There is one fact about business in the new economy and in the new millennium that is virtually undeniable—a fully engaged, diverse and inclusive work force is a competitive strategic advantage for everyone. Individuals and organizations that are truly dedicated to advancing diversity in the legal profession must be about the business of "priming the pump." What does "priming the pump" have to do with diversity? Everything.
There are three components to the "priming the pump" concept. First, we all recognize there is a "pipeline" or progression from law school to general counsel. Second, there is a supply side to the equation (law school graduates) and a demand side (law departments and law firms). The "pump" is a way of referring to programs such as mentoring and summer internships that are designed to increase the quality of experience gained by law students of color before they get their first jobs.
In this, our first issue devoted to post-graduate concerns for law students of color, we examine "quality of experience" issues from their point of view, as they traverse the pipeline from graduate to first-year associate. We surface the existence and impact of cultural biases within the corporate legal culture. And, we discuss the proliferation of job fairs for minority law students, demonstrating that combined forces can make a difference in minority representation in the public and private sectors. It is imperative that we do all we can to encourage and support our future generations of legal professionals. Our stake in the multi-cultural global economy depends on it.
(left to right) Deval L. Patrick, vice president and general counsel, Texaco, Inc.; Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr., MCCA Executive Director and Publisher of Diversity & The Bar magazine, Don H. Liu, senior vice president and general counsel, Ikon Office Solutions; Jose M. de Lasa, senior vice president and general counsel, Abbott Laboratories; Solomon B. Watson IV, senior vice president and general counsel, The New York Times Company
Currently, what is missing, that would yield the greatest results with this effort, are senior attorneys in key decision-making positions who consistently mentor and promote diverse associates within their firms and organizations. We are making progress, as evidenced by our cover story in which we cite our Second Annual Survey of minority general counsel. More attorneys of color were promoted to general counsel in a six-month period (December 1999 to May 2000) than in the previous two years. But, even with that increase, minority general counsel still represent less than 2.5 percent of all general counsel in the Fortune 500. Obviously, there is still a great deal left to be done.
The bottom line is that if diversity is not expressed in the legal profession at all levels, then corporations will be handicapped in future years. We must make a concerted effort to see past our differences—to our common interests—to build competitive, profitable businesses on a fair playing field.
From the September 2000 issue of Diversity & The Bar®