Naked City

Minority report

Eight of Austin's 25 largest law firms received "A+" grades for their efforts to hire minority attorneys, according to the sixth annual minority-hiring report card compiled by the Austin Black Lawyers Association and the Hispanic Bar Association of Austin. At the top of the list is Bickerstaff, Heath, Smiley, which, with 21.4% minority attorneys, "continues to lead" the pack, according to the report card. Conversely, DuBois, Bryant, with just one minority attorney out of 26, rated the lowest, an "F-," for failing to make any gains in minority recruitment and hiring over the last two years. Since 2000, the ABLA and HBAA have graded the city's largest firms by comparing the percentage of minority lawyers they employ to the percentage of minority lawyers licensed by the State Bar of Texas (14% in 2005); by determining the number of minority law clerks each firm has hired; and by assessing what steps the firms take to promote diversity – like having a "firm-wide diversity plan," said Paul Ruiz, who chairs the HBAA's committee on diversity.

"In order to remain viable and competitive in the future, firms will have to continue to diversify," Ruiz said. According to the State Bar, by 2017 women and minorities will make up 50% of all licensed attorneys; by 2043, minorities will make up 50% of all attorneys in the state. "Aside from being the right thing to do, it makes business sense to hire minority lawyers," said ABLA President Brian K. Jammer. "More and more, sophisticated corporate clients are asking their outside legal counsel for information on the diversity of attorneys within their firms." Indeed, mega-retailer Wal-Mart now requires that each law firm they deal with employ at least one woman and one minority lawyer among the attorneys that handle the retailer's business, Jammer said.

Among the firms receiving top marks in 2005 are Locke Liddell, Strasburger & Price and Jenkens & Gilchrist, which each got an "A+" for their high percentage of minority attorneys and student law clerks. Among those receiving low grades are Jackson Walker and Fulbright & Jaworski, which show "declining results," and both received a "D+."

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