Diversity

You might die on Mars, but you’d probably be employed.

* Due to the extreme polarization of SCOTUS, with its near constant 5-4 opinion line-ups, “it becomes increasingly difficult to contend … that justices are not merely politicians clad in fine robes.” Yep. [The Upshot / New York Times]

* Tim Wu, the Columbia Law professor who first introduced the term “net neutrality” to the world, had two of his clerkships (Posner and Breyer) “arranged” by Professor Lawrence Lessig. If only we could all be so lucky. [New York Times]

* We’re getting the sinking feeling that the lack of diversity in law school is one of those problems that everyone and their mother claims to be trying to fix, but the lack of momentum keeps it from ever truly improving. [National Law Journal]

* When contemplating what law schools would have to do to get a bailout, this law professor has three ideas, and they involve changing her colleagues’ lives in uncomfortable ways. Well played. [Boston Globe]

* Cole Leonard is struggling to decide between going to law school and going to Mars. Well, he’s more likely to have a job doing anything on Mars than here on Earth as a lawyer. HTH. [Dallas Morning News]

* The L.A. Clippers have a new CEO, for the time being. Say hello to Dick Parsons, the former chairman of Patterson Belknap, a man who the world hopes is not quite as racist as his predecessor. [Am Law Daily]

‘This memo makes my head hurt.’

On any day of the week, it’s highly likely that a Biglaw firm will be trumpeting news of its successful diversity initiatives from any available media rooftop. The public relations folks at these law firms really want you to know that their hallowed halls aren’t completely jam-packed full of old white men — in fact, only 86.1 percent of them are old white men, so there.

Given the glowing alabaster hue of most Biglaw firms, you can see where it could be difficult for members of their so-called diversity committees to actually relate to those who are considered “diverse” in law firm parlance. We’re talking about lawyers of a different gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, but in law firm world, they might as well be otherworldly beings.

We’re told that some of these foreign creatures may be working in your very own law firm. If you’d like to learn how to interact with them, feel free to take some advice from one of the most absurd diversity memos we’ve ever seen…

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Law deans from schools that did poorly in the U.S. News law school rankings can’t stop making excuses for their schools.

Most of the excuses are comical, but none of them bother me quite like the “diversity argument.” The diversity argument claims that a school’s low ranking is somehow because of the school’s commitment to diversity.

If it were a good argument, it would be an offensive one to make. People who do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do shouldn’t go around begging for thanks and praise for doing the right thing. But suggesting that diversity is somehow antithetical to a strong U.S. News ranking isn’t even a good argument to begin with…

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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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