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Birmingham Bar Association

Diversity Diandra S. “Fu” Debrosse Zimmermann Are We Talking About Diversity Again?* Yes, we are. Yet be not afraid - we are not discussing why diversity is an aspirational American value, why diversity is morally or ethically necessary, or even why diversity can assist in developing business. I cannot, nor would I ever attempt to, speak on behalf of all nonwhite, female lawyers, nor can I speak on behalf of other diverse lawyers such as LGBTQ, immigrant, religious minorities, or people with disabilities, but I can speak: (1) from my experience as a woman of color; (2) as someone who has spent signifi cant time having reading, researching, and lecturing extensively on the topic; and (3) as someone who has assisted diverse lawyers seeking employment, as well as hiring partners at traditionally white law fi rms about the challenges in creating and sustaining diverse fi rms that serve diverse populations. Th is article is neither an academic exercise nor a shaming exercise, but is about the “why” behind the lack of diversity, and the potential solutions for law fi rms – so, keep reading, and please, don’t shut down. The Numbers Are Bleak Th e numbers are not very promising. And lest anyone forget amidst this discussion, the numbers are also people. In May of 2015, a Washington Post headline read “law is the least diverse profession in the nation. And lawyers aren’t doing enough to change that.”1 Eightyeight percent (88%) of lawyers nationally are white.2 Currently, ninety-two percent (92%) of partner-level lawyers are white.3 Th e Washington Post article, utilizing statistics compiled by the American Bar Association (“ABA”) in 2015, provides an eye-opening overview: Women constitute more than a third of the profession, but only about a fi fth of law fi rm partners, general counsels of Fortune 500 corporations and law school deans. Th e situation is bleakest at the and 9 percent of general counsels of large corporations. In major law fi rms, only 3 percent of associates and less than 2 percent of partners are African Americans.4 As noted by Chilton Varner Davis, Esq., of King & Spalding, the lack of diversity among plaintiff s’ attorneys is a “systemic” problem.5 I could not agree more. In my career I have realized that while fi rms hire female associates, the path to highest levels. Women account for only 17 percent of equity partners, and only seven of the nation’s 100 largest fi rms have a woman as chairman or managing partner. Women are less likely to make partner even controlling for other factors, including law school grades and time spent out of the workforce or on part-time schedules. Studies fi nd that men are two to fi ve times more likely to make partner than women. *** Although blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans now constitute about a third of the population and a fi fth of law school graduates, they make up fewer than 7 percent of law fi rm partners *Th is article was originally printed in the Spring 2017 edition of Alabama Association for Justice. 10 Birmingham Bar Association


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