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Mintz Levin’s Bold Diversity Stroke Crumbles

Posted Dec 12, 2007 8:14 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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When Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo hired a predominantly minority practice group in 2005, newspaper accounts touted the “bold stroke” that doubled the firm's number of minority partners from six to 12.

The move gave Mintz Levin a large corporate diversity counseling group in Washington, D.C., and an influx of minority partners that the firm hoped would aid in retention of minority associates.

But now, the group’s last three partners have jumped to a different firm, “leaving in their wake questions about how the much-touted group could fall apart in such a short period of time,” Legal Times reports.

The three partners have joined Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner, along with three associates and a special counsel from Mintz Levin.

One of the jumping partners, Edmund Cooke Jr., told Legal Times the move was a business decision. “Thelen is helping us do a bit more rapidly and a bit more broadly what we were doing at Mintz,” he said.

The legal publication says Mintz Levin housed the group on a separate floor of its D.C. office, with the aim of helping the lawyers, from different firms and in-house positions, get to know one another. But the isolation meant that other law firm partners were slow to cross-sell the group’s services to their clients.

One lawyer told Legal Times that there was some grumbling in the firm about the cost of supporting the practice group. The firm did not disclose its investment, but one law firm consultant said it could cost as much as $3 million to start up such a new practice group.

Harvard law professor David Wilkins, who studies diversity in the legal profession, said the firm took a risk that it would be difficult to integrate so many new people. "Mintz should get credit for trying," he said.

Updated 12:21 p.m. CST to correct name of Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo.

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