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Texas’ largest firms don’t reflect the diversity of the population of lawyers in the state. That’s the case not only in Austin — where the Austin Black Lawyers Association and the Hispanic Bar Association of Austin recently held a press conference to call attention to the level of minority hiring in the capital — but throughout the state. While more than 11 percent of the lawyers in Texas are ethnic minorities, staffing at most of the largest firms in the state doesn’t meet that standard, according to an analysis of demographic information the firms submitted to the National Association for Law Placement. In their analysis, the minority bar groups in Austin found only one firm in that city — Bickerstaff, Heath, Smiley, Pollan, Kever & McDaniel — deserved an A grade for having at least 11 percent minority lawyers. More than 15 percent of the lawyers at Bickerstaff, Heath are minorities. The Austin office of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison would also have received an A grade if accurate statistics had been printed in the 2000 version of the NALP book, which is targeted to law students. The firm says nine of 66 lawyers in Austin on Feb. 1 were minorities — 13.6 percent �- not the three lawyers listed in the NALP form. Some firms in Austin didn’t fare so well. The Austin Bar groups gave five firms F grades because fewer than five percent of the lawyers in their offices are minorities. (Lawyers at Brobeck, Jackson Walker and Baker Botts say the ranking was undeserved because the demographic information in the NALP forms was inaccurate.) But in applying the same analysis to the Texas offices of the state’s largest firms, only three other firms �- Baker Botts; Clark, Thomas & Winters; and Locke Liddell & Sapp — come close to that 11 percent standard. Most large Texas firms earn a C on the grading scale established by the Austin Bar groups. The statewide analysis indicates 24 of 25 of Texas’ largest firms have an average of only 7.8 percent minority lawyers in their Texas offices. (The NALP forms report demographic information as of Feb. 1.) “It’s eye-opening,” says Paul Ruiz, an Austin lawyer who suggested the analysis to the Hispanic Bar Association of Austin. “It’s actually better than I thought it would be,” says Alfredo Silva, president-elect of the Mexican-American Bar Association in Dallas and a partner in Austin-based Strasburger & Price. “The bottom line is the firms don’t really think diversity will help them increase their dollars. When there is a firm out there making money, or at least a significant portion of their profit line, because of niche marketing, then the big law firms will start hiring folks,” Silva says. A LITTLE PRESSURE Ruiz, a partner in Clark, Thomas, says he started looking at the NALP forms of other firms this spring because he helps with his firm’s recruiting. He says he wanted to know how well other firms were doing in minority hiring and thought others would be interested as well. Ruiz and Linda Von Quintus, president of the Austin Black Lawyers Association, say the analysis of the NALP forms and the press conference was aimed at putting a little pressure on firms to pay attention to minority hiring. “If these firms are not going to hire minorities now when the economy’s good, they are never going to hire them,” Ruiz suggests. Von Quintus says she’s seen some positive steps from some Austin firms since the press conference. She says Patrick Keel, the hiring partner for Baker Botts in Austin, and Steven Zager, managing partner in Austin for Brobeck, have talked to her and Raul Gonzalez, president of the Hispanic Bar Association of Austin, about minority recruiting. “With one of them [Zager], we’ve already talked about having some type of job fair on hiring laterals to bring experienced attorneys to the firm,” she says. “I’ve looked at this as a win-win. I really don’t see any of this attention we’ve gotten as negative,” she says. In Austin only three of 45 lawyers at Baker Botts are minorities, a percentage that gave the firm a low grade in the Austin study. But statewide, 10.6 percent of its lawyers are minorities. Austin-based Clark, Thomas and Locke Liddell & Sapp aren’t far behind, with 10.5 percent minority lawyers at those firms. Most of the other large Texas firms are hovering close to the 7.8 percent average. Two firms headquartered outside of Texas, but with large operations in the state, didn’t do too badly in the analysis. At the Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue office in Dallas, 9.2 percent of the lawyers are minorities; the percentage is 8.8 percent at the Weil, Gotshal & Manges offices in Houston and Dallas. A few Texas firms earn low marks for recruiting minority lawyers when the grading scale developed by the minority bar associations