At the 1992 Republican National Convention, Pat Buchanan announced that America was in the midst of a culture war. In his view, this war was being waged between descendents of the 60′s counter-culture and those who sought to protect “traditional” values. In the field of law, this idea found a home in (who else?) Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in Romer v. Evans, in which he famously wrote that “[t]he Court has mistaken a Kulturkampf for a fit of spite.” Something about the original German sends a shiver down the spine, doesn’t it? Anyway, we can all surely agree that these two yahoos wouldn’t know a culture war if it slapped them in the face with a bottle of Faygo soda.
There’s a real culture war going on, ninjas. And it has nothing to do with gay marrying or abortions or the third rail of American politics, cockfighting. It has to do with the FBI’s insane decision to categorize Juggalos — i.e., fans of the Insane Clown Posse hip-hop duo — as a “loosely-organized hybrid gang.” It has to do with real persecution and honest-to-God discrimination against the Juggalo people.
Luckily for me and my fellow Juggalos, Insane Clown Posse doesn’t know the meaning of backing down. And that’s not a slam at all, it’s just a turn-of-phrase. They know the meaning. They just refuse to back down. Is what I’m saying….
When it comes to the representation of women in the top positions in the legal profession, the news seems somewhat mixed. Things could be better in Biglaw. According to a recent survey, women constitute just 15 percent of equity partners — a number that has stayed roughly the same for the past 20 years.
On the in-house side of the divide, though, the news is better. Women lawyers are ascending to the post of general counsel in record numbers.
Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are well accustomed to the concept of diversity. San Franciscans embrace it. They live among and celebrate people of every race, ethnicity and nationality. They embrace every sexual orientation. And they welcome political persuasions spanning the gamut from socialist to liberal. Ah, life’s infinite diversity.
I’ve mentioned before that when I snorkeled in the Cayman Islands, I was amazed at the vast number of different species of fish. When I go to a favorite deli or café, I’m reluctant to order “the usual,” however much I might enjoy it, because I’ve always believed that variety is good. The concepts of variety and diversity present themselves to us every day.
Diversity is also an important concept for law firms, especially smaller law firms and boutiques. And this is true of “diversity” in a variety of contexts, some of which are not so obvious….
We’re entering on-campus interviewing season. If you’re a law student going through OCI, or if you’re a lawyer involved in your firm’s recruiting process, be sure to check out Above the Law’s new law student career center, a repository job search resources, and our law firm directory, where law firms get letter grades in different categories.
One area that interviewees are always interested in is diversity. Diverse attorneys — okay, that’s a bad way of putting it — minority attorneys want to know where they’ll feel welcome. Even lawyers who aren’t minorities want workplaces that are open and inclusive. And corporate clients are increasingly keen on sending their work to firms that show a commitment to diversity.
So which Biglaw firms are the biggest on diversity? Let’s check out the latest rankings….
It’s pretty well established that the people running Thomas M. Cooley Law School have no sense of shame. They invented their own stupid law school rankings and then had the audacity to rank themselves #2. They’re already the second-biggest law school in the nation, but they’re opening another campus, this time in Florida. Cooley really doesn’t care what you think (or what the graduates who are suing them think), so long as there are enough prospective law students to fill their incoming class.
As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) did a big article this weekend about law schools that are taking a thoughtful approach to class size given the challenging legal job market. In the article, Cooley evidently didn’t mind looking like the thoughtless school that does what it wants and dares somebody to stop them.
Again, if you know Cooley’s history, that’s to be expected. It’s just their hypocrisy can be a little hard to swallow…
If you’re like me, you’re happily ensconced (hmm, where have I seen that before…?) in your company’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Your company may have a Diversity Committee in place and may have implemented diverse hiring and retention practices. They may hold trainings and events intended to promote awareness. Your legal department may even encourage outside counsel to staff minority and women attorneys on matters. All good stuff.
What else is there? Last week, I attended a day-long regional meeting for a fantastic nonprofit diversity organization. Although the fees to attend their conferences and meetings (which include CLE) are hundreds of dollars, in-house counsel get to attend them for free. You just need to pay a $59 shipping and handling fee. Wait, scratch that last part. (Been watching way too many infomercials lately.)
So, which organization was this, and what great tips did I leave with on how in-house counsel can further their companies’ diversity initiatives?
Imagine you are driving down the street, and you see the police brutalizing a person already in handcuffs. Do you stop and tell the cop to stop?
I wouldn’t. I’d talk smack to the other passengers in the car, and maybe even blog about it, but there’s no way I’d stop my car and confront the officer. Why? Because I wouldn’t want what Michael and Evelyn Warren claim happened to them to happen to me.
The Warrens are both lawyers, and they claim that after stopping to criticize a police office for hitting a man in handcuffs, the officer punched them. Both of them….
The Dewey debacle is unfolding in real time on this and other sites. People’s lives are being shattered as a firm gets shuttered. It is not the first, and certainly not the last, time that a major law firm with thousands of employees will disappear into so much ether. I look back on my OCI days, and can rattle off several former NYC firms that have either merged into unrecognizability, or disappeared like Dewey is in the process of doing.
Likewise, not far from where I now sit, is the shell of Eastman Kodak — a company that built a large part of this town, and will likely become a shameful case study in the annals of business school textbooks. And yesterday, news went out that my own company is beginning another round of VRIF severance offers.
Regardless of whether you are sitting comfortably in-house, collecting pay from Biglaw, or wondering how in Hell you’re going to find a summer job, news like that mentioned above is disquieting. The main reason is that there isn’t anything that can be done. One day you’re employed, and then, well, you may not be. And there is really no place for schadenfreude in a “there but for the grace of God” economy. Careers can be dissolved as quickly as Dewey.
So, when you are forced to enter an applicant pool of thousands of other attorneys looking for a break in a seemingly unsolvable code of hiring, what can you do to set yourself apart? One possible strategy that has become a hot button issue in the past days is to claim minority status on your application. The obvious dilemma that you face as applicant number two thousand twenty-eight is whether to check such status if your lineage may or may not support the claim….
The New York Post just gave me the key to making millions of dollars. All I have to do is convince Breaking Media to fire me. Then I can say that I was fired for being an overweight African-American, and use all of the derisive comments I’ve received as evidence.
Hey, I’d just be following the strategy laid out by Earl Brown, a former AIG lawyer who claims he was discriminated against because his boss kept making Fat Albert jokes about him.
Would that the worst I heard in a given day was “hey, hey, hey”….
The evolution of relationships between the genders continues. Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind workplace where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.
Henry Ford sat on his workbench and sighed. A year earlier, he had personally built 13,000 Model Ts with his own hands. Fashioning lugnuts and tie rods by hand, Ford was loath to ask for help. Sure, there were things about the car that he didn’t quite understand. This explains the lack of reliable navigation systems in the Model T. But Ford persevered because he knew that unless he did everything, he could not reliably call these cars his own.
“Unless my own personal toil is responsible for it, it may as well be called a Hyundai,” Ford remarked at the time.
The preceding may sound unfamiliar because it is categorically untrue. And also monumentally stupid. Henry Ford didn’t build all those cars by hand. He had help and plenty of it. Almost exactly one hundred years ago, Henry Ford opened up the most technologically advanced assembly line the world had ever seen. Built on the premise that work can be chopped up into digestible pieces and completed by many men better than one, the line ushered in an age of unparalleled productivity.
Today, an attorney refers business because he can’t do everything the client asks of him.
There are three reasons why this is way dumber than a made-up Henry Ford story…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.