The Road to More Minority Partners?
This past weekend, I spoke at Georgetown Law Journal’s symposium on post-racialism. It was a great symposium. Congratulations to the student editors!
The scheduled roundtable discussions during the event focused on diversity in law firms. One of the issues discussed was the low number of minority attorneys, especially partners, at law firms. At many firms, there are no or just one or two minority partners within each racial group (Only 20% of all partners are women.). Even at firms with a more sizeable number of minority associates, those associates tend to leave the firms by the fourth or fifth year.
Undoubtedly, it is harder to imagine one’s self as a partner at a law firm when there is no one who looks like you among those ranks. How can firms address what seems to be a never-ending cycle? Some firms have lateraled partners in from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, though often not of color, in order to gain someone with significant trial experience. Given that government attorneys tend to be a much more racially and ethnically diverse group than firm attorneys, even at the associate level, are these lateral possibilities one good route for diversifying the partnership ranks?
Also, to the extent that changing firm cultures may help in increasing numbers, how can firm cultures ever change if the only minorities who enter into the firms are associates, who often feel that they have no voice?