Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

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Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 13, 2020 3:20 pm

I'm a midlevel/sr associate at a boutique firm (biglaw peer). In the past year Ive noticed that my firm rather unabashedly likes to use me as a diversity team member on pitchdecks. They are not so generous about staffing me on new cases that come in, however.

Over time, I'm starting to become more and more angry and disillusioned by the way im being paraded for diversity purposes. It seriously rubs me the wrong way, and recently Ive thought of quitting/lateraling because of it (and other reasons too of course). I am not given professional opportunities I want, yet the firm is clearly capitalizing finely off of me. Obviously, given the current climate, i dont think I can realistically lateral. Further, given that im already a midlevel, I dont want to give up my current partner mentors - I'm livid at how im treated, yet leaving would be like cutting off the nose to spite the face.

FWIW - annual reviews have been positive to date, sometimes extremely positive. But I am routinely denied certain professional opportunities I have been asking for.

Does anyone have any insight into how I can manage this situation, or perhaps talk to/confront a partner without getting fired?

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by Lacepiece23 » Wed May 13, 2020 3:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 3:20 pm
I'm a midlevel/sr associate at a boutique firm (biglaw peer). In the past year Ive noticed that my firm rather unabashedly likes to use me as a diversity team member on pitchdecks. They are not so generous about staffing me on new cases that come in, however.

Over time, I'm starting to become more and more angry and disillusioned by the way im being paraded for diversity purposes. It seriously rubs me the wrong way, and recently Ive thought of quitting/lateraling because of it (and other reasons too of course). I am not given professional opportunities I want, yet the firm is clearly capitalizing finely off of me. Obviously, given the current climate, i dont think I can realistically lateral. Further, given that im already a midlevel, I dont want to give up my current partner mentors - I'm livid at how im treated, yet leaving would be like cutting off the nose to spite the face.

FWIW - annual reviews have been positive to date, sometimes extremely positive. But I am routinely denied certain professional opportunities I have been asking for.

Does anyone have any insight into how I can manage this situation, or perhaps talk to/confront a partner without getting fired?
This is very frustrating and I’ve been there. If this were five months ago, I’d probably tell you to be more aggressive.

But during recessions minorities are amongst the first outed from firms. Diversity is all well and good during the boom times. Yet during the bad times they care much less, IMO.

With that said, the only way I’d go about it is to air your grievances to a partner you trust and let him/her advocate. That way, you’re insulated from the blowback.

I have only one or two majority partners with whom I’d trust with this info. And I’ve been there for five years. Be careful.

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 13, 2020 3:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 3:20 pm
I'm a midlevel/sr associate at a boutique firm (biglaw peer). In the past year Ive noticed that my firm rather unabashedly likes to use me as a diversity team member on pitchdecks. They are not so generous about staffing me on new cases that come in, however.

Over time, I'm starting to become more and more angry and disillusioned by the way im being paraded for diversity purposes. It seriously rubs me the wrong way, and recently Ive thought of quitting/lateraling because of it (and other reasons too of course). I am not given professional opportunities I want, yet the firm is clearly capitalizing finely off of me. Obviously, given the current climate, i dont think I can realistically lateral. Further, given that im already a midlevel, I dont want to give up my current partner mentors - I'm livid at how im treated, yet leaving would be like cutting off the nose to spite the face.

FWIW - annual reviews have been positive to date, sometimes extremely positive. But I am routinely denied certain professional opportunities I have been asking for.

Does anyone have any insight into how I can manage this situation, or perhaps talk to/confront a partner without getting fired?
I have had friends and colleagues who had similar complaints at their firms. If you were at a larger firm, the firm would have a Director of Diversity and Inclusion. You could tell that person that you dislike being used on pitchdecks for diversity purposes when you are not staffed on those cases. However, at a boutique without a Director of D&I, it might be best to confide in a diverse partner or whomever at your firm typically handles D&I issues.

Your complaints are eerily similar to those of a lawsuit last year featured on Above the Law: https://abovethelaw.com/2019/03/associa ... lantation/

I think that case settled. I am sorry that you are experiencing this. I definitely would not quit and try to lateral in this market. I would broach this subject politely with a diverse partner that I trusted. I would also try not to come across like I was complaining. But, instead, just act concerned about being marginalized or being used for diversity purposes without being given the professional experiences that you desire. Also, make it clear that you don't mind being used on pitch decks, but you only want to be used on pitch decks when you have an opportunity to be staffed on those cases.

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 13, 2020 3:59 pm

OP...I'm really sorry. This is a crappy situation. I'm sure you know that most Biglaw and comparable firms suck at diversity and will definitely parade you out to a certain extent (my firm does it for recruiting). That being said, your environment sounds particularly bad when it comes to retention and staffing.

