The Dark Side of Barbie

Posted in Uncategorized on March 9th, 2010 by bl1y

White Barbie: $5.93

Black Barbie: $3.00

A Walmart in Louisiana is coming under fire for selling the black Theresa Barbie for about half the price as her white counter part.  The offended-by-default crowd has accused Walmart of perpetuating “ugly inequities,” but perhaps there is a non-discriminatory explanation.

A spokeswoman for Walmart said that the dolls were originally priced the same, but the black doll was placed on clearance because it wasn’t selling well, just as any other product would have been.

What’s that?  Walmart judged Theresa based not on the color of her plastic, but on the content of her market penetration?  Good for Walmart.

The legal industry has seen some similar trends.  Recession layoffs have caused law firm diversity scores to plummet.  But, just with Theresa’s discount pricing, there may be a non-discriminatory reason for minorities getting the bigger end of the recession ax.

Diversity initiatives in law school result in a number of minority students being admitted who would not have been admitted on their academic credentials alone.  If you come in to a school on the bottom of the LSAT/GPA curve, odds are you’re not as smart as the other students.  But, law firms presume that even the bottom quarter of schools like Harvard and Stanford and still exceptionally intelligent.  They recruit largely based on law school prestige, and end up with some people who don’t live up to their expectations.  When the ax drops, it’s more likely to hit someone who got into a top ranked school affirmative action than someone who got in based purely on their merits.

But wait, there’s more.  It’s called math and history.

Integration and equity are not created over night.  Giving access to legal education and big firm jobs to minorities doesn’t instantly create minority partners.  They still have to spend 3 years in school, and another 8-10 years climbing the associate ladder.  The civil rights movement didn’t go back in time 30 years and drop black students into law school. Affirmative action doesn’t find a middle aged black man who would have been a lawyer in an equal society, take him from his job as a social worker and drop him in a law firm as an equity partner.  BALSA does not have a hot tub time machine.

It takes decades to reach racial parity, even when a society is completely just, and so it stands to reason that minority lawyers are generally still in the lower seniority levels.  And, that’s where the layoff ax falls.  The vast majority of laid off attorneys are, quite naturally, associates.  Partner firings are extremely rare.

So, imagine you have a firm with 10 partners (all white) and 20 associates (10 black and 10 white).  The firm is 33% black.  Now, the recession hits and half the associates are laid off at random, leaving us with 5 black and 5 white associates.  The firm is now 25% black.  There is nothing at all discriminatory about what the firm did, but it’s diversity score card just took a major hit, and anyone who constantly wears their discrimination-tinted glasses will immediately cry foul.

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The Dark Side of the Recession

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8th, 2010 by bl1y

For years law firms have been actively trying to bump up their diversity credentials for a number of reasons, to draw in clients with minority executives (because we all know minorities are racist, just like white people), avoid negative publicity, and to attract top legal talent (Ivy League schools are extremely liberal).

But, it seems that the recession is hittign diversity initiatives particularly hard.  From the ABA Presidential Diversity Initiative Report:

While law firms have increasingly come to recognize that diverse corporate clients and international markets often require lawyer diversity, the recession is drying up monies for diversity initiatives and creating downsizing and cutbacks that may disproportionately and negatively affect lawyer diversity—thereby undoing the gains of past decades.

One of the purported goals of diversity is to fight stereotypes.  It’s pretty hard to keep a prejudice when you’re working in close quarters with someone.  You’ll see the good work they do and find it hard to maintain your prejudice when confronted with contrary evidence.

So, while diversity initiatives may be useful in getting minority attorneys into firms to begin with, retention shouldn’t be much of a factor.  But the ABA Presidential Diversity Initiative thinks otherwise.  Given that no law firm wants to expose itself to an easy discrimination suit, they should be thinking twice before laying off a disproportionately large number of minorities.  If anything, we’d expect to see firms hanging on to minorities more.

Why are they more likely to get laid off?  The answer is diversity.

Whaaat?   …Let me explain.

Diversity is what gets many minorities their jobs in the first place, not merits.  Firms hire minority attorneys with poorer credentials than they would consider from a straight, white male candidate.  If all minority candidates were hired on their merits alone, then they wouldn’t need diversity initiatives.  These initiatives exist only because they can’t get hired on their merits.

The same thing basically happens with law school admissions as well.  Law schools mostly just look at GPAs and LSAT scores when admitting students; two numbers that indicate absolutely nothing about the race of the applicant.  But, law schools know that looking only at test grades will result in too few minorities getting accepted, so they lower the bar until their diversity quota is filled.  The process is repeated in law firm hiring.

