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Instant Insights / A National Conversation on Racism: the Legal Profession's Role in Driving Equality

The tragedy of George Floyd's death at the hands of a white police officer has spurred a renewed conversation about who we are as a country. In the legal sphere, we are seeing members of the community come together and look inward, asking what they can do to better confront racism and inequality. At ALM, our reporters and editors have interviewed diverse law firm leaders, general counsel and law deans, as well as allies, about where the blindspots are and where we go from here. A collection of some of that coverage, along with photography from the protests and spot news, is below.

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A protester holds up a sign during a Black Lives Matter protest on May 29 that joined at Foley Square in Manhattan to march over the Brooklyn Bridge in protest of the death of George Floyd. Photo: Ryland West/ALM

The ugliness of race and racism in America have again surfaced in a profound way. This ugliness touches our entire world. We, Legal Innovators, denounce racism in all its myriad forms. My co-founder, Jonathan Greenblatt, who spent 40 years in Big Law, joins me at this moment. We want to address our colleagues, and fellow leaders in the legal industry to ask what can be done about the events of the last week that have held the world at rapt attention.  I will take the lead, as our CEO, and speak to you from the perspective of a black CEO and former Big Law M&A lawyer.  

For starters, your black colleagues and associates are not alright.  Please know the mental strain of dealing with recent events on top of figuring out how to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed your friends into a “present traumatic syndrome” of sorts. Last week, George Floyd, a black man, was extrajudicially executed by a member of the Minneapolis Police Department. His murder was captured on a video recording that has since been seen by millions around the globe. The officer, who has now been charged with third-degree murder, kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. We now know that Mr. Floyd was dead for the last two of those minutes. In his last moments, as the officer drained the life from him, George Floyd called for his mother and repeatedly uttered the refrain that has become all too familiar for many Black Americans “I CAN’T BREATHE.” This trauma is a part of a continuing pattern for blacks in all walks of life. It is a trauma that has left a great many of us sad, angry and disillusioned. 

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