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Diversity is a word and a topic that gets a lot of repetition in the legal world, but it sometimes seems as if the discussion never gets past the basics, which sound something like this: “There’s a need for more diversity at law firms, law schools, on the bench, and those institutions need to do more to make progress on that front.” When do we get the conversation past that point? My view on the issue lately has been shaped by a pair of conversations I’ve had over the last two years that opened my eyes to a few things. The first was at a law school graduation party for a friend of mine who is black. I was talking with his father, a longtime criminal defense attorney and talented storyteller. When he found out what I did and what paper I worked for, my friend’s father asked me straight up: “How come the only time you run pictures of black attorneys on the front page is when they’re in trouble?” Honestly, I didn’t really know what to say. Most of the complaints I’d received over the years had to do with the lack of pictures of minorities on the cover or stories about them. Except for maybe one instance, I couldn’t really think of what he was referring to. But in the end, I decided it didn’t matter. My friend checked to see if I was bothered. I told him it was cool; if that was his father’s perception, then I had to be aware of that and realize others in the community might feel the same way. It was a reminder that perception, particularly in matters of race, can often become reality. It told me that we had to do more � in terms of stories, pictures and reaching out � when it came to diversity. The second conversation happened just a few months ago. I was speaking with a minority attorney from a large law firm, whom I respect a lot, and I asked this attorney which firms, in his opinion, were doing a good job in terms of minority hiring and retention. The lawyer smiled at me. “You want to know my honest answer?” the attorney said. “Booth & Tucker,” referring of course to the well-known minority-owned and run law firm in Philadelphia. That comment registered with me too. This column isn’t about slamming law firms or law schools or the courts for not being more diverse. Believe me, I’m hardly one to preach, particularly on issues of race. It has always been one of the profound ironies of my life that I didn’t really encounter diversity until I went to the Ivy League. It’s not like I came from some exclusive, wealthy enclave. I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood where most everyone’s dad was a carpenter or a plumber or worked at the steel mill or, like my parents, worked at Rohm and Haas as an engineer and a secretary. It just happened that it was almost universally white. And my parents sent me to Catholic school, which was also almost entirely white. So I didn’t get exposed to any real diversity until I went to Cornell. Because of those experiences I’m not one to stand up on a soapbox. But it’s also because of what I learned in college, and later, working in a diverse office, that made me come to the conclusion, especially after having those two conversations I mentioned earlier, that sometimes all that is needed is just effort � real effort as opposed to stated effort � and frank, honest conversation, in order to make some progress. After I had that second conversation, and because for years I’ve heard partners express concerns about minority hiring efforts, and associates complain about the results (or lack thereof), I thought there might be a way for The Legal to play a role in fostering more dialogue on the issue. Why not devote space in the paper every month to issues central to diversity? I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. I ran it by a member of my editorial board, Raymond Williams at DLA Piper, who also is a member of the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group. I told him I was even contemplating giving space to the PDLG to write about and discuss issues. Even editorials. Raymond liked the idea and had some helpful suggestions that were in tune with what I was thinking. He pitched it to the PDLG, and the group signed on. And that’s why � thanks in large part to Raymond’s efforts � starting today, on page 5, we’re running the first of our monthly “Insight on Diversity” columns, written by members of the PDLG. The column will run on the fourth Friday of every month. I’ve given the group free reign to write whatever it as a group or its individual members want. The purpose of the column is to provide space to have open and frank discussions on issues, as well as a place to highlight success stories, and, at times, write editorials. My hope is that the column will foster dialogue and also, as our other columns do, help serve as a springboard to other news articles and in-depth features by my reporters. I also hope people who aren’t members of the PDLG write in to offer their thoughts on issues raised in the column. In addition, we’re also going to hold a roundtable on diversity hiring and retention in a few weeks. We will have managing partners and associates, attorneys from firms big and small, men and women, minority attorneys and white attorneys, getting together in a room to have a frank discussion on the issues surrounding that topic. The excerpts will then run in our supplement on the issue being published in May. Do I think these initiatives are going to bring about dramatic change? No. What they represent is our commitment as a newspaper to try to address all of the issues affecting all members of the legal community. They are part of our efforts to do more on the issue of diversity. And maybe, just maybe, they might serve as the starting point for some real progress for the Pennsylvania legal community.

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