Paul Weiss Press Release Captures Everything Broken About Biglaw In One Image

Let’s play a sort of flashcard game, shall we? Take a quick look at this press release from Paul Weiss announcing their new partners and consider the first thing you see:

Did your mind first focus on the venerable firm’s 2018 commitment to putting the white in white shoe? Or, putting aside the monochromatic palette, did you notice that there is only one woman, and she’s visually consigned to bottom billing? Perhaps you noticed nothing at all, which is also an acceptable answer because everyone in the legal industry is so accustomed to images like this that they appear innocuous.

But Paul Weiss has a serious diversity problem and it’s deeper than just not finding any diverse candidates for partnership.

The legal industry’s diversity woes remain rampant. While corporate America posts relatively significant strides toward diversifying its executive ranks on all fronts — a strategy that directly addresses the implicit and explicit biases that historically limited the talent pool by excluding candidates unnecessarily —  the legal industry seems mired a few decades behind. When it comes to naming partners, women and minorities seem nowhere to be found.

It’s not that firms intentionally want their letterhead to feature more white dudes than a Jimmy Buffett concert. Very few law firms set out to cultivate a class bereft of diversity. Rather, they lack imagination and mindlessly hew to a model that grinds most candidates out of the process before it ever reaches this point. Diverse candidates are subtly shunted off into auxiliary roles — counselships or whatever sanitized terminology the firm uses. Implicit biases consistently drive down minority candidate reviews[1]. Women are held back for deigning to have kids. And corporate America’s relatively more progressive hiring poaches quality diverse candidates to the in-house ranks. This isn’t a problem that gets solved the day the firm votes on new partners, it needs to be addressed on the day first-year associates start.

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