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There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for making law firms more inclusive. Different ethnic groups have different concerns and perceptions. That’s the lesson from our second Minority Experience Report: Not only do minority lawyers evaluate their firms differently from their white peers [" Shades of Difference," Fall 2005], there are also divisions among minority groups as well. Our data shows small but clear distinctions in how young African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans assess how they are treated by their law firms, especially among midlevel associates. The differences among minorities can be a touchy subject, though. “There’s a tendency to not want to talk about these issues, because people are afraid they will sound prejudiced,” says Alma Soongi Beck, a lawyer and diversity consultant with Salt Lake City�based Innovations Consulting International, Inc. “But the biggest barrier to improving in recruitment and retention of minorities is the reluctance to engage in that conversation.” The conversation could start on an upbeat note. Hispanic midlevel associates reported being generally contented at their firms. Hispanics were more likely than any other group, including whites, to predict that they would make partner at their firms. Hispanic midlevels were most likely to say they’d recommend their firms to a friend, and they offered the highest ratings for their firms overall. Generally speaking, Asian Americans, the largest and the fastest-growing minority group in Am Law 200 firms, were slightly less satisfied with their firms than whites or Hispanics. Asian American midlevels also expressed the most pronounced misgivings about their prospects for making partner. African American associates took the grimmest view of firm life. Black lawyers levied the harshest assessments of any group in responding to 18 of 23 work-related questions, from evaluating their firms’ commitment to diversity, to gauging the likelihood that they would still be there two years down the road. An approach that treats all minority groups as though they had exactly the same concerns and experiences is inadequate for achieving sustainable diversity, experts say. “There have to be mechanisms within firms to separate the issues and get people to talk about them,” says diversity consultant Francey Lim Youngberg, an Asian American lawyer and president of Youngberg Associates. “People should not see that as Bal-kanization.” The Minority Experience Report is drawn from data gathered for the Midlevel Associates and Summer Associates surveys by our sibling publications The American Lawyer and The American Lawyer Student Edition. We’ve analyzed surveys of 5,155 midlevel associates (law school classes 2001�2003) at 197 firms and 5,607 summer clerks from 202 firms, all of whom identified themselves as African American, Asian American, Caucasian American, or Hispanic American. Most of the firms participating in both surveys rank among the 200 highest-grossing firms in the country. On 25 questions from the Midlevel Associates survey and 24 questions from the Summer Associates survey, we broke down responses by ethnicity. Among midlevel respondents, minorities accounted for 14 percent of respondents: 4,441 identified as white, 361 as Asian, 187 as black, and 166 as Hispanic. Summer classes were more diverse, with minorities accounting for 23 percent of all respondents at all firms. Among these law student respondents, 4,322 described themselves as white, 671 as Asian American, 385 as African American, and 229 as Hispanic. This year we expanded the range of questions we asked, looking at work-related topics such as client contact, mentoring, and firm communications. We also aggregated minority responses from ten of the most diverse firms in the survey�as measured by the Diversity Scorecard, Minority Law Journal’s annual head count of minority lawyers at large law firms�and compared those views with the minority responses from all firms. Overall, there were noticeable�although not enormous�gaps among the responses of different ethnic groups. No single group gave firms overwhelmingly negative ratings on any point, but on most questions, white respondents reported higher satisfaction levels than minority respondents. There were also distinct variations among the minority groups. