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An American Indian attorney is asked where she keeps her tomahawk. White male partners look past a black lawyer, assuming she is clerical staff. An Asian attorney is called a “dragon lady” when she asserts herself. A study by the American Bar Association that says those real-life experiences, along with more subtle forms of discrimination, are prompting growing numbers of minority women to abandon the nation’s biggest law firms. “We’re not even talking about trying to get up through a glass ceiling; we’re trying to stay above ground,” said Paulette Brown, co-chairwoman of the group that produced the study, released Friday during the Bar Association’s annual convention in Honolulu. The report, “Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Law Firms,” was conducted by the Bar Association with the help of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Questionnaires were sent to about 1,300 attorneys, both men and women, and responses came from 72 percent, or 920. Law firms exclude minority women from golf outings, after-hours drinks and other networking events, the study says. Partners neglect the women of color they are supposed to help mentor. In some cases, partners and senior lawyers disregard minority women less because of outright bigotry than because they have less in common with them and thus don’t connect well with them, the study found. Firms routinely hand minority women inferior assignments — such as reviewing documents or writing briefs — that provide little opportunity to meet clients, the study says. That means women of color aren’t able to cultivate business relationships and develop the billable hours that are the basis of career advancement within a firm. Among the statistics in the study:

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