At the Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference, sponsored by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), there was a great lunchtime discussion called “Her Stories: The Evolving Role of Women in Business and Law.” It featured a panel of heavy hitters: two women currently serving as general counsel to Fortune 500 companies, and a third who previously served as GC to no fewer than four Fortune 500 companies over her career.
What does their rise say about the changing role of women in the corporate legal world? How did they get to their lofty perches? And what advice would they offer to lawyers aspiring to such successful careers?
Just last month, Villanova Law was busy receiving a light slap on the wrist from the American Bar Association for the crime of falsifying admissions data to the ABA. Obviously, law schools misreport information to the ABA so that they can make the same false statements to U.S. News for the benefit of the law school rankings.
Since the U.S. News rankings help law schools pay the bills, and U.S. News does not have a data point for “censured by the ABA,” the ABA’s censure penalty seemed particularly ineffective.
But the news of today makes the way the ABA handled the Villanova situation look like even more of a joke. That’s because another law school has been busted for reporting inaccurate admissions information….
Ebony and ivory, billing together in perfect harmony.
We’ve talked a lot in these pages about the value of diversity. It’s important to clients, it’s important to law firms, and it’s important to the legal profession as a whole.
Given the significance of diversity, it’s not surprising that several organizations and news outlets focus on it, especially with respect to large law firms. In the past few weeks, we’ve discussed diversity data from Building A Better Legal Profession and from the American Lawyer, for example.
Today brings news of more diversity rankings, this time from the ranking gurus over at Vault. They’ve compiled a list of 25 best law firms for diversity.
Which firms made the cut? Is your firm on the list?
* Is the D.C. Circuit is okay with TSA screeners touching your junk? Professor Orin Kerr discusses an opinion handed down today. [Volokh Conspiracy]
* According to his mother, Mercer Law grad Stephen McDaniel — a “person of interest” in the investigation of the death of Lauren Giddings — would like to serve on the Supreme Court someday. He might want to get a haircut first. [Macon.com]
Law firm diversity matters. It matters to corporate clients, many of them public companies that want to demonstrate their commitment to diversity through their selection of vendors and service providers — which is what law firms are, at the end of the day. It matters to the law students and lawyers that firms are trying to recruit — which is the premise behind the data collection conducted by Building A Better Legal Profession.
So there should be keen interest in the latest edition of the American Lawyer’s Diversity Scorecard 2011, which the magazine just released. As Am Law explains, the Scorecard constitutes its annual ranking of large law firms by their percentage of minority attorneys and minority partners.
Let’s take a look at the top firms for diversity. Did your firm make the list?
The good folks over at Building A Better Legal Profession — a national grassroots movement that we’ve writtenabout before, which seeks market-based workplace reforms in large private law firms — have updated their online directory and rankings of law firms with new information for 2011. The updated rankings shed light on which top law firms are excelling in such areas as diversity and pro bono work, and which ones still have some work to do.
Let’s look at some highlights from the new data, on such subjects as diversity, partnership, and associate attrition….
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….
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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When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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