Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The "Jim Crow" Legal Profession

African-American Lawyers Working as Temps in Law Firms Signals Possible Trend

High representation in contingent work may be indicative of a broader trend in which African-American lawyers, for various reasons, are opting to work for temporary staffing agencies instead of at law firms. Lack of opportunity could be a factor.

By Irwin Speizer

Julian S. Brown, president of development at legal staffing company Compliance Inc., in Arlington, Virginia, recently checked up on a job that called for five lawyers to work on a temporary assignment. Four of them, it turned out, were African-American.

"That's not rare," Brown says. "It turns out that there are a higher percentage of minority attorneys who are temping. Typically, on one of our projects, we will have 30 percent who are African-American."

The rate of participation by African-American lawyers in temporary jobs at Compliance Inc. is the opposite of the situation at most large law firms in the U.S., where only a fraction of the jobs are held by African-Americans. Brown says Compliance Inc., which is owned by international staffing company Vedior, has made no special effort to recruit African-American lawyers. Rather, he believes the situation at Compliance is indicative of a broader trend in which African-American lawyers, for various reasons, opt to work for temporary staffing agencies instead of at law firms.

"I would argue that it is not going well at law firms [for African-Americans], or else they are not getting opportunities at law firms," Brown says.

While some temporary staffing firms say they also have noticed higher participation by African-American lawyers than might be expected, others say they have either not noticed the trend or else haven't studied the ethnic makeup of their contract workers. The American Staffing Association, which conducts research on the contingent labor workforce, says it does not collect statistics on participation by African-American lawyers.

But Brown and other staffing professionals say that they are convinced that African-Americans and other minorities are clearly over-represented in the temporary legal staffing field.

Nancy Molloy, president of legal staffing company Legend Global Search Inc. in New York, says that more than 40 percent of her contract lawyers are African-American and minorities overall account for more than 60 percent of her contingent workforce. While she hires some African-American attorneys for temporary placement straight out of college, many more arrive after leaving jobs at law firms.

"There is a high turnover of African-American attorneys at law firms," Molloy says. "I think what happens is, there is no mentoring. There is just a very small percentage of partners of color."

In its 2006 survey of the private law firm workforce, the National Association for Legal Career Professionals surveyed more than 1,500 law offices around the country. Of more than 60,000 partners at those firms, only 1.5 percent were African-American. Of about 60,000 associates at those firms, 4.5 percent were African-American.

A separate study by NALP found that African-American lawyers leave jobs at law firms at a much higher rate than others. While the overall attrition rate for associates was 43 percent, it was 68 percent for African-American men and 64 percent for African-American women.

"African-Americans don't last as long at law firms," Brown says. "In terms of going from associate to partner, there are very few who make it."

Leon Spencer, an African-American lawyer from South Carolina, says he stumbled upon contingent legal work after leaving a job a few years ago with a law firm in Columbia, South Carolina. He moved to Washington in hopes of landing a job with a nonprofit or public interest group. To make ends meet, he took a temporary assignment with Compliance Inc.

"It was steady income and I could start paying down my student loans," Spencer says. He never left. Today he is a staffing director at Compliance.

Is the Legal Profession Promulgating A Jim Crow Caste Structure?
Yes -- Biglaw is creating a sub-class of people that are being treated like second class citizens and are disproportionately minority.
No -- This is all nonsense.
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Anonymous said...


And then you have outfits like Lex-Pollution that are helping these scummy law firms recreate 19th century southern plantations.

Wake up, people! They are trying to reverse the Civil Rights Era through economic means.

Anonymous said...


Anyone have any experience with any of these people? Thanks, Rob

Anonymous said...

I myself have noticed a proliferation of A.A attorneys and even African attorneys on some of these projects. I don't know if it is based on any of the things the lady at Compliance mentioned but still, it is worth pondering on....

Anonymous said...

Because they can't get jobs outside of the city. Small firms in the burbs don't want too many minority faces walking around their firms. Sad, but true.

Anonymous said...

