Read This Diversity at law firms is so bad, clients are docking pay
Elite law firms in the U.S. and the U.K., long seen as fusty bastions of mostly White men, are being pushed by some of their biggest customers to change. Facebook, HP, and Novartis are part of a growing number of major global companies that have warned they’ll take their work elsewhere or cut fees unless they see more racial and gender diversity in the law firms they hire.
It’s a serious threat: Facebook Inc. last year spent $1.6 billion on legal fees, settlements, and fines. “Money can make movements,” says Lauren Hauber, a Facebook legal operations manager in San Francisco. “And using buying power to push for change will oftentimes start to move the needle.”
It’s not that the companies pushing for change are models of diversity. Most have their own distinct struggles with representation. But corporate law firms have proved particularly slow to shape up, with many structured as partnerships that give relatively few dealmakers decades of influence over how a firm is run. That’s an increasing concern for clients, who say diverse legal teams deliver more creative and well-rounded advice.
Although many law firms have made public commitments on racial, gender, and economic diversity, they’ve got a long way to go. Women make up a little more than a quarter of partners at 10 of the most prestigious firms on either side of the Atlantic, according to research by diversity-analytics company Pirical. About 10% of partners at U.S. firms are people of color, according to a 2020 survey of 883 law offices by the National Association for Law Placement. Racial minorities make up only 8% of U.K.-based partners at elite British firms, according to Bloomberg calculations based on company data. To put that in perspective, about 12% of directors at the U.K.’s 100 largest companies are from an ethnic minority, data from a government-commissioned report show.
“There are enough clients who are focused on this—passionate about it and see it as their responsibility to improve diversity across the legal sector—that it will definitely have an impact on balance sheets,” says Georgia Dawson, who last year became the first woman to be elected senior partner—a crucial management role—at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. The 278-year-old firm is part of London’s so-called Magic Circle, a group of elite law offices that have dominated the U.K. legal sector for decades.
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More of This He was wrongfully incarcerated for 10 years. Now he’s a civil rights lawyer fighting for justice.
As companies that claimed to "back" the Black Lives Matter movement go silent and the GOP bails on justice reform talks, one man who served ten years in prison for a wrongful conviction is working to improve the system. Now an attorney, Jarrett Adams joins MSNBC's Ari Melber to discuss the push for change.
Less of This Afghanistan’s female lawyers are on the run from the men they prosecuted
Until August, Farishta was an influential prosecutor who exercised her power for a cause. She prosecuted criminals, Taliban militants, corrupt bureaucrats, and men who beat women and children.
Today, 27-year-old Farishta is in hiding. Like a fugitive on the run, she changes her location often. For her safety, we have changed her name.
Originally from Afghanistan's south-eastern Paktia province, Farishta was among those Afghan women who obtained professional success in the years after the Taliban was defeated, challenging the country's male-dominated and ultra-conservative society.
Five years ago, under the previous government, she became a prosecutor in Afghanistan's Attorney-General's office. Part of her job was "prosecuting and getting sentences for those who committed rape, murder and domestic violence", she told the BBC from a safe house in Afghanistan. It was a "challenging but satisfying job", she said.
But as the Taliban swept across Afghanistan in recent months, before seizing the country, they freed prisoners along the way, including thousands of hardened criminals and Islamist militants.
Among those let go by the crusading Taliban was Mohamad Gol, who faced charges of planning suicide bomb attacks. Farishta had painstakingly gathered evidence against Gol and successfully prosecuted him, putting him behind bars for what should have been a 20-year sentence.
Days after the Taliban took over Kabul, Mohammed Gol called her, Farishta said. "He said he was coming after me to take revenge, and I cannot hide anywhere."
Read the story on BBC
Say it Louder The Supreme Court has gone off the rails
Donald Ayer was a U.S. attorney and principal deputy solicitor general in the Reagan administration and deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration.
The Supreme Court has final authority to make difficult judgment calls articulating the powers of government and the limits and constraints upon them. To merit the public trust, these judgments must not appear simply as assertions of individual value choices by the justices or willy-nilly discard long-established court precedents that profoundly affect people’s lives. Nor should they actively undermine the ability of governments to advance public purposes as established by a fair democratic process.
As the court begins a new term, regrettably, its recent history suggests that it lacks a majority of justices with sufficient concern about the basic continuity and integrity of the law or the ability of government to function.
The evidence has been growing quietly in recent years — and then, last summer, quite loudly, when the court decided to twiddle its thumbs while Texas enacted an abortion law that practically bans nearly all procedures while evading timely judicial review.
This distressing turn of events has a special irony for me personally. In the 1980s, along with three of the current justices (John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas), I participated in the Reagan revolution in the law, which inspired and propelled the careers of three other current justices (Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett).
The Reagan revolution pitted itself against “activist” judges who were seen as following personal whims by altering the law and creating rights not found in the Constitution. Through interpretive tools like textualism and originalism, the Reagan lawyers sought to make the law more predictable and steady — as articulated by John Roberts, the job of justices was “to call balls and strikes, and not to pitch or bat.”
That revolution, however, has morphed into what it was meant to curtail, as the expanding right-wing majority on the Supreme Court has relied on an array of innovative constitutional rights to undermine traditional governmental actions while discarding longstanding precedents with which they disagree.
Read the story on NY Times
How to become a public interest lawyer
Are you passionate about public interest lawyering and applying to law school? UCLA School of Law’s David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy is an innovative and unique program that educates, trains, and nurtures the next generation of public interest leaders -- and we seek applicants who are passionate about justice and communities to join our next class!
October 19 at 12:15 PM PST. Register here >