Monday, March 26, 2007

One More Reason To Hate Lawyers

"I've never been in love. I've always been a lawyer"

Sometimes I have to really wonder about the profession I chose. I mean I have always known that the legal profession excludes minorities from a real seat at the table, but every now and then, the cold hard facts and reality smacks me right across the cheeks.

Forget about Clarence Thomas, and all those T.V. Judges, and the always token black guy or woman Judge you see in those court room movies. And forget what you hear about blacks making real strides in the legal profession. It's just not true. The truth of the matter is that real power in the legal world comes from those major firms that employ two hundred and more attorneys. These are the guys that bill $500 and up an hour, and pocket millions of dollars in billings every year. These are the guys that give hundreds of thousands of dollars to political parties and get lucrative bond deals and defense contracts from municipalities and huge fortune 400 companies.

But the sad truth is, with very few exceptions, black folks ain't eating any of what's being killed in those ivory halls of legal power. Now if you hear my hometown paper for lawyers, The Legal Intelligencer, tell it, they are trying. Apparently, law firms are starting web sites dedicated to diversity, they have diversity committees, diversity partners, mentors, and on and on. So they are trying right? Wrong. They are not trying hard enough. According to the Minority Law Journal, the percentage of minority-not black, minority-lawyers in the 20 highest grossing firms in Washington, D.C. stands at about 13 percent. For partners, it is 6 percent. Now keep in mind that 30 percent of the U.S. population is made up of minorities, so those ain't good numbers for us lawyers. Poor Abe Lincoln must be turning in his grave.

The Dean of Howard Law school, Kurt Schmoke, said that "Some law firms could hold a conference in a phone booth". But even Schmoke has said that some are really trying and they are trying to build networks to improve their minority recruitment. Now don't get it twisted, because this is not all out of the kindness of their hearts. It would seem that companies like Wal-Mart are cutting their ties with some firms because of their lack of minorities. So my guess is that this might have something to do with the push for inclusion all of a sudden. As is always the case with us lawyers, there is a bottom line to be watched. But ultimately, the end result will still be good for minorities, and firms will be forced to take a look at qualified lawyers outside of the good ole boys club.

Now wouldn't it have been nice if I could have stopped my post right there? Yes it would have been, but sorry folks, I can't. Because this post is about some sh** that's pissing me off as well, (like what else was it going to be) and the field has to keep it 100 percent with you at all times.

My friends, it would seem that the same folks who opposed affirmative action at places like the University of Michigan Law School, have set their sights on the law firms now. They want to crush all these diversity initiatives that are leaving out more qualified white lawyers for less qualified ones. And the American Enterprise Institute has openly challenged this practice of trying to push minority inclusion at law firms. They think it violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which prohibits the use of race, creed, or color when considering someone for a job. This group has threatened legal suits if law firms cave to clients and put together legal teams of a particular racial group. So the beat goes on. One step forward and two steps back. And always hiding in the background, and lurking in the cut, are the ignorant and haters among us, who will spend millions of dollars and expand a countless amount of energy before they allow black people to have a chance of making real progress in this country. And I wish I could say that they will get shot down in their endeavor, but given the makeup of the supremes these days I just don't know. I mean let's face it, we all know where Uncle Clarence will come down on this issue. After all, if you hear him tell it, he didn't benefit from affirmative action. (Yeah right, and I would kick Lark Voorhies out of bed)

I remember clerking for a huge oil company one summer while in law school. So all the senior lawyers are treating the summer associates to a golf outing at some exclusive club in Houston. I am playing in a foursome with some hot shots from the company. On or around the fourth hole the guy compliments me on my golf swing. "Keep working on it, you might make partner wherever you go young fella" "I don't want to make partner sir, I want to start my own firm. " Ha ha ha ha ha. "Well I used to be like you one day son, idealistic, and full of great ideas. Until I got out in the real world, and had to pay real bills. No son, you keep working on that swing; sometimes it's not about knowing the law, it's about about giving yourself an opportunity. "

I never got the job with that oil company, but then I knew then that I wouldn't, and so did he.


Unknown said...

My grandpops, uncle and brother were all lawyers. Uncle and grandpops practiced law in Detroit. Eventually both served on the Recorder's Court. Grandpops was a partner in a integrated law firm back in the day. Uncle never worked for a law firm (to my knowledge). My brother was JAG after law school and worked for government most of his career. He did hang a shingle on his own for a few years.

Point being ... that I agree with the jist of your post. Like always we have to make a way out of 'no'way much of the time.


P.S. --> I like the Movie of the Day feature! Kobe definitely is Man on Fire!

Anonymous said...

once again you are off the mark. big lawfirms do not care about race as much as you do. these lawfirms main concerns are billable hours. they want lawyers who are the most productive and make the most amount of money. if they intentionally hire less productive (white) workers than they are loosing money.
As for the bond work, Field, weren't you good friends with Mr Ron White. what skin color was he? He had his hand robbing the tax payers with every major bond deal in the city of philadelphia.
I know many black judges who have distinguished careers just in your city of philadelphia. the first that comes to mind is the scooter libby judge. he first practiced law in philadelphia. I found out from a source that you you praised him recently. His friend another black judge in philly is the President Judge. instead of whining you should do your homework. There could be more black judges if we can get the black youth to take thier studies seriously instead of killing each other. you are a disgrace and a bigot.

