Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Large Nashville law firms are among least diverse for women partners

Third-to-last in nationwide review; efforts underway "to reverse that trend"

The Tennessean reports in this article that Nashville ranked third-to-last in a recent study of diversity among female partners at large law firms in major U.S. cities.

"The study, which looked at partners of the largest law firms in 44 U.S. cities, found that 0.26 percent of Nashville firms had minority women partners. Only two cities fared worse in the study by Washington, D.C.–based Association for Legal Career Professionals, formerly the National Association for Law Placement."

"The study is stunning to some given Nashville's diverse population — nearly 27 percent African-American and almost 5 percent Hispanic — and the fact that the city has two law schools and two historically black universities, some legal experts said."

"'[S]tatistically Nashville may not fare very well, but ... some things are being done in Nashville to reverse that trend,' said Billye Sanders, a partner at the Nashville firm of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis."

Wendy Warren, chairwoman of the Nashville Bar Association's Minority Opportunities Committee, is also quoted in the story.

"'I won't say that in the past there has not been discrimination. That would be ... naive to say that that's the case,' said Warren, an associate at the Nashville firm of Bass, Berry & Sims. 'But I would say now that the Nashville market is ... aggressively trying to recruit minorities and women, from my perspective.'"

"She believes female and minority lawyers should be actively trying to socialize with people who may be very different from themselves."

"She and Sanders said they believe that diversity at law firms makes good business sense because many client companies won't hire firms that aren't diversified. Furthermore, the lawyers said, having different perspectives leads to better problem solving for clients."

The ALCP study is consistent with a similar story earlier this year (reported here in the Hispanic Nashville Notebook), in which Nashville was found to lag behind the national average in law firm diversity among male and female partners and associates.

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