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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

October 29, 2007

Written by C.N.

Grading Law Firms on Diversity

As the Asian American population continues to grow, many are increasingly entering fields other than medicine, computers, and engineering. One of these emerging fields for Asian American professionals is law. But how welcoming are the top law firms toward the growing number of Asian American lawyers? To help answer that question, as the New York Times reports, a new study by the grassroots organization “Building a Better Legal Profession” has graded the nation’s largest law firms on how culturally diverse they are:

The students are handing out “diversity report cards” to the big law firms, ranking them by how many female, minority and gay lawyers they have. . . . The numbers were provided to a central clearinghouse by the firms themselves. “Our process is simple,” the student group said in explaining its methodology. “Cut, paste and rank.”

Firms in the top fifth received A’s, in the second fifth B’s, and so on. Overall grades were arrived at by averaging grades for partners and associates in five categories: women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and gay people. . . .

I [NY Times reporter] asked the firms with particularly poor rankings for comments, and most of them responded, generally with quite similar statements. The issues are serious and difficult ones, they said, but they are working hard to make progress. . . .

The report cards seem to be having an impact. Mr. Bruck said a second-year student at Stanford had recently turned down an offer from one firm “as soon as he saw that it got an F on our diversity report card.”

The study’s data on the representation of Asian Americans as partners and associates is quite interesting. The numbers show that, nationally, the law firms that scored the best for Asian Americans are located in northern California’s Bay Area. This makes sense because Asian Americans generally represent about 15% of all residents of that area.

But it might also reflect the idea that being located in such a “liberal” and technology-heavy area, these firms understand that it is in their best interests to have lots of Asian American attorneys because these lawyers are not only intelligent, well-qualified, and hard-working, but as American society becomes increasingly globalized, these Asian Americans have the unique opportunity to leverage their cross-national ties, networks, and knowledge to lead their firms into the 21st century.

In the process, these Asian American attorneys are gradually expanding the definition of what it means to be an “American” to make it more diverse, especially in the context of our ever-evolving society and world.

Congratulations to those firms that scored well and I hope they keep up the good work.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Grading Law Firms on Diversity" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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