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A group of 75 judges, prominent attorneys and legal scholars has fired off a letter to NALP in hopes of pressuring the organization to rethink its decision not to track nonequity partner numbers at law firms. The letter calls for NALP, formerly the National Association for Law Placement, to include nonequity partner information in the data it provides to the public about major U.S. law firms. The group behind the letter asserted that because minorities and women make up a disproportionate number of nonequity partners, the information is crucial to getting an accurate picture of diversity numbers within member law firms. The two-page letter, dated April 6, was in response to a decision by NALP in December not to collect nonequity numbers, despite assurances by the organization that it would begin doing so. NALP Executive Director James Leipold said that NALP had to pull back on those assurances because law firms were balking at providing the information. He said that firms refused to reveal nonequity numbers because NALP’s questionnaire asked them to identify nonequity partner numbers on an office-by-office basis. Firms were concerned that parsing the information that way could jeopardize attorney privacy by revealing the partner status of individual lawyers. The letter was authored by Fernande Duffly, a judge on the Massachusetts Appeals Court; Nancy Gertner, a judge for the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts; and Julia Huston, a partner with Foley Hoag in Boston. Among those who signed their names to the letter were William Lee, co-managing partner of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr; Walter Reed, managing partner of Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge; John Montgomery, managing partner of Ropes & Gray; Robert Post, dean of Yale Law School; Martha Minnow, dean of Harvard Law School; Larry Kramer, dean of Stanford Law School; and Carolyn Lamm, president of the American Bar Association. “We were surprised and dismayed to learn that NALP had decided to suspend collection of equity and non-equity partner demographic information for the 2010-2011 NAPL Directory of Legal Employers,” the letter said. Leipold said that NALP “is on the same page” as those who signed the letter and that the organization was considering how to most effectively collect the nonequity data. The NALP board of directors will take up the issue during its April 26 meeting, he said. “We are committed to collecting this data in the next data collection cycle, though since we have not decided how to do it yet, I cannot tell you what our approach will be,” Leipold said. The letter cites statistics that show women make up fewer than 17 percent of equity partners at major law firms, and minorities make up about 5.4 percent of that group. The tussle over NALP’s decision about nonequity data follows criticism that the organization received earlier this year about its moves to change the guidelines for on-campus recruiting. After some backlash from law firms, NALP backed off a plan that would have banned firms from making any offers to second-year law students before mid-January.

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