Minority Issues

A lawyer’s letter, properly written, can be a thing of beauty. In recent months, we’ve shared with you a very funny settlement offer letter, an epic response to a cease-and-desist letter, and another C&D response that laid the smackdown on a top Biglaw firm.

But sometimes snarky letters miss the mark. Take this prospective law student’s response to a rejection letter. Some readers appreciated it, but many others (myself included) felt it went too far.

A fine line separates wit and obnoxiousness. And reasonable minds can disagree on whether a given letter embodies the former or the latter.

We recently got our hands on an amazing lawyer’s letter out of Los Angeles. It was written a while ago, but it’s only making the rounds now. What do you make of it?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From The ‘Why People Hate Lawyers’ File: An L.A. Lawyer’s Letter”

The most racist thing that happened to me in Biglaw occurred during one of my callbacks. I was being led from one partner’s office to another partner’s office by the recruiting lady at a Biglaw firm (which I won’t name). The partner who was supposed to interview me next was delayed, and so the recruiting lady and I were loitering outside his office for a second. While I’m standing there, another old white partner comes out of his office waving an inter-office mail envelope in my face. He barks, “Where have you been all day? Get this up to [some floor].” I’m in a suit, by the way. The recruiting lady is mortified, and she stammers something like, “This is Elie… he’s interviewing with us today… from HARVARD.” Without a word of apology, the partner grunts “okay,” and then shuffles back into his office, leaving the door open so I guess he could yell at the real mail guy, whenever he appeared.

Needless to say, I didn’t accept my offer with that firm.

These kinds of things happen to lawyers of color all the time. For the first year at the firm I did go to, I eschewed the “business casual” dress code and wore a full suit everyday. I just didn’t want to be mistaken for the mail guy, and was still young and stupid enough to believe that there was some kind of personal choice I could adopt that would make prejudiced white people treat me fairly.

But there’s not really anything you can do to disabuse people of their racist stereotypes. All you can do is keep on doing your thing, as this one California law student is learning…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Overcoming Stereotypes, One Study Room At A Time”

Next month, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The case will look at the constitutionality of Michigan’s 2006 ballot initiative to ban affirmative action in public university decisions. I can’t wait for John Roberts to blithely declare an end to racial struggle in Michigan the same way he decided it was okay for North Carolina to be racist again, because racism is over in the South.

Not that Roberts cares about pesky things like facts, but the facts on the ground in Michigan since the state’s ballot initiative show that without affirmative action, minority enrollment has plummeted. At the University of Michigan, minority enrollment at the college and the law school is down 30 percent.

Now, I know a lot of conservatives will respond to that number with “so?” I get that there are entire swaths of America that could give a crap if minorities are going to public universities or not. I’m sure the hatred for “undeserving” minorities will be well expressed in the comments.

Those people aren’t running the University of Michigan, however. The people running Michigan would like to admit a diverse group of students, and the state’s ballot initiative has clearly hampered that effort. For that law school, it’s a very complicated problem, because as we’ve been reporting, law school applications are down across the board, and that includes minority applicants….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Minority Enrollment Plummets Thanks To Michigan’s Anti-Affirmative Action Statute”

I do not mean to say that life as a young woman of color at a large corporate law firm felt like just one Big Marathon of Blatant Racist and Sexist Slights. The experience is, of course, far more nuanced and subtle than that, and often more insidious and harder to battle for its very sublety.

Helen Wan, author of The Partner Track (affiliate link), reflecting on the plight of minority women in Biglaw. (For additional thoughts on the subject, see Vivia Chen.)

This weekend, a black man got into a car accident, climbed out of the wreckage through the back window of his vehicle, went looking for help, and was shot to death by the police. I should also mention that the black guy was unarmed.

In a surprise twist, the police officer has been charged with voluntary manslaughter. I’m sure that the people who think it’s okay when black people get shot to death will find a way to defend the officer, and they’ll deny that race played a role in the shooting. But I’d like to think that even the people who don’t think this guy was killed because he was black can at least agree that the police can’t be allowed to gun people down in this fashion.

The police are supposed to protect and serve, not shoot to kill…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Crashing Your Car and Seeking Help While Black Is Apparently A Capital Offense”

Words are like bullets.

There’s a great episode of 30 Rock where Twofer (the black character who went to Harvard) gets offended when Tracy Morgan (the black character who did not go to Harvard) says “the n-word” to him, colloquially, as black people allegedly say to each other based on movies and music. Twofer threatens to sue Tracy Morgan for workplace harassment, while Tracy argues that it’s okay for black people to use the word. Then there’s a great, great scene where Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan try to get Twofer to say the word too.

It doesn’t go well. He says it, Morgan threatens to punch him, and Fey says, “It just sounds so hateful coming from you.” The scene pretty much explains why I personally don’t use the word. I don’t say it around white people, I don’t say it to other black people, I don’t use it when I’m getting a haircut, and I don’t use it around the dinner table with my family at Thanksgiving. It’s not a word that I can “pull off” (I can pull it off in writing when I use it ironically, I think), and I’m totally okay with that.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who sees intense hypocrisy in the fact that some black people can and do pull it off while no white person (outside of Louie C.K. and maybe Bill Maher) is allowed to try. White people got a 400-year head start in the New World, and black people can deploy an extra noun when listening to Jay-Z. There are greater tragedies.

