Diversity Expert: Change Legal Hiring System
Posted Oct 17, 2007 12:48 PM CST
By Martha Neil
It's obvious that the current law firm system of hiring and training attorneys isn't doing a very good job of providing opportunities for minorities. So the obvious answer is to change the system, one expert says.
Although good mentoring programs, for instance, have been shown to be helpful, they aren't the final answer, writes legal consultant Roland Dumas in today's National Law Journal. Because such "patches" don't address the key underlying issues, he says, "mentoring and other programs that sit on top of defective management processes just cover the symptoms. The problems driven by the core processes still keep flowing and inevitably leak out all over the place."
His suggestions for improving crucial components of the legal hiring and training system include: hiring lawyers based on their abilities rather than their law school class rank and the reputation of the school; assigning work to associates in a structured, nonpreferential manner rather than on a "free market" basis; and developing performance review systems "that are objective and rate demonstrated abilities against published guidelines." It is also helpful, he says, at least as far as the training of fledgling associates is concerned, to have a group complete the same assignment and then review their work on an anonymous basis, to guarantee objectivity.
Dumas is director of diversity and marketing for Major, Lindsey & Africa.