"Lack of opportunity may be a factor"

No shit.

Anonymous said...

Most posts on this blog seem to be of the opinion that PI and ID firms are even worse than temping (at least pay-wise). I would be interested to know the proportion of those attorneys that are African-American. In my experience, it doesn't seem like many. So I guess that balances out, no? If the extreme lower end of the spectrum is the small PI and ID firms, and they're predominantly white, then I would say it's not a huge problem that temps are predominantly non-white. (although, in my temp experiences, I must say that I've never seen this. I'd say at most, my projects were 20% African-American, probably less.)

Anonymous said...

"it's not a problem that temps are predominantly non-white"

-David Duke

Anonymous said...

Not to be the PC police on this but I hope folks on here know that a good percentage of the black attorneys you see on these jobs are not African Americans. Some of them are actually either Africans or Carribeans. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Anonymous said...

To Poster 1:49, yes, ID firms are bad, but I have done ID too and there are a lot of blacks there too. You should understand that blacks make up a small percentage of lawyers anyways so there is no way they can be the majority on most kinds of practices... not that I've noticed anyhow. We just look at the percentage they represent compared to the percentage of lawyers....I hope I make sense.

Anonymous said...

to poster 8:06Am, OK, So the proportion of BLACK lawyers working as temps is higher than the proportion of BLACK lawyers working full-time at the same firms at which the temps work. And, ummm, African-Americans are DESCENDANTS of Africans.

Anonymous said...

1:49 is on to something. The Black attorneys doing doc review are working in the second highest paying legal job after BigLaw (for people with no experience). I've worked at two small firms, the pay sucks. Doing doc review one can make between 80k and 100k per year. This coupled with the fact that many minority attorneys are first generation lawyers without the support system that some young white attorneys may have, makes doc review not a bad option for an unemployed law grad. Minority attorneys, which includes me, use these positions to transition either into another degree, their own business or whatever else floats their boat.

Anonymous said...

8:14, wow, thanks for the newsflash. I'm sure there are folks SOMEWHERE in the universe who don't know that AA's are decended from Africans. Take a cup of coffee and a deep breath before replying a post like a 'know it all'. I put that up there because this thread was obviously referring to AA's and I wanted to point out that even though there are blacks on projects, some are not AA's. And here's another newsflash for you, neither Africans nor Carribeans love being referred to as AA's. But then, I'm sure you did know that right? Right!!!

Anonymous said...

10:05, I didn't write the article or the headline. Maybe black people would actually get someplace if we learned to stop fighting ourselves. 8:14

Anonymous said...

There are a majority of blacks here in DC in the doc review market. Works out well because I'd otherwise have no opportunity to learn about the "Jena 6" and why OJ is innocent as driven snow.

Anonymous said...

What about the Asian Americans? There's a lot of Asian Americans temping, too. Unless they're really scientific and technical or speak a foreign language like Chinese or something, there's no hope for them. I know because I'm one. I'm adopted though and act and sound more Norwegian than Asian!

Well, I'm glad to know it's not just my imagination that minorities get screwed over in the legal profession. Oh, unless you're Indian or from the Middle East. Those people always seem to find jobs in firms and you can't understand a word they say.

I'm so sick of the way things are going. I blame the Bush administration. Private firms know they can discriminate because NOBODY CARES ABOUT THE STUPID MINORITIES. Haven't you noticed the only ones complaining are the minorities? I mean, it's a lose-lose situation.

Anonymous said...

To 11:47. No wonder you're doing doc review, your post is incoherent. How does somebody act and sound Norwegian anyway?

My Attorney Blog said...

I'm a contract attorney in D.C. as well. I've also noticed this interesting trend.

The legal field is one of the most conservative fields out there and has resisted many attempts towards broader diversity. While diversity in the corporate business world has started to flourish, diversity at law firms at large seem limited at best.

This might explain one of the reasons why so many minorities are temping.

Just an interesting observation.

My Attorney Blog said...

