Via Bob Ambrogi’s Law Sites Blog, I learned of yet another Captain Obvious study on diversity at biglaw. Spoiler alert (NOT): there’s been little progress or improvement over the past seven years. Though the percentage of minority associates at large firms hovers around 26.4 percent – so slightly less than the 30 percent of minority graduates – just ten percent are eventually promoted to partner. There’s simply no excuse for that kind of track record.
Yet even as the legal profession works to improve diversity and inclusion at biglaw, once again, we ignore minority attorneys who start their own firms. There are a myriad of examples – from the KMR Law Group the successful black woman owned Chicago firm that launched with a tweet and was profiled in the Atlantic to the myriad of black-owned law firms found online here or here that you can find with a simple Google news search, And a year ago, roughly half of the Lawyer Mom Owner Summit speakers were minority lawyer-mom-owners enjoying huge success in the ventures they helmed.
Though academics may be flummoxed as to why minority attorneys are satisfied in solo practice, from my perspective, I’ve never understood why as we try to make inroads to diversity at biglaw that we don’t celebrate and encourage and honor more minority owned law firms as another pathway to parity within the legal profession. That, however, is changing. Consider, for example:
- The Harrity Minority Law Incubator Program created by a Virginia-based patent firm to help train, develop, and launch minority-owned patent law firms;
- Maryland attorney Kisha Brown’s Justis Connection profiled here which connects users to top black lawyers in the DMV area – but can also be used to make it easier for all law firms to support black lawyers by sending business referrals;
- The Amazon Sellers Law Firm recently announced a new program to help black owned businesses protect their brand and market products on Amazon.
Don’t get me wrong, diversity at biglaw is an important goal. But if that’s all we focus on when it comes to race in the legal profession, we miss out on opportunities to really change our profession and the law itself for the better.