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Instant Insights / Black History Month Highlights Lack of Progress in Diversifying the Legal Profession

The numbers of black partners remain woefully low at major law firms. At the same time, the legal profession is still not attracting young black people interested in pursuing a law degree. In this Instant Insights—as we recognize Black History Month—we look at efforts underway at the pipeline point and within Big Law to change the dynamic, as concern persists that law schools and firm leaders are not addressing the problem effectively.

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I know I’m a pain about gender and diversity issues, so I don’t take it personally when law firms sometimes avoid me like an STD. Sure, they love to tell me about their newest, most awesome diversity initiatives, but if I press them about their track records on female or black equity partners—well, let’s just say, they’re not so forthcoming.

But I’ve noticed an exception to this rule. Firms with major labor and employment practices usually chase me down to tout their diversity records. Their spiel is that they’re not like the other big firms. It’s like they’re saying, “See! We have female and black partners! And more than just one or two!”

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Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen is a senior columnist at The American Lawyer and the creator of The Careerist blog.

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