It sounds like you have a mentor. If this person is similarly situated to you, I would consider having a frank conversation with them about being being denied certain opportunities. Obviously you are being denied these opportunities because of your minority/gender identity/sexual orientation/disabled status (cue comments saying it could be because you suck at your work and racism/sexism/ableism etc are fake). There's an undeniable element of unconscious bias and the partners are staffing and working with people who look and act like them. This mentor will hopefully understand. If your mentor is not similarly situated to you, tread lightly. The same goes for any conversation with a non-mentor. Your best bet is to come into the meeting with concrete examples of projects where you pitched but didn't get to work on it. You should phrase it as "I'm looking to get involved in XYZ kind of work" and "I really enjoyed pitching this client and want to understand why I wasn't staffed. Is there anything you can suggest that I do differently?" Looking for helpful feedback and doing some ego stroking about getting their advice goes a long ways (as galling as it will be for you).

This may be a situation of explicit bias (XYZ client doesn't like this type of person or worse, we as a firm don't like this type of person and the way they talk/look/dress/act) or more likely, implicit bias (such and such associate goes to my same country club and I really like him - he should be on the deal!). If implicit bias, you may have a hard time bringing it to light without sounding self-righteous in their eyes, but partners that care will make an effort to change things.

That being said, you could benefit from going somewhere more diverse. Check the makeup of the classes. Do they hire diverse groups of first years and fail to retain them? Are there black partners? Female partners? How many? Specifically in your group? Diverse partners will make an effort to hire/promote/retain and advance their diverse staff.

Good luck.

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 13, 2020 7:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 3:55 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 3:20 pm
I'm a midlevel/sr associate at a boutique firm (biglaw peer). In the past year Ive noticed that my firm rather unabashedly likes to use me as a diversity team member on pitchdecks. They are not so generous about staffing me on new cases that come in, however.

Over time, I'm starting to become more and more angry and disillusioned by the way im being paraded for diversity purposes. It seriously rubs me the wrong way, and recently Ive thought of quitting/lateraling because of it (and other reasons too of course). I am not given professional opportunities I want, yet the firm is clearly capitalizing finely off of me. Obviously, given the current climate, i dont think I can realistically lateral. Further, given that im already a midlevel, I dont want to give up my current partner mentors - I'm livid at how im treated, yet leaving would be like cutting off the nose to spite the face.

FWIW - annual reviews have been positive to date, sometimes extremely positive. But I am routinely denied certain professional opportunities I have been asking for.

Does anyone have any insight into how I can manage this situation, or perhaps talk to/confront a partner without getting fired?
I have had friends and colleagues who had similar complaints at their firms. If you were at a larger firm, the firm would have a Director of Diversity and Inclusion. You could tell that person that you dislike being used on pitchdecks for diversity purposes when you are not staffed on those cases. However, at a boutique without a Director of D&I, it might be best to confide in a diverse partner or whomever at your firm typically handles D&I issues.

Your complaints are eerily similar to those of a lawsuit last year featured on Above the Law: https://abovethelaw.com/2019/03/associa ... lantation/

I think that case settled. I am sorry that you are experiencing this. I definitely would not quit and try to lateral in this market. I would broach this subject politely with a diverse partner that I trusted. I would also try not to come across like I was complaining. But, instead, just act concerned about being marginalized or being used for diversity purposes without being given the professional experiences that you desire. Also, make it clear that you don't mind being used on pitch decks, but you only want to be used on pitch decks when you have an opportunity to be staffed on those cases.
OP here.

Ironically, my boutique firm's partnership has virtually no diverse partners. Seriously. I don't personally know or work for any of them. I only work for white male partners. I thought about it the other day, and I'm hard pressed to think of any female or diverse in house counsel that I work for/with. In my 3+ years at my current firm I can think of a white female in house counsel that I worked with on a very short engagement. The rest are all white male. I work in an overwhelmingly white male-dominated industry. Now that I'm talking out loud that might be why I'm not ultimately staffed on some of the best projects, or I am staffed in non-visible roles.

I'm in a bit of a lose-lose situation. If I speak up, I will come off as difficult and combative and risk my job amidst this pandemic. If I don't speak up, I will lose professional development opportunities. Sucks to be pigeonholed.

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by QContinuum » Wed May 13, 2020 8:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 7:31 pm
OP here.

Ironically, my boutique firm's partnership has virtually no diverse partners. Seriously. I don't personally know or work for any of them. I only work for white male partners.
There's no question BigLaw remains (heterosexual, conventionally attractive) white male-dominated, but I have a hard time believing your boutique literally has 100% heterosexual white male partners. If there's even one minority partner, you can/should reach out to him/her regardless whether you've ever spoken to them before. They don't need to be the same ethnicity as you - even if, say, you're black, and they're Middle Eastern, you're still in the same boat of both being minorities at the firm. You can also consider reaching out to a female partner - this is especially the case if you're a woman, but even if you're a man, still worth giving it a shot.

