Diversity rankings

May 11, 2009
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The Minority Law Journal released its annual diversity scorecard for the 250 largest and highest-grossing law firms in the country and the three Indiana firms on the list ended up closer to the bottom than the top in their rankings.

Baker & Daniels and Barnes & Thornburg were close on the list, coming in at 175 and 177 respectively. Ice Miller cracked the top-200 at 199.

Just like U.S. News and World Report, Minority Law Journal changed its methodology this year, leading to dramatic jumps or drops for some firms. The journal added each responding firm’s percentage of minority attorneys to its percentage of minority partners to come up with the firm’s diversity score. Previously, it just counted how many total minority attorneys were at the firm.

It’s worth a note that not every firm contacted by the journal participated, including Taft Stettinius & Hollister. The complete listings and methodology can be found here.

According to the survey, a little more than 6 percent of all of Baker & Daniels U.S. attorneys are minorities; 5 percent are partners. Barnes & Thornburg has a bigger percentage of minority U.S. attorneys at 7.6 percent, but has 3.4 percent as partners. Ice Miller faired the lowest of the three Indiana firms on the list, with 5.7 percent of all U.S. attorneys being minorities and 1.7 percent of partners being minorities.

In terms of the diversity of the diversity, again, Baker had the most with at least one partner represented from each of the listed minorities in the survey: African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American, and other minority/those who identify themselves as multiracial. Barnes & Thornburg has African-American and Asian-American partners and Ice Miller has African-American partners.

So what does this all mean? As always, you have to take these surveys with a grain of salt. It’s hard to compare an Indiana firm to one in California or New York, which typically has a more diverse population and larger cities. In fact, the top firms on this list come from San Francisco, Irvine, Calif., New York City, and Los Angeles. The number one ranked firm is from Palo Alto, Calif. Firms that came in with comparable or lower rankings than the Indiana firms typically were in markets of comparable or smaller sizes than Indianapolis, where all three Indiana firms are based.

But that doesn’t mean our firms can’t learn from their rankings and use it as another tool to increase diversity here. Indiana firms still have a way to go until they are more representative of the general population. Granted, there are typically more white attorneys than other races here; however, they are more minority attorneys than what is represented by the partner ranks in our state’s firms, or even the associate numbers.

Bottom line is Indiana firms aren’t the worst in the country but we still have room for improvement.
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  • I disagree that these types of surveys should be taken with a grain of salt. I think there are valid reasons as to why the three Indiana firms noted in the survey are at the bottom of the list, and I don\'t think you can dismiss those reasons by citing how other cities have more diverse populations. Indianapolis has a sufficient number of minority attorneys for these firms to have better diversity numbers. This is evident by looking at the recruiting results of these firms, as at least two of these firms have had a critical mass of diverse attorneys in recent years. However, the problem is that although the firms do a decent job of recruiting diverse attorneys, they fail to implement measures to retain these attorneys. Perhaps firms in more diverse cities do a better job of retaining diverse attorneys because those firms have a culture that is more accepting and inclusive of diverse attorneys, rather than a culture that perpetrates the good \'ole boys club, as is the case with many Indianapolis firms.

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  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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