(I’m not arguing that minority students are inherently less intelligent.  Most of the reason their test scores are lower is because they come from poorer families and have less educated parents.  But, the solution to that is to be found in early education, not law school admissions.)

Enter the recession.  Law firms are reducing their work forces and even students with good grades from top schools are being given the axe.  You can bet that if you’re laying off Ivy League grads, you have no place in your office for a substandard attorney hired through a diversity initiative.

Disproportional minority lay offs should concern us, but not because it hurts law firm diversity.  We should be concerned because it shows that minority attorneys hired through diversity initiatives, who have had a chance to work with law firm partners and prove them selves capable are still coming up short.  Obviously diversity hiring doesn’t do squat but put sub-par attorneys in jobs they have no business being in.

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Breaking: Black Woman Angry About Something

Posted in Dumb Ideas Girls Have on January 25th, 2010 by bl1y

As you may already be aware, The Deep End on ABC aired to almost universally bad reviews.  But, Natalie Holder-Winfield, a “diversity lawyer” (whatever that means, I think she just tells you to hire blacks to avoid law suits) has managed to complain about the one thing the show got right: diversity.

“While I can toss out most of the show’s antics as hyperbole — for starters, no partner would allow a first year associate to go within 20 feet of a client–the show is 100% correct when it comes to life at a firm for blacks and Latinos. For the most part, we do not exist.

Scenes like the one where Dylan, the first year associate who is described as a Boy Scout, is tapped for mentorship, help explain why associates of color only account for 15% of law firm associates. Rowdy Kaiser, a partner who drives a smoking Porsche, actually appoints himself as Dylan’s “secret mentor.” And, he lives up to his promise. Behind the scenes, he coaches Dylan and even helps him to navigate a difficult case where the firm would have lost a potential client if Dylan made one false move.

However, there are rarely secret mentors for associates of color. Many of the associates of color I interviewed for my book, Recruiting & Retaining a Diverse Workforce: New Rules for a New Generation were treated like outsiders. They were not invited to social functions with partners and they certainly were not tapped for secret mentoring. Yet, study after study shows the importance of mentoring in any profession.

Now, technically, the show has two black people: Susan Oppenheim (a named partner in the firm) and Malcolm Bennet (a first year associate).

Yet, when Susan is introduced to Malcolm, she literally closes the door in his face. She disregards him and is more concerned with the firm’s politics, i.e., how he was hired, rather than eying him as her secret mentee.

The white associates in the show were given so much access and support. While they commiserated about the same old things that annoy all associates, they could at least dream about a future at the firm. They were a part of the firm.”

I can’t say for sure that I follow Ms. Holder-Winfield’s complaint.  Is it that the show doesn’t have enough black people, or that real law firms don’t?  Well, she can’t just be complaining about firms not having enough black people, because she otherwise wouldn’t need to talk so much about the show.  So, I guess her complaint is that the show is too accurate in this regard.

What’s worse about her complaint, aside from being confusing, is that she acknowledges that there are indeed black people working at the firm.  So far the show has 9 main characters, 3 partners, 5 associates, and 1 paralegal.  Of those 9, one partner and one associate are black.  I’ll let you do some thinking about what percentage of the United States is black.  Blacks are 12.4% of the population, but 22% of the people working at the firm; 25% of the attorneys.  They’re overrepresented by a factor of 100%!  And Holder-Winfield is complaining about discrimination by the firm?  What a jackass.

Just to make Holder-Winfield’s comments even more ridiculous is that she completely misrepresents how the white characters are treated:

Dylan (white) is intentionally given a start date 10 days late to put him into a reputational hole that he’ll now have to dig his way out of.

Addy (white) is given assignments by two different partners that, due to time constraints, cannot both be complete.  She is shut down when trying to explain this and is berated when she finds a solution by getting help from a fellow associate.

Beth (white) is talked down to by her lawyer-father for not being aggressive enough to survive in the legal world, and is then passive-aggressively taunted by a client when she allows her convictions to collapse.

Doesn’t really seem like the whites were given as much access and support as Holder-Winfield imagines they are.  Not only that, but law firms aren’t as all-white as she imagines.  At my firm there were 7 starting corporate associates.  3 were white, 3 were hispanic, and 1 was some sort of ambiguous Near-East/Indian blend.  One of the 3 white people was a French national, and I think counts for some diversity points.

