Let’s face it. Large law firms have struggled with diversity for years.
To be sure, there has been much effort and, with that, some success. But retention rates of minority associates at law firms still lag far beyond other associate groups, meaning minority leaders of firms are almost nonexistent.
Joe H. Tucker Jr. has bucked a few of those trends and blazed a path for others to follow. He is viewed by many in the legal community as having created one of the only minority-owned firms in the state and for providing an environment where other minority and majority attorneys can thrive.
Black. White. Native American. Catholic. Mormon. Ex-con. Jewish. Jehovah’s Witness. Atheist.
Joe Tucker isn’t all of those things. But he has created a place where people of all those stripes can co-exist and thrive.
After working as a certified public accountant, Tucker went to law school, graduating in 1984 from Temple University School of Law. He spent the early part of his legal career at one of Pennsylvania’s largest law firms, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. He was soon recruited to noted plaintiffs firm Litvin Blumberg, in part to help the firm fill a perceived void when it came to diversity.
But in 1993, he decided to strike out on his own. Tucker & Associates started 20 years ago in Tucker’s kitchen and by 2000 he had joined up with Chris Booth to form Booth & Tucker. When the two parted ways in 2009, Tucker Law Group was formed. Tucker counts among his clients some of the area’s largest companies, including many of the biggest universities. He and his 10-lawyer team handle complex litigation, employment discrimination and personal injury defense, civil rights matters and transactional issues. The firm is now one of the most prominent minority-owned law firms in the state.
"One of the things that Joe allows is he allows for especially young African-American attorneys to have a choice," a senior African-American lawyer in Philadelphia said of Tucker. "Joe sets an example for younger lawyers that says, ‘There are alternatives to big law and there are ones that can be successful.’"
The attorney said Tucker’s firm is the "North Star" for diverse candidates and one whom people look up to.
Tucker always wanted to be a lawyer. He realized that was a possibility when the poor kid from North Central Philadelphia became part of Sam Evans’ American Foundation for Negro Affairs, or AFNA. The group placed black high school students in classes at Temple Law School over the summer.
"It gave me an idea I could do something I had never seen people in my environment do," Tucker said of AFNA.
Tucker and his wife, Alycia Horn, both attended AFNA programs, but they didn’t meet until their first day of law school. She is now an attorney at Comcast Corp. They have one daughter together and adopted a son at the age of 14 through their participation in A Better Chance.
Coming from a poor background, Tucker was never afraid of the risk of opening his own firm. But there were days he worried about providing for his family — particularly when he would face racism, even from a
After one particularly difficult encounter with a client, Tucker, half-jokingly, said he was afraid of what would happen when all of his clients found out he was black.
But Tucker doesn’t suffer fools lightly and takes little in the way of excuses when it comes to diversity in the profession. He has called out large firms, plaintiffs firms and even The Legal on their diversity efforts.
Tucker Law Group has attracted black candidates in part because Tucker is black, but has attracted candidates of all backgrounds because Tucker has shown he hires across a diverse spectrum. From Tucker’s perspective, the firm is first and foremost a group of good lawyers. But the lawyers are strong as a group because of their diversity. The environment is one in which everyone can be comfortable in sharing their ideas.
A trial lawyer by trade and passion, Tucker has always enjoyed fighting the bully. The bully that has followed him throughout his career is the lack of diversity. Yes, the fight is different, but not easier, he said.
Tucker knows he is in the spotlight when it comes to diversity issues. It makes him a little nervous that people look to him on the issue. For Tucker, it has also meant the lack of diversity is a bully he can’t stop fighting, whether he wants to or not.