Dallas' Law Firms Are Really, Really White

Just another day at your local Dallas law firm.
Just another day at your local Dallas law firm.

At the Dallas law firm of Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Bluenthal, LLP, diversity is important. Says so right here on its website. The problem, despite boasts of being "one of the first Dallas law firms to hire women attorneys," is that it's not very good at it.

Out of 53 total attorneys and partners, three are minorities -- one Asian and two Hispanic. More, about a third, are women.

To be fair to Carrington Coleman, the firm's not exactly an outlier. Among the 19 largest firms in the city, it ranks 15th in terms of diversity on the 2013 Law Firm Diversity Report, conducted annually by the African-American, Hispanic and Asian bar associations.

According to the report, none of the firms met minority hiring goals. Only 20, or 3 percent, of a total of 799 equity partners are black, Asian, Hispanic or Native American. (Those groups comprise 16 percent of the state bar). And things are getting worse, if only slightly. The average composite diversity score for firms dropped from 49.84 out of 100 to 49.36 over the past year.

It's not that the firms aren't trying to be diverse. Most interview at minority job fairs and at majority-minority law schools, and there is a conscious effort to improve diversity. It's just not working.

"Clearly, the results are not good," Rosa Orenstein, a partner at Sullivan & Holston and chairwoman of the task force, told The Texas Lawbook. "I know the wheels of justice turn slowly, but diversity in Dallas is improving at a glacial pace."

So what's the deal? The Texas Lawbook's story suggests a combination of factors: "a slow economy, a smaller pipeline of talented young minorities going to law school and increased competition for minority lawyers by corporate legal departments and small litigation boutiques."

The report's not all bad, however. Firms do a fairly good job of hiring Native Americans, who make up 0.84 percent of attorneys, which is about on par with their representation (one percent) in the Texas population.

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