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In the 15 years since the Bar Association of San Francisco began prodding firms and legal departments to hire and promote more minority lawyers, the percentage of minority hires has more than doubled, according to the group’s latest study. The numbers, made available this week, show that minorities make up 24 percent of associates and 7 percent of partners at private San Francisco firms responding to the survey. The numbers are slightly higher at large firms, where 27 percent of the associates and 8 percent of partners are minorities. In 1990, minorities represented just 11 percent of associates, and 3 percent of partners. But the latest figures are still far from mirroring California’s population, which is now 54 percent minority. And the study found that “most of the progress made by minorities in law firm diversity” in San Francisco has come from hiring and promoting Asian-American lawyers. Fifteen percent of associates at responding firms are Asian-American, the study found. Latinos and blacks account for only 5 and 4 percent of associates, which is about the national average. In response, BASF is considering setting specific hiring goals for Latinos and blacks. “What we have found is that African-Americans and Latinos have not benefited as much as other groups,” said Raymond Marshall, a partner at Bingham McCutchen. “It’s a real problem that needs to be addressed.” The draft of the report calls for setting a goal of 37 percent minority hires by 2010, up from the current 35 percent. New this year are proposed sub-goals for African-American and Latino associates of 9 percent. The report and recommendations will be the centerpiece of an Oct. 28 diversity conference sponsored by BASF. In addition to setting goals for hiring at law firms, legal departments and governmental agencies, the report suggests expanding educational outreach programs, such as BASF’s High School to College Mentoring Program. And firms are encouraged to adopt or expand efforts to boost and retain the number of minorities. “Programs typified by ‘no special efforts,’ a ‘sink or swim philosophy,’ or a ‘color-blind approach’ do not work,” the report says. “Even recent arrivals that have begun to concentrate on diversity, such as non-San Francisco-based firms, have made substantial gains through leadership and instituting thoughtful programs.” James Finberg, BASF president and a partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, said it’s equally important to tackle subconscious bias and stereotypes. “I don’t think we have a lot of overt racism, but people tend to support and promote people that are like them,” he said. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati partner Fred Alvarez said setting sub-goals is a common practice in affirmative action planning. “When there’s a group that’s big enough in the workforce that you can track their numbers, it’s OK to have sub-goals,” he said. The report says the number of minority lawyers in government law departments, at both junior and senior levels, actually exceeded the goals set for 2005. And the numbers, overall, are good news. “We’re leading the nation,” Finberg said. “It’s the basis for self-congratulations. We’re grateful for what people have done, but we think we need to recommit.”

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