1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 1Despite hits to hiring in general because ofthe economic downturn, major law ...
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  1. 1. 1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 1Despite hits to hiring in general because ofthe economic downturn, major law firmsacross the country are under pressure tocontinue efforts to diversify their legal staffs.“There’s the case for doing it because it’sthe right thing to do, and then there is thecase that it is good for business,” said JamesBourne, president of the Indiana State BarAssociation. He has made increasing minor-ity involvement a goal of his tenure.“Our clients, especially large corporations,are requiring the law firms they work withto provide them with statistical informationand encouraging the assignment of minor-ity attorneys to their matters,” said AlisonDreizen, partner in charge of diversity atWhite, Case in New York City.That firm has about 1,600 attorneys, morethan half of them in offices outside theUnited States.The National Association for Law Place-ment’s most recent study, released last fall,showed that 3.71 percent of minority attorneyare partners in major law firms, an incre-mental increase from the previous year.“The profession has not achieved its goal tohave representation that equates to repre-sentation in law school classes,” said JerryNash, deputy director of NALP.He pointed to the June Supreme Court deci-sion affirming the University of MichiganSchool of Law’s admission policy, saying thefocus on the front-end of admissions has adirect impact on the output into the profes-sion.With larger numbers of minority law stu-dents, “the hiring base is much broader,giving us an available pool of talent that in-evitably leads to a greater mix,” Dreizer said.Cynthia-Clare Tagoe, a native of Ghana whojoined White, Case as an associate after shereceived her J.D. from Case Western ReserveUniversity School of Law in 2001,said diver-sity is welcomed at that firm.“It takes all kinds to make what we do work,in all legal markets around the world,” shesaid.Retaining attorneys of color is as crucial ashiring them. At White, Case, a new programrandomly assigns a coach to every associateto answer questions and guide their careers.The firm organizes attorneys into smallpractice areas.“It’s harder to get lost in the crunch,”Dreizen said.Diversity training focused on law firms be-gins this fall at the leadership level.“Experimentation helps each firm determinewhat is going to work best for them in reten-tion,” Dreizen said.Indiana’s Bourne was the driving force in arecent Diversity Summit. Managing part-ners from firms with 10 or more members,managers of corporate and government legaldepartments, deans of the state’s four lawschools and representatives of other barassociations in the state, including the threeminority bar associations, attended.Bourne’s goals are twofold: to increase theminority representation in the state bar andto encourage greater participation fromminority members who currently belong.Acknowledging and embracing the differencea minority person brings to the firm helpsmake minority attorneys more comfortableand get their careers on track, participantsheard. Having a mentor, whether a minorityor not, is important.The economic downturn has reduced turn-over as well as total hiring. Junior associatesare staying in their first jobs longer.“Firms are focused on having their classesbe as representative as possible,” Dreizersaid. “It gives hope that in 10 or 15 years, wewon’t be talking about this subject.”This story appeared in the September, 2003edition of The National Jurist, www.nation-aljurist.comLaw firms focus on minority hiring[Christine Willard]Moral, business interests raise awareness of differences.

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