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being best, Hispanic midlevel associates rated their firms’ dedication to diversity slightly higher than Asians did and significantly higher than African Americans did (3.80 to 3.62 to 3.27, respectively), although not as high as whites (3.88). Hispanics were more likely to predict that they would be at the same firm in two years than Asians and African Americans (3.71 to 3.48 to 3.26); whites were even more sure that they would be at the same firm (3.75). Asked what they expect to be doing in five years, 16 percent of Hispanic respondents predicted they would be equity partners at their firms. Only 13 percent of whites, 10 percent of African American midlevels, and 9 percent of Asian Americans made the same prediction. Hispanics were also more likely to recommend their firm to a friend (4.18) than were whites (4.13), Asian Americans (3.96), or blacks (3.79). Clearly, firms are making most headway in winning over the smallest minority group. Furthermore, Hispanics are a heterogeneous group, both culturally and economically. Diversity expert David Wilkins, a professor at Harvard Law School and director of Harvard’s Program on the Legal Profession, speculates that Latino lawyers in large law firms today tend to skew toward the less disadvantaged segments of the population. “Hispanic lawyer numbers are the lowest, and they’re not moving,” notes Wilkins. If law firms substantially increased their hiring of Hispanics, “that would broaden the pool,” he says. “That might mean taking on some of the issues that are submerged in the workforce.” San Diego diversity consultant Gregg Ward also suggests that factors unrelated to the law may be boosting Latino lawyers’ morale. “For the first time, we are having a national debate about Latinos’ contributions to the economy. There are more Latinos, more Latino businesses, and the numbers are accelerating very rapidly,” says Ward, president of Orlando-Ward & Associates, Inc. In such an environment, Hispanic lawyers “feel that they’re recognized as bringing more value to the table,” Ward says. “I’d love to say that it’s because law firms are waking up, but I don’t think that’s the case.” Asian Americans, who account for about half of all minorities surveyed (361 of 714), gave firms a louder wake-up call. Their take on law firm life trailed behind that of whites and Hispanics in two-thirds (16 of 23) of the questions relating to workplace and partnership issues. (Of course, unanswered questions about partnership are a perennial concern for practically all associates, regardless of race. Firms received generally low marks from all ethnic groups for communicating what it takes to make partner.) More than any other group, though, Asian midlevels agreed with the proposition that it’s impossible to make partner at their firms. (Their average response on a 5-point scale�with 5 being “strongly agree”�was 3.27, followed by Hispanics at 3.10, and African Americans and whites at 2.96). Just under 10 percent of Asian American lawyers said they expect to become equity partners at their current firms in five years’ time, and in written comments, about one in ten stated their firm was doing nothing to groom them for partnership. “The firm’s criteria for partnership have never been fully explained,” said one Asian American associate in a written survey comment, summing up a common complaint. A 2005 study by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York suggests that Asian lawyers’ partnership concerns are well-founded: The study reported that among New York offices of national firms, Asians are more likely than whites to be passed over for partner, and are disproportionately underrepresented in the partnership ranks of large firms. According to diversity consultant Youngberg, Asian Americans’ doubts about making partner may stem from their sensing�correctly�that firms tend to choose partners who display the well-established leadership qualities of white males. “It’s a cultural issue,” says Youngberg. “As more minority partners rise in the legal profession, the comfort level with different leadership styles will start to change. . . . [But] it’s the responsibility of the management and the firm partners to take into consideration the demographics within the firm and recognize that they may need to redefine the leadership qualities they want.” Surprisingly, African American lawyers expressed the least frustration with their chances for partnership. Although 13 of the 187 black lawyers surveyed reported that their firms had done nothing to prepare them for partnership, most written comments on this question were favorable. “One partner in particular takes frequent coffee breaks to tell me what I need to do doing to get my name in the community . . . and keeps me informed about what �guidelines’ the firm is looking for in a partner,” wrote one black midlevel. “My mentor periodically checks in to ensure I