But the N-word is not a “professional” word, and I don’t think it should be used in that context. It doesn’t matter if you are black or white or from whatever racist planet Rush Limbaugh is from. At the point where you are using the n-word to talk to your employees, you need to help yourself to a thesaurus.

Apparently, there’s a jury of my peers who agrees with me…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Jury Rules That Black People Shouldn’t Say The N-Word Either”

Marni Halasa

* Is Justice Ginsburg, our favorite judicial diva, foiling her own jurisprudential legacy by refusing to retire from the Supreme Court before another president takes office? [Daily Beast]

* Year-over-year, there’s been a double-digit drop in demand for legal services, so now is a great time to start speculating about which firm will be the next to conduct layoffs. [Am Law Daily]

* Don’t despair, the results of the Am Law Midlevel Survey are out, and associates are more satisfied than ever — except for the women. They’re “leaning out,” so to speak. [Am Law Daily]

* New York City (d/b/a Mayor Michael Bloomberg) wants Judge Shira Scheindlin to stay her stop-and-frisk rulings pending appeal, because racial profiling is an effective crime fighting tool. [New York Law Journal]

* If you want to know why law school is three years long instead of two, it’s because back in the day, the T14s of the world were convinced it’d “stop the proles from sullying the image of the bar.” [The Economist]

* In an effort to keep law school deans’ listserv drama and email scandals to a minimum, the American Bar Association just doled out some rules to keep their ivory tower talk in check. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* “[I]f I die because of this, my life will have been worthwhile.” The HSBC whistleblower would face death to talk about the big bank’s money laundering — and to see the lovely Marni Halasa. [Huffington Post]

Late last week, Michael Brown and 24 of his friends and family met at a Charleston, South Carolina restaurant for a farewell party for his cousin. After waiting about two hours for a table, a shift manager at the Wild Wing Cafe told the party to leave. Did I mention these folks were black? Oh, well, they were black. And why weren’t they getting seated?

According to the shift manager, it was because a white patron felt “threatened” by the group, and the manager felt obliged to respect this woman’s delusion by keeping the black diners waiting in the lobby before ultimately kicking them out.

Cue the Chief Justice: “Things have changed in the South.”

Seriously though, so far this ordeal has elicited calls for a boycott, but legal action has been mostly overlooked, which is odd since the story brings back memories of one of the biggest discrimination suits of the last 20 years…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “South Carolina Restaurant Refuses To Serve Black Patrons — Denny’s Redux”

Kamala Harris

* The Poly Prep alumni who settled their sex abuse suit against the school are going after O’Melveny & Myers for allegedly playing a part in prolonging the litigation by doing what lawyers do best: lying. [Am Law Daily]

* If you’ve got a case up on appeal and you’re like a virgin, giving oral (arguments) for the very first time, then you should probably consider taking a look at the top 10 tips that’ll help you to prepare for it. [The Recorder]

* The California Supreme Court denied petitions from Proposition 8 proponents seeking to enforce a ban on same-sex marriage across the state. Kamala Harris, the country’s best looking AG, approves. [BuzzFeed]

* The Chapman School of Law will change its name after receiving the second-largest donation ever made to a law school. N.B. The donor isn’t a law school graduate, which certainly explains why he has cash to spare. [National Law Journal]

* Notebooks from the most famous law school you’ve never heard of are now on digital display thanks to Harvard Law. Unlike today’s students, Litchfield lawyers had lovely handwriting. [Brainiac / Boston Globe]

* Keep ya head up: Legendary lawyer Roger Rosen, whose clients range from O.J. Simpson to Phil Spector, will hang up his shingle to avoid prosecution for leaking info to Tupac’s killers. [New York Post]

* Just think, if the judge in Paula Deen’s case had permitted counsel to stay discovery, perhaps the celebrity chef wouldn’t have been able to serve up a slice of her piping hot racism casserole. [Daily Report]

* Sure, Lamar Odom allegedly cheated on Khloe Kardashian with a lawyer, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to get divorced. If they do, we’ll be there for the train wreck. [Ministry of Gossip / Los Angeles Times]

I didn’t go to Eric Holder’s big speech at the ABA annual meeting on Monday. I kind of halfheartedly tried to go, but there were a lot of people who wanted to see Holder say something they could’ve read about online hours earlier.

If the ABA had invited Secretary of Education Arne Duncan over to speak about the horrendous abuse of federal funds by purveyors of higher education, I’d have smashed my way in. But in the crush of people trying to get a look at the Attorney General trying to dismantle a big part of the United States “War On Drugs,” I was reminded that regulating legal education is a small part of what the ABA does — and a part that isn’t of great institutional importance to the organization. The ABA wants a seat at the policy table when it comes to big sexy issues of justice and legal services. Preventing member institutions from price-gouging young people doesn’t get its logo splashed across all the major news networks.

So, Eric Holder delivered a big policy address. And later, by which point I was on a plane, Hillary Clinton spoke about how she’ll be speaking about other things as she doesn’t run for president just yet. Holder! Hillary! Marvel at the ABA’s relevance in national policy debates!

Except, they’re not relevant. Holder did make an important speech on Monday, and he couldn’t have found a more supportive group for his take-down of mandatory minimums had he been speaking to potheads in Golden Gate Park. But really, the ABA isn’t going to be any more helpful when it comes to actually convincing Congress than a meeting of the 4:20 club…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Eric Holder Preaches To The Choir At ABA: It’s Nice When Lawyers Think People Will Listen To Them About Laws”

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