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Two minority attorney groups have handed out “Fs” to five of Austin’s largest law firms for their minority hiring practices, but two of those firms may have deserved a passing grade. Only one of the 14 firms looked at by the Austin Black Lawyers Association and the Hispanic Bar Association of Austin got an “A plus” on a report card released on June 26. The top grade went to Bickerstaff, Heath, Smiley, Pollan, Kever & McDaniel. Raul Gonzalez, president of the Hispanic Bar Association, says 19 of Austin’s law firms signed a statement of goals in 1993 to increase minority hiring, retention and promotion. The numbers reported by the two groups suggest that some firms aren’t living up to that commitment. Gonzalez says 53 — or 7 percent — of the 719 attorneys at the 14 firms studied are black, Hispanic, Asian or Native American. The percentage is low despite Texas’ booming economy and the fact that minorities make up about 40 percent of the state’s population and 11.6 percent of the State Bar of Texas membership, he says. “We figured that if the Austin law firms are not hiring minority attorneys now when the economy is great, when law firms are aggressively courting new lawyers and they’re busier than ever, they never will,” Gonzalez says. However, one firm which was given an “F” disputes the figures on the report card. “It’s materially wrong,” says Carmelo Gordian, chairman of the business and technology practice at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. According to the report card, Brobeck has the lowest percentage of minority attorneys. The report shows the firm has only one minority partner and that two of its 66 attorneys — or 3 percent — are minorities. Gordian says the groups relied on inaccurate data and that three of the firm’s 15 partners and 13 percent of its associates are minorities. A mistake was made, he says, because the groups didn’t check with the firm. “They acted as if they had a story to tell, but they didn’t even call us up,” Gordian says. Linda Von Quintus, president of the Austin black lawyers group, says the report was based on data from National Association of Law Placement forms, which are filled out by the law firms. Von Quintus says the groups have a copy of Brobeck’s NALP form dated Feb. 1, 2000, but she does not dispute Gordian’s assertion that the information reported could be inaccurate. “He is certainly in a position to know what kind of minority demographics he has at his firm,” she says. Tom Sedberry, a partner in Jackson Walker, says the NALP forms are a “very sound basis” for the groups’ study but that his firm made a mistake in its report. Although Jackson Walker reported that only two of the 47 attorneys in its Austin office are minorities, Sedberry says the firm actually has four minority attorneys, including one who is a partner. “We certainly aggressively recruit folks of all types and kinds,” Sedberry says, but admits that the firm doesn’t win all of the recruiting battles. Other law firms that received “F’s” because less than 5 percent of their attorneys are minorities include the following: Baker Botts; Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody; and Jenkens & Gilchrist. Bill Parrish, office managing shareholder at the Austin office of Jenkens & Gilchrist, says the firm finds the perception created by the report “very disturbing.” He says the firm has paid special attention to the diversity of its attorney profile but has missed out on hiring some excellent minority candidates. “The competition for minority candidates is beyond intense. It’s fierce,” Parrish says. One way Jenkens & Gilchrist has tried to strengthen its minority recruitment effort is through its summer program. Parrish says the firm this year hired minority summer associates from Yale, Stanford and Columbia law schools to work in its Austin office. Patrick Keel, hiring partner for Baker Botts, says his firm also has focused on its summer program and that two of its nine summer associates this year are minorities. “We do most of our hiring from our summer program,” he says. But Keel says that increasing the firm’s minority numbers through the summer program will be a long process because summer associates typically aren’t ready to be hired as attorneys for two to three years. Mike McKetta, president of Graves Dougherty, says his firm is disappointed that it hasn’t been as successful in recruiting minorities as it has with pro bono work and other efforts to provide community and charitable services in Austin. McKetta says the firm is “particularly proud” of its work with Texas Appleseed’s one-to-one mentoring program for minority undergraduate students who have an interest in getting a law degree. The firm is mentoring two minority students as a way of increasing opportunities in the legal profession for historically under-represented groups, he says. Bickerstaff partner Myra McDaniel, a former secretary of state, says her firm has worked long and hard to be successful in minority recruiting. “When Steve Bickerstaff and Bob Heath started the firm 20 years ago, it was their goal to have a firm that reflected the diversity of the state. That has always been a high priority,” says McDaniel, one of the three minority partners in the firm and a former managing partner. The report shows that more than 15 percent of the firm’s attorneys — six of 39 — are minorities. McDaniel is one of three minority partners at Bickerstaff, which has six partners. Managing partners at most of the remaining firms on the report card — Brown McCarroll & Oaks Hartline; Clark Thomas & Winters; Fulbright & Jaworski; Locke Liddell & Sapp; Vinson & Elkins; Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; and McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore — note that competition for minorities is stiff and that they are committed to hiring minorities as well as to enhancing their recruiting efforts. Harriett Miers, co-managing partner of Locke Liddell & Sapp, says her firm participates in a number of efforts including some covenant arrangements to increase minority hiring and retention. “If you look at our firm statewide, we are in the 9 percent range as opposed to what was pinpointed in the Austin office,” she says. Larry McNeill, managing partner of Clark Thomas, which had the second best score on the survey, says, “We’ve been trying. I think it’s just a matter of becoming perceived as minority-friendly. Once you are, it becomes self-perpetuating. They know you’re out there.” Representatives of Scott, Douglass & McConnico and Fulbright & Jaworski could not be reached for comment by press time. Austin firms’ efforts to hire and retain minority attorneys likely will continue to be scrutinized. Von Quintus says the groups hope to broaden their study to look at how other firms in the city are doing on minority hiring and will issue an annual report card on their findings. The Report Card Minority Lawyers at Austin Law Firms Firm — Grade — Number of Attorneys*(Partners) — Percentage of Minority Attorneys — Comments Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld — D — 75 — 5 (2) — 6.7 — National firm can do better Baker Botts — F — 45 — 2 (0) — 4.4 — No minority partners Bickerstaff, Heath, Smiley, Pollan, Kever & McDaniel — A+ — 39 — 6 (3) — 15.4 — Outstanding! Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison — F — 66 — 2 (1) — 3 — Fastest-growing firm needs minorities Brown McCarroll & Oaks Hartline — B- — 55 — 5 (0) — 9.1 — No minority partners Clark, Thomas & Winters — B — 95 — 10 (3) — 10.5 — Good effort Fulbright & Jaworski — B- — 82 — 8 (0) — 9.8 — No minority partners Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody — F — 55 — 2 (0) — 3.6 — No minority partners Jackson Walker — F — 47 — 2 (1) — 4.3 — Statewide firm should have minorities Jenkens & Gilchrist — F — 41 — 2 (1) — 4.9 — National law firm can do better Locke, Liddell & Sapp — D — 40 — 2 (1) — 5 — Statewide firm can do better McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore — I — 60 — No form filed Scott, Douglass & McConnico — I — 44 — No form filed Vinson & Elkins — B- — 75 — 7 (0) — 9.3 — No minority partners * Information provided in the 2000 National Association of Law Placement forms. Grading scale: Above 11 percent = A excellent 9 to 10.99 percent = B good 7 to 8.99 percent = C needs improvement 5 to 6.99 percent = D unsatisfactory less than 4.99 percent = F failing Source: Austin Black Lawyers Association and the Hispanic Bar Association of Austin

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