On any day of the week, it’s highly likely that a Biglaw firm will be trumpeting news of its successful diversity initiatives from any available media rooftop. The public relations folks at these law firms really want you to know that their hallowed halls aren’t completely jam-packed full of old white men — in fact, only 86.1 percent of them are old white men, so there.
Given the glowing alabaster hue of most Biglaw firms, you can see where it could be difficult for members of their so-called diversity committees to actually relate to those who are considered “diverse” in law firm parlance. We’re talking about lawyers of a different gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, but in law firm world, they might as well be otherworldly beings.
We’re told that some of these foreign creatures may be working in your very own law firm. If you’d like to learn how to interact with them, feel free to take some advice from one of the most absurd diversity memos we’ve ever seen…
This weekend, we started receiving reports of a memo entitled “5 Ways to Become More Involved in K&S Diversity Initiatives” that was distributed as part of a larger report by the firm’s Diversity Committee to the members of its partnership. “I cannot believe that this was approved,” says the lawyer who first brought King & Spalding’s memo to our attention (via Jezebel). This lawyer further elaborated, noting:
Everyone I know who has seen this in my office, including our office level management, found this memo is ridiculous. … Probably well-intentioned, but absolutely poorly executed.
With that kind of ringing endorsement, we took a peek at the document to see what kind of “tips” the powers that be at K&S were doling out to their attorneys on how to get involved with its diversity initiatives. This attorney was correct in that the memo was likely well-intentioned, but “tone deaf” in its execution.
We reached out to King & Spalding for comment on this diversity debacle, but have not yet heard back.
UPDATE: Here’s a response from Samuel M. Matchett, K&S partner and diversity committee chair:
Diversity includes acknowledging and valuing differences, and we look for ways to foster an inclusive culture for everyone at our firm. We have a very active diversity program that includes formal and informal events, training, peer networking, attorney retreats, scholarships, sponsorships and other efforts. We regularly provide suggestions to our attorneys about things we can all do every day to develop closer relationships with our colleagues, and this is merely one example of that. We are proud of our mentoring and diversity programs.
This memo really should have been called “How to Interact With Human Beings at K&S.” The ideas presented are so basic as to be insulting to the “diverse” individuals in question. But let’s take a step back and remember this is a firm that considers sexual orientation an ethnicity, and that this document was distributed to the firm’s partners — the old white men who run the show.
Perhaps K&S partners really do need this guidance on how to relate to the more “diverse” lawyers at their firm. Who knows, the partners may be yukking it up as they regale each other with tales about the one time they invited a black lawyer to go for a weekend of yachting, or the 20 minutes spent talking to some women about their hopeless quest to make partner at the firm someday. This is sad, but it may be true.
Not to worry, though, because all time spent engaging with those deemed inferior is billable. Lovely.
We’re sure that all of the attorneys designated as “diverse” at King & Spalding feel much better now that they know the partners are deigning to speak to them only and because of their status as minorities.