The legal profession’s dismal record on diversity shows little sign of improving at a pace commensurate with that of other professions. Since 1986, the number of partners in majority law firms has inched up to a mere 3.8 percent from 2 percent. The American Bar Association reports that two-thirds of minority lawyers leave their firms within the first four years of practice, generally too short a period in which to make partner. Black lawyers in private practice rarely argue cases in the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. When they do, their cases invariably involve civil rights. In New York state, some of the largest public agencies spent nearly $10 million on outside legal counsel in 2006, but none of that money went to law firms owned by minorities or women, says the National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms, a leading advocate for equity in law firm retention practices. One elected state official plans to introduce legislation that will change that. In this climate of diversity intransigence, TNJ profiles four of the rare success stories.
Profiles by Antoine B. Craigwell and Bevolyn Williams-Harold