Attorneys At The Succeeding In Spite Of Top Dismal Diversity Trends
William J. Snipes, Partner, Sullivan & Cromwell L.L.P.
A biology major at Albany State University in Albany, Ga., William Jared Snipes was headed for medical school when he missed the deadline for the Medical College Admission Test. Because the Law School Admission Test was still open, he took that exam although, he claims, he knew nothing about the law. “My entire life has been like an ‘accidental tourist,’” he says.
Snipes enrolled in Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., in 1980 and later attended Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1986. Today, Snipes is a litigation partner at Sullivan & Cromwell L.L.P. in New York City, representing primarily financial institutions and large corporations.
“I enjoy corporate law, because corporate litigation is a form of problem solving,” says Snipes, who joined the firm in 1986 and became a partner in 1992. “We manage our clients through the litigation, regulatory and internal investigation process.”
Snipes is determined to inspire and train the next generation of legal eagles. To that end, he was an adjunct professor for many years—his subject is trial practice—at Columbia Law School in New York. He also vigorously recruits graduates from his alma mater for Sullivan & Cromwell. “I have hired more Howard Law grads than any law firm in the history of the legal profession!” he boasts.
He has also parlayed his legal skills into an initiative, the Pipeline Crisis/ Winning Strategies, to elevate awareness of the plight of young, Black men in America and to enlist other professionals to help solve the problems that have caused so many to drop out of school, to be jobless and to end up in prison. More than 1,000 people from various professions attend these forums, which have been held in the summer in New York City for the past two years. “These young men drop out of school, get involved in criminal activity and are in and out of the penal system, which significantly reduces their numbers in the pipeline to higher education and professional endeavors,” Snipes says. Snipes and his colleagues recruited other bankers and lawyers to volunteer to head Working Groups in each of the areas where young, Black men have fallen by the wayside.
Snipes notes that the majority of the young African-Americans he hires are young, Black women. In November, the firm promoted an African-American woman to the position of partner, 15 years after his own ascension to that rank. “Where is the Black man in the pipeline to higher education?” Snipes muses. “It is not in our [country’s] economic self-interest to criminalize poverty, which is basically what we’re doing,” he declares passionately.
In 2007, the Winning Strategies initiative received a strategic planning grant from United Way to further expand the effort.
In private, Snipes enjoys sailing and snowboarding with his two sons.