When he and his family take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., in Washington, D.C., Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, will be more than the president and first lady of the Untied States. They will be the first African-American attorneys — first attorneys of color, period — to occupy the White House.
The Obamas notwithstanding, the problem of too-few minorities in the highest echelons of the legal profession persists. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 11 percent of lawyers are minorities, compared to approximately 25 percent of physicians/surgeons, 21 percent of accountants and 18 percent of college and university teachers. Nationally, about 5 percent of law firm partners are Black. At a time when the country’s ethnic map is shifting toward a minority-dominated population, these numbers are troubling. Indeed, concern is growing within the profession about the lack of minorities in the next-generation pipeline and the inadequate numbers currently on track to the rank of partner.
Some firms are taking action. In April, for example, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom L.L.P. created The Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom Honors Program in Legal Studies at The City College of New York (Skadden, Arps Honor Program) to increase diversity in law schools and the legal profession. Skadden, Arps initially committed $9.6 million over the next 10 years to the two-year scholar program, which welcomed its first participants in the fall.
In the pages that follow, we profile five African-American attorneys who have made it to the top.
Profiles by Inés Bebea, Janelle Gordon, Angela Johnson Meadows and Marcia Reid WoodardATTORNEYS: