Minority Issues

There is this automatic assumption in any legal environment that Asians will have a particular talent for bitter labor. There was this weird self-selection where the Asians would migrate toward the most brutal part of the labor…. White people have this instinct that is really important: to give off the impression that they’re only going to do the really important work. You’re a quarterback. It’s a kind of arrogance that Asians are trained not to have.

Tim Wu, Columbia law professor and author of The Master Switch, quoted in a very interesting New York magazine piece by Wesley Yang, Paper Tigers: What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends?

I wonder what Sally Hemings would say to Johnathan Perkins.

UPDATE (4 PM): The dean of UVA Law School, Paul G. Mahoney, has issued a statement about the application of the University of Virginia’s Honor System to the Johnathan Perkins incident. We have reprinted it after the jump.

White law students lie all the time and nobody makes a big deal about it, but now there’s a black law student who lies about something, and people are throwing a fit? That hardly seems right.

Look, whether or not white people want to believe it, racism is an important issue. It’s an issue that they don’t think about nearly enough. While Johnathan Perkins might have fabricated some of the details of his late-night run-in with the law (or at least university police), his goal of bringing attention to on-campus racism was laudable — and should be advanced by any means necessary.

I’m just warming up. Let me tell you what I really think about the Johnathan Perkins controversy at UVA Law School….

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Johnathan Perkins

It’s time for more race-related drama from UVA Law School. Back in February, Elie wrote about a UVA Law party that featured Confederate flag decor. Now I will tell you about a 3L’s fabricated tale of racial harassment by university police.

(Yes, Lat’s writing this story. So you can relax, UVA folks — at least for now. Maybe Elie will take a crack at it on Monday.)

In late April, Johnathan Perkins, a third-year law student at UVA, wrote a letter to the editor that was published in Virginia Law Weekly, the law school’s student newspaper. In his letter, Perkins claimed that he was harassed by UVA university police while walking home from a party, purportedly on account of his race (he’s African-American). Perkins said he was moved to share the story “because it is important for my classmates to hear a real-life anecdote illustrating the myth of equal protection under the law.”

The trouble is, it was anything but a “real-life anecdote,” as Perkins himself recently confessed….

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Talk to almost any black woman and ask her what kind of discrimination she runs up against the most: prejudice against minorities, or prejudice against women? She will probably say, “Gender discrimination, you stupid, stupid man.” I imagine you’d get a similar answer from non-black female minorities as well.

You’ll see a lot of crap if you are a minority male trying to excel professionally in this country. But a lot of it is subtle. When society craps all over women, there is no subtlety. “Show me your birth certificate.” > “Show me your [breasts].”

A new study from Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC), which we mentioned in Morning Docket, confirms what would be obvious to any man married to a woman of color (indicating). What’s slightly more surprising is that things are marginally better for minority women lawyers when they are in-house as opposed to when they’re working at a private law firm.

Actually, when you think about it, of course the in-house environment provides slightly fewer obstacles to minority females….

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Another day, another controversy over something hanging in a law school. Why is law school decor such a charged issue these days?

As some of may already know, I served as vice president of the Yale Federalist Society when I was in law school. My campaign was non-controversial. At the time, the VP was responsible for handling travel arrangements for visiting speakers, as well as for making restaurant reservations for post-talk dinners. In my speech, I talked about how much I enjoyed making travel arrangements, confessing that in high school my career goal was to become head concierge at a leading hotel. I won handily; it was a successful strategy.

I did not put up inflammatory posters that upset many members of the law school community and triggered a response from the dean — like the aspiring Fed Soc president at one midwestern law school.

Yes, we have pictures of the posters. Judge for yourself whether the posters, which have been removed, were racist and/or offensive….

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You'll bump into more black people at the Indiana State Fair than you will at the Indy Law atrium.

If you had told me at the beginning of the week that something happening at Indiana School of Law – Indianapolis would turn into a three-day Above the Law story, I would have said, “No dude, I’m not going to race-bait the Jews during Passover.”

