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One of the positive aspects of focusing more on diversity issues for us here at The Legal has been the discussions and feedback generated by the articles and columns. There’s been no shortage of e-mail and calls, many of them from people offering helpful insights and suggestions about issues we should be following. In the past few months I’ve noticed a change in the tone of some of the feedback I’ve gotten. Whereas there was often a sense of frustration and discouragement earlier, lately I’ve detected more optimism in many of the exchanges. I’ve enjoyed and learned from all the correspondence, but it’s been nice to see even some of the more skeptical folks I’ve been talking to sound more hopeful. Several minority attorneys have told me they’ve been surprised and encouraged by the level of buzz that’s been circulating among the legal community regarding diversity, and the outreach efforts of some, particularly the trial lawyers. Many of them are quick to point out that talk is one thing, action and results another. However, you’ll never see real action or results unless there’s some open and honest discussions going on. Am I suggesting there’s some kind of great momentum and turning point going on with regard to diversity in the Pennsylvania legal community? No. I’d be a fool to do so. But while a newspaper’s job is often to point out problems in communities, that doesn’t mean that a newspaper should overlook positive signs of change in those problematic areas either. I have a saying I’m fond of: It is better to be an optimist and risk being disappointed by life than be a pessimist and guarantee it. So in that vein, here are some reasons for optimism beyond the increased dialogue on the issue. Diversity Summit Tomorrow the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) is holding its second annual diversity summit in Philadelphia. The bulk of the panels is focusing on best practices for hiring and retention from a variety of angles: bar associations, law firms, corporate counsel, government, public interest firms and creating an educational pipeline. The summit has lined up a huge number of speakers from all those different arenas to offer their thoughts and ideas. For firms looking to improve in the key areas of hiring and retention � and what firm isn’t � what more could you want in terms of a forum for ideas and feedback? So far the summit has about 200 people registered. While that number is impressive, I would hope come tomorrow that the actual number of attendees would be a lot higher. Given that the diversity figures at most of the large law firms and plaintiffs firms are nothing to write home about, you would think that it would be in the best interest of all those firms if their managing partners or someone from their management committees attended. Firms and attorneys in management should take advantage of this golden opportunity to hear what’s working and what’s not. They should jump at the chance to network and discuss their own efforts and/or frustrations with others attending the summit, whether in an open forum or later in private. Remember, the focus of the summit is on best practices, not on “why firms are terrible at diversity.” If people are offering ideas on solutions, why not go and listen to what they have to say? Why is the summit a reason for optimism? You could point to all the lawyers, firms, bar associations, corporations and organizations participating. But for me, it’s a lot more basic than that. I’ve sat in on a few of the conference calls in preparation of the summit, and when you realize how much time and effort the members of the PBA’s minority bar committee and others have devoted to pulling off such a large undertaking, that dedication to improving the situation impresses you, and it rubs off some. I’m looking forward to listening to some of the panels and I’ll have my reporters there too. I’ll be curious to hear what people have to say in terms of what is working. I’m also going to be curious which firms show up and which ones don’t. MLK Fellowships I had never heard of the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network’s Martin Luther King Jr. Summer Internship and Fellowship Program until Drexel University’s General Counsel Carl “Tobey” Oxholm III clued me in. The internship program is aimed at improving diversity in legal services and awards 10 paid internships for students to work in legal services each summer. The program’s 15th anniversary coincides with the diversity summit. But it was the MLK fellowship program and legal database project that really drew my attention. The fellowship program, created in 2004, provides funding for two years to minority attorneys to work in poverty law offices. The fellows � law school grads and attorneys new to practice � are assigned mentors and supervised by experienced attorneys. The salaries and benefits are paid by the host programs, but the fellows are funded in part by sponsors who contribute $5,000 per year for two years. In addition, the fellows can receive loan repayment assistance up to $11,000 during the first two years of employment. The goal for the fellowship fund drive this year was $200,000. When I spoke last Tuesday to Samuel W. Milkes, PLAN’s executive director, and Cynthia G. Newcomer, PLAN’s chief administrative officer, they said they were nearing that goal. Three days later Milkes e-mailed to tell me they had raised $220,000 in sponsorships and another $25,000 in donations. Both Milkes and Newcomer told me there was a particularly strong interest from firms this year to participate in the program. The list of sponsors includes a number of large firms and plaintiffs firms, as well as both the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association and the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association. Milkes told me one of the bonuses of the program is that it really works like a “two-for” by promoting diversity and legal aid work. In addition, Drexel is helping PLAN create a searchable, Web-based database of minority legal talent containing information on law students and attorneys who have worked for legal services in the MLK program. Only legal aid programs and sponsors will have access to the database. The database project should help place some minority attorneys at firms, and also give firms a tool to help improve their number of potential diversity hires. Not All the News Is Good While there have been some other good developments on the diversity front � including the Philadelphia Bar Association adopting “best practice” policies for the hiring and retention of women � not all the things I’ve seen recently have been positive. One recent survey of corporate counsel I read turned up at least one surprising result that might make many cringe. And I’ve also heard talk of some tensions as a result of the recent attention to diversity. That, however, will have to wait for another column. But as always with this issue, let me know what you’re thinking, what you’re hearing, what’s working and what’s not. We can always improve our coverage of the issues and the only way we can is from hearing from you. Hank Grezlak is the editor-in-chief of The Legal Intelligencer . He may be contacted at 215-557-2486, or by e-mail at [email protected].

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