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by cheaptilts » Wed May 13, 2020 11:26 pm

QContinuum wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 8:12 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 7:31 pm
OP here.

Ironically, my boutique firm's partnership has virtually no diverse partners. Seriously. I don't personally know or work for any of them. I only work for white male partners.
There's no question BigLaw remains (heterosexual, conventionally attractive) white male-dominated, but I have a hard time believing your boutique literally has 100% heterosexual white male partners. If there's even one minority partner, you can/should reach out to him/her regardless whether you've ever spoken to them before. They don't need to be the same ethnicity as you - even if, say, you're black, and they're Middle Eastern, you're still in the same boat of both being minorities at the firm. You can also consider reaching out to a female partner - this is especially the case if you're a woman, but even if you're a man, still worth giving it a shot.
To be fair, OP qualified OP's first sentence with the word virtually (not literally), and OP's third sentence implied that there are, in fact, some non-white/heterosexual/male partners. No one's offered the statement you find hard to believe.

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by nixy » Wed May 13, 2020 11:32 pm

Also, depending how big this boutique is, I've definitely run across firms that still have only white male partners. I obviously can't tell if they're all heterosexual by looking at photos, but when there isn't a whole lot of other diversity it doesn't look promising.

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by Anonymous User » Thu May 14, 2020 1:12 am

I am sorry to hear OP. I was in a similar situation at my previous boutique firm and was frequently selected to accept diversity awards that my firm won for some odd reason. The firm prided itself on commitment to diversity but diversity was really a byproduct. It was a old, white, heterosexual male club. Everyone else were non-equity partners, associates, and staff.

Like mentioned above, a boutique may not have a director of diversity/inclusion, so this puts you in a really tough spot. Keep an eye out for firms which truly place a value on diversity and have minorities in top spots.

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by Anonymous User » Thu May 14, 2020 1:31 am

An unfortunate situation but not uncommon. I had concerns when I was at a firm but had nobody to talk to within the firm and I don't think that I could have said anything to more senior attorneys. Though a lot of more junior attorneys would come to me for advice and a lot of my clients were diverse/women and I know them well. Within the firm, I never even saw another minority attorney more senior than me during my last couple of years, but I was in a satellite office and there were almost no minority partners. I got tired of it eventually and left to go in-house and it's a lot better. I'd look for a firm that already has at least some diverse partners or go in-house. Perhaps I'm too cynical, but based on my experience and other friends at other firms, I don't think that your firm is going to change.

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by QContinuum » Thu May 14, 2020 1:52 am

cheaptilts wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 11:26 pm
QContinuum wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 8:12 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 7:31 pm
OP here.

Ironically, my boutique firm's partnership has virtually no diverse partners. Seriously. I don't personally know or work for any of them. I only work for white male partners.
There's no question BigLaw remains (heterosexual, conventionally attractive) white male-dominated, but I have a hard time believing your boutique literally has 100% heterosexual white male partners. If there's even one minority partner, you can/should reach out to him/her regardless whether you've ever spoken to them before. They don't need to be the same ethnicity as you - even if, say, you're black, and they're Middle Eastern, you're still in the same boat of both being minorities at the firm. You can also consider reaching out to a female partner - this is especially the case if you're a woman, but even if you're a man, still worth giving it a shot.
To be fair, OP qualified OP's first sentence with the word virtually (not literally), and OP's third sentence implied that there are, in fact, some non-white/heterosexual/male partners. No one's offered the statement you find hard to believe.
I read the "virtually no diverse partners" line as "literally no diverse partners". What does "virtually none" even mean? Either there are a few diverse partners, in which case "virtually none" doesn't make sense, or there are literally zero, in which case "virtually none" still doesn't make sense.

In any case, I assume OP meant to convey that all of the partners they're familiar with are non-diverse. Which is why I wrote to suggest that OP consider reaching out to diverse partners they may not have ever crossed paths with before.

nixy

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by nixy » Thu May 14, 2020 7:49 am

The first definition in the dictionary for “virtually” is “nearly; almost.” Have you never seen it used that way before?

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by cheaptilts » Thu May 14, 2020 9:38 am

QContinuum wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 1:52 am
cheaptilts wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 11:26 pm
QContinuum wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 8:12 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 7:31 pm
OP here.