Tom the Temp,

I used to think you simply enjoyed raising controversy and driving the big firms and staffing agencies nuts for entertainment purposes, but you do address good issues sometimes like this one.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately it's rare. Most of the people on here are just hateful because of their situations and take out their hate on individual agency employees and large firms. Funny thing is, what do all these hateful attorneys think they would do for money if all the temp jobs disappeared? I wish they would- just to teach this people a lesson.

Anonymous said...

10:24 - Sarah Brule is the only name I recognize. I haven't heard anything negative about her. Only good things.

Anonymous said...

BTW I think Africans, West Indians and African Americans prefer to be called "sons of Ham". Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone consider that the African American lawyers are staffed as temps because they went to less prestigious law schools?

Anonymous said...

I am hispanic and briefly did doc review when I was fired from last small firm job (which paid peanuts). I think Tom brings up a very good issue because I went on about 4 different assignments, with Update and Hudson Legal - and about 45-50% of the people on the project were either Black or some other minority group (Hispanic/Asian). However, the ratio of Black to White can not be underestimated. I do believe its because law firms, no matter WHAT size or WHAT practice area, tend to favor whites. There arent many Black partners, and of course even if they were to promote their own, the small number of qualified (by qualified I mean attorneys who can write/speak well and have a good work ethic/analytical ability as evidenced by resume and academics) Black atorneys is so few and far between.

I just found it very surprising that there is a lot of minority representation on these projects. One also has to consider that the *typical* doc review person is a recent law grad who graduated in the middle or the bottom of a non-Top tier law school...which would explain why they are not getting jobs at small and mid sized firms..

Anonymous said...

I think she maintains a blacklist.

Anonymous said...

Right, right, it's all about the White Man keeping you down, and not because you went to a TTT and entered an oversaturated market.

Anonymous said...

One also has to consider that the *typical* doc review person is a recent law grad who graduated in the middle or the bottom of a non-Top tier law school...which would explain why they are not getting jobs at small and mid sized firms.

Uh...I graduated in the top of my class and I'm doing temporary doc review.

Grades or qualifications have nothing to do with getting in at a large firm. It's all about WHO YOU KNOW. If a black guy is the nephew of some big wig, he'll get in. If you're blond and stupid but your daddy's a judge, you'll get in. No questions asked.

Likewise, if you're Asian and speak a foreign language that might be valuable to cultivating some business in China, you'll get in. If have name some middle eastern/Indian name, you'll get in because then you can handle the agreements for all the outsourcing that's going on.

It's all about nepotism. Not racism.

Joe Miller said...

It is disappointing that so many obstacles exist for all of us, in one way or another. But every moment spent brooding over problems, instead of working to rise above them, will be forever lost.

Anonymous said...

Joe Miller is obviously a typical legal recruiter, with her condescending positive outlook. Thanks Joe for your poignent remarks.

Joe Miller said...

I am FAR from being a legal recruiter! lol But I appreciate your candor.


Anonymous said...

Does affirmative action hurt minorities?

Racial preferences may be setting up many black and Latino law students for failure.

By Vikram Amar and Richard H. Sander

September 26, 2007
The Los Angeles Times

IMAGINE, FOR A MOMENT, that a program designed to aid disadvantaged students might, instead, be seriously undermining their performance. Imagine that the schools administering the programs were told that the programs might be having this boomerang effect -- but that no one

investigated further because the programs were so popular and the prospect of change was so politically controversial.

Now imagine that an agency had collected enough information on student performance that it might, by carefully studying or releasing the data, illuminate both the problem and the possible solutions. What should the agency do?

This is not a hypothetical question. The schools involved are dozens of law schools in California and elsewhere, and the program is the system of affirmative action that enables hundreds of minority law students to attend more elite institutions than their credentials alone would allow. Data from across the country suggest to some researchers that when law students attend schools where their credentials (including LSAT scores and college grades) are much lower than the median at the school, they actually learn less, are less likely to graduate and are nearly twice as likely to fail the bar exam than they would have been had they gone to less elite schools. This is known as the "mismatch effect."

