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While the number of minority lawyers employed at Austin’s largest firms increased slightly again this year, several firms continue to receive low marks on diversity, according to a “report card” released on July 28 by two minority attorney groups. Of the 1,128 attorneys employed by the 25 largest firms in Austin, 131 — or 11.6 percent — are minorities, according to figures compiled by the Hispanic Bar Association of Austin and the Austin Black Lawyers Association. That’s up from 126 minority lawyers — or 10.6 percent — employed by Austin’s 26 largest firms in 2002, the two groups report. The groups gave A’s to firms where 13 percent or more of the attorneys are minorities and failing grades to firms where less than 5.5 percent of the attorneys are minorities. Amy Castaneda, HBAA president, told reporters at a July 28 news conference that the groups are not asking firms to hire specific quantities of minority attorneys for the sake of numbers or rankings. “We’re asking them to embrace diversity and to recognize … that certain benefits flow with diverse environments,” she said. This year, the HBAA and ABLA added a diversity progress report showing the grades received by the firms for each year since 2000, when the annual evaluations began. Brian Jammer, ABLA president-elect, said at the news conference that the progress report shows which firms are making progress in hiring and retaining minority lawyers and which are not. Jenkens & Gilchrist made the most progress. The report shows the firm, which received an F in 2000, scored an A+ this year, and that five of its 33 Austin attorneys are minorities, including three partners. Rowland Cook, the firm’s managing partner in Austin, says the higher ranking is due partly to a drop in the total number of attorneys, from 40 to 33. But Cook says Jenkens & Gilchrist also has created a firmwide committee to improve diversity. Cook says many of Jenkens’ clients are concerned about racial and gender diversity and want to know what the firms they hire are doing to diversify. Two Austin firms consistently have failed to make passing grades on diversity, the progress report shows. Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody received an F each of the previous three years as well as this year. Only two of Graves Dougherty’s 56 lawyers are minorities, including one who is a partner, the groups report. Mike McKetta, the firm’s managing partner, did not return two phone calls seeking comment before presstime on July 31. Scott Douglass & McConnico got an F this year and in 2001 and 2002, after not receiving a grade in 2000. The progress report shows that of the firm’s 41 attorneys, only two are minorities, including one who is a partner. “Despite our efforts, which are in earnest, we’ve just been unsuccessful in recruiting and retaining minority lawyers,” says Tom Albright, managing partner at Scott Douglass. Albright says the report card doesn’t take into consideration the “slow, careful growth” that Scott Douglass has sought to achieve. “It’s not as if we have an enormous number of positions open,” he says. This year’s report card shows two firms consistently receive near failing grades with regard to diversity. Hughes & Luce received a D- this year and in 2002 and a D in 2001, while McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore earned a D this year and for each of the past two years. Jack Erskine, managing partner at Hughes & Luce in Austin, says the firm has made “a serious, concerted and ongoing effort” to attract minority attorneys but that the minorities it hires often are lured away by other firms. “We are, quite frankly, a good training ground,” Erskine says. The 2003 report shows that two of the 18 Hughes & Luce attorneys in Austin are minorities, and neither is a partner, while four of the 58 attorneys at McGinnis Lochridge are minorities, including two partners. Pat Lochridge, managing partner at McGinnis Lochridge, predicts his firm soon should see an increase in its minority numbers. He says two of four associates who’ve been hired to begin this fall at McGinnis Lochridge are Asian-Americans, and the firm has made an offer to a fifth attorney, who is Hispanic. Lloyd, Gosselink, Blevins, Rochelle, Baldwin & Townsend also received a D- this year, dropping from an A- in 2001 and 2002, the report shows. No one at the firm returned two phone calls seeking comment. According to the report, other firms that earned A+ ratings this year include Andrews & Kurth; Bickerstaff, Heath, Smiley, Pollen, Kever & McDaniel; and Winstead Sechrest & Minick. The A ratings went to Brown McCarroll; Clark, Thomas & Winters; Davis & Wilkerson; Gray, Cary, Ware & Freidenrich; and Hilgers & Watkins. Locke Liddell & Sapp and Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati each earned an A-.

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