have a business plan and aspirational goals leading to partnership,” another commented. On the whole, however, African American lawyers gave their firms worse performance reviews, awarding scores in seven areas that were lower than those awarded by other minority groups. In particular, black associates seemed to want more responsibility: On a scale of 1 to 5, African Americans awarded their firms a 3.73 when asked whether they were satisfied with their level of responsibility. (By contrast, whites gave firms a 4.17; Asian lawyers a 4.10; and Hispanics a 4.04.) In six other categories�including peer collegiality, client contact, partner relations, and fairness in distribution of work�black lawyers rated their firms lower than did their Hispanic, Asian, and white cohorts. “Notwithstanding all the progress that we’ve made, there remains a difficulty in getting black lawyers who join law firms to believe that they have an equal chance to succeed,” comments Harvard’s Wilkins. “It’s a reciprocal thing. It’s partly how much law firms are willing to invest, but that is in part driven by the expectations of the lawyers.” African Americans were least certain that they would be with their firms in two years’ time. Indeed, 75 percent of black junior associates plan to leave their firms, compared with 69 percent of Hispanics, 54 percent of whites, and 51 percent of Asian Americans, according to data from NALP (formerly the National Association for Law Placement, Inc.) that Wilkins has gathered for an ongoing study that follows lawyers through ten years of practice. Accordingly, Wilkins suggests that firms need to recruit commensurately more minority lawyers in the first place. Still, stepped-up hiring is hardly a cure-all. “There’s no quick fix,” Wilkins adds. “You can’t just put a race Band-Aid on it. These are deep issues that go to how law firms are going to attract and retain the top law students from populations that feel themselves at risk, and more vulnerable,” he says. “Black, Hispanic, and Asian lawyers leave firms for the same reasons as whites, but, in part because firms have a numbers problem, minorities feel that their situation is more acute.” In general, minority summer associates were more positive about their experiences than minority midlevel associates. African American summer associates pegged their experience significantly lower than whites did in only one category: client contact (3.25 to 3.55). In gauging collegiality among their summer classes and in rating the firms’ efforts on diversity, black students awarded scores (4.16) that were noticeably lower than those awarded by whites (4.43), Hispanics (4.40), and Asian Americans (4.38). In every other category of question comparable to those asked of midlevels, all minority summer associate responses were nearly identical. One surprising finding of the survey was that midlevel minority associates at the nation’s most diverse firms were not necessarily more contented than their counterparts elsewhere. When we compared responses from minorities at ten firms at the top of the Diversity Scorecard with those from minorities at all firms surveyed, we found remarkably small differences. Indeed, the most diverse firms generally received slightly less favorable scores, although their minority lawyers were slightly more likely to predict that they would be at the same firm in two years. The contrast was most pronounced in mentoring: 72 percent of minorities at all firms reported having a mentor, compared with only 63 percent of the most diverse firms. “It may be that more diverse firms have less formal mentoring, or that lawyers feel less need for such programs,” offers Sharon Bowen, cochair of the diversity committee at Latham & Watkins (ranked nineteenth on the Diversity Scorecard), which has a mandatory mentoring program for all first-year associates, regardless of race. Written comments in the survey suggest that associates are most interested in seeing more diversity in the partnership ranks. “The thing that’s really important for associates is to see partners and mentors who are like them, and who are in positions of success,” says a Hispanic associate. He notes that he regularly works one-on-one with a Latino partner: “I can’t tell you how good it makes me feel.” MIDLEVEL ASSOCIATES Rate your firm’s dedication to diversity: (1=not dedicated; 5=very dedicated) Whites: 3.88 Asian Americans: 3.62 African Americans: 3.27 Hispanic Americans: 3.80 Combined Minorities*: 3.57 Most diverse firms** Combined Minorities*: 3.86 Whites: 4.19 Rate the fairness of how work is distributed: (1=very unsatisfactory; 5=very satisfactory) Whites: 3.92 Asian Americans: 3.75 