But I digress.  What’s really obnoxious about Holder-Winfield is that she thinks partners ought to select their mentees based on race.  She wanted Susan to mentor Malcolm simply because they’re both black.  At that point in the show, Addy has been working for Susan and just proven herself to be very intelligent and capable.  Susan selects her to second chair an important trial.  So, it looks like Susan has just chosen a mentor based on the content of her character, but Holder-Winfield wants Susan to throw that away and choose Malcolm based solely on the color of his skin.

Ms. Holder-Winfield, you are what is wrong with this country.  And, just to counteract how incredibly wrong you are, here’s something that’s incredibly right (though so very far from earning diversity points):

BlaireBlaire

PS: Malcolm already has a partner in his corner.  One of the (white) partners goes against established firm hiring procedures to bring in a hand-selected associate.  I guess he technically doesn’t have a secret mentor, but isn’t a public mentor, going to bat for you on your very first day of work a whole lot better?

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #16

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on January 18th, 2010 by bl1y

Whiny minority kids.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Race to Be Offended is a pretty popular sport among ultra left-wing politically correct types, and law school is a breeding ground for them. Normally people say dumb things when they’re in too much of a hurry to consider facts, such as a President calling a police officer stupid for investigating what appeared to be an obvious break in.

Now, imagine combining that level of stupidity with the drunken revelry that takes place on the last day of a semester’s exams in law school.

After the last exams of my 3L Fall semester, I was on the balcony of one of our dorms for the traditional drink-till-your-face-falls-off. Towards the end, a black student and Jewish student got into a rather bizarre argument: who was treated worse, blacks or Jews.

Aside from the fact that it’s strange for anyone to even bother arguing over who’s discriminated against more (they couldn’t just agree that discrimination is bad; everyone wants to be special), what made this particularly bizarre was that they were arguing over which group was most discriminated against in universities.

They went to different schools, but no surprise, black student reported his school treated black students worse and Jewish student reported his school treated Jewish students worse. Both of these students went to mother-freaking Ivy League schools for undergrad.

I knew both students, and neither one was a rags-to-riches story. Both came from wealthy, influential families. They were seriously arguing over who suffered the most from the discriminatory effects of education opportunities afforded to less than .01% of population.

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The Dark Side of Merit Pay

Posted in Uncategorized on January 11th, 2010 by bl1y

UCLA recently held a debate between AbovetheLaw.com eidtor in chief and former editor in chief, Elie Mystal and David Lat. The topic of the debate was whether firms should stick with lock-step promotions or switch to merit based compensation, and part of the debate, as reported on Ms. JD, was that minority and women associates may end up on the losing end of a merit based system. The reason? Old white men with their old white man prejudices will rate women and minorities lower and thus compensate them less.

While I agree that merit based compensation could lead to women and minorities earning less, there is a less politically correct explanation that’s pretty likely. Instead of discrimination being the cause of lower pay, it could be affirmative action.

It’s no secret that law schools use affirmative action (aka: diversity) to admit more students from under-represented minorities (aka: black). What no one likes to mention is that black students generally have far worse undergrad grades and LSAT scores than their white counter parts. In fact, the numbers for the top 25% of black students tends to look like the bottom 25% of white students.

Now, you can chalk this up to black students having worse educational opportunities early on, and that might be the case. But, it still means that black law students are generally just not as smart as their white counter parts (so far as GPAs and LSAT scores measure intelligence). Common sense would say that this would end up getting reflected in their grades, and for the most part it does. Black law students tend to get lower grades, even in classes where grading is based on entirely anonymous exams.

Now, at most law schools, poor grades will result in poor job opportunities. But, at a top 10 school, you can be at the bottom of your class and still get a good job, because the bottom 25% of the top 1% is still really damn smart. Unfortunately, affirmative action means that the bottom 25% might not really be part of the top 1%. And to make problems worse, many top schools no longer give grades, GPAs, or class ranks.

So, law firms looking to recruit top talent will end up hiring minority associates who are in over their heads, and this will naturally result in them earning less under a merit based system. I’m not saying pay won’t be affected by racism, it probably will be. But, we also have to keep in mind the effects of affirmative action in law school admissions.

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #5

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on January 10th, 2010 by bl1y

White People.

The problem isn’t the large percentage of white people in law schools, it’s the kind of white people. I don’t know if they start out this way, or if law school some how transforms them, but white people in law school are the epitome of the upper-middle/lower-upper class, socially “aware,” dying-to-be-hipster white people depicted on the popular blog Stuff White People Like.

