Diversity

A few days ago, Elie Mystal wrote about recent allegations of racist student conduct at the UCLA School of Law. I invite readers unfamiliar with the background to catch up by reading Elie’s post and, if you’ve the stomach for it, some of the many comments on his post. (It’s okay. I’ll wait.)

UCLA Dean Rachel Moran called for a police investigation. She alerted the student body. She agreed to meet with student leaders. From all I can see, the law school administration has so far handled the events appropriately. The official response balances the risk of dismissing the allegations or their importance with the risk of over-reacting and potentially polarizing the campus further.

I disagree with much of Elie’s criticism of the law school as a whole, as I disagreed with him about the Team Sanders situation at UCLA last fall.

Still, I didn’t originally want to write about UCLA this week. I drafted a post on another topic, in fact. But something about the UCLA situation, Elie’s post, and, perhaps most of all, the responses from many readers gnawed away at me. It hurt my heart. And when the desiccated husk that passes for my world-weary heart hurts, there’s usually something to it . . . .

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It started with “Team Sander.” In November, we told you that some students at UCLA Law School started wearing T-shirts in support of UCLA law professor Richard Sander, whose scholarship is racially divisive. Some people argued that the shirts were not racially motivated, and even some of my colleagues argued that they needed to “know more” about the intentions behind the shirts before they started calling people racist.

Well… now we know more, and “racist” seems like the only appropriate way to describe at least some students at UCLA Law. Now the question becomes: does the law school administration give a crap?

Read on for the disturbing allegations….

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Last month, Grantland published a story that led to great harrumphing across much of the internet. Titled “Dr. V’s Magical Putter,” it profiled a golf-club inventor whose big secret — that she was transgender — was revealed slowly, teased until the end like a mystery novel. The eponymous inventor’s death was treated as a mere plot point, puzzled over like everything else about the woman’s life. If you haven’t read the piece yet, I heartily encourage you to do so. I’ll wait.

This weekend, the New York Times published a story that will likely lead to very little harrumphing. This story, the profile of a transgender attorney who represents terror suspects, was written not as thrill-packed pulp fiction, but rather as the sober account of a ballsy attorney who deserves our approbation. If you’ll excuse that last sentence’s shameful bit of wordplay clowning, I promise you the rest of this post will be wholly serious. Because the New York Times story is important both for what it says about a life lived honestly and for what it says about the progress we’ve made in accepting such honesty.

So now, let us name all the interesting things about attorney Zoë J. Dolan. I mean, besides the umlaut….

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* According to Justice Kagan, Justice Ginsburg “is responsible for eliminating sex discrimination from American law.” Whoa, that’s a nice thought, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves with wishful thinking. [New York Law Journal]

* After handing out pink slips staff, Heenan Blaikie lawyers sat down and voted to dissolve the Canadian firm’s partnership and wind up its business. It’s kind of like Dewey, but with maple syrup! [Legal Post / Financial Post]

* Jack W. Butler, the bankruptcy bigwig who managed to negotiate the American Airlines / US Airways merger, will leave his home at Skadden Arps after 23 years and head to Hilco Global. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Vermont Law School has partnered with several historically black colleges and universities in order to put warm bodies in empty seats promote the expansion of racial diversity in the legal profession. [VT Digger]

* David Savner, a corporate partner at Jenner & Block, recently donated $1 million to his alma mater, Northwestern Law, to fund a high-tech classroom. It must be nice to be rich. [Crain's Chicago Business]

* The ABA Journal wants to know what the “oddest” elective course you ever took in law school was. If you took a “Law and _____” class and didn’t get an “A,” you should hang your head in shame. [ABA Journal]

Did you know you can do a clinic at Yale Law School if you are a 1L? I’d imagine that a lot of schools offer this kind of experiential learning given the current market conditions, but Yale Law has been doing it for a while. It seems a bit aggressive to allow 1Ls to talk to real people with actual problems, but I spent my first year trying to figure out how to keep my drinking up at college levels, so what do I know?

Apparently Yale Law touts first-year clinical experience as a “thing” that sets Yale apart — as if its top ranking wasn’t enough for students with an embarrassment of good choices. Our own David Lat took part in a clinic as a 1L; it continued into his 2L year, when he conducted a trial and got a published opinion (he won the case, because of course he did).

Lat got to do all that, and he is a man. I’m not saying that those two things are connected, but some people at YLS are questioning whether these clinical placements are equally open to women…

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* Hot on the heels of the SCOTUS stay, Utah has ordered its state agencies not to recognize any of the same-sex marriages that took place. Eww, Utah, you are being disgusting right now. [NBC News]

* The eminently quotable Chancellor Leo Strine of the Delaware Court of Chancery has been nominated to serve as chief justice of the state’s highest court. Best of luck with your confirmation! [Chicago Tribune]

* Law firm mergers rose by almost 50 percent after 88 firms joined forces throughout 2013 (a new record, according to Altman Weil). Let’s see if this year’s pace is as frenzied as last year’s. [Am Law Daily]

* The legal profession isn’t very good at diversity, especially in Texas. Here’s a not-so fun fact: just six percent of all equity partners at the largest law firms in Dallas are minorities. [Dallas Business Journal]

* “[I]t was the first time he had ever heard of someone being killed by a pair of underwear.” A man in Oklahoma was tragically killed after becoming the first-ever recipient of a fatal atomic wedgie. [News OK]

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of the ATL Interrogatories. This recurring feature will give notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.

Carol B. Ervin leads the Employment Law Practice Group at Young Clement Rivers, LLP. A highly experienced trial attorney, Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and an Associate Member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, she focuses her practice on the representation of businesses in employment law and litigation. Carol was recently elected the Chair of ALFA International, the Global Legal Network, and previously served as Chair of ALFA International’s Labor and Employment Practice Group.

1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?

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Give a hand for the law’s lack of diversity.

* When it comes to the air pollution case that’s currently before the Supreme Court, it seems like the justices had absolutely no difficulty at all in evaluating the type of problem at hand. It’s apparently a “tough” one and a “hard” one. [New York Times]

* Thanks to the historic new Senate rules put into action last month, Patricia Ann Millett, the co-head of Akin Gump’s Supreme Court and national appellate practice group, has been confirmed to the D.C. Circuit. You go girl! [Post Politics / Washington Post]

* The Senate showdown isn’t quite over yet, folks. We could see another confirmation vote on Georgetown Law professor Nina Pillard’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit sometime today. [Blog of Legal Times]

* “We risk failure in having a profession that is as diverse as the country we serve.” OMG guys, the legal profession is bad at diversity. This is new information that no one’s heard before. [National Law Journal]

* Now that the recession is over, women are gaining their jobs back faster than all their male counterparts. Not to worry, guys — they’re still being paid 77 cents to every dollar a man earns. [Corporate Counsel]

* Here are the top five social media mishaps by lawyers and law students of 2013. If you value your career, you should really try not to do any of these embarrassing things during the new year. [Strategist / FindLaw]

Is thirteen an unlucky number? Apparently not at Quinn Emanuel, the high-powered litigation firm that just went for a baker’s dozen in naming new partners.

This past weekend, the Quinn partnership gathered in California for their partner retreat. Agenda items included selecting new partners and setting the bonus scale.

Does a large partner class bode well for bonuses? Because this is the biggest partner class Quinn has named in several years….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of The ATL Interrogatories, brought to you by Lateral Link. This recurring feature will give notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.

Jami Wintz McKeon is chair-elect of Morgan Lewis and leader of the firm’s litigation practice. She is responsible for the strategic and day-to-day operation of the litigation practice, made up of 700 litigators in 25 global offices.

1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?

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