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In Students’ Eyes, Look-Alike Lawyers Don’t Make the Grade

Publication Date: 
October 29, 2007
Source: 
The New York Times
Author: 
Adam Liptak

New York Times national reporter Adam Liptak writes about "Building a Better Legal Profession," a grassroots organization founded by some Stanford law students. Faculty advisers, Michele Landis Dauber and Deborah Rhode, are quoted, as is co-founder Andrew Bruck:

A bunch of law students at Stanford have started assigning letter grades to their prospective employers, which pretty much tells you who holds the power in the market for new associates. It’s not easy to persuade new lawyers from the top schools to accept starting salaries of only $160,000.

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.

...

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.

The firms with low rankings did not dispute the basic numbers, with one exception. Herrick Feinstein said it reported that it had no openly gay lawyers “because, at the time of the filing, we did not ask for that information.” There are, the firm said in a statement, openly gay lawyers working there, “including one on the diversity committee.”

The students have ambitious plans, including asking elite schools to restrict recruiting by firms at the bottom of their rankings. They also plan to send the rankings to the general counsels of the Fortune 500 companies with the suggestion that they be used in selecting lawyers.

“Firms that want the best students will be forced to respond to the market pressures that we’re creating,” said Andrew Bruck, a law student at Stanford and a leader of the project.