Minority Issues

“In accepting the offer to join Ropes & Gray, Ray accepted Roscoe Trimmier’s assurances that Ropes ‘does not see black and white, only shades of Ropes & Gray.'”

That’s paragraph 75 from the latest complaint filed by John H. Ray III, a 2000 graduate of Harvard Law School and an African-American man, against his former employer, Ropes & Gray. According to Ray, the firm, after initially embracing him with open arms, turned on him. Ray claims that he was subjected to racial discrimination and retaliation, which made his time at the firm more painful than pleasurable. And, unlike Anastasia Steele of Fifty Shades of Grey (affiliate link), Ray did not enjoy the alleged abuse.

When we first wrote about Ray, he was proceeding pro se against Ropes & Gray. Now he has hired counsel — an experienced employment-discrimination litigator who has appeared before in these pages.

Let’s find out who’s representing John Ray, and take a closer look at the complaint — which features an Above the Law shout-out, interestingly enough….

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Malori Wampler

Last year, we made passing mention of Malori Wampler, the ex-Indianapolis Colts cheerleader who had been fired for posing in “risqué” photographs at a Playboy magazine-sponsored party — and by “risqué,” we mean clad only in body paint. For all intents and purposes, Wampler was basically naked. (And don’t worry, dear readers, we’ve got photos, if you’re interested in seeing that sort of thing.)

But rather than simply contesting the team’s decision to fire her (after all, these pictures had been taken before she became an NFL cheerleader, and the team was aware that Wampler had worked at these parties in the past), Wampler decided to sue, alleging that the Colts had terminated her because of her sex, race, and national origin. Wampler wasn’t fired because she had violated the team’s rule against cheerleaders appearing in nude photos; no, she was fired because she was Indonesian.

Earlier this week, Wampler’s case got some action in federal court. Let’s find out what happened….

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Father of Our Country, Juggalo Washington

What is a juggalo?
Let me think for a second
Oh, he gets butt-naked
And then he walks through the streets
Winking at the freaks
With a two-liter stuck in his butt-cheeks

Insane Clown Posse

At the 1992 Republican National Convention, Pat Buchanan announced that America was in the midst of a culture war. In his view, this war was being waged between descendents of the 60’s counter-culture and those who sought to protect “traditional” values. In the field of law, this idea found a home in (who else?) Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in Romer v. Evans, in which he famously wrote that “[t]he Court has mistaken a Kulturkampf for a fit of spite.” Something about the original German sends a shiver down the spine, doesn’t it? Anyway, we can all surely agree that these two yahoos wouldn’t know a culture war if it slapped them in the face with a bottle of Faygo soda.

There’s a real culture war going on, ninjas. And it has nothing to do with gay marrying or abortions or the third rail of American politics, cockfighting. It has to do with the FBI’s insane decision to categorize Juggalos — i.e., fans of the Insane Clown Posse hip-hop duo — as a “loosely-organized hybrid gang.” It has to do with real persecution and honest-to-God discrimination against the Juggalo people.

Luckily for me and my fellow Juggalos, Insane Clown Posse doesn’t know the meaning of backing down. And that’s not a slam at all, it’s just a turn-of-phrase. They know the meaning. They just refuse to back down. Is what I’m saying….

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Amy Schulman, general counsel of Pfizer

When it comes to the representation of women in the top positions in the legal profession, the news seems somewhat mixed. Things could be better in Biglaw. According to a recent survey, women constitute just 15 percent of equity partners — a number that has stayed roughly the same for the past 20 years.

On the in-house side of the divide, though, the news is better. Women lawyers are ascending to the post of general counsel in record numbers.

Let’s check out the latest findings, courtesy of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA)….

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Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are well accustomed to the concept of diversity. San Franciscans embrace it. They live among and celebrate people of every race, ethnicity and nationality. They embrace every sexual orientation. And they welcome political persuasions spanning the gamut from socialist to liberal. Ah, life’s infinite diversity.

I’ve mentioned before that when I snorkeled in the Cayman Islands, I was amazed at the vast number of different species of fish. When I go to a favorite deli or café, I’m reluctant to order “the usual,” however much I might enjoy it, because I’ve always believed that variety is good. The concepts of variety and diversity present themselves to us every day.