But it turns out that my powers of racial inflammation were not needed for this Indy Law story. A student writing as “Invisible Man” managed to stoke racial passions at the school simply by finding reverse racism where few others could: in the banners hanging in the law school’s atrium. Indy Law Dean Gary Roberts found the student’s objection essentially incomprehensible, but we haven’t actually seen the law school atrium, to judge for ourselves just how oppressive these banners of black people might be to the white students that make up 80% of the Indy Law student body.

Until now. Finally, tipsters send us photos of the atrium banners, to put this whole controversy into perspective. I hope you brought your magnifying glasses to work today…

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Gary Roberts

Gary Roberts, the dean of Indiana School of Law – Indianapolis, is a bad ass. We’ve mentioned him before: we featured him in a Quote of the Day, when he said, “If you’re a law student and think you’ll make $140,000 right out of law school, you’re an idiot.” At the time I thought the line was a rare moment of honesty from just another law dean.

It would appear now that I was wrong. This is maybe just how Dean Roberts rolls, having the guts to tell the truth as he sees it to his own students.

Yesterday, we told you about the controversial email that someone calling himself “Invisible Man” sent to his fellow IndyLaw students. In the message, he claims he feels unwelcome at his law school because of three banners that prominently feature African-American law students. After our publication, the story made it around the internet, getting picked up by Jezebel and focusing people on a law school many were unfamiliar with.

Well, today Dean Roberts responded, and his message is pretty brilliant. And the copy is clean, so you can’t say I wrote it…

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I think we’ve all seen law schools or law firms conduct a “diversity campaign” through extremely selective photography. There might be only four people of color at your law school, but you can best believe that all four of them will show up in the brochure for prospective students. Your 100-person law firm might have only two brothers who can show up to work without wearing a uniform, but both of those dudes will magically end up in a central position on the law firm website.

Everybody knows the game. Black people, brown people, women, and people in the majority all know what the PR department is trying to do. Back when I was in law school, there was this sister in a wheelchair who had Harvard photographers following her around like paparazzi.

I never thought of these attempts to represent through photography what cannot be achieved in reality to be particularly problematic. I never thought that over-representing minorities in law school brochures was painful or offensive to the overwhelming majority that would therefore be underrepresented in the pictures. I guess I thought that one of the benefits of being in the majority is that you don’t need a stupid PR photo shoot to make you feel like you might be able to get through school without being discriminated against.

But maybe I was wrong about all that. Maybe there really is one law student in Indiana who is ready to blow the lid off of a serious case of reverse racism that has just been staring us right in the face…

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

Diversity matters. It matters for reasons of social justice. It matters because folks are tracking it, and it can be important to look good on those scales. It matters for reasons of trial strategy, because our defense team should look at least slightly like our jurors. In particular types of cases, diversity may be a terribly important consideration. Employers may, for example, want an African-American to defend a race discrimination case. (Or, in my old product liability life, we may have wanted women to defend breast implant or hormone replacement therapy cases. Or we may have looked for female expert witnesses for those cases. Pandering, thy name is litigator!)

Law firms know this, and those that are able now stress their commitment to diversity. Which brings me to today’s story.

A female colleague and I recently had lunch with folks from a firm that was looking for our business. (You’d be surprised how good I’m getting at those lunches. Whether or not I remember your name the next day is another matter, but I’m becoming a pro at eating.)

The outside lawyers pitched the diversity point fairly aggressively, telling us about their many highly compensated female partners and paying particular attention to my colleague when they did so.

When we left the lunch, my colleague said, “Well, that’s exactly the wrong way to sell diversity.”

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* If you root for your law school alma mater over your undergrad alma mater, you are the kind of unprincipled betrayer who deserves the very worst of all that life has to offer. [PrawfsBlawg]

* Did you know that university professors could get fired for appearing in burlesque shows? [Siouxsie Law]

* Some thoughts on what black prospective law students should consider when choosing a law school, from Yolanda Young. [On Being a Black Lawyer]

* Best. Deposition transcript. Ever. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Please, please, please, let there be many character and fitness boards who will ding this law student who stomped a bird to death. [Huffington Post]

* Happy Purim, everybody. And if you are an Irish Jew, I wish your liver the best.

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