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Do as I say, not as I do on diversity

In an article about the warm support among St. Louis law firms for the kickoff reception of a gay bar association (St. Louis Post Dispatch, March 9, 2006 by Gail Appleson), the journalist quoted the diversity manager at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal as saying that hiring minorities is “a business decision, because clients were demanding it.” The director of professional resources at Bryan Cave extolled diversity and noted that “client attention to this issue makes our efforts all that more important.”

The article looked back at the 1999 “Diversity Statement of Principle” circulated by BellSouth’s general counsel. Some 500 in-house counsel signed the statement and agreed to consider a firm’s commitment toward diversity when they chose outside counsel.

The article continues.

“When little progress had been made in five years, the general counsel of Sara Lee circulated a ‘Call to Action’ letter asking his counterparts … ‘to end or limit’ their relationships with law firms that failed to show they had made significant efforts to diversify.”

So far, lawyers at 95 companies have signed the Call to Action (See my posts of Sept. 22, 2005 about WalMart’s efforts to promote diversity; Sept. 4, 2005 about the looseness of the term “diverse;” Dec. 4, 2005 on the prevalence of women in-house lawyers; and Nov. 13, 2005 about South Africa’s laws on racial diversity; but see my posts of Jan. 6, 2006 on social diversity over demographic diversity and Jan. 20, 2006 on cognitive diversity.).

Then why, on rankings of criteria for how law departments select law does, does diversity rank so low (See my posts of Oct. 29, 2005 where only 20% of law departments cited diversity as very important or important; Jan. 24, 2005 where 3% had fired a firm for lack of sufficient diversity; and Jan. 30, 2006 where diversity was in 3 of the 4 lowest rankings.)?

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