Diversity is also an important concept for law firms, especially smaller law firms and boutiques. And this is true of “diversity” in a variety of contexts, some of which are not so obvious….

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Who wants to do some document review?

We’re entering on-campus interviewing season. If you’re a law student going through OCI, or if you’re a lawyer involved in your firm’s recruiting process, be sure to check out Above the Law’s new law student career center, a repository job search resources, and our law firm directory, where law firms get letter grades in different categories.

One area that interviewees are always interested in is diversity. Diverse attorneys — okay, that’s a bad way of putting it — minority attorneys want to know where they’ll feel welcome. Even lawyers who aren’t minorities want workplaces that are open and inclusive. And corporate clients are increasingly keen on sending their work to firms that show a commitment to diversity.

So which Biglaw firms are the biggest on diversity? Let’s check out the latest rankings….

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It’s pretty well established that the people running Thomas M. Cooley Law School have no sense of shame. They invented their own stupid law school rankings and then had the audacity to rank themselves #2. They’re already the second-biggest law school in the nation, but they’re opening another campus, this time in Florida. Cooley really doesn’t care what you think (or what the graduates who are suing them think), so long as there are enough prospective law students to fill their incoming class.

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) did a big article this weekend about law schools that are taking a thoughtful approach to class size given the challenging legal job market. In the article, Cooley evidently didn’t mind looking like the thoughtless school that does what it wants and dares somebody to stop them.

Again, if you know Cooley’s history, that’s to be expected. It’s just their hypocrisy can be a little hard to swallow…

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If you’re like me, you’re happily ensconced (hmm, where have I seen that before…?) in your company’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Your company may have a Diversity Committee in place and may have implemented diverse hiring and retention practices. They may hold trainings and events intended to promote awareness. Your legal department may even encourage outside counsel to staff minority and women attorneys on matters. All good stuff.

What else is there? Last week, I attended a day-long regional meeting for a fantastic nonprofit diversity organization. Although the fees to attend their conferences and meetings (which include CLE) are hundreds of dollars, in-house counsel get to attend them for free. You just need to pay a $59 shipping and handling fee. Wait, scratch that last part. (Been watching way too many infomercials lately.)

So, which organization was this, and what great tips did I leave with on how in-house counsel can further their companies’ diversity initiatives?

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Imagine you are driving down the street, and you see the police brutalizing a person already in handcuffs. Do you stop and tell the cop to stop?

I wouldn’t. I’d talk smack to the other passengers in the car, and maybe even blog about it, but there’s no way I’d stop my car and confront the officer. Why? Because I wouldn’t want what Michael and Evelyn Warren claim happened to them to happen to me.

The Warrens are both lawyers, and they claim that after stopping to criticize a police office for hitting a man in handcuffs, the officer punched them. Both of them….

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The Dewey debacle is unfolding in real time on this and other sites. People’s lives are being shattered as a firm gets shuttered. It is not the first, and certainly not the last, time that a major law firm with thousands of employees will disappear into so much ether. I look back on my OCI days, and can rattle off several former NYC firms that have either merged into unrecognizability, or disappeared like Dewey is in the process of doing.

Likewise, not far from where I now sit, is the shell of Eastman Kodak — a company that built a large part of this town, and will likely become a shameful case study in the annals of business school textbooks. And yesterday, news went out that my own company is beginning another round of VRIF severance offers.

Regardless of whether you are sitting comfortably in-house, collecting pay from Biglaw, or wondering how in Hell you’re going to find a summer job, news like that mentioned above is disquieting. The main reason is that there isn’t anything that can be done. One day you’re employed, and then, well, you may not be. And there is really no place for schadenfreude in a “there but for the grace of God” economy. Careers can be dissolved as quickly as Dewey.

So, when you are forced to enter an applicant pool of thousands of other attorneys looking for a break in a seemingly unsolvable code of hiring, what can you do to set yourself apart? One possible strategy that has become a hot button issue in the past days is to claim minority status on your application. The obvious dilemma that you face as applicant number two thousand twenty-eight is whether to check such status if your lineage may or may not support the claim….

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