f/k/a . . . the archives

May 16, 2005

no yoda quota?

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 1:27 pm


Around here, The Client is King (or Queen).  So, you can imagine how thrilled 

we were to learn that 60 major law firms and 65 bar associations have entered

into a pact, in response to a “client-driven” initiative, that allows clients to find

out just who is performing their legal services.   I didn’t know the details, but was

intrigued.








the bees with children
are work-a-holics…
making honey


                              ISSA


 


My first guess was that the practical staffing suggestions made by the ABA Task

Force on Lawyer Business Ethics in 1996 were being re-affirmed by the New York bar. 
They are contained in Principles in Billing for Legal Services (and relevant excerpts 

can be found here).  The advice relates to client concerns over “learning curve” issues
(such as, using newbies who need training and more expertise) or expectations that a 
particular lawyer would be critically involved and continuity of representation maintained. 

The Statetment intones the obvious: 


“The touchstones for determining such issues as staffing should

be cost-effectiveness and quality of legal service to the client.”

[ed. note: yawn]

My expectations were low, but I was sure surprised by what I found.  The signatories

to the pact, led by the New York County Lawyers Association, have gone much farther

in their efforts to give inquisitive clients staffing information — they have agreed that 

“law firms should not object to requests by their corporate clients [to] report the number

of hours devoted to the clients’ matters by minority lawyers.”  (Law.com coverage, “Law
Firms Agree to Give Clients Diversity Data on Legal Teams,” May 13, 2005, and 
The Lawyer/UK article) (via Lisa Stone at Inside Opinions,)   Now, you’re talking!


the market workers
bare-chested…
spring snow falling

 

yodaG  Thomas Adcock’s article for NYLJ mentions that the pact will cover “the composition

of assigned legal teams by race, gender, ethnicity and sexual preference.”  But, if this pact is

client-driven, I’m sure the NYLJ  list must be representative, rather than exclusive.  For example,

if I were the client of an NYC BigLaw firm, with an important project due this month, I would

definitely want to know how many of those 20- and 30- something male associates were members

of the Jedi Knights Church.   Far too many of these “warriors” have been far too preoccupied

with a supposed messianic arrival this week.  In the 2002 UK census, 7 out of every 1000 people

listed Jedi as their religion.  Although they are a tiny religious minority, we know the Jedi must

be among us, too. 

 

If any of them worked on my legal team, I’d expect replacements for the forseeable future, plus

a discount for all work done in May.  In fact, I really wouldn’t want any of those cultists on my

legal team — especially if they are squabbling amongst themselves over devotion to the First Three

Books of their Bible vs. The Last Three Books. 












 yodaN

 

surprising the worker
in the field…
out-of-season blooms

 

But, this whole Diversity Pact thing just might be a publicity stunt — I’m mean, why would law firms

have to “agree” to respond more effectively to their clients’ needs?  A red flag for me is the Diversity

Page at the law firm of one of the pact’s signers, Kelley Drye & Warren.   How serious could Kelley

Drye be about responding to clients’ desires, when they proclaim to have recently enacted a program:


“to ensure that individuals continue to be recruited, hired, assigned and promoted

without regard to race, religion, color, national origin, citizenship, sex, veteran’s status,

age, or non-job-related disability of any kind.” [emphasis added]

The background of Kelley Drye partner Robert L. Haig, who was a leader in making the Pact a

reality, also throws doubt on the seriousness of this Diversity Pact.  No, I don’t mean his being a

60ish white guy with a Harvard Law degree.  It’s his client list this worries me:  It’s filled with hard-

nosed major companies like Union Carbide, Liberty Mutual, and Pan Am World Airways.  Nobody’s

going to convince me that his clients want staffing decisions based on gender, race or sexual

preferences, rather than lawyering skills and efficient assignment of resources. Oh, sure, Union

Carbide wants KDW to lower its hiring standards (and anger reassigned lawyers) so that it will have

just the right associate in the bullpen to meet every client’s diversity whim.  Not likely.   

 













the dragonfly, too
works late…
night fishing


So, this client advocate is going to have to see it to believe it.  Meanwhile, I sure hope all the negative

commentary about the Pact doesn’t give the signatories cold feet. (see Kerr at Volokh, MacEwan at





  • See getting personal for an account of your Editor’s first encounter

    with diversity disclosure issues (scroll down to potluck blurbs).

 

 

- thanks to Kobayashi ISSA for the haiku, which were

translated by David G. Lanoue, who better not be a Jedi.

4 Comments

  1. David – I blogged about something similar to this at this post – http://www.myshingle.com/my_shingle/2005/04/former_biglaw_a.html#trackback
    Seems companies like Shell really are interested in diversity and that’s what’s driving the firms (just as a desire to retain associates drives law firm pro bono programs). But what the firms are doing here is so utterly transparent that I think they may lose out.

    Comment by Carolyn Elefant — May 16, 2005 @ 6:22 pm

  2. David – I blogged about something similar to this at this post – http://www.myshingle.com/my_shingle/2005/04/former_biglaw_a.html#trackback
    Seems companies like Shell really are interested in diversity and that’s what’s driving the firms (just as a desire to retain associates drives law firm pro bono programs). But what the firms are doing here is so utterly transparent that I think they may lose out.

    Comment by Carolyn Elefant — May 16, 2005 @ 6:22 pm

  3. I can understand clients seeking out law firms with good diversity records, arolyn.  But, I can’t believe there are many companies who want to sacrifice efficiency and rational resource allocation on particular projects or cases in the name of diversity.  Yes, a handful of individuals might be pressing for such policies at a few big companies, but I expect more rationality from the business community on the whole.  The Commentors at site like The Volokh Conspiracy have pointed out the many problems that the Diversity Pact will create for law firms as employers, and for the privacy rights and employment rights of lawyers at the affected firms. 
    p.s.  I think there’s a far broader range of perspectives within each “minority” group, than between the groups. 

    Comment by David Giacalone — May 18, 2005 @ 1:06 am

  4. I can understand clients seeking out law firms with good diversity records, arolyn.  But, I can’t believe there are many companies who want to sacrifice efficiency and rational resource allocation on particular projects or cases in the name of diversity.  Yes, a handful of individuals might be pressing for such policies at a few big companies, but I expect more rationality from the business community on the whole.  The Commentors at site like The Volokh Conspiracy have pointed out the many problems that the Diversity Pact will create for law firms as employers, and for the privacy rights and employment rights of lawyers at the affected firms. 
    p.s.  I think there’s a far broader range of perspectives within each “minority” group, than between the groups. 

    Comment by David Giacalone — May 18, 2005 @ 1:06 am

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