Ron Jordan is banking on his reputation as a skilled recruiter for the legal industry to change the world. He is a founding principal of Carter-White & Shaw LLC, an attorney placement and diversity search firm in Chesterton, Md., that helps the law departments of corporations and law firms recruit the best minority attorneys. “Part of the problem for many firms is retaining and nurturing minority talent. It takes eight to nine years to grow a partner, and not everybody stays at a firm that long,” he says.
Jordan’s passion for the law is rooted in his admiration for and appreciation of African-American legal luminaries such as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and the late Senior Judge Constance Baker Motley of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. These staunch civil rights activists opened doors for other Blacks, including him, Jordan says, and this is why he has devoted his career to ensuring that other African-American attorneys are able to compete and change the status quo in the business and professional arenas. In his most recent deal, he added seven African-American partners and one Hispanic partner to Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC in Boston. “The biggest issues for lawyers are that they don’t know where to go, don’t have a business plan of where they want to go. No one has taught them to think about why they are making moves or given an opportunity to work on more challenging matters,” he says.
Diversity is not just a recruitment trend, fad or business tactic, says Jordan. His mission today is the same as it was when he started his firm 15 years ago: to identify and promote diverse legal talent and to meet or exceed the expectations of both clients and candidates. He assists attorneys in job search, resume writing, creating a sound business plan and preparation for interviews. As a result, some attorneys are motivated to reassess their own firms and strive to bring change from within, he says.
Because “you can’t always know if people are really committed to diversity,” Jordan submits potential client companies to a simple test, asking such questions as: How many offers have been made to minority candidates? How many were accepted? How many minorities occupy high positions? How many minority equity partners does your company have? He refuses to work with companies that desperately need to find minority counsel just to save face with their clients or to meet a quota, arguing that such companies cannot promote a culture in which they do not believe. Instead, his clients are firms and individuals who understand that the success of diversity lies in implementing a new way of thinking within the company, from the CEO on down to the handyman. “We work hard for our reputation for the right reasons. [It is] not about money,” Jordan says.
Carter-White’s reputation is spread by the word of mouth of satisfied clients and Jordan’s willingness to go to the most remote areas to speak about his passion and his dream. “When most recruiters will go to Howard University, George Washington, George Mason and even the University of Virginia, I’m willing to go to North Carolina Central University, a school that produced people like Willie Gary,” says Jordan, referring to the founder of Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney, Lewis, McManus, Watson & Sperando PL in Stuart, Fla. Gary is one of 11 children born to migrant farmers who worked in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. His firm has won some of the largest jury awards and settlements in U.S. history, more than 150 cases valued in excess of $1 million each.
Carter-White’s services are in high demand, a fact that does not surprise Jordan. Many corporations are beginning to demand that their legal staff not only understand diversity and show diversity within their own ranks, but also that their employees understand the consumers that buy their products, he explains.