don’t feel that you’re on the partnership track and don’t see an opportunity for client development, you’ll go elsewhere.”
But recruiting and retaining diverse employees is more important than
ever, because of the growing shortage of talent. Unfortunately, the number
of people of color entering law lags whites. White students constituted
more than 65 percent of all applications to ABA-accredited law schools in
2005, versus 10. 4 percent of blacks, 8. 3 percent of Asian Americans and
8. 2 percent of Latinos. Everything from management structures to a
penchant for following tradition have contributed to the problem.
Reed Smith: Building on Past Diversity Success
James J. Barnes
Reed Smith LLP, one of the 15 largest law firms in the world, has stepped up its diversity efforts by focusing not just on recruitment, but on retention and advancement. “For us, it’s not just about bringing in
diverse associates,” says James J. Barnes, Managing Partner of Reed Smith’s Pittsburgh office. “It’s showing them that they can find career success within the context of Reed Smith.”
Barnes, the first African American to serve as Managing Partner of a Reed Smith office, serves as an
example and mentor to diverse attorneys. He’s not alone. Glenn R. Mahone, an African-American partner, is
a member of the firm’s Executive Committee and, Carolyn Duronio, Barnes’ predecessor, was the first
female Managing Partner of the Pittsburgh office and now serves as Corporate Secretary to the Executive
Committee. In addition, the firm’s head of litigation, Colleen T. Davies, oversees nearly 800 lawyers.
Diverse lawyers in top management speaks volumes. In addition, Reed Smith gives its diverse attorneys
the mentoring and support they need to succeed.
For several years, Reed Smith has held an Annual Diversity Retreat. “We’ve found the retreat is a forum for both diverse attorneys
and senior management to have a candid exchange about issues unique to diverse attorneys,” Barnes says. The Annual Diversity
Retreat also provides leadership training. “The idea is to better prepare participants to be leaders and to be successful in a big law
firm environment,” Barnes says.
Reed Smith continues to evolve and enhance its diversity program. Last year, the firm added seven subcommittees to its diversity committee. Each subcommittee targets a specific issue, including best diversity practices, mentoring and compensation. All these efforts are
paying off. Over the past six years, the number of diverse lawyers firmwide has tripled and the number of diverse partners has quadrupled.
Finally, the Reed Smith Fellowship, an annual award given to first-year law students in Pittsburgh, New York City, Philadelphia and
Virginia who have overcome personal adversity in the pursuit of their law degrees, is encouraging more people of color and other
underrepresented groups to enter the profession.
“We’re trained in precedent: This is how it was done in the past and
what has always been done. We think that way, and that slows change,”
explains Vicki D. Blanton, president of the J.L. Turner Legal Association,
a Dallas-based group that promotes blacks in law.
By opening the profession to people of color and building welcoming
People of Color at Leading Law Firms
Source: 2006 NALP Directory of Legal Employers;
based on 1,524 firms reporting information
All Other Lawyers