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The federal government has long been considered a haven for minority and women lawyers who until recently faced widespread discrimination from private law firms. Now, an internal Justice Department study provides the most detailed snapshot ever of diversity in the attorney work force of Uncle Sam’s largest legal employer. According to the report, conducted in 2002 by KPMG Consulting (now known as BearingPoint) and Taylor Cox Associates, the Justice Department’s attorney ranks are more diverse with respect to race, ethnicity, and gender than the U.S. legal work force overall. However, the study documents significant disparities on compensation and promotions. The relatively high level of diversity among attorneys declines sharply in the department’s senior management ranks, leaving minorities and — to a lesser extent — women underrepresented. For instance, minority lawyers compose roughly 15 percent of the department’s attorney work force but fill only 7 percent of senior executive service slots. Based on the input of more than 1,000 DOJ lawyers, the report also concludes that female lawyers are generally less satisfied with their work environment than are men, and that minority lawyers are less satisfied than whites. “The federal government is no different than real life,” says former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, who this year became the first African-American president of the American Bar Association. “There’s no denying that racism and discrimination are alive and well, and that we have to continue working hard to eliminate them.” Archer, now chairman of Detroit’s Dickinson Wright, commends the department for commissioning the report: “I am delighted that the Justice Department has benchmarked where they stand on the issue of diversity.” Some of the consultants’ findings and recommendations created tension for the Justice Department, where top officials oppose racial preferences and argued against the use of affirmative action in university admissions before the U.S. Supreme Court. “What I didn’t want was to have our effort to increase diversity present any kind of legal problems,” says former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, referring to the University of Michigan affirmative action cases decided by the high court last term. “We wanted to make certain our effort was appropriate from a legal standpoint.” Thompson, who initiated the report in 2001, says he considers the study “very important.” “If the department is going to continue to enjoy the confidence of all America, the attorneys who work there will have to be as diverse as possible,” Thompson says. “I’m proud of the fact that we thought enough of wanting to have a diverse work force that we asked professionals to come in and give us a complete assessment.” He adds, “In my mind, diversity is broader than just racial or ethnic identity or gender affiliation.” RANK AND FILE The study focuses on career attorneys in the six major litigating divisions, and five additional DOJ agencies including the Immigration and Naturalization Service; the Bureau of Prisons; the Executive Office for Immigration Review; the U.S. Attorneys; and the U.S. Trustees. (Most functions of the INS were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.) Although the report does not address diversity among political appointees, its release comes as several high-ranking minority officials have departed the administration, draining racial diversity from the Justice Department’s leadership team. Among those to leave: Thompson; Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Charles James; Assistant AG for Legal Policy Viet Dinh; and Assistant AG for Civil Rights Ralph Boyd Jr. Boyd’s replacement, R. Alexander Acosta, is Hispanic. The others have been replaced by white lawyers. “When you look at the initial appointments, it seems there was the desire to demonstrate a commitment to diversity,” Archer says. “But if you take a look at who presently occupies those positions, it raises the question, ‘How committed are you?’ “ The Justice Department released a heavily redacted version of the attorney diversity report Oct. 9 in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from Legal Times and other organizations. (See “ Unbreaking the Seal on Diversity Report.”) Among the report’s major findings: � Of the 9,000 lawyers working for the Justice Department, roughly 15 percent are racial or ethnic minorities — compared to 12 percent in the nation’s overall population of lawyers — and 38 percent are female, compared with 30 percent in the legal work force nationwide. Washington, D.C., law firms are roughly 10 percent minority and 32 percent female. � White lawyers are twice as likely to hold the powerful and highly paid senior executive service (SES) posts as minority lawyers; men are roughly 50 percent more likely to be in SES posts than women; and white men are more than three times as likely to hold SES posts as minority women. � Justice Department hires in 2001 were 21 percent minority and 40 percent female. But the attrition rate was nearly 50 percent higher