‘On Being a Black Lawyer’ Blogger Reaches Out to Minorities
Posted Nov 25, 2008 11:53 AM CST
By Rachel M. Zahorsky
Yolanda Young, the former Covington & Burling staff attorney who chronicled her experience there in the Huffington Post piece, “Law Firm Segregation Reminiscent of Jim Crow,” offers a new forum for minority lawyers on her blog, On Being a Black Lawyer.
Young, who grew up impoverished in the Deep South and earned her law degree at Georgetown University Law Center, says in an ABA Journal interview that she felt compelled to author the blog after her newspaper story received harsh criticism from commenters on the Wall Street Journal Law Blog and Above the Law, as well as substantial praise from other minority attorneys.
It was the latter that Young says caused her to realize “there was a real need for a place where African-American attorneys and law students could gather to network, disseminate information and poke fun.”
The National Association of Black Journalists encouraged Young’s effort to create her blog, and On Being a Black Lawyer has had more than 500 unique visitors since its Nov. 4 launch, chosen for the day Barack Obama was elected President.
Looking ahead, Young is “definitely optimistic” that someday law firms will eschew the discrimination that fostered her formal complaint against Covington with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She cites Roderick A. Palmore as inspiration. Palmore, executive general counsel and secretary of Sara Lee, initiated the "Call to Action,” a formal promise signed by hundreds of general counsel to retain law firms that demonstrate a level of diversity.
“The Call to Action is the most promising thing in the future viability of black lawyers in firms,” Young says. “It is going to take a financial incentive for these firms to change. If clients start to say, ‘we want to see a more diverse group of professionals handling our cases,’” law firms will have to promote more qualified minority lawyers to associate and partner positions.
Young is focused on writing her second book, also titled On Being a Black Lawyer, which documents the legal industry experiences of all 70 African-American graduates from her Georgetown class.