attempts to unravel and resolve this great irony of contemporary African-American life. According to McWhorter, the persistent under-performance of black students is the result, not of poverty or white racism, but of such culture-internal features of black American life as a sense of separateness and a deep-seated strain of inherited anti-intellectualism. "My aim," McWhorter writes, "is to show that while there is a reason beyond laziness or mental unfitness that the black kids in front of the Lexus are unlikely to be stars in school, that reason is not class ... we have expectations of blacks so different from those we have of other groups for a reason: because of something specific to black culture." It is a bold thesis and one which has earned McWhorter, who is himself black, more than a few enemies....

Yolanda Young
Law Firm Segregation Reminiscent of Jim Crow
Posted March 17, 2008 | 11:35 AM (EST)

At Georgetown University Law Center, I studied Constitutional Law with Father Robert Drinan. Having served paradoxically as both a priest and a Congressman, he was an apt guide through the maze of cases--Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, and the Bakke decision--that underscored the dichotomy between justice and law when race and power clash.

After graduating from law school, I sold my first book to Random House for a six-figure advance, lectured at Vassar and did commentary for NPR. Today I host the video blog, and write frequently for newspapers. Still, a writer's income is inconsistent, so I've always kept my resume on file with legal placement agencies. Three years ago, a recruiter suggested a staff attorney position at Covington & Burling LLP as a "great opportunity." And it experience the race/power dynamic firsthand.

Staff attorneys are non-partner track lawyers who handle the menial legal tasks--generating binders and attaching "relevant" or "not relevant" codes to thousands of emails, spreadsheets, and any other documents associated with a particular case--that associates shun. While paralegals have their own offices, as many as ten staff attorneys share windowless file rooms. Segregated from other lawyers in the firm, we go uninvited to attorney-only firm functions and are not provided jury duty or maternity leave. The base pay and bonus structure is half that of a 25 year old first year associate's.

Blacks at Covington comprise less than 5% of the Washington office's partners and associates, but make up 30% of its staff attorneys. A peek at the firm's website doesn't reveal this since, unlike all other lawyers there, staff attorneys aren't pictured. Were they, a peculiar pattern would emerge.

In a Legal Times essay, "The Unqualified Myth," Veta T. Richardson, Executive Director of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association wrote, "Law firms claim to have consistent hiring criteria, but their ranks are actually filled with exceptions to the rule. These exceptions are more likely to be white lawyers." Indeed, Covington's black staff attorneys (like its black partners and associates) hail from top law schools like Harvard, Duke and Georgetown while several white associates and partners attended schools like Catholic, Kentucky and Villanova (all ranked well below 50). Taken as a whole, the black staff attorneys' average law school rank is higher than that of white staff attorneys at the firm.

Blacks bought into the notion, stressed by legal literature, ranking systems and law firm recruiting departments, that investing in a top legal education is paramount for those wishing to work at top law firms. It's disheartening to then discover that the black student who borrows $120,000 to attend Georgetown will only earn half that of the white associate who's paid $60,000 to attend the University of Maryland.

Covington began stockpiling its staff attorney ghetto with blacks and other minorities in 2005, shortly after the General Council of some of the country's largest companies joined Roderick A. Palmore, Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary of Sara Lee in taking a tougher stance on law firm diversity. Signed by hundreds of General Counsel, this new "Call to Action" states they will retain firms that demonstrate a level of diversity reflective of their employees and customers and end their relationship with firms "whose performance consistently evidences a lack of meaningful interest in being diverse."

Covington has certainly diversified its firm; however, its attorneys are far from equals. The vast majority of Covington's black attorneys do no substantive work, have no control over their case assignments and no opportunity for advancement. This seems to be just the sort of structure the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission warned against in its 2003 "Diversity In Law Firms" report which stated, "In large, national law firms, the most pressing issues have probably shifted from hiring and initial access to problems concerning the terms and conditions of employment, especially promotion to partnership."

Palmore has made clear that in drafting the "Call", his hope was that rather than utilize minority attorneys solely to satisfy a billables requirement, firms would use diversity to advance a firm's culture so that a variety of perspectives influence how a firm functions. It is clear that when true diversity is absent, a dysfunctional work place arises, one in which even purveyors of racial jokes are tolerated.