African Americans: 3.54 Hispanic Americans: 3.93 Combined Minorities*: 3.74 Most diverse firms** Combined Minorities*: 3.68 Whites: 3.94 Do you have a mentor at your firm? Whites: 74% yes Asian Americans: 71% yes African Americans: 73% yes Hispanic Americans: 75% yes Combined Minorities*: 72% yes Most diverse firms** Combined Minorities*: 63% yes Whites: 65% yes Rate the amount of client contact: (1=very unsatisfactory; 5=very satisfactory) Whites: 4.15 Asian Americans: 4.00 African Americans: 3.65 Hispanic Americans: 4.07 Combined Minorities*: 3.92 Most diverse firms** Combined Minorities*: 3.98 It’s nearly impossible to become an equity partner at my firm. (1=strongly disagree; 5=strongly agree) Whites: 2.96 Asian Americans: 3.27 African Americans: 2.96 Hispanic Americans: 3.10 Combined Minorities*: 3.15 Most diverse firms** Combined Minorities*: 3.46 Whites: 3.15 How would you rate your firm as a place to work? (1=lowest score; 5=highest score) Whites: 4.12 Asian Americans: 3.97 African Americans: 3.81 Hispanic Americans: 4.13 Combined Minorities*: 3.97 Most diverse firms** Combined Minorities*: 3.98 Whites: 4.17 SUMMER ASSOCIATES My firm seems to make a sincere effort to diversify in terms of race, gender, and ethnicity. (1=strongly disagree; 5=strongly agree) Whites: 4.43 African American 4.16 Asian American 4.38 Hispanic American 4.40 Combined Minorities*: 4.32 Most diverse firms** Combined Minorities*: 4.54 Whites: 4.54 There is a high level of collegiality in my summer class. (1=strongly disagree; 5=strongly agree) Whites: 4.53 African American 4.39 Asian American 4.58 Hispanic American 4.44 Combined Minorities*: 4.50 Most diverse firms** Combined Minorities*: 4.49 Whites: 4.39 Rate the amount of client contact: (1=highly unsatisfactory; 5=highly satisfactory) Whites: 3.55 African American 3.25 Asian American 3.38 Hispanic American 3.26 Combined Minorities*: 3.32 Most diverse firms** Combined Minorities*: 3.42 Whites: 3.52 Rate the opportunities for mentoring: (1=highly unsatisfactory; 5=highly satisfactory) Whites: 4.36 African American 4.26 Asian American 4.27 Hispanic American 4.24 Combined Minorities*: 4.26 Most diverse firms** Combined Minorities*: 3.98 Whites: 4.07 How would you rate this firm as a place to work? (1=lowest score; 5=highest score) Whites: 4.67 African American 4.55 Asian American 4.65 Hispanic American 4.69 Combined Minorities*: 4.62 Most diverse firms** Combined Minorities*: 4.69 Whites: 4.58 *Includes African Americans: , Asian Americans, and Hispanics only. **Includes ten firms from the top of MLJ’s Diversity Scorecard. Methodology:The Minority Experience Report is drawn from data gathered by ALM’s Midlevel Associates and Summer Associates Surveys. This year 6,568 midlevel associates at 197 firms filled out the Midlevel Associates survey, and 6,789 interns at 202 firms took part in the Summer Associates Survey. Respondents had the option of listing their ethnicity. A total of 5,155 midlevel associates (4,441 whites, 187 African Americans, 361 Asian Americans, and 166 Hispanics) and 5,607 summer associates (4,322 whites, 385 African Americans, 671 Asian Americans, and 229 Hispanics) did so. We chose a range of questions from both surveys that dealt with quality of life issues, including collegiality and competition, quantity of work, responsibility, client contact, feedback, firm prestige, relations with partners, relations with associates, the firm’s dedication to diversity, and the firm’s overall rating as a place to work. We then calculated the average response for each question for each of four ethnic groups�whites, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics�as well as for the combined minority groups. We also calculated the average response for each question for whites and combined minorities (African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics) at the top ten firms on our Diversity Scorecard [Minority Law Journal, Summer 2006] that responded to each survey. These firms were Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Morrison & Foerster; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; Fenwick & West; Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy; Hughes Hubbard & Reed; Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Howrey; and Davis Polk & Wardwell. Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith and Townsend and Townsend and Crew ranked in the top ten of the Diversity Scorecard, but Lewis, Brisbois did not participate in the Midlevel Associates and Summer Associates surveys, and Townsend and Townsend did not qualify for a national ranking in those surveys.

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