The Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) properly distinguishes between the two categories of external minority counsel. Assuming solutions to the difficulties of how to define “minority” (See my post of Sept. 4, 2006 on “diversity.”), it makes a big difference. It’s easier to retain lawyers than firms.
Moreover, if a law department favors minority-owned firms, it will limit itself to somewhat smaller firms. On top of that, the number of minority firms may be shrinking. “A recent study commissioned by Dupont’s law department confirmed that the number of successful minority-owned firms has declined over the past 15 years.” (Business Law Today, Vol. 16, Sept./Oct. at 21, emphasis in original article firstname.lastname@example.org)
The adjective “successful” gives me pause, since perhaps the industry still has many minority-owned firms that are not growing or that don’t make much money, but the Dupont finding casts a pessimistic pall on the available supply of minority-owned law firms.