Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Where Are the "Blawg" Reactions?

Adam Liptak reports on the Better Legal Profession Project that's being run by some students at Stanford Law. The idea is that the students are turning the tables on the law firms, and grading them for diversity.

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.

“Many of the firms have atrocious, appalling records on diversity,” said Michele Landis Dauber, a law professor at Stanford and the adviser for the project, called Building a Better Legal Profession. The rankings are at

In Washington, no firm got an A. But seven scored in the D range, including Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Kelley Drye Collier Shannon; Baker Botts; and Mayer Brown.

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.

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.

Vikram Amar, a professor at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, added that law firms might well be violating employment discrimination laws in the process of trying to improve their rankings.

“As bad as their numbers are,” Professor Amar said of the firms, “the relevant applicant pool of law students with top grades is more white and Asian still.”

Whatever their consequences, the numbers the students have collected offer a fascinating snapshot of the profession.

Maybe I'm missing something in my quick reading of my RSS feeds (I do have work to do, even if I'm only a 27 year old graduate student), but a quick scan of some major and you'd-think-they'd-be-interested blogs shows no reaction from Concurring Opionions, PrawfsBlawg, or Workplace Prof Blog, and a link--but no commentary--from Feminist Law Profs.

What's up with that?!

Maybe I'm just been missing some of the reaction from a while ago--this project is by no means new, but Technorati is not revealing many blawg reactions other than the WSJ's. It'd be timely to bring up the discussion again, especially with this Liptak article, and especially because most campuses' OCIPs are only recently over.

I'd also be interested to know my MoneyLaw's perspective on this. Or how about Workplace Prof Blog's? There are potential employment discrimination issues, indeed.

I'll write a follow-up post of my own on outcome-oriented vs. process-oriented affirmative action programs, and which diversity programs are the "best practices" for organizations that have it as a goal, and whether any of this would violate Title VII. But first I'd like to call upon my fellow bloggers to write thoughts of their own. It seems rather silly to just note "oh how interesting, this turning of tables" and not really discuss the merits of the project or the implications for discrimination law, the reforming of the legal profession, and the inversion of power and hierarchy. I hate to say this, but Duncan Kennedy (or students thereof), where are you?


Frank Pasquale informs me that he posted on this on October 10. Time for an update!

Paul Secunda responds here with typically good insights (and quip)

Rick Bales preempts me here, and I am abashed.

Eric Fink has a pithy comment here at DebrisBlog.