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New Jersey’s largest law firms slightly increased their hiring and promotion of women and ethnic lawyers this year, but overall, the firms trailed national norms. A New Jersey Law Journal survey of 18 firms shows women constitute 41.9 percent of associates, compared with 40.6 last year, and make up 16 percent of partners, up from 14.5 percent in 2003. African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic lawyers comprise 11.3 percent of associates, compared with 10.8 percent last year, while their representation in the partnership ranks stayed flat at 1.7 percent. At firms of all sizes nationwide, women account for 17.6 percent of partners and 43.3 percent of associates, and minorities account for 15 percent of associates and 4.32 percent of partners, according to the National Association for Law Placement of Washington, D.C. In 2003, women held 16.1 percent of partnership positions and 43 percent of associate jobs, while minorities accounted for 4.04 percent and 14.6 percent respectively, the NALP survey shows. Managing and hiring partners in New Jersey say firms here trail because of competition from large firms in New York and Philadelphia, which are more diverse. “When you’re competing with New York firms for the best and the brightest minorities, it’s tough,” says Glenn Clark, managing partner of Riker Danzig. Indeed, NALP’s latest study reports that minorities account for 19.2 percent of associates and 4.2 percent of partners at New York firms, while women account for 43.3 percent and 14.4 percent respectively. In Philadelphia, minorities account for 7.79 percent of associates and 2.3 percent of partners; women, 44.3 percent and 18 percent respectively. Philadelphia and New York have more large firms, which are more likely to have minorities on staff. They “provide minorities a comfort factor that may not be available at regional firms,” says NALP executive director James Leipold. The unequal playing field has made some New Jersey firms more aggressive and creative. Lynda Bennett, chair of the diversity initiatives committee at Lowenstein Sandler in Roseland, says the firm is striving to meet women’s career needs. With the number of women lawyers working part time considerably higher, the firm has changed its bylaws to allow part-timers to become partners. This year, counsel Christine Osvald-Mruz, who works part time and took two six-month leaves of absence to take care of her children, was so promoted. “It’s a pipeline thing in which you need a few success stories to build from,” Bennett says. A year after Morristown, N.J.’s Porzio Bromberg & Newman created a diversity committee to improve hiring and retention of women and minorities, the firm has added two women partners, three women associates and two ethnic associates. There are still no ethnic partners at the firm, but former Justice James Coleman Jr., who joined as counsel last year, serves as the firm’s informal ambassador on diversity, speaking at minority and women’s organization events where “he is not actively marketing the firm but is demonstrating that we understand the workplace diversity issues that lawyers face,” says attorney services director Carol Mecca. That outreach is designed to attract lateral associates who could then become partners. Diversification efforts don’t always yield the intended results. At Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione in Newark,N.J. the firm expanded its diversification committee and increased its number of meetings. But the number of women and minority associates declined in the past year, and the firm lost its only minority partner, Denelle Waynick, who became a counsel at Schering-Plough Inc. Hiring partner Peter Torcicollo pledged improvements, noting that he has begun working with a recruiter dedicated to finding minority lawyers. He also says the firm’s latest two lateral associates are African-Americans. GROUP EFFORTS The Law Journal’s survey this year includes two firms not in the survey last year, DeCotiis, FitzPatrick, Cole & Wisler in Teaneck, N.J., and Riker Danzig in Morristown. Two firms in the survey last year — Stark & Stark of Lawrenceville and Connell Foley of Roseland, N.J. — did not participate this year. All the firms surveyed belong to the Law Firm Group, a coalition of firms and other legal profession employers formed in 1990 to improve recruitment of women and ethnic lawyers. Its main efforts are a mentoring program that introduces law school students to practicing attorneys and the sponsorship of annual job fairs at the Newark campuses of the Seton Hall University School of Law and Rutgers Law School. The group’s chairman, Daniel Mateo of Reed Smith in Princeton, N.J. says New Jersey’s diversity numbers will improve as law firms continue their efforts. He also notes that the Law Firm Group is focused on expanding its membership, which includes 17 firms in addition to the 18 in this survey, as well as the legal departments of Hoffmann-LaRoche and Schering-Plough; Rutgers and Seton Hall law schools; the state’s Division of Criminal Justice; the Office of the Public Defender; the U.S. Attorney’s Office; and prosecutors’ offices in New Jersey’s Camden, Essex, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties. The group alternates its annual job fair among New Jersey campuses. It held one at Rutgers this past summer and plans to conduct one at Seton Hall in 2005. Desha Jackson, president of the Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey Inc., says firms need to go beyond their traditional route of reaching out to students. In particular, she says, firms should increase mentoring programs for their own attorneys. “Going on campus is great, but firms should be giving minorities assignments that matter and teaching them to bring in business,” Jackson says. Reed Smith is trying to do that with a program that trains its minority lawyers on marketing and how to tap into markets and trade groups, such as the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey, says Princeton managing partner Steven Picco, adding, “As the market changes, opportunity changes and we train these people to go after it.”

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