Ironically, my boutique firm's partnership has virtually no diverse partners. Seriously. I don't personally know or work for any of them. I only work for white male partners.
There's no question BigLaw remains (heterosexual, conventionally attractive) white male-dominated, but I have a hard time believing your boutique literally has 100% heterosexual white male partners. If there's even one minority partner, you can/should reach out to him/her regardless whether you've ever spoken to them before. They don't need to be the same ethnicity as you - even if, say, you're black, and they're Middle Eastern, you're still in the same boat of both being minorities at the firm. You can also consider reaching out to a female partner - this is especially the case if you're a woman, but even if you're a man, still worth giving it a shot.
To be fair, OP qualified OP's first sentence with the word virtually (not literally), and OP's third sentence implied that there are, in fact, some non-white/heterosexual/male partners. No one's offered the statement you find hard to believe.
I read the "virtually no diverse partners" line as "literally no diverse partners". What does "virtually none" even mean? Either there are a few diverse partners, in which case "virtually none" doesn't make sense, or there are literally zero, in which case "virtually none" still doesn't make sense.

In any case, I assume OP meant to convey that all of the partners they're familiar with are non-diverse. Which is why I wrote to suggest that OP consider reaching out to diverse partners they may not have ever crossed paths with before.
A few thoughts.

First, as the poster above me explains, “virtually” is not coterminous with “literally.”

Second, I know your intentions were good, but I found it somewhat disheartening that you’d express skepticism at a claim (albeit one that wasn’t pressed) that OP worked at a boutique with all white male partners. While the popular “elite” boutiques have integrated their partnerships (to varying degrees of success), one need only look at the equity partnership of Morvillo or Mololamken to understand how common it is to have an all-white partnership with little to no women (especially in cities outside of NY/DC/LA/SF).

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by wanderinglawyer » Thu May 14, 2020 1:26 pm

I'm so sorry to hear you are in this situation, OP. Fwiw, many clients hate this sort of move and pay attention to who is actually working on their cases vs. who was on pitch decks when it comes to diversity.

You may also want to consider reaching out to a local minority bar organization. They may have advice or be able to connect you with someone who can help you navigate a tricky situation like this in a mentor-esque capacity. Being connected with a local group generally may also give you alternative resources and a sense of solidarity that you are not getting at your current firm.

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by QContinuum » Thu May 14, 2020 2:53 pm

cheaptilts wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 9:38 am
QContinuum wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 8:12 pm
There's no question BigLaw remains (heterosexual, conventionally attractive) white male-dominated, but I have a hard time believing your boutique literally has 100% heterosexual white male partners. If there's even one minority partner, you can/should reach out to him/her regardless whether you've ever spoken to them before. They don't need to be the same ethnicity as you - even if, say, you're black, and they're Middle Eastern, you're still in the same boat of both being minorities at the firm. You can also consider reaching out to a female partner - this is especially the case if you're a woman, but even if you're a man, still worth giving it a shot.
I know your intentions were good, but I found it somewhat disheartening that you’d express skepticism at a claim (albeit one that wasn’t pressed) that OP worked at a boutique with all white male partners. While the popular “elite” boutiques have integrated their partnerships (to varying degrees of success), one need only look at the equity partnership of Morvillo or Mololamken to understand how common it is to have an all-white partnership with little to no women (especially in cities outside of NY/DC/LA/SF).
Not sure why you'd find my post "disheartening." I began my post by acknowledging (lamenting, really) that "BigLaw remeains (heterosexual, conventionally attractive) white male-dominated".

I do find it hard to believe there are still elite boutiques that have 100% heterosexual white male partners. Tiny "small law" practices, sure - many of these are like 2-3 man shops, so even by random chance I wouldn't necessarily expect an even racial or gender distribution; but it sounds like OP works at a BigLaw or at least midlaw litigation shop, which would typically be large and high-profile enough as a firm that I do find it hard to believe that in 2020, the entire partnership would be 100% straight white men.

You mention Morvillo and Momolamken. I agree their partnerships are lacking on the diversity front. But I also don't think their partnerships can be accurately characterized as having "virtually no" diverse partners. Morvillo has 2 female partners, out of 15 total - that's 13.3% non-straight white men, which, yes, is (way) too low, but isn't "virtually zero". Further, Morvillo has 1 female counsel, out of 5 total - that's 20%, which again isn't "virtually zero". If OP's at Morvillo, that's 3 diverse seniors out of 20 total seniors - two partners and one counsel - they can consider approaching.

Momolamken has 4 female partners, out of 16 total - that's 25%, which, again, is low, but a pretty long way away from "virtually none".

(I haven't Googled whether any of Morvillo/Momolamken's partners or counsels are openly LGBTQ.)

I'd also add that OP and others in their position need not limit themselves to only approaching diverse partners or counsels. A more senior associate can also serve as a helpful mentor. A fifth year could very well obtain helpful guidance from a seventh year.

