California law departments and minority lawyers they hire: From majority or minority controlled firms?

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) sets diversity goals for companies under its jurisdiction in the public utilities and communications sector. The law departments of those companies, if they want to get credit for the use of minority lawyers in their law firms, must take care. They must observe a crucial definition.

To count toward the goals, the lawyer must practice at a firm that is mostly owned or controlled by women, minorities, or disabled veterans, according to The Recorder, Nov. 20, 2006. Further, the status of the firm as minority must have been certified by the CPUC. The CPUC certified 34 law firms in the past two years, with three pending certifications. One company, Sempra Energy, monitors the status of its law firms and reports that it paid 4.5 percent of its 2005 outside legal spending to three minority-owned firms.

In response to protests by law departments and law firms, the CPUC is “tweaking the reporting format to recognize dollars spent on work done by women or minorities at majority-owned firms, as well as at minority owned firms that are in the certification process.”

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