At a staff meeting to address concerns regarding a colleague's reading aloud a Wikipedia list of racial slurs, the staff attorney manager downplayed the incident then recalled how as a child when his pet monkey got out of its cage, his mother never cared about the why or how. She simply wanted it not to happen. The analogy was ill-advised but the inference clear--rather than rooting out racism in the workplace, he only cared that the offender cease the behavior and the offended desist complaining about it.

One might wonder, "Why do blacks stand for such monkey business?" Because they know that to object, one risks ruining one's career. In the law review article, "Why Are There So Few Black Lawyers in Corporate Law Firms? An Institutional Analysis," authors David Wilkins and Mitu Gulati assert that black lawyers lack mentors who can protect them.

Recently, I contacted the black graduates from my law school class to find out how others were fairing in the legal profession. Many are working in government, a few have been very successful at careers outside the law and some are in-house attorneys. Nearly all who'd had experience in a large firm environment expressed chagrin, sighting instance after instance of suspect treatment. Of the few still at firms, I could only find one out of a class of more than 50 blacks who had made partner at a large law firm. How'd he accomplish this? "Sure I worked hard, made myself indispensable, but I'm not going to say I'm the only person who's ever done that. You have to have a Partner willing to be an advocate for you. I had several actually. There was a black partner who was helpful, but my most vocal advocate was a Jewish guy who made sure I stayed on track."

Absent a mentor, it's easy to be derailed. On August 14th, at 10am, I was told that I was being laid off. I received no severance and my computer was switched off at noon. Since then I have been resisting the impulse to question whether Covington's staff attorney policy is unfair to blacks and other minorities. It's a question no black professional wants to confront. We know the eye-rolling and impatient sighs the issue provokes. To protest, one faces reproach and career suicide. Firms know this and bank on everyone's silence.

Conservative columnists like Stuart Taylor Jr. have suggested that minorities aren't bringing discrimination lawsuits against law firms because disparate treatment doesn't exist, but try this logic.

Black attorneys know law firms have the resources to crush an adversary. It is possible that Covington or, more specifically, the partner charged with managing our group were not bias. Perhaps he was simply inept, better equipped for his other firm duties -- planning Friday Happy Hours, organizing the firm's NCAA pool and choosing the band for the office Holiday party. Even he remarked that it took him 17 years to make partner. Unfortunately, blacks don't get to stick around that long. I wish Father Drinan was still alive to help me make sense of this.
Ex-Staff Attorney Takes Aim at BigLaw Minority Hiring
Posted by Dan Slater

Covington began stockpiling its staff attorney ghetto with blacks and other minorities in 2005, shortly after the General Council [sic] of some of the country’s largest companies [took] a tougher stance on law firm diversity. . . . Covington has certainly diversified its firm; however, its attorneys are far from equals. The vast majority of Covington’s black attorneys do no substantive work, have no control over their case assignments and no opportunity for advancement. — Yolanda Young, The Huffington Post
In recent years, major companies like Wal-Mart and Sara Lee have directed that their outside law firms increase the number of women and minorities among associate and partner ranks. The effort began when Roderick A. Palmore, Sara Lee’s general counsel, wrote a letter encouraging other GC’s to end or limit “relationships with firms whose performance consistently evidences a lack of meaningful interest in being diverse.”

Since then reports have varied as to how successful firm diversification efforts have been. But, according to Yolanda Young, who worked briefly as a staff attorney at Covington & Burling’s D.C. office, they’ve not been successful. In yesterday’s HuffPo, Young writes that Covington hired blacks into its staff attorney program after the call for greater diversity.

“Covington’s black staff attorneys (like its black partners and associates) hail from top law schools like Harvard, Duke and Georgetown, while several white associates and partners attended schools like Catholic, Kentucky and Villanova (all ranked well below 50),” claims Young. “Taken as a whole, the black staff attorneys’ average law school rank is higher than that of white staff attorneys at the firm.” Young writes that blacks at Covington ....

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