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On an improbably clear day in Los Angeles, a pack of children stormed into Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s downtown office, shattering the corporate serenity of the pale limestone lobby. The kids-boys and girls in the uniform of sneakers, jeans, and T-shirts-had arrived to celebrate this year’s Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work day. As the children of lawyers, secretaries, and maintenance workers raced toward the lunchroom on the firm’s fifty-third floor, it was hard to tell which kids belonged to whom. Nobody seemed to care. Adults milled in and out of the room, occasionally breaking away from conversations and BlackBerrys to fetch a juice box or wipe an untidy little face. It was a postcard of an easygoing California law firm-open, family-friendly, and cool. The antithesis of an uptight Wall Street law firm. A snapshot, perhaps, of what the partners like to call ‘the Gibson, Dunn Family.’ That image of a progressive law firm is more than a pose. Women at Gibson, Dunn have made a distinct mark, injecting a feminine consciousness to the high-power firm. Part-time work and flexible schedules have been institutionalized; what’s more, associates can take advantage of those programs without losing their place on the partnership track. Though women represent only 15 percent of the total partnership, they’ve averaged close to 40 percent of new partners at the firm for the last three years. They also have real power, serving on executive, management, and partner evaluation committees. All told, the firm has come a long way since the early fifties, when it rejected Stanford Law School grad Sandra Day O’Connor as an associate (the firm offered her a secretary job). Unfortunately, those good marks for women aren’t reflected in its record with minority lawyers. Among Am Law 100 firms, Gibson, Dunn ranks in the lower third, at seventy-first place for overall percentage of minority lawyers (9.4 percent), and almost scrapes bottom at ninety-third place for having just 2 percent minority partners (of its five minority partners, one is African American, three are Hispanic, and one is Native American). In the partner ranks, Gibson, Dunn has tony company in the bottom tenth percentile: Cravath, Swaine & Moore lags in ninety-eighth place, with only one minority partner among its 75 partners. Paradoxically, Cravath finished fifth in overall diversity because of its high percentage-20 percent-of minority associates. Palo Alto’s Cooley Godward, with 2.1 percent minority partners, is also a bottom dweller-though it lands in a respectable sixteenth place for overall diversity (it has 15.4 percent minority lawyers). [These statistics are drawn from data collected for the Diversity Scorecard, published in Minority Law Journal, an ALM publication. Full results can be found at americanlawyer.com.] The rainbow coalition has not arrived at any major firm. But some firms have made noticeable strides in diversity-particularly in the elevation of Asian American lawyers. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, for example, went from just three Asian American partners in 2000 to 15 today; it now has the highest percentage of minority partners (15 percent; all equity) in the nation. In fact, seven of the top ten firms for minority partners also rank in the top ten for the highest percentage of Asian American partners. Which makes Gibson, Dunn an anomaly: It has no Asian American partner among its 260 shareholders. That’s striking since Gibson, Dunn is based in a state with the highest percentage of Asian Americans outside of Hawaii, and Asian Americans have made up its largest group of minority lawyers for at least the last ten years. Just a statistical fluke? Maybe. But Gibson, Dunn, which has tried to improve its minority figures for over a decade, doesn’t have a ready explanation. ‘It’s hard for me to answer,’ says managing partner Kenneth Doran about the firm’s minority record. ‘I’m not happy with our numbers. Diversity has been on my list of biggest priorities since I took office three years ago.’Tanned, with a brush of gray hair at his temples, Doran, an honors graduate of the University of Southern California Law School, has the breezy style of someone who just stepped off a sailboat. He projects a friendly, boy-next-door sincerity. He says he’s tackling diversity on all fronts-from recruitment to partnership. He lists a number of initiatives: a national diversity committee, the appointment of a partner (Barbara Becker in New York) and manager (Chantel Moore, a former marketing manager at O’Melveny & Myers) for diversity, a first-year summer program targeted at minorities, receptions for minority law students, plans to hire minority laterals, and plans for an associates’ mentoring program. To underscore its commitment to diversity, Doran says the firm showcased two high-profile African Americans-Harvard Law School professor David Wilkins, an expert on diversity issues, and author Maya Angelou-at the firm’s annual retreat last year. His message: ‘We are on the right path; we’re focusing on [diversity] with urgency and creativity.’ Hope is riding high that Doran can make a difference. He’s been getting good marks for pushing a progressive agenda. ‘There’s a lot more optimism,’ says one African American associate. ‘[Diversity] is a definite priority for Ken; the firm is making effort and progress.’ Says an Asian American associate: ‘I feel they are trying, and heading in the right direction-as opposed to three years ago, when we didn’t even have a diversity committee.’ Better late than never, say some. Too little, too late, gripe others. ‘The [diversity] committee was not given the official nod until [the partners] realized the avalanche of diversity concerns expressed by the associates,’ says Hyeon Lee, who left a few months ago as an eighth-year associate in New York for a business position at an asset management company. ‘It was painful that in an 800-lawyer firm the number of diverse partners was so appalling.’ Several of the dozen-plus Gibson minority alumni we interviewed expressed skepticism about whether these new initiatives will yield real results, since they’ve heard rallying cries for diversity in the past. ‘It comes and goes,’ says a former African American associate about Gibson, Dunn’s diversity effort. ‘It’s just part of a cycle; they are reacting to bad press.’ Both alumni and current minority associates question whether the firm has the resolve to tackle the underlying cause of its poor diversity record. What’s needed, say these lawyers, is some soul searching about what it really takes to succeed at a firm like Gibson, Dunn, and how race factors in a profession that prides itself as a meritocracy. Gibson, Dunn partners need only look across the street, literally, to get a sense of how far their firm lags behind the competition. That other grand dame of the Southern California legal scene, O’Melveny & Myers, has much in common with Gibson, Dunn. Over 100 years old, both firms opened shop when Hollywood was just a cow pasture, and both have long attracted graduates of top law schools. Partners at both firms make a tidy sum: Profits per partner at Gibson are $1.5 million; at O’Melveny, $1.3 million.The difference is that O’Melveny is a relative success story in diversity-especially with Asian Americans. With over 9 percent minority partners (23 total), it ranks in sixth place for minority shareholders for 2004. Also, all 14 of O’Melveny’s Asian Americans are equity partners. Undoubtedly it helps that O’Melveny has had an active Pacific Rim practice for decades. Gibson, Dunn’s only Asian American partner, Hsiao Chiung Li, left the firm in 1997 after the firm closed its East Asian offices. But O’Melveny litigation partner Victor Jih says it’s the firm’s attitude rather than the practice area that accounts for the high number of Asian Americans. Jih stresses that most Asian American lawyers do not work in the East Asian group and are spread out over all practices. A self-described born litigator, Jih, who made partner two years ago at the age of 30, says O’Melveny never expected him to go into its Asia practice just because of his ethnicity: ‘The only people who said, ‘Why don’t you go to the Beijing office?’ were my parents.’ Having a base of minority partners early on helps the retention of minority lawyers. ‘It’s a vicious cycle. If you don’t have minorities in senior roles, it’s harder to recruit,’ says Harvey Jang, a senior O’Melveny associate who moved over from Gibson, Dunn three years ago. Though Jang says he changed firms to do more intellectual property litigation, he also says, ‘it was important to me that O’Melveny has a strong Asian American presence.’ From a public relations view, it doesn’t hurt that Warren Christopher, former U.S. secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, now champions diversity at O’Melveny. A slightly built but elegant man, Christopher stands out not only because of his celebrated status, but because he’s the only person wearing a suit at the Century City office. Unfailingly cordial, Christopher says he takes racial equality personally, tracing his interest in the issue to World War II, when he enlisted in the Navy as a 17-year-old. Based in Mobile at the time, Christopher remembers being shocked by the discrimination faced by African Americans: ‘It was a searing experience for someone who grew up in a monochromatic world. . . . The segregation was overwhelming.’ As a result of that early experience, Christopher says, ‘I developed a deep empathy for people of other races.’Christopher got involved in O’Melveny’s latest diversity effort when he was asked to draft a statement of values for the firm in 2000. The result was a one-page statement that lists ‘excellence, leadership, and citizenship’ as the firm’s values. ‘Diversity is embedded in all processes,’ says Christopher, ‘from recruiting, to training, to compensation.’ Christopher describes a centralized diversity initiative that could be a blueprint for nation building. Among the highlights: a mandatory diversity training program for staff, associates, and partners; a lawyer review process that weighs diversity efforts in determining compensation (‘it can be a factor that tilts the scale,’ says Christopher); a formal assignment system to ensure that work is fairly delegated; a detailed, consultant-designed mentoring program; a core competency program to apprise lawyers and staff on whether they are performing to expected standards; affinity programs for minorities and women; and a diversity awareness day, featuring panels and entertainment. A key goal of diversity training, explains Christopher, is ‘to make sure that we don’t subconsciously send signals that might discourage minorities. We have to make sure that it’s a comfortable place for people.’ Adds Jang: ‘A lot of the stuff O’Melveny does is like therapy,’ noting that the firm dispenses detailed instructions about recruitment, mentoring, and upward reviews. But Jang doesn’t mind the script: ‘There’s more cultural sensitivity at O’Melveny. Giving some structure is helpful. It helps you be a better mentor and lawyer.’ Eric Richards, an African American partner at O’Melveny, says the firm has a ‘historical culture that values diversity.’ Even as a junior associate in 1991, Richards says, he participated in a minority issues committee, appointed by Christopher, that looked into minority advancement. As a result of the committee’s work, Richards says the firm started diversity training and developed an assignment tracking system. The current effort, he adds, is ‘a continuation of [earlier] formal and informal efforts’-the difference, he notes, is that this latest push is ‘more strategic, more broad-based, and more encompassing.’ Both Richards and Christopher admit that this sweeping approach to diversity is not universally popular. ‘You change minds by showing that it’s important to the leadership of the firm,’ says Christopher. ‘It’s not easy with everyone, but over time people realize that it’s important.’Besides, says O’Melveny’s diversity director, Jacqueline Cranford, ‘no one says no to Chris,’ as Christopher is called. ‘He’s an institution; he gives seriousness and legitimacy to the issue.’ Adds Jang: ‘When he says he’s committed to something, it will happen.’ Gibson, Dunn has its own celebrities. The problem is that partners such as Theodore Olson, Miguel Estrada, and Eugene Scalia happen to be political lightning rods in some circles. ‘We fight our conservative law firm image all the time,’ says partner Marjorie Lewis, who coheads the L.A. office. A bundle of energy, Lewis is the mother of three and a leading proponent for women and family-related issues at the firm. She also makes a point of saying that she sits on the opposite political end from her famous colleagues, as do many, if not most, of her partners. ‘We are an eclectic bunch,’ she says. Image is just a small part of the problem, say alumni. Indeed, the firm has had some success in attracting minority candidates; law students of color make up almost 20 percent of this year’s summer associate class. ‘Even conservative partners are in favor of diversity,’ says an Asian American associate, provided that the ‘traditional values of the firm stay intact.’ But minority associates don’t stick around once they are admitted through the door-a trend that’s hard to ignore. Dramatically improving diversity without upsetting long-held traditions might be tricky. One major hurdle, say former minority alumni, is that the partners see diversity and quality as a dichotomy. Former associate Lee recalls that when he broached the subject of diversity in the New York office, one partner reacted, ‘ ‘We’re not going to lower our standards.’ ‘ Lee’s take on that conversation: ‘It was almost implicit that you’d have to lower standards to make diverse candidates partners.’ Lee is not alone in this view. Two other Gibson, Dunn alumni recounted almost verbatim exchanges with another partner in Los Angeles. ‘When an African American associate raised the issue of minorities,’ says one alum, ‘the [partner's] response was, ‘We don’t intend to lower our standards.’ ‘ The partner probably had no idea how he was coming off, says this associate, but ‘the comment was hurtful . . . I thought, I gotta get out of here.’ Another former associate at this same meeting calls the partner’s response ‘insulting . . . I took it to heart.’To Lee, that knee-jerk reaction to diversity has a chilling effect on discussions about race. ‘It’s a response that’s hard to attack because it has no substance,’ he says. ‘It is just pure grades and schools.’ On the hiring end, at least, it’s not hard to figure out what ‘quality’ means. Doran and hiring partner Kevin Rosen, among others, make no apologies that high grades are essential to entering Gibson, Dunn’s pearly gates. ‘We really have tough hiring standards,’ says Doran. ‘We believe there’s a connection between how well people do in school and how they perform as lawyers,’ adds Rosen. ‘We’re not going to go deeper in a class in order to diversify.’ While many law firms weigh grades in hiring new associates, Gibson, Dunn takes it to another level: The firm even demands official law school transcripts from laterals, including partners with business. ‘If it’s a senior lateral partner, we do ask about law school performance,’ admits Doran. ‘But that’s just part of the information.’ And how do candidates feel about this request? Doran says he’s been getting positive feedback. ‘A lot of people like it because it shows we care about them as people, and not just about their book of business. . . . Many view it as refreshing.’Call them incurable romantics. But not everyone shares that sentimental view of law school grades. ‘It seems to indicate the fetishization of grades,’ says Elizabeth Chambliss, a professor at New York Law School, who completed a study for the American Bar Association on minorities in the profession this year. ‘It presumes that there’s economic rationalization going on; there’s an assumption that high grades equal higher profitability. But nobody has looked into that.’ At Gibson, Dunn, at least, the idea that grades are indicators of excellence is hardwired into both partners and associates alike. Having good grades seems to define what it means to be a Gibson, Dunn lawyer. Minority lawyers, in particular, staunchly uphold the grade cutoff. ‘I think it’s fantastic!’ says Marcellus McRae, the only African American partner at the firm (another black partner, Aulana Peters, retired several years ago). ‘Think how good that is-it’s the same barometer for everybody. . . . People know you’re here because of your ability.’ The son of a professional football player, McRae could easily be cast himself in the role of star athlete-a career he would have pursued, he says, if his father had allowed it. McRae says his father gave him a stern directive: ‘ ‘Make your career with your mind.’ ‘ A whiz kid, McRae graduated from Beverly Hills High School and enrolled at the University of California at Los Angeles at age 15; he then went to Harvard Law School. He joined Gibson, Dunn after serving as an assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles. Few Gibson lawyers seem to question whether that strict adherence to grades is a valid standard. Counsel Cecilia Estolano, who interrupted her practice at Gibson, Dunn to take a senior position in Los Angeles city government for three years, says: ‘We have a pretty elite approach to grades; we don’t deviate from it. . . . It’s a given.’ A gay Hispanic who’s on the partner track, Estolano says she feels no constraints to her success at the firm: ‘You don’t have to have a certain ideology-just excellence.’ The grade issue is more than a policy debate; it also has practical consequences on minority hiring. For one thing, it shrinks the available number of minority candidates in an already small pool. ‘The grade consideration adds an extra challenge to hiring laterals,’ says Ronald Beard, 66, who was Gibson, Dunn’s managing partner from 1991 to 1997. During that time, Beard waged an earnest but unsuccessful effort to increase the number of minorities, hiring diversity consultants and chairing the steering committee of the California Minority Counsel Program. Now retired from the firm and consulting for The Zeughauser Group, Beard praises Doran’s diversity efforts. But he doesn’t share his former colleagues’ belief in the talismanic quality of grades: ‘Someone could be a roaring success and be at the bottom of his or her law school class.’ The transcript requirement also plays into the image that Gibson, Dunn is a closed club with its own quirky vetting process. And might minority laterals see the grade thing as a hidden test of their abilities? Absolutely, says a law firm consultant: ‘Why would you go to that kind of place when you could go to a Latham or O’Melveny, where they’re only interested in whether you can function as a successful lawyer?’ Faith in grades feeds a belief that’s central to Gibson, Dunn’s identity: that it is a meritocracy in which objective standards are used to judge performance. ‘They like to think of themselves as color-blind-a pure meritocracy,’ says one Asian American lawyer.So color-blind that some partners seem unaware of the obvious: that there are precious few minorities sitting next to them at the partnership table. ‘One partner said to me, ‘I don’t consider Asians minorities,’ ‘ says a Gibson, Dunn alum. ‘But then I asked him, ‘How many Asian American partners do we have here?’ ‘ Central to that myth of a color-blind meritocracy is the notion that ‘people will make it if they want to,’ explains another former Gibson associate who says he never aspired to partnership. Other firms might ‘reach out to minorities,’ he adds, but Gibson ‘doesn’t believe in making accommodations.’ That suited him just fine, says this Asian American lawyer, because, ‘I believe in the Gibson system . . . I don’t want special treatment.’ But then he pauses and says, ‘Some minorities believe in that Gibson approach too, but they haven’t made it either.’ Under Gibson’s free-market work system, it’s up to the associate to seek out partners for work. ‘There’s no central oversight, no career guidance, no institutional system to watch out for you,’ describes one Asian American associate, who says that she personally likes the system. ‘But people fall through the cracks.’ That’s especially true for Asians, she says, because ‘they believe their work speaks for themselves.’ What happens, she adds, is that some Asians fail to blow their own horns, and thus fall off the partnership radar screen.’Firms are selling the idea that people can succeed on their own, and that’s a big lie,’ says Harvard’s Wilkins. ‘It’s a myth that ultimately harms diversity. ‘ The business of law, says Wilkins, is all about building relationships: ‘Once you’re in the door, you need to be developed through relationships; you need to learn from somebody who’s inside.’Gibson, Dunn’s partners are heeding Wilkins’s words. Partner Marjorie Lewis says Wilkins made a huge impression on her at the firm’s retreat. As a result of Wilkins’s speech, she says, ‘mentoring is our issue for 2005.’ She adds that ‘mentoring has not been part of our system,’ but that Wilkins convinced her that it’s the key to retention. She adds that the firm is now working with a consultant to develop a mentoring program. Lewis also believes that Gibson, Dunn’s success in mentoring women on an informal basis can be duplicated with minorities. ‘Big firms are a maze, and if someone can guide you through it, that’s important,’ she explains. Lewis, who joined the firm in 1981, says she was mentored by a male partner who was so considerate of her schedule that he ‘never set early morning meetings in case I had to drive the carpool.’ Now she mentors women associates: ‘I tell them who will be supportive of being a mom and a lawyer, and what kind of cases they should work on. That kind of advice is not provided by Gibson, Dunn institutionally but individually.’ She says she intends to play a similar role with lawyers of color. ‘Being a white woman, I have a tiny sense of what it means not to be part of the big white male majority.’ An unabashed optimist, she adds, ‘Women lawyers have been embraced, just as diverse lawyers will be.’ Racial barriers, however, may be tougher to break than gender ones. First, it’s a matter of numbers: Women have made up 40-50 percent of law school graduates for over 20 years, so there are many more of them in the pipeline. ‘Minorities are not at that level; they are about 20 percent-and big firms are drawing from an even smaller pool,’ notes Wilkins. ‘Just because a firm is working on gender issues doesn’t mean they’re working hard on diversity issues; there are different dynamics.’ Minority lawyers agree. ‘There’s a much more concerted effort to retain female lawyers-develop them, give them flexible schedules,’ says one former Gibson, Dunn lawyer. And the reason women get more attention? ‘Even if you’re a white guy, you have mothers and daughters-and they come from the same social-economic background,’ says this lawyer. Daughters, adds Wilkins, have made a real difference in law firm culture in the last 20 years or so because that’s when so many of them started entering the profession: ‘A male partner can see a female associate as his daughter. It’s harder to do that with someone of a different race.’ Another uncomfortable fact: Stereotypes about women lawyers are not nearly as pernicious as those about minorities. The question about women succeeding in law hinges on drive and commitment-the competing interests of work and family-rather than that of raw intelligence. ‘The negative stereotype hits us hard, ‘ says an African American former Gibson, Dunn lawyer, recounting how a partner automatically assumed that it was a white associate who wrote the stronger arguments in a brief. ‘You have to be ten times as good because you are working from a deficit.’ Which brings us back to the model minority: Asian Americans, and their curious absence from the Gibson, Dunn partnership. And here Wilkins sings a cautionary tale: ‘If you’re not seeing progress with Asians, you’ll probably have problems with other groups too.’ Moreover, he predicts that they could face a long road: ‘Asian Americans are in the clear majority among minorities-but like women, their progress has been less successful when it comes to partnerships. ‘ He adds that Asian Americans are stereotyped as great associates, but not leaders. It’s an image issue that troubles the firm’s Asian American associates-present and former. Says one associate: ‘There’s a perception that some people look like a partner, and some don’t. And I don’t know if people see me as a partner.’ Of course, it’s just a matter of time before Gibson, Dunn installs an Asian American partner. ‘We have a strong group of midlevel and senior [Asian American] associates,’ says Doran. ‘Our numbers will change in two to three years.’ The more urgent question is how the firm will achieve the critical mass to keep minorities in the pipeline for the long term. Jump-starting the process is key. But the laissez-faire, individualistic culture of Gibson, Dunn may not be ready for the bureaucracies of a structured diversity program-though Doran hasn’t ruled anything out. For now, Gibson, Dunn takes a more ad hoc approach. For instance, the centerpiece of the retention program, mentoring, is still in the developmental stages. So far, the diversity committee has been focused on law schools: ‘Recruiting is just easier to tackle,’ says one associate on the committee.’Whether we’re late or not, we’re committed,’ says Daniel Floyd, a partner on the hiring committee. What’s different this time is that there’s ‘more partner participation on diversity,’ adds Rory Hernandez, one of three Hispanic partners at the firm. ‘I have full support from management,’ says Barbara Becker, the partner in charge of diversity. ‘We have huge support internally-over 100 lawyers are on the diversity committee.’ To hiring partner Kevin Rosen, the big reason the diversity effort will succeed is that ‘there’s a younger generation running things.’ But can Gibson, Dunn achieve diversity without betraying the concept of a color-blind meritocracy? ‘If you want to change the status quo, you can’t keep the status quo,’ warns Wilkins. ‘You need to overcompensate and intervene early by seeking out minorities for high-profile projects.’ Is this unfair favoritism? ‘Only if you assume minorities don’t face unique obstacles,’ says Wilkins. ‘And if you believe that, ask why are there so few minority partners. ‘ Maybe it’s time to consider race in promotions, says one Gibson alum: ‘I’m not a fan of affirmative action. But if you’re not starting with large numbers to begin with, it’s a good argument for it.’ Firms are squeamish about the A-A words, affirmative action. Big corporations are not. ‘People are defensive, nervous about affirmative action-unnecessarily so,’ says Elpidio Villarreal, an associate general counsel of Schering-Plough Corporation and a former senior counsel at General Electric Company. ‘I’m not talking about quotas; diversity is just one of the factors you should consider. ‘ A founder of the GE legal department’s diversity initiative, Villarreal says he kept tabs on how many minorities worked on GE’s projects. He notes that firms were not fired as a result of their low minority numbers but that statistics affected the ‘flow’ of business. (GE is a client of Gibson, Dunn’s. Janine Dascenzo, GE’s managing counsel for legal operations, says Gibson, Dunn was not at the bottom of the company’s list of firms for diversity. But, she adds, ‘They do better in women than diversity.’) ‘One thing that will force firms to do better is if clients force them,’ says former Gibson, Dunn managing partner Ron Beard. But he says that in his experience, few clients pressed him about diversity, beyond pro forma requests for minority statistics. Beard’s successors, Wesley Howell, Jr., and Ken Doran, essentially confirm the same pattern, despite the hype that companies are pressuring law firms to increase diversity. Howell adds, though, ‘There was pressure on the gender issue because there were women GCs.’Beard thinks that law firms should put the screws on their own partners. One method is to tie compensation directly to diversity results-a measure that’s part of O’Melveny’s compensation system and GE’s internal review process. ‘You reward people for client work and pro bono, so why shouldn’t you reward people for promoting diversity?’ asks Beard. ‘Compensation drives behavior.’Those kinds of race-based, hardball measures make Howell wince. ‘It’s a bad idea,’ says Howell, who served as managing partner for five years before Doran took over. ‘It’s like paying for minorities.’ A sturdy man with a helmet of white hair, the 67-year-old Howell is an old-fashioned take-no-prisoners kind of litigator who practices in the firm’s New York office. He admits that diversity was not the top priority during his reign: ‘I had other pressures-economic ones.’ Though Howell represents the older generation, his views on diversity aren’t that radically different from those of his younger partners-he’s just more blunt. ‘We don’t do anybody any favors by saying someone needs a leg up,’ he says. But it bothers him that the firm has lost its competitive edge on the issue: ‘I don’t give a damn about what Gibson, Dunn’s racial makeup is, but I’m concerned that we might be missing the opportunity of getting quality minorities who might think that a firm like O’Melveny & Myers is more welcoming.’ Judging a firm by statistics is wrong, he says: ‘I’m troubled when people look at statistics and measure people that way. . . . You should judge people as individuals and not by their race.’ At the same time, Howell is a hard-nosed realist: ‘I was an engineer before I was a lawyer, [so] I recognize that the moment you measure something, it gets better. When you tell people to take measure of pro bono, pro bono stats get better.’ And that, he sighs, signals that Gibson might have to swallow some strong medicine to improve its diversity record: ‘It means we have to do some things that I’m uncomfortable with.’

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