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by Anonymous User » Thu May 14, 2020 3:08 pm

QContinuum wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 2:53 pm
cheaptilts wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 9:38 am
QContinuum wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 8:12 pm
There's no question BigLaw remains (heterosexual, conventionally attractive) white male-dominated, but I have a hard time believing your boutique literally has 100% heterosexual white male partners. If there's even one minority partner, you can/should reach out to him/her regardless whether you've ever spoken to them before. They don't need to be the same ethnicity as you - even if, say, you're black, and they're Middle Eastern, you're still in the same boat of both being minorities at the firm. You can also consider reaching out to a female partner - this is especially the case if you're a woman, but even if you're a man, still worth giving it a shot.
I know your intentions were good, but I found it somewhat disheartening that you’d express skepticism at a claim (albeit one that wasn’t pressed) that OP worked at a boutique with all white male partners. While the popular “elite” boutiques have integrated their partnerships (to varying degrees of success), one need only look at the equity partnership of Morvillo or Mololamken to understand how common it is to have an all-white partnership with little to no women (especially in cities outside of NY/DC/LA/SF).
Not sure why you'd find my post "disheartening." I began my post by acknowledging (lamenting, really) that "BigLaw remeains (heterosexual, conventionally attractive) white male-dominated".

I do find it hard to believe there are still elite boutiques that have 100% heterosexual white male partners. Tiny "small law" practices, sure - many of these are like 2-3 man shops, so even by random chance I wouldn't necessarily expect an even racial or gender distribution; but it sounds like OP works at a BigLaw or at least midlaw litigation shop, which would typically be large and high-profile enough as a firm that I do find it hard to believe that in 2020, the entire partnership would be 100% straight white men.

You mention Morvillo and Momolamken. I agree their partnerships are lacking on the diversity front. But I also don't think their partnerships can be accurately characterized as having "virtually no" diverse partners. Morvillo has 2 female partners, out of 15 total - that's 13.3% non-straight white men, which, yes, is (way) too low, but isn't "virtually zero". Further, Morvillo has 1 female counsel, out of 5 total - that's 20%, which again isn't "virtually zero". If OP's at Morvillo, that's 3 diverse seniors out of 20 total seniors - two partners and one counsel - they can consider approaching.

Momolamken has 4 female partners, out of 16 total - that's 25%, which, again, is low, but a pretty long way away from "virtually none".

(I haven't Googled whether any of Morvillo/Momolamken's partners or counsels are openly LGBTQ.)

I'd also add that OP and others in their position need not limit themselves to only approaching diverse partners or counsels. A more senior associate can also serve as a helpful mentor. A fifth year could very well obtain helpful guidance from a seventh year.
We have a few white female partners at my firm. Sorry, I suppose that is diverse as well. But even then our "diversity rates" are like Morvillo and Mololamken's. And they got worse recently, lol.

I can think of 1 diverse senior associate above me who I've worked with a couple times and am somewhat familiar with. Unfortunately this senior is extremely unfriendly. She has a take-no-prisoners approach in her path to making partner. And I mean cc-entire-team-to-inquire-into-your-mistake type of approach, including cc'ing people who have no clue wtf is going on. I avoid her at all costs.

I will probably broach some issues I've faced with a white male mentor or two without pinning the issue on diversity. It's really tough, though - I don't want to come off as whiny and want to save my political capital for only when I really need it. A lot of the time making partner seems to involve working hard and looking undefeatable, and if I raise an issue it could make me look weak/needy.

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by NewSouthernAssociate » Thu May 14, 2020 3:21 pm

Sorry you’re experiencing this. A colleague at my firm had the same experience and ending up leaving to go in-house. If you aren’t already doing it, I’d recommend being more proactive after the pitches, such as following up with the partners to ask if they’ve heard back yet, directly asking to be staffed on the matter once it’s in the door / asking what you can do to assist, etc.

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by texanslimjim » Thu May 14, 2020 3:45 pm

cheaptilts wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 9:38 am
[O]ne need only look at the equity partnership of Morvillo or Mololamken to understand how common it is to have an all-white partnership with little to no women (especially in cities outside of NY/DC/LA/SF).
Yep. Virtually all-white, mostly male partners is exactly what you find in the Houston BigLaw-peer lit boutiques.

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by TexasBigLaw » Thu May 14, 2020 3:48 pm

I'm sorry you're dealing with this. This seems to happen all too frequently and it's frankly mind-blowing that partners either don't see or don't care about the double standard.

Agree with others that you should start by discussing with a diverse partner you trust. Depending on their advice, perhaps you could also play dumb and frame it with a white male partner as "Hey, I noticed that I'm being used on pitchdecks but not getting staffed on the actual work team. Am I doing something wrong in the pitch process that is causing people to not want to staff me? How can I improve my chances of being staffed on these matters? Would you be willing to help me improve my staffing opportunities?" That way there is a lower risk that the partner will feel challenged or criticized, but instead you'll play into their ego by making them feel like the savior who is swooping in to save you.

