Minority Issues

Congratulations to the “Minority 40 Under 40.” This is a distinguished group of 40 minority lawyers, all under the age of 40, who have just been honored by the National Law Journal for their accomplishments within the legal profession.

Let’s learn more about them. Maybe you have friends or colleagues on the list?

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Poor little white boy.

According to a new study by UCLA law professor Richard Sander, discussed in an article in the Denver University Law Review, “the vast majority of American law students come from relatively elite backgrounds; this is especially true at the most prestigious law schools, where only five percent of all students come from families whose SES [socioeconomic status] is in the bottom half of the national distribution.”

In other breaking news, studies show that the vast majority of people who get into water emerge wet.

It’s beyond obvious that American law schools favor the elite. Talent will take you far, but having a financially sound family will take you farther. Professor Sander — whose prior research on law school prestige generated lots of buzz last year — argues that schools should use socioeconomic factors as a partial substitute for racial preferences.

Well, that’s a false choice if I ever heard one. Why can’t we have both socioeconomic and race-based affirmative action? Look, you can accuse me of playing the “race card” if you want to, but I’m just trying to figure out a way to help white people get into law school….

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What do Proskauer Rose and Ropes & Gray have in common (besides the seven shared letters in their firm names)?

  • They are both leading law firms.
  • They both have major presences, their two biggest offices, in New York and Boston.

  • They both have blue and gray in their logos.
  • And they are both involved in litigation with former employees claiming employment discrimination.

Let’s take a look at the latest news — a fresh lawsuit filed against Proskauer, and updates in a lawsuit against Ropes that we’ve previously covered….

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Most people around here will remember the story of Stephanie Grace (a.k.a. Crimson DNA). She wrote a racist — albeit private — email to a frenemy that eventually got out and went viral.

The general public tends to be surprised when allegedly intelligent Harvard students spew racist tripe, and I think that’s why the Grace story became mainstream news. The story wasn’t a “teachable moment” or a deep look at the racism that even the very best education can’t seem to stamp out. It was just a story about another white person who had a low opinion of black people. That happens all the time, especially at Harvard Law. HLS has a long and storied history of admitting people who end up insulting the entire black community at the school.

The lesson, if anything, from the Stephanie Grace saga, is that things worked out for her. She got a clerkship with Alex Kozinski and she seems to be doing well. Things always work out for these kind of high profile, well-educated people who happen to harbor racist thoughts. Things worked out for Kiwi Camara, another Harvard Law student who managed to be shockingly and publicly racist while he was at school.

Because if you go to Harvard Law School, there is really no kind of ignorant, racist statement you can make that somebody in power in the legal community won’t defend. A white Harvard Law student could shoot Medgar Evers and there would be some professor or judge eager to defend the kid and give him or her a second chance.

Don’t believe me? Get back to me in three years when we see what happens to the self-styled “Harvard Law Caveman” who apparently woke up two weeks ago and decided it’d be a fabulous idea to start a racist blog….

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At the Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference, sponsored by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), there was a great lunchtime discussion called “Her Stories: The Evolving Role of Women in Business and Law.” It featured a panel of heavy hitters: two women currently serving as general counsel to Fortune 500 companies, and a third who previously served as GC to no fewer than four Fortune 500 companies over her career.

What does their rise say about the changing role of women in the corporate legal world? How did they get to their lofty perches? And what advice would they offer to lawyers aspiring to such successful careers?

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Yesterday I participated in a panel at the Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference, sponsored by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), entitled “Attitudes & Opinions: Generation Y Speaks about their Workplace in 10 Years.” The spirited discussion covered a wide range of topics relating to Gen Y’s workplace attitudes.

I also attended a number of other interesting events. In the afternoon, I checked out “Special Considerations: The In-House Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Lawyer Experience.”

If you’re interested in LGBT issues or in-house diversity issues, keep reading to find out what the panelists had to say….

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Kyle Bristow

Last year, we wrote about Kyle Bristow, a student at the University of Toledo College of Law. Bristow had been the chairman of the Young Americans for Freedom student chapter at Michigan State University when he was in college. The MSU-YAF was designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Hey, we’re living in a world where convicted murders get to go to law school. We can’t be surprised when the chairman of a so-called “hate group” gets in too.

But admitting a student with Bristow’s… colorful past, and holding him out as a representative of the law school, are two very different things. Toledo now seems strangely comfortable promoting Bristow and his views.

It’s an interesting choice. One that Toledo is certainly free to make. One that students who want to go to law school in an environment welcoming to minorities might want to notice….

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Daniel Watkins: cleared of all charges.

Back in May, around the time of the Johnathan Perkins craziness at UVA Law School, we wrote about stalking and assault charges leveled against another UVA law student (and friend of Perkins), Daniel Paul Watkins. An ex-girlfriend and female classmate claimed that Daniel Watkins assaulted and threatened her.

At the time, we quoted a friend of Watkins who counseled caution in reacting to the charges. This source stated that “there is another side to the story, which has yet to surface,” and that observers should “keep an open mind” and “not pass judgment too quickly.”

As it turns out, these words were prescient. A judge just dismissed all of the charges against Daniel P. Watkins….

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LeRoy Pernell

When the statistics tell you that virtually every black college will be in noncompliance, it’s a matter of grave concern.

LeRoy Pernell, dean of Florida A&M University College of Law, commenting on the possibility of a more stringent ABA bar passage requirement for law schools.

(At present, to remain in good standing with the ABA, at least 75 percent of a law school’s graduates taking the bar in the school’s state must pass for at least three of the past five years. The new ABA proposal calls for an 80 percent bar passage rate or a rate no more than 10 percentage points lower than other law schools in the state.)

Eminem is the Jackie Robinson of rap, not some white guy trying to 'steal' black culture.

During my youth, most of the black people I knew called me an “Oreo.” Not because I liked the cookies. Apparently, I was black on the outside (obviously), but “white on the inside.” It took me a while to figure out why, since politically I don’t think I’ve ever shared a majoritarian view of things. But it turns out that simply by “speaking well,” getting good grades, and insisting on keeping my pants high enough to fully cover my ass, I was “acting white” to certain black kids. The fact that I dance for s**t, can’t hit a jump shot to save my life, and have two parents who spent more time in college than prison surely didn’t help my “street cred.”

Of course, age has taught me that I grew up around a lot of low-expectation-having black kids. Black people with self respect wouldn’t consider childhood-Elie an Oreo. A big freaking dork who should never be invited to a party, perhaps, but not an Oreo.

Now, most black people have had similar upbringings to my own (though, sadly, I’m still the most rhythmically challenged black person I know). Nowadays, my black friends say things like, “Elie, you are the only black person I know who could write a post about the Wire and see yourself as the only white guy on the show.” See, that’s not racist. That’s just funny. That black friend (oh, F-U [Redacted], by the way) wasn’t suggesting that I was an Oreo because of how I acted; he was suggesting it because of who I identified with. That’s fair game.

I bring all of this up because that crucial distinction was totally lost on a Minnesota high school. The school allowed “Wigger Day” to happen on campus, and now it is getting sued.

Yeah, apparently turning a blind eye while your students make fun of an entire culture is something that can get you sued….

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