It is unremarkable to note that information and data have inherent limitations, and may not accurately capture the complexities of life. Information is captured at one point in time (i.e., creates a snapshot), when events, and life itself, is a movie.
However, it is equally unremarkable to note that Big Law has not divorced itself from its racist and exclusionary past. Data over time has shown this time and time again. It is also important to note that pictures have the ability to portray the aggregate of lived experiences. And the picture of law firms today – in terms of Black racial representation and equity – does not look great at all.
To date, we are aware of no resource that grades law firms on their Black racial diversity efforts. Why isn’t there? Much work has to be done to understand the incentives and conflicts among the various stakeholders in Big Law to answer this question. For those who are employed in the Big Law industry, speaking critically about the industry may negatively impact career prospects. For those in the non-profit industry receiving monetary (or other) benefits from the Big Law community, speaking poorly about the Big Law profession may have negative repercussions. Lastly, what incentives are there for journalists and media to report on diversity efforts in Big Law? After all, since most of the Big Law attorney population is white, presumably indifferent about Black diversity (as shown by the near complete absence thereof), it would be easy to see how reporting on Black diversity in the Big Law industry is not a career advancing endeavor.
While this report card has its limitations (e.g., if a Black partner leaves after the data is reported, the report card may show that firm fared better in the applicable metric than is currently the case), it is an important first step in holding our profession accountable for its conscious and unconscious biases. We must also have a resource that helps clients and law school students differentiate between those firms that are “selling the sizzle” and not selling the steak (it being understood that the whole profession needs significant improvement).
This report card will also improve over time. Time series data may be added, to reveal trends at law firms. The wave of people, including yourself, pushing to have law firms report (exhaustively, not selectively) about their diversity efforts will also enable free resources such as Black at Big Law to distill this information and give it to you in a digestible format. This report card, we hope, is a catalyst for change in the Big Law community.