The mismatch theory is controversial. One of us (Sander) has advanced it in the academic literature. The other (Amar) believes that while it raises substantial questions, it has not been empirically proved. Some dismiss the whole idea as nothing more than a politically motivated attack on affirmative action or, even worse, an attack on blacks and Latinos -- the main recipients of current preferences. Many rightly point out that definitive conclusions are difficult because the data available to researchers thus far have been limited in very important ways.

Still, certain facts are indisputable. Data from one selective California law school from 2005 show that students who received large preferences were 10 times as likely to fail the California bar as students who received no preference. After the passage of Proposition 209, which limited the use of racial preferences at California's public universities, in-state bar passage rates for blacks and Latinos went up relative to out-of-state bar passage rates. To the extent that students of color moved from UC schools to less elite ones (as seems likely), the post-209 experience is consistent with the mismatch theory.

In general, research shows that 50% of black law students end up in the bottom 10th of their class, and that they are more than twice as likely to drop out as white students. Only one in three black students who start law school graduate and pass the bar on their first attempt; most never become lawyers. How much of this might be attributable to the mismatch effect of affirmative action is still a matter of debate, but the problem cries out for attention.

A lot of legal scholars who focus on empirical work agree that the mismatch effect deserves serious study. A few weeks ago, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a 280-page report on these issues that came to the same conclusion.

The best data in the nation for studying any mismatch effect in law schools reside in the archives of the State Bar of California, the state agency that administers the bar exam and oversees the conduct of lawyers. Starting in the 1980s, the California bar has maintained careful records on the backgrounds of bar exam-takers and their performance on its tests. With this data, it is possible to compare how students with similar college grades and LSAT scores do on the bar when they've attended different law schools and experienced different types of legal education. It is also possible to more deeply compare the bar performance of minority students before and after Proposition 209 and use other careful techniques to test whether the mismatch effect exists.

Given the richness of the data and the intensity of interest in the mismatch issue, it was not surprising that a blue-ribbon panel of diverse scholars (including both of us) approached the bar with a detailed proposal to study its data, backed by full funding and letters of support from dozens of scholars, law school deans and public officials.

But although the California bar was initially enthusiastic, one of its committees recently rejected the study proposal. Its stated reasons are implausible; it expressed concern, for example, about disclosing confidential information; but the proposed study includes the bar's own in-house expert, thus mooting the need for any data release.

It seems more probable that the bar, like many law schools, is simply queasy about touching a delicate area. The Society of American Law Teachers captured this sentiment in a letter it sent the California bar, cautioning it against releasing the information because, it said, "SALT is concerned about the potential negative impacts upon minority bar applicants and attorneys" who "already face a variety of misperceptions about their qualifications." By this reasoning, no one should seriously attempt to get to the bottom of racial disparities in bar performance because the attempt itself would make more people aware of the disparities!

We know of no serious scholar who has denied, or reasonably could deny, that the study we're proposing would shed some important light on a vital public policy issue. It would not be the final word on mismatch theory, no doubt, but it would be an important step that would advance understanding of the subject. We hope the bar's board of governors, which oversees what is, after all, a public agency, will reconsider in the coming weeks and decide to make its make its information available for research.

A generation ago, the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in Regents of UC vs. Bakke, the famous UC Davis affirmative action case, that for society to get beyond race, the government must first take account of race. Last summer, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. countered that the way to get beyond racial discrimination was for government to stop using race as a consideration. We suspect both justices would agree that however one feels about race-conscious school admissions policies, it is vital that we do our best to understand the effects of those policies, and doing that requires more, not less, analysis of real-world data.

Vikram Amar is a professor of law at UC Davis School of Law. Richard H. Sander is a professor of law at UCLA.
Author: Ashit from Bangalore
Time: September 26, 2007 - 11:14 pm

I support my friend Vikram Amar. I remember the days when, as children, we frolicked at Cubbon Park in Bangalore, celebrating the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. I always knew that he would make something of himself, and I am not surprised that he has risen to the admirable position of Professor of Law at UC Davis, which, I hear, is a top school. Perhaps one day I will teach at a law school in California? Does one actually need any qualifications in that state? I hope not.