There's also been some research that white male partners avoid staffing women and diverse attorneys in part because they are insecure and paranoid that any negative feedback they give will be perceived as sexist/racist. Not going to get started on all the issues to unpack there, but by requesting critical feedback on how to improve, you can potentially circumvent some of that. Even if they don't have any negative feedback, by just showing that you're totally OK with receiving it, that may make you a more attractive associate to staff. Hopefully it goes without saying that it's BS that diverse attorneys have to play these mind games at all.

cheaptilts

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by cheaptilts » Thu May 14, 2020 4:40 pm

QContinuum wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 2:53 pm
cheaptilts wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 9:38 am
QContinuum wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 8:12 pm
There's no question BigLaw remains (heterosexual, conventionally attractive) white male-dominated, but I have a hard time believing your boutique literally has 100% heterosexual white male partners. If there's even one minority partner, you can/should reach out to him/her regardless whether you've ever spoken to them before. They don't need to be the same ethnicity as you - even if, say, you're black, and they're Middle Eastern, you're still in the same boat of both being minorities at the firm. You can also consider reaching out to a female partner - this is especially the case if you're a woman, but even if you're a man, still worth giving it a shot.
I know your intentions were good, but I found it somewhat disheartening that you’d express skepticism at a claim (albeit one that wasn’t pressed) that OP worked at a boutique with all white male partners. While the popular “elite” boutiques have integrated their partnerships (to varying degrees of success), one need only look at the equity partnership of Morvillo or Mololamken to understand how common it is to have an all-white partnership with little to no women (especially in cities outside of NY/DC/LA/SF).
Not sure why you'd find my post "disheartening." I began my post by acknowledging (lamenting, really) that "BigLaw remeains (heterosexual, conventionally attractive) white male-dominated".

I do find it hard to believe there are still elite boutiques that have 100% heterosexual white male partners. Tiny "small law" practices, sure - many of these are like 2-3 man shops, so even by random chance I wouldn't necessarily expect an even racial or gender distribution; but it sounds like OP works at a BigLaw or at least midlaw litigation shop, which would typically be large and high-profile enough as a firm that I do find it hard to believe that in 2020, the entire partnership would be 100% straight white men.

You mention Morvillo and Momolamken. I agree their partnerships are lacking on the diversity front. But I also don't think their partnerships can be accurately characterized as having "virtually no" diverse partners. Morvillo has 2 female partners, out of 15 total - that's 13.3% non-straight white men, which, yes, is (way) too low, but isn't "virtually zero". Further, Morvillo has 1 female counsel, out of 5 total - that's 20%, which again isn't "virtually zero". If OP's at Morvillo, that's 3 diverse seniors out of 20 total seniors - two partners and one counsel - they can consider approaching.

Momolamken has 4 female partners, out of 16 total - that's 25%, which, again, is low, but a pretty long way away from "virtually none".

(I haven't Googled whether any of Morvillo/Momolamken's partners or counsels are openly LGBTQ.)

I'd also add that OP and others in their position need not limit themselves to only approaching diverse partners or counsels. A more senior associate can also serve as a helpful mentor. A fifth year could very well obtain helpful guidance from a seventh year.

To be sure, I think many (if not "virtually" all) PoC would argue that a firm with 100% white partners, of which only 13% are (white) females = "virtually no" diverse partners. I think many PoC would argue that a firm with 100% white partners, of which only 25% are (white) females = "virtually no" diverse partners. Of course, diversity means different things to different groups. But to many PoC, white women are not considered traditional allies of PoC (or necessarily "diverse"). [But, to be absolutely fair to you, OP did not say OP was a PoC at all.]

Finally, what was disheartening was that the first sentence of your original response to OP did not contain advice, but rather expressed skepticism at OP's situation. Even accepting your belief as true, the fact that all boutiques that compete with biglaw have at least one (white) female parter or one (white) LGBT member seemed immaterial, especially when OP mentioned that OP neither knew nor interacted with any non-white male partners. To me, the phrase "I have a hard time believing" came off as accusatory.

In any event, I've derailed this thread; OP never mentioned anything untoward about your post (which was intended to be helpful and likely was to OP and/or others); and I've offered no productive advice to OP myself. So who am I to say anything? Just wanted to point out that virtually =/= literally, and to emphasize that it's quite possible that there are boutique outposts/biglaw satellite offices/midlaw firms that take work from biglaw clients with 100% white, heterosexual male partners stationed to that office.