Law students are breaking the mold a little bit by getting a degree that (according to the plainly false myth) will lead to a financially rewarding and successful career, but they more than make up for by their other ultra-white interests:

Coffee. Pretty obvious, law students need caffeine more than most. This is part of the reason law school girls get so fat. Guys will more often turn to black coffee, or coffee with just a small amount of sugar or cream. Girls go for the ultra grande fat-fat-fat mocha. If they get a house blend from the school, they’ll be sure to add a ton of soy milk, claiming it’s a good fat. But, soy milk has more fat and calories that regular milk, so it’s not that great on your ass.

Religions that their parents don’t belong to. Good luck finding a white person in law school who even has a religion. And, I’m counting Jews as their own ethnic group, distinct from white people.

Diversity. No one will defend Affirmative Action faster than a white law student. But, after having graduated from law school, I can assure you that minorities brought no more diverse or interesting opinions than other people. Still, law school is ultra-PC, so you can’t point that out.

Barack Obama. Don’t you dare think about saying you didn’t vote for Obama to a law student. Law students are more politically correct than most, and you’ll be instantly branded a racist for not supporting him. The only way out is if you say you didn’t vote at all, because you hated Bush III, but couldn’t support Obama because of the misogyny in his campaign and how he wilfully cheated Hillary out of the nomination.

Be doubly careful around white girls. Obama isn’t just a beefy political icon, he’s also a former law professor. Every white law girl has a crush on Obama.

Having black friends. White law students literally flock to black students on the first day of class, hoping to be the kid cool enough to land the black friend. Little do they know that the black law students instantly flock to the other black law students, hoping to not be the one black kid so uncool as to have white friends.

For law school, this really should be modified to “Having black female friends” …because law schools don’t admit black men. No joke. In your next giant, 100+ person lecture, count the number of black women, then count the number of black men.

Awareness. Combine general white guilt induced advocacy with the need for white law students to convince others they really want to use their degree to help others and make a difference and this one’s a no brainer.

Traveling. Law school gives students two times where they have not just the money and free time to travel, but where they are actually expected to travel. The first is between your 2L summer job and the start of 3L fall semester, and the second is after the bar exam (aka: bar trip). If you have a private sector 1L summer job, you’re also expected to travel between that job and your 2L fall. You will quite literally be shunned or scolded by your classmates if you didn’t travel. No one will ask what you’re doing after your last day at your summer job, they will simply ask where you plan to travel to. It’s as though travel is the only legitimate form of celebration or reward.

Being and expert on YOUR culture. Now it’s not just your culture, but the laws of your culture. With the two extra trips mentioned above, expect some super douchy comments. As you probably know, spending two weeks in another country makes white people an expert on its culture.

Veganism/Vegetarianism. Unlike in undergrad, when you might have long swathes of time for frisbee on the quad, law school keeps you at school for a long portion of the day; either in class or reading for the next one. With the aid of lockers, you won’t be running home much. And, since law schools are often somewhat detached from the main campus, they don’t have easy access to the student union, so they tend to have their own cafeteria or cafe.

Freaking vegetarians… They will insist that the school provide them with meat-free options. I don’t mind that they’re available. The problem is that space is limited, and these options will necessarily squeeze out something more delicious. It’s zero-sum and all meats is already pareto-optimal. In the more liberal schools, vegan and vegetarian options can become up to half of what’s available.

Now, technically meat lovers can eat vegetarian fair. But, technically vegetarians can eat meat. They just don’t want to. But you know what? I don’t want to eat a grilled eggplant panini way more than you don’t want to eat meat.

Knowing what’s best for poor people. Just wait until you get to the cases that lead up to Mathews v. Eldridge in your civil procedure class. Didn’t cover that case? That’s because your law school is a joke and your professor, as much as you want to be ravaged by him, is a hack.

Bottles of water. In your next giant lecture class, after you’ve finished counting the number of black people (by the way, keep it on the d-low what you’re doing, or else people will probably get the wrong idea about you), count the people with bottled water. Then, when the class leaves, count the number of bottles either remaining on the desks or on the floor.

Discarded water bottles will out number the black men.

Facebook. When I was in law school, I favored Desktop Tower Defense 1.5, or if I knew I wouldn’t be called on, Doom 2 or Medieval Total War. But, for many law students, Facebook is their go-to way of keeping awake during lectures on topics they don’t care about. (Second choice for female law students, after online shopping.)

But if law students are paying so much for law school, and planning to be lawyers, shouldn’t we expect them to be interested in their classes? No. It’s the very interest in becoming a lawyer that makes these classes so uninteresting. Nothing in your law school classes will pertain to your eventual law firm practice.

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