Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Elite Law Firm’s All-White Partner Class Stirs Debate on Diversity

The all-white partnership class of 2019 at Paul Weiss, an elite law firm that is considered 'relatively good' on diversity in the aggressively non-diverse legal profession, raises issues not only of the terrible track record of law firms, but more widely of the lack of mentorship and excuses for not promoting people of color and/or women and/or trans/gender nonconforming people.

When meritocracy is grudgingly doled out by higherups who have real personal affection only for people that are 'relatable,' i.e., whom they 'relate to' because they remind them of themselves, then diverse candidates find themselves saddled with insignificant work, few chances for a shot at meaningful assignments, and labeled as not up to the challenges of the job.

"One former female associate who is not white said that diversity mentors were encouraged to keep in mind that no one is colorblind. But when she met with her white male mentor for the first time, she said he told her: “I don’t see color. I don’t see this as diversity mentorship, I see this as mentorship.” He promised to involve her in work on deals, she said, but never did."

This is an issue in several of my cases. For example, there is a top technology firm at which my client is still working. They are committed at the policy level to diversity. They even have structures in place to address issues of diversity. But both the firm and its policies are miserable failures when it comes to addressing the problems of my extremely intelligent, highly-trained, affable, hard-working high-producing client.

The self-deprecating excuses of the managers, including those at the highest level, are very unhelpful and self-deceptive: "it's just that we're not well organized after our merger, this is happening to others too, and we're trying our best, so don't try to tell us this has something to do with discrimination issues, just look at how diversity friendly our policies are and also your client just isn't ready, despite the fact that important managers have said they are ready."

I like the company. I like their willingness to engage on the issue. I think they are genuinely trying. But this level of 'trying' in 2019 is ridiculous.

I am going to make one last effort to get them to step up. And if not, then I will nail them to the wall. And they will be bewildered and defensive and circle the wagons. But the damage to my client and millions like them will already have been done. In business, there is no A for effort. Just do it.

See this link: https://nyti.ms/2S7AsEq

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