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by Anonymous User » Thu May 14, 2020 5:36 pm

cheaptilts wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 4:40 pm
QContinuum wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 2:53 pm
cheaptilts wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 9:38 am
QContinuum wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 8:12 pm
There's no question BigLaw remains (heterosexual, conventionally attractive) white male-dominated, but I have a hard time believing your boutique literally has 100% heterosexual white male partners. If there's even one minority partner, you can/should reach out to him/her regardless whether you've ever spoken to them before. They don't need to be the same ethnicity as you - even if, say, you're black, and they're Middle Eastern, you're still in the same boat of both being minorities at the firm. You can also consider reaching out to a female partner - this is especially the case if you're a woman, but even if you're a man, still worth giving it a shot.
I know your intentions were good, but I found it somewhat disheartening that you’d express skepticism at a claim (albeit one that wasn’t pressed) that OP worked at a boutique with all white male partners. While the popular “elite” boutiques have integrated their partnerships (to varying degrees of success), one need only look at the equity partnership of Morvillo or Mololamken to understand how common it is to have an all-white partnership with little to no women (especially in cities outside of NY/DC/LA/SF).
Not sure why you'd find my post "disheartening." I began my post by acknowledging (lamenting, really) that "BigLaw remeains (heterosexual, conventionally attractive) white male-dominated".

I do find it hard to believe there are still elite boutiques that have 100% heterosexual white male partners. Tiny "small law" practices, sure - many of these are like 2-3 man shops, so even by random chance I wouldn't necessarily expect an even racial or gender distribution; but it sounds like OP works at a BigLaw or at least midlaw litigation shop, which would typically be large and high-profile enough as a firm that I do find it hard to believe that in 2020, the entire partnership would be 100% straight white men.

You mention Morvillo and Momolamken. I agree their partnerships are lacking on the diversity front. But I also don't think their partnerships can be accurately characterized as having "virtually no" diverse partners. Morvillo has 2 female partners, out of 15 total - that's 13.3% non-straight white men, which, yes, is (way) too low, but isn't "virtually zero". Further, Morvillo has 1 female counsel, out of 5 total - that's 20%, which again isn't "virtually zero". If OP's at Morvillo, that's 3 diverse seniors out of 20 total seniors - two partners and one counsel - they can consider approaching.

Momolamken has 4 female partners, out of 16 total - that's 25%, which, again, is low, but a pretty long way away from "virtually none".

(I haven't Googled whether any of Morvillo/Momolamken's partners or counsels are openly LGBTQ.)

I'd also add that OP and others in their position need not limit themselves to only approaching diverse partners or counsels. A more senior associate can also serve as a helpful mentor. A fifth year could very well obtain helpful guidance from a seventh year.

To be sure, I think many (if not "virtually" all) PoC would argue that a firm with 100% white partners, of which only 13% are (white) females = "virtually no" diverse partners. I think many PoC would argue that a firm with 100% white partners, of which only 25% are (white) females = "virtually no" diverse partners. Of course, diversity means different things to different groups. But to many PoC, white women are not considered traditional allies of PoC (or necessarily "diverse"). [But, to be absolutely fair to you, OP did not say OP was a PoC at all.]

Finally, what was disheartening was that the first sentence of your original response to OP did not contain advice, but rather expressed skepticism at OP's situation. Even accepting your belief as true, the fact that all boutiques that compete with biglaw have at least one (white) female parter or one (white) LGBT member seemed immaterial, especially when OP mentioned that OP neither knew nor interacted with any non-white male partners. To me, the phrase "I have a hard time believing" came off as accusatory.

In any event, I've derailed this thread; OP never mentioned anything untoward about your post (which was intended to be helpful and likely was to OP and/or others); and I've offered no productive advice to OP myself. So who am I to say anything? Just wanted to point out that virtually =/= literally, and to emphasize that it's quite possible that there are boutique outposts/biglaw satellite offices/midlaw firms that take work from biglaw clients with 100% white, heterosexual male partners stationed to that office.
OP here. To be clear, I am a "PoC," though I've never been a fan of or really comfortable with that term (or the term "white privilege, either, frankly).

I think a lot of white and white male partners create an ecosystem wherein only non-diverse attorneys can succeed. For example, I know of a white female sr partner at my firm, and she is well known to prefer working on all female teams. Problem is, I have never seen her work with a non-white associate in my 3 years at the firm. No, seriously.

I don't think white male partners consciously think "Oh I don't like X because X is Asian/Latino/Black/Middle Eastern so I don't want to staff them on anything." I think they tend to navigate towards associates they feel comfortable with, and these tend to be associates who remind them of themselves. It is even worse for the diverse associate if they are introverted. Before you know it, the lone Asian/Latino/Black/Middle Eastern associate is just left out of big matters, and fills their billable hours serving the core members on various teams. I find myself to be that associate sometimes, more than I'd like to be the case for my class year.

For certain high visibility roles, though, like trial teams, I suspect partners DO take race and other appearance-based considerations into account when creating teams.

I've tried the asking-for-advice approach but have been told more times than I can count that my work product is great, my work ethic is great, and I'll be staffed on [X assignment I requested] when it comes in. Problem is, I never am one of the first people staffed on these cases. I am always staffed at a much later point in time, in a support role. Sometimes I am supporting less experienced associates...