Even as a child, he was a proponent of taking lower-caste people and placing them into powerful high-caste positions. One day, he elevated a local prostitute to the position of Chief Yogurt Salesperson at his father's store. I was not surprised when she stole the yogurt, urinated on his cash machine, and eloped with the proceeds. However, Vikram seemed a bit down.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I support Vikram. However, I do not know this Sander, and I hope he is not a bad influence on my old friend. That is all.

Anonymous said...

Julian Brown at Compliance needs to teach his f&#*$^^ staff how to return phone calls because contract attorneys down here know that Compliance has the lousiest, most unprofessional communications policies and procedures of any agency in Washington. Their website never updates, their recruiters don't call you back and when they do, they act like the climbed down Mount Olympus even to speak with you. They don't respond to emails, seemingly ever, and their whole project seems weak.

Moral: Julian knows how to return a reporter's call, what are we - chopped Friday pizza?

Anonymous said...

I don't know what the "typical doc reviewer" is like in in NYC, but in the DC area, it certainly is not someone right out of law school. I've temped with a lot of people who are headed for retirement and the vast majority are in their 30's and 40's---right in the middle.

The racial makeup seems to depend on the agency and the particular project. The "cattle calls" are filled with minorities, are often short-lived and have the worst working conditions. And, yes, despite the bottom line, there are plenty of DC agencies that do not want "too much color" on their roster.

The previous poster who noted the horrible conditions over at Compliance is absolutely correct. For any DC contractors, if you haven't registered, do not and do not ever do a job with them. They are highly unprofessional and seem to be ignorant of basic respect toward human beings. And, the bottom line is that their jobs are notoriously short-lived. Just bottom of the barrel!!!

Michael C said...

Let's see... "people of color" get out of high school because we can't discriminate against them because they've had a hard time. Then, they get through undergrad because we can't discriminate against them because they had a hard time. Then they get into law school despite poor grades and get graduated... etc.

It has to catch up with you SOMETIME. That whole self-responsibility thing.

Anonymous said...

Wow Michael C., it must really suck to be you. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you're a white male who's mad that you're not an associate at a firm.

You must be a real loser in a sense. How are you, a white male working temp jobs next to 'poorly qualified' black people in a world made for white people--especially with you being really smart and all. After all, according to you, all African Americans are admitted into law school with poor grades. If that's the case, why are you working beside them?

When are you going to take responsibility?

Anonymous said...

Yay, good for the last poster.

Anonymous said...

I am an african-american lawyer who is considering contracting work. I've worked in majority as well as minority firms.

I've concluded that minority attorneys need to stop complaining so much about their treatment and actually discuss these things directly with each other [then] strategize to either maximize each other’s success or to eleviate each other’s problems. We must create synergy 'and' be more foregiving of each other...we hold deep grudges with other black attorneys—much more so than with white attorneys. Let's also get real...black attorneys treat each other VERY poorly, often making it possible for the very mistreatment and lack of opportunity from the majority firms claimed on this boards by not defending each other or clarifying misunderstandings of our black colleague or even advising another black colleage of thing are harmful or should be addressed.

Yes, its about personal responsibility.

Black lawyers being responsible for ourselves and each other, not expecting white attorneys to take care of us.

We also must face the fact that the majority firms are not our 'keepers'. They have no responsibility to hire someone they do not want to hire, and anyway, "why" would a minority even "want" to work someone who was forced to hire us over one of their own. Yes, it is about nepotism -- not always in violations of the companies/firms policy, but by virtue of all the networks of relationships that have been put in place for years and is an active element that spans generations.

Black lawyers need to learn to get along with each other and BUILD something, just like white attorneys build. We must learn to step up in the black community and become more active within our communities; we lose our opportunities to also take advantage of generational networks by abandoning each other.