among minority attorneys than among white attorneys. � Controlling for seniority, pay grade, and component, the average salary for white attorneys on the General Schedule, or GS, pay scale in 2001 was $78,700, while the average salary for minority attorneys was $74,800. Male lawyers earned an average of $79,600, compared with $76,100 for women. Many minority lawyers and civil rights advocates say the report’s findings are not surprising. Lawyers in and out of the department note that the scarcity of women and minorities in top Justice Department posts mirrors the situation in the legal profession as a whole. According to the National Association for Law Placement, roughly 16 percent of law firm partners nationwide are women, and less than 4 percent are racial or ethnic minorities. “The findings actually confirm what many of us thought,” says Wiley Rein & Fielding partner John Yang, president-elect of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. “The Justice Department generally has had a good reputation for diversity, but at the higher levels, the management levels, it still has some work to do. “You can’t explain it away completely that it’s a matter of time,” Yang adds. “DOJ traditionally, since the early 1980s, has drawn many minority attorneys.” According to a complete copy of the report obtained by Legal Times, one of the most visible — and commonly cited — diversity issues is “the lack of women and especially minorities in upper management ranks.” Indeed, at the time of the study, the Antitrust, Environmental and Natural Resources, and Tax divisions reported no minority attorneys in chief, deputy chief, or other supervisory positions. The Criminal and Civil divisions each had just one minority leader in a supervisory slot when the study was conducted. The disparity is less pronounced in U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, where roughly 11 percent of supervisory posts are held by minorities and 26 percent by women. Senior management positions offer attorneys prestige and higher pay. In addition, the department’s career managers wield tremendous influence over recruitment, hiring, promotion, case assignments, and cash award allocations. Some fear that lack of integration at the top leads to real or perceived biases against certain groups and causes higher attrition among minority lawyers. “The Justice Department hires the best and the brightest attorneys. If you’re looking around and see no one of your race or gender being promoted, you’re not going to stick around,” says a former DOJ attorney. Roger Clegg, general counsel of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity and a contributor to Legal Times, calls the report’s goal of achieving representative percentages of minorities and women in management “misguided.” Clegg adds, “I think that what the Justice Department should do is forget about achieving a politically correct work force, forget about external characteristics like race, ethnicity, and sex, and focus on hiring the best lawyers — period.” FOCUS ON RECRUITING In response to the KPMG attorney diversity report, the Justice Department launched a series of initiatives in February 2003 aimed at recruiting and retaining a more diverse attorney work force. At a ceremony in the Justice Department’s Great Hall, Thompson announced that the department was creating a new recruiting position responsible for reaching a broader applicant pool and would begin advertising all attorney vacancies on the Internet. And to improve morale and retention, Thompson reported that the department would institute a mentoring program for all incoming attorneys, initiate diversity training, and establish a formal career development program. In addition, the department launched a student loan repayment program that will assist roughly 50 lawyers this year and up to 100 lawyers in 2004. “The Justice Department, although found to employ more minorities as a percentage than the U.S. attorney workforce, wanted to do even better … and came up with real initiatives that would have a positive impact on the Department,” DOJ spokesman Jorge Martinez wrote in an e-mail to Legal Times. The initiatives reflect many, but not all, of the report’s recommendations. One of the recommendations not adopted encouraged the DOJ to award bonuses to managers for meeting diversity goals. Another rejected recommendation suggested that the department appoint diversity advocates to provide guidance and promote diversity awareness. “We had to consider the recommendations in light of a number of things: doability from a practical standpoint; doability from a financial standpoint; and doability from a legal standpoint,” says Thompson, now a scholar at D.C.’s Brookings Institution. Yang says the department seems to be “taking the right steps.” He adds, “Frankly, the proof is in the pudding.” With Thompson’s departure, some wonder who at Justice will push for change. “I think Larry Thompson was quite sincere in his desire to address diversity issues,” says a former DOJ attorney. “At the point he left, there still seemed a good deal to be done.”

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