is applied to their NALP statistics. At Cox & Smith in San Antonio, only three of 79 lawyers working at the firm on Feb. 1 were minorities. At Fort Worth’s Kelly, Hart & Hallman, it’s only three of 77 lawyers. Thompson & Knight’s statistics indicate only 6.1 percent minorities — 18 of 296 as of Feb. 1. Stephen Seidel, managing shareholder of Cox & Smith, says the firm has tried to make minority hiring a priority for the last three or four years, but it’s not an easy task because so many other firms are doing the same. “We’ve had some hires and they’ve been good and they’ve decided to move on,” Seidel says, adding that four of 16 students who clerked at the firm this summer were minorities. Mark Hart, managing partner of Kelly, Hart was out of the office July 19 and did not return a telephone message. Neither did partner Dee Kelly. Timothy McCormick, a member of Thompson & Knight’s managing committee, says the firm is trying, but it’s difficult to recruit and retain. “Part of the problem is you are not only competing for talent with lawyers deciding to go from small firm to big firm or big firm to small firm, but there’s the government agencies and the significant recruiting at the corporate level,” McCormick says. The dearth of minority lawyers at the firms isn’t going unnoticed. Lawyers at all the Texas firms contacted for comment in this story say they want to hire more minority lawyers and are trying to do it. The big-firm lawyers cite the same fundamental reasons for why it’s hard to hire and keep minority lawyers: competition from corporations and government agencies; the side effects of the Hopwood decision that prevents Texas law schools from using affirmative-action admissions programs; and the lure of the dot-com. Firms are taking steps to find minority lawyers. For instance, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, which is headquartered in Los Angeles but has offices in Texas, has a minority-hiring task force that has come up with efforts such as sponsoring test-taking seminars at law schools at the University of Texas and Southern Methodist University, says hiring partner Daniel Micciche. Strasburger & Price is starting a new networking program for minority students this fall at St. Mary’s University School of Law and appointed African-American partner Jeffery Story head of a new committee on Diversity and Community Affairs. Lawyers at other firms describe similar efforts. But people like Demonica Gladney, president of the Houston Lawyers Association, say the big firms need to do more lateral hiring of minority lawyers. “We have about 200-some members. There are many qualified people who can’t find jobs in large law firms,” says Gladney, an associate attorney at Exxon Mobil Corp. in Houston. “We have a lot of people who have been forced to go into solo practice because of this.” Von Quintus agrees, saying, “A lot of firms tend to kind of hide behind the ball, ‘We can’t find those students,’ but there are also lateral hires.” POSITIONS OF POWER While the analysis of NALP statistics may not explain why minorities make up less than 11 percent of the lawyer populations at the state’s largest firms, it suggests that some firms may not pay close attention to the statistics they submit on the NALP forms. The firm-submitted information, which is supposed to reflect the demographics of the big-firm offices as of Feb. 1, was incorrect or incomplete for several of the large Texas firms. Michael Conlon, a member of the executive committee of Houston’s Fulbright & Jaworski, says the minority numbers submitted by his firm may be on the low side. Without study on the numbers, Conlon quickly noted the number of minority partners for the firm’s Houston office was at least one short. “We don’t typically, quite frankly, spend a whole lot of time [on the forms],” he says. According to information on Fulbright’s NALP forms, plus Conlon’s addition, 7.4 percent of the firm’s lawyers are minorities. The NALP numbers for Brobeck, the California firm that’s a relative newcomer in Texas, were way off. According to the firm’s marketing department, the firm had nine minority lawyers in its Austin office as of Feb. 1, 13.6 percent of its total of 66, including three partners. The NALP form reported only three minority lawyers, giving the firm a low rating in the Austin bar association study. Zager says the fast-growing firm not only hires minorities, but minority lawyers are in positions of power at the firm. Carmelo Gordian, a Hispanic partner who opened Brobeck’s office in 1994, heads the firm’s business and technology practice. Says Zager, “Don’t look only at numbers; look at the positions minorities have at any firm that you are talking about.” CHART To view a chart of minority lawyers in Texas at large firms, click here.

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