Around here, The Client is King (or Queen). So, you can imagine how thrilled
we were to learn that 60 major law firms and 65 bar associations have entered
into a pact, in response to a “client-driven” initiative, that allows clients to find
out just who is performing their legal services. I didn’t know the details, but was
the bees with children
My first guess was that the practical staffing suggestions made by the ABA Task
Force on Lawyer Business Ethics in 1996 were being re-affirmed by the New York bar.
They are contained in Principles in Billing for Legal Services (and relevant excerpts
can be found here). The advice relates to client concerns over “learning curve” issues
(such as, using newbies who need training and more expertise) or expectations that a
particular lawyer would be critically involved and continuity of representation maintained.
The Statetment intones the obvious:
“The touchstones for determining such issues as staffing should
be cost-effectiveness and quality of legal service to the client.”
[ed. note: yawn]
My expectations were low, but I was sure surprised by what I found. The signatories
to the pact, led by the New York County Lawyers Association, have gone much farther
in their efforts to give inquisitive clients staffing information — they have agreed that
“law firms should not object to requests by their corporate clients [to] report the number
of hours devoted to the clients’ matters by minority lawyers.” (Law.com coverage, “Law
Firms Agree to Give Clients Diversity Data on Legal Teams,” May 13, 2005, and
The Lawyer/UK article) (via Lisa Stone at Inside Opinions,) Now, you’re talking!
the market workers
spring snow falling
Thomas Adcock’s article for NYLJ mentions that the pact will cover “the composition
of assigned legal teams by race, gender, ethnicity and sexual preference.” But, if this pact is
client-driven, I’m sure the NYLJ list must be representative, rather than exclusive. For example,
if I were the client of an NYC BigLaw firm, with an important project due this month, I would
definitely want to know how many of those 20- and 30- something male associates were members
with a supposed messianic arrival this week. In the 2002 UK census, 7 out of every 1000 people
listed Jedi as their religion. Although they are a tiny religious minority, we know the Jedi must
be among us, too.
If any of them worked on my legal team, I’d expect replacements for the forseeable future, plus
a discount for all work done in May. In fact, I really wouldn’t want any of those cultists on my
legal team — especially if they are squabbling amongst themselves over devotion to the First Three
Books of their Bible vs. The Last Three Books.
surprising the worker
in the field…
But, this whole Diversity Pact thing just might be a publicity stunt — I’m mean, why would law firms
have to “agree” to respond more effectively to their clients’ needs? A red flag for me is the Diversity
Page at the law firm of one of the pact’s signers, Kelley Drye & Warren. How serious could Kelley
Drye be about responding to clients’ desires, when they proclaim to have recently enacted a program:
“to ensure that individuals continue to be recruited, hired, assigned and promoted
without regard to race, religion, color, national origin, citizenship, sex, veteran’s status,
age, or non-job-related disability of any kind.” [emphasis added]
The background of Kelley Drye partner Robert L. Haig, who was a leader in making the Pact a
reality, also throws doubt on the seriousness of this Diversity Pact. No, I don’t mean his being a
60ish white guy with a Harvard Law degree. It’s his client list this worries me: It’s filled with hard-
nosed major companies like Union Carbide, Liberty Mutual, and Pan Am World Airways. Nobody’s
going to convince me that his clients want staffing decisions based on gender, race or sexual
preferences, rather than lawyering skills and efficient assignment of resources. Oh, sure, Union
Carbide wants KDW to lower its hiring standards (and anger reassigned lawyers) so that it will have
just the right associate in the bullpen to meet every client’s diversity whim. Not likely.
the dragonfly, too
See getting personal for an account of your Editor’s first encounter
with diversity disclosure issues (scroll down to potluck blurbs).