When it comes to diversity in the bar, most of the attention is paid to large law firms. But a New York federal judge appears intent on shining the light on plaintiffs firms.
In an order signed on Monday (pdf), Manhattan U.S. District Court Judge Harold Baer ordered two firms serving as co-lead counsel in a securities class action against Gildan Activewear -- Labaton Sucharow and Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd -- to "make every effort" to assign at least one minority and one woman to the case.
"This proposed class includes thousands of participants, both male and female, arguably from diverse backgrounds, and it is therefore important to all concerned that there is evidence of diversity, in terms of race and gender, in the class counsel I appoint," wrote Baer.
We left messages with lawyers at Labaton and Robbins Geller but didn't hear back.
The timing was a little strange. Baer appointed the plaintiffs firms to lead the case two years ago, and in August they submitted an unopposed motion for a preliminary settlement. (The settlement agreement was made in conjunction with two other proceedings in Canada.) What remains are largely administrative functions and a hearing for preliminary approval of the settlement.
We hoped to discuss Baer's order with him directly, but a spokeswoman in his chambers said he was out this week. From what we gather, Baer has made supporting diversity a goal during his tenure on the bench. Indeed, in his order in the Gildan case, he referenced a decision (pdf) he made in a case called In re J.P. Morgan Chase Cash Balance Litigation in which he required co-lead counsel to assign one woman and one minority with requisite experience to the case.
This article first appeared on The Am Law Litigation Daily blog on AmericanLawyer.com.