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Student Group Works To Educate Law Students About Diversity In Firms

Publication Date: 
November 16, 2010
Source: 
The Stanford Daily
Author: 
Steven Smallberg

The student organization Building a Better Legal Profession is featured in the following story highlighting the group's findings on representation levels of minorities and women in law firms across the nation. The Stanford Daily reports:"

p>Representation of minorities and women in law firms decreased nationwide last year, but members of Building a Better Legal Profession (BBLP), a student-run campus organization that releases its own reports on women and minorities in law firms, says those nation-wide averages are not the most informative way to learn about a firm’s diversity.

The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) announced on Nov. 4 that the proportion of minorities in firms decreased to 12.4 percent from 12.59 percent last year; the proportion of women in firms decreased to 32.69 percent from 32.79 percent during the same period.

“It doesn’t really make sense to talk about the industry average,” said law professor and BBLP steering committee member Michele Dauber. “It’s not even a significant drop, industry-wide. The industry has generally been stagnant, and that’s bad, because we want to see growth.

According to BBLP data, the majority of law firms actually retained a proportionate amount of minority and female associates, but the average across the profession was skewed by a small fraction of firms with particularly high attrition rates among these demographics.

“About half of the firms received A’s in terms of attrition,” Dauber said, adding that an A is given if women or minorities are retained at equal or higher rates than men. “But minorities and women have lost ground in key firms that have behaved appallingly badly. These bad actors drive down the average for everybody else.”

...

Dauber said that because all firms have historically had trouble retaining minority and female talent to begin with, BBLP aggregated the minority groups together, making attrition statistics less sensitive to small changes.

“I think we’ve been generous to the firms and given them quite a bit of leeway,” she said. “Most firms did a pretty good job of keeping women and minorities, and some firms threw their minorities under the bus. I don’t think they deserve a break there.”

...

“The groups that are reporting these numbers are either for-profit or receiving funding from for-profit groups,” Dauber said. “BBLP is nonprofit, founded and run by Stanford law students and faculty and receives no money from law firms. We are independent and free of law firm influence. It’s a very Stanford-y thing. We mash up data, political influence and technology and have an interdisciplinary mix of students working together for social change.”