They are not the poor, the infirm or the otherwise dispossessed. Instead, Harry Korrell III’s pro bono clients are parents — predominantly white — from a comfortable suburb of Seattle. Last fall, Korrell, a partner at Davis Wright & Tremaine, took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing against the Seattle school choice program in which race is a factor in the allocation of coveted slots. In a controversial 5-4 decision in June, the Court ruled against the use of race in public school enrollment.
Even before the decision, the case sparked fury far beyond Seattle, galvanizing both supporters and foes of affirmative action. “People view it as reverse discrimination,” says Korrell. “It’s not popular.” Even some of Korrell’s partners disagreed with his view of the case. Nevertheless, Korrell says, Davis Wright has supported his work — and he says that the case has not caused client defections or hiring problems. “We do well in recruiting minority lawyers,” he says. “If a lawyer is afraid of coming here because of a case I handled, I wouldn’t be sure of that person’s judgment.”
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