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Representatives of two minority attorney groups say Austin’s 25 largest firms are making progress in hiring minority lawyers but that some firms aren’t trying hard enough. “Some are improving slower than others,” says Paul Ruiz, hiring partner at Austin’s Clark, Thomas & Winters and chairman of a joint committee of the Hispanic Bar Association of Austin (HBAA) and the Austin Black Lawyers Association (ABLA), which grades the firms’ hiring practices. On the groups’ 2005 report card, released on July 28, eight firms received an A+ for their efforts in hiring and retaining minority attorneys, and two firms received an A. However, eight firms received D ratings and one firm received an F- on the HBAA and ABLA’s sixth annual report card. Ruiz says the groups ask firms to report their minority numbers as of June 1 of each year. The Austin office of Vinson & Elkins received a D+ on the groups’report card this year, after five years of fluctuations in its grade. The two groups gave V&E a B- rating in 2000, a D in 2001, a C- in 2002, a C in 2003, and a D in 2004. Mike Marin, immediate past president of the Austin Bar Association, a former president of the HBAA and a partner in Vinson & Elkins, says other firms have seen their grades fluctuate. He notes that one or two attorneys can make a big difference in the percentage of minorities at a firm. He also says there may be a problem with the methodology used to grade the firms. “It really doesn’t reflect the attitude of these firms,” Marin says of the report card. “Talking about the methodology of the report card is a red herring,” Ruiz replies. The key, Ruiz says, is for firms to have enough minority attorneys that the loss of one or two in a year doesn’t make a big difference in the percentages. Ruiz points out that, for a firm to receive an A on the report card, at least 14 percent of its attorneys must be minorities, reflecting the percentage of attorneys in the state who are not Caucasian. According to the report card, 125 minorities are among the 1,104 attorneys at the 25 firms in Austin graded by the HBAA and the ABLA; that’s 11.3 percent. But the total number of minority attorneys isn’t the only issue: Representation in leadership positions is also important. Lino Mendiola, HBAA president and hiring partner at Andrews Kurth in Austin, says the groups are “deeply concerned” that only 45 minority attorneys at the firms are partners. “The question is, are large Austin law firms creating an environment that is supportive of minority attorneys in their efforts to become partners,” Mendiola says. Ruiz says the groups also are concerned about the number of minorities in the firms’summer associate programs. “Everybody knows you hire mainly from your summer class,” he says. As noted on the report card, 32 minorities are among the 138 summer associates this year at the Austin firms monitored. With only three minorities filling V&E’s 25 summer associate positions this year, the firm is not giving minorities much of a chance to get hired, Ruiz says. But Marin says the number of minority summer associates reported for V&E is an aberration. “We made more than three offers; we only had three acceptances,” he says. DuBois, Bryant, Campbell & Schwartz received the lowest grade on this year’s report card. William C. Bryant, the firm’s managing partner, says he doesn’t think the F- is appropriate for a new firm that is still small. “We have a strong commitment to diversity,” Bryant says. Opened in March 2002, DuBois, Bryant received an F in its first appearance on the report card last year for employing no minorities among its 18 attorneys. According to the 2005 report card, the firm now employs one minority among its 26 attorneys. Besides hiring one minority — out of eight new lawyers added since last year — DuBois, Bryant has made no discernable effort to encourage diversity, Ruiz says. Mendiola says the groups award pluses based on firms’ extra efforts to recruit and retain minorities, such as participating in minority job fairs, providing mentors for minority lawyers and having a clear firmwide diversity plan. APPLES AND ORANGES The groups gave D+ grades to the Austin offices of Jackson Walker, Fulbright & Jaworski, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and V&E. Jim Alsup, managing partner of Jackson Walker’s Austin office, says a firmwide committee is looking at the diversity problem to determine how to retain minorities. “We’re hoping to improve our numbers,” Alsup says. Tim LaFrey, partner in charge of Akin Gump’s Austin office, says the firm has engaged in diversity activities locally and nationally and is coming up with creative ideas for recruiting qualified minority candidates. LaFrey says it’s “an apples and oranges comparison” to compare an international firm like Akin Gump, which has 16 offices, to local firms. Akin Gump attorneys transfer in and out of the various offices based on lifestyle and firm needs, he says. Terry Tottenham, managing partner of Fulbright & Jaworski in Austin, says the firm’s grade dropped from a B in 2004 to a D+ this year, because it lost four minority attorneys as well as five nonminority attorneys during the reporting period. “When we go behind the numbers, we think it’s related to natural and normal attrition that occurs,” Tottenham says, adding that his firm has a “keen focus” on diversity. Three firms — Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody; McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore; and Scott, Douglass & McConnico — received D ratings, and Lloyd, Gosselink, Blevins, Rochelle & Townsend received a D-. Ray Langenberg, managing partner of Scott, Douglass, says the firm has made a concentrated effort to improve its minority hiring, including participating in the Harvard Black Students’ Association job fair in December 2004, but it is a slow-growth firm. “We don’t make that many offers,” Langenberg says. “It’s going to take some time to improve our percentages.” John McFarland, Graves, Dougherty’s vice president, says, “We’re disappointed in the lack of success of our efforts to recruit minority attorneys. Diversity in employment is a priority in our recruitment efforts and we will continue to seek out and hire minority attorneys who can join us in serving our clients’ needs. We’re trying.” Pat Lochridge, managing partner of McGinnis, Lochridge, says his firm is working hard to recruit more minorities. One of the five new hires who will begin as associates at McGinnis, Lochridge this summer and fall is a minority, he says. Robin Lloyd, managing partner of Lloyd, Gosselink, did not return two telephone calls before presstime on Aug. 4. Firms that received A+ ratings include Bickerstaff, Heath, Smiley, Pollan, Kever & McDaniel; Locke Liddell & Sapp; Andrews Kurth, DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary; Jenkens & Gilchrist; Winstead Sechrest & Minick; Strasburger & Price; and Thompson & Knight. This marks the fourth consecutive year that Andrews Kurth has received an A+ on the report card. Six of the firm’s 30 attorneys in Austin are minorities, and three of the minority attorneys are partners. Rex VanMiddlesworth, managing partner of the firm’s Austin office, says Andrews Kurth has strived for a long time to improve diversity in the firm and has minorities and women actively involved in recruiting. “That makes a difference,” he says. VanMiddlesworth says Andrews Kurth not only tries hard to find quality minority students who want to join the firm, but also pays attention to creating an atmosphere in which young attorneys can thrive. The firm assigns a partner to mentor each new attorney, he says. “The main thing is to create an opportunity for young lawyers to grow and develop, regardless of their race or gender,” VanMiddlesworth says.

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