Anonymous said...


You know as well as I do, that folks like AEI only want Blacks to sweep the floors at law firms. Period.

Like everyone WHITE there hired was oh-so-qualified.

Yeah, tell that claptrap to someone who actually is DELUSIONAL.

Unknown said...

The lawyer that I recently hired is black and very well respected. He was a commonwealth's attorney for a major city before he started his own practice in criminal law. But, I certainly know what you mean about the old boys club. They make me sick. I know that the lawyer we have hired has worked his butt off to get where he is, and he has his own practice with his own partners, and nary a one is white.

A good lawyer is a good lawyer, period. I have sat in many court rooms and have yet to see a black judge in this state.

Anonymous is seeing what he/she wants to see, and that isn't reality.

Anonymous said...

Sorry anonymous, I was not good friends with Mr. Ron White(a former high powered lawyer here in Philly who was very good friends with the mayor, and was the target of a federal investigation before he died of cancer)so that's your first mistatement. And for the record, when I speak of the dearth of minorities in big law firms I am not looking out for myself. You seem to know alot about me, so I am sure you know that I will be fine. I worry about some young hard working minority in law school, who works his butt off, and wants to be able to have the oppurtunity to work major a major firm some day.

Judges in Philly are elected, so thank God it's the people and not some old boys network pulling the strings behind closed doors that decide who sits on the bench here. So your argument about the Judges is a moot one.

Francis Holland said...

I recently read the biography
of Ronald H. Brown, Black power lawyer and political player par excellence. (He worked led the Washington office of the Urban League; worked with Jesse Jackson's campaigns; became the first Black partner at Washington's Patton, Boggs and Blow; became the first Black chairman of the Democratic Party; and then became the first Black US Secretary of Commerce, before he died in a plane crash while doing his job.)

It is true that white partners in the firm were very interested in billable hours. It is also very true that the perception among whites that a Black man could not make billable hours was a not-insurmountable barrier that the exceptionally heroic Brown was able to overcome, because he was a well-known political quantity long before he entered Boggs and Blow. In fact, that is the only reason he got the chance that he got.

Maybe this is a route to integrating the big firms that more Black people should look at. A Black person with strong political contacts and established base of power has something demonstrable to offer at a big firm, because s/he can use those contacts to become a rain-maker there. That's what Ron Brown did, and he was consistently one of the best performers financially at Boggs and Blow.

This biography
is available at for $0.03 cents plus shipping, so it's well worth the cost. Ron Brown was my hero and inspiration. He showed how things can get done in spite of all of the very realy barriers that make advancement seem nearly impossible.

Many whites are going to big firms after political service precisely because their pre-established contacts are like "money in the billable hours bank". Of course, nothing valuable in America will ever be ever be as easy for Blacks as it is for whites, but the Ron Brown model is one for us to look at for inspiration.

I want to commend you, Field Negro, for writing about this topic so that other brothers and sisters can be cued in. This is a perfect example of something I write about today at my blog, Blackosphere news vs. white-news and the fundamental emerging importance of the Blackophere for Black self-empowerment.

Lisa Johnson said...

It definitely is a big issue. First, at least here in Boston there are way too many attorneys period, so it is hard for anyone to get a job. For black attorneys it's that much harder.

Whenever I read those articles about firms trying to reach out to law students to find diversity, it really annoys me. It they really want diversity there are many black attorneys, who already schooled who they could hire. I know the tradition is to recruit from law school, but I have a problem with that too. The way firms and companies exclude whole groups of people from their recruiting efforts, because that's how its always been does not sit right with me.

Francis Holland said...

I like to idea suggested by Field above with respect to Wal-Mart, of putting pressure on large corporations to only work with law firms that have minority representation. This hits the big firms where it hurts - in the pocketbook, and gives them a self-interested reason for wanting more Blacks among their associates and partners.

C-dell said...

I afraid that, that is just the way it is. Everyone says equality, but they do things that are quite different. Old beliefs, fears and just plain racism still persist. You should just stay positive and fight and not give up if you want something. I maybe naive, but I think that equality is possible.

-=Topper=- said...

"That is the way it is" isn;t good enough. It isn't fair that some people have to claw while others climb.

Su re racism still persists, but there is something even worse, bigotry. We have already seen an example of it, a problem that thinks to be the solution.

This person goes by the name of anonomous.

Equality is possible, and it is a sure bet that anonomous thinks he/she can get a pass just because they use an already tired cliche, "I don't see color".

That isn't enough either. It is up to the priveleged in this country to start seeing color. Regardless of what the media tells you, there is nothing to be afriad of. Even though they manipulate and exploit blacks.

Color describes, it doesn't define. And anonomous I will say this again, you are the problem, not the solution. I may be again making an assumption just based on a social norm but I'll bet you're white.

I have said in recent months on a political forum, is that when a black talks of racial equality in this country, a white has but one thing to do, shut up and listen.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post topper, you are now an honorary field negro in my book :)

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