Two people from my high school got into the same college I did. We were all in the top 10 of our class, but none of us were in the top 5. One was a white guy who was a brilliant piano player. The other was a white girl who excelled at sports. Then there was me. I had the “does lots of activities” application. You know the type of d-bag kid I’m talking about: debate this, mock trial that, sports, school plays, bands.
Also, I’m black. Do you think that might have had something to do with it? I hope it did, since it seems to me that my race is at least as much of a factor in what I may add to an incoming college class as whether I could play the piano or dominate in field hockey.
Of course, saying race can be a factor in college admissions is controversial. A certain segment of the population gets all bent out of sorts when a “deserving” white student potentially gets “passed over” because a college official gave a person of color “extra points” when making up the entering class of students.
I find these arguments totally irrational. If the top five students from my high school were passed over — three Jews and two Asians (you know, the real victims of affirmative action, if there are any) — then who exactly “took” their spots? Me, or the sports chick? And if an Asian guy “takes” my spot, but I bump down the piano player who didn’t score as well as I did, and the piano player takes the spot of some poor Hispanic kid who has never seen a piano in real life, would everybody say that we all got what we deserved?
Coming up with an effective way to balance all of the relevant factors in college admissions is hard. But when race is involved, people don’t want to deal with “hard,” and they don’t want to hear “complicated.” They want simple rules and a few platitudes they can recite on television. After yesterday’s Fifth Circuit decision upholding affirmative action at the University of Texas, the only question is whether the Supreme Court has the will and intellectual rigor to think through something hard, or whether the majority will want to fall back on truisms and clichés…
Here’s seemingly every affirmative action conversation I’ve had since I started working at Above the Law:
PLEBES: Affirmative action is racist — reverse-racist. It lets an under-qualified minority get into a school I deserved to get into, just because of their skin color! And why? Because 100 years ago things were tough for blacks? Not fair! [Some quote from Justice Roberts I'll care about the minute I care about what an aging white man thinks about racial harmony in America.]
ELIE: Actually, affirmative action can be justified by simply pointing out that diversity of thought and experience is essential when it comes to educating people.
PLEBES: It should be about merit! [Quotes standardized test statistics as if the LSAT is both objective and a standard of merit.] If you get a higher score on a test, you should get in over someone who gets a lower score. That’s merit!
ELIE: But we know that universities look at all sorts of things when considering applicants. They look at whether you have any other talents like sports or music. They look at legacy status…
PLEBES: [Foaming at the mouth now] Legacies are an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT THING. We’re talking about discrimination based on RACE. That’s ILLEGAL!
We’ve come a long way from the days when federal courts issued orders banning racial discrimination. Now federal judges hand down orders mandating, or at least encouraging, race-based discrimination.
As reported in the American Lawyer, earlier this week Judge Harold Baer (S.D.N.Y.) issued an unusual order. On Monday, Judge Baer directed two firms serving as lead counsel in a securities class action to “make every effort” to staff the case with at least one minority and one woman:
ORDERED that Co-Lead Counsel, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP and Labaton Sucharow LLP, shall make every effort to assign to this matter at least one minority lawyer and one woman lawyer with requisite experience….
If federal judges can run school districts and prison systems, law firms should be a piece of cake, right?
Sorry we’re late to the party on this HuffPo post, bearing the provocative title “Law Firm Segregation Reminiscent of Jim Crow.” It’s by Yolanda Young, a former staff attorney at Covington & Burling. Her claim, in a nutshell, is that Covington fills the ranks of its “staff attorney ghetto” with African-Americans, while the ranks of its partnership and partnership-track associate pool are overwhelmingly white.
Young’s post has already been discussed at Legal Blog Watch and the WSJ Law Blog. But considering how we love to fan flames of racial tension follow the issue of diversity in the legal profession so closely here at ATL, of course we’re going to cover it.
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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@example.com.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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