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by Anonymous User » Thu May 14, 2020 6:06 pm

OP here. To be clear, I am a "PoC," though I've never been a fan of or really comfortable with that term (or the term "white privilege, either, frankly).

I think a lot of white and white male partners create an ecosystem wherein only non-diverse attorneys can succeed. For example, I know of a white female sr partner at my firm, and she is well known to prefer working on all female teams. Problem is, I have never seen her work with a non-white associate in my 3 years at the firm. No, seriously.

I don't think white male partners consciously think "Oh I don't like X because X is Asian/Latino/Black/Middle Eastern so I don't want to staff them on anything." I think they tend to navigate towards associates they feel comfortable with, and these tend to be associates who remind them of themselves. It is even worse for the diverse associate if they are introverted. Before you know it, the lone Asian/Latino/Black/Middle Eastern associate is just left out of big matters, and fills their billable hours serving the core members on various teams. I find myself to be that associate sometimes, more than I'd like to be the case for my class year.

For certain high visibility roles, though, like trial teams, I suspect partners DO take race and other appearance-based considerations into account when creating teams.

I've tried the asking-for-advice approach but have been told more times than I can count that my work product is great, my work ethic is great, and I'll be staffed on [X assignment I requested] when it comes in. Problem is, I never am one of the first people staffed on these cases. I am always staffed at a much later point in time, in a support role. Sometimes I am supporting less experienced associates...
I'm sorry you've had this experience. I have had it also, multiple times. I work at a "top" / "elite" litigation boutique that is well-known to swing left/liberal, and yet I still have had this same experience many times, whether it is because the top-dog partners would rather staff people who look like them, people with same social-economic background as them, people whose names are easier to pronounce, or whatever. It is something that goes on at firms both large and small, and I don't know how to address it. (There's only so many times you can tell the partner they are mispronouncing your name, for example, or that you would like to be staffed on a case in not just in a support role now that you're a mid-level associate).

QContinuum

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by QContinuum » Thu May 14, 2020 6:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 5:36 pm
I think a lot of white and white male partners create an ecosystem wherein only non-diverse attorneys can succeed.
I agree. I do think a contributing factor is that, especially at larger firms where some offices/practice groups are more diverse and others are (much) less so, PoC see this and disproportionately self-select into the more diverse practice groups. Which is a perfectly reasonable decision on the part of the PoC doing the self-selection, but which obviously creates kind of an evil cycle that makes integrating the less-diverse groups even more challenging. To be clear, I think the onus absolutely is on (white, male) seniors to proactively integrate and increase diversity in their offices/practice groups/etc. - I don't think any PoC, by virtue of being a PoC, has some kind of special obligation to volunteer to be a "diversity trailblazer". I just want to point out that in many cases, I've personally observed disproportionately white practice groups stay that way not because the seniors are racist, but merely because they haven't done as much active outreach to recruit PoC as others.

Now, why do I say all this? This brings me back to:
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 5:36 pm
For example, I know of a white female sr partner at my firm, and she is well known to prefer working on all female teams. Problem is, I have never seen her work with a non-white associate in my 3 years at the firm. No, seriously.
Clearly this female partner has experienced some significant bias or even harassment from male colleagues, either at this firm or in the past, which explains her strong preference for working with other women. This partner is not a member of the ol' boys club. She's not trying to act "more manly" than the male partners (which some women do).

Also clearly, this partner hasn't prioritized advocating for PoC at the firm. She's probably more focused on mentoring female associates than PoC. But this is someone who could very well be sympathetic to PoC and to issues with racial bias and diversity. She's clearly very tuned in to issues with gender bias and diversity. This is someone I think could be worth approaching.

And lest I be accused of being naive: yes, obviously it's also possible the female partner is racist, or even misandrist. None of us here know her, so we can't rule out any possibilities. But I think it's possible she'd be willing to help OP. Maybe that doesn't mean staffing OP on her cases, but maybe she helps get him staffed on other cases, or at least gives him frank advice on how - or even whether - he can succeed at the firm given the white male-dominated culture.
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 5:36 pm
I don't think white male partners consciously think "Oh I don't like X because X is Asian/Latino/Black/Middle Eastern so I don't want to staff them on anything." I think they tend to navigate towards associates they feel comfortable with, and these tend to be associates who remind them of themselves. It is even worse for the diverse associate if they are introverted. Before you know it, the lone Asian/Latino/Black/Middle Eastern associate is just left out of big matters, and fills their billable hours serving the core members on various teams. I find myself to be that associate sometimes, more than I'd like to be the case for my class year.
I agree with this take. So, why not put yourself out there and do some more reaching out? (Not saying you haven't already tried this.) At least at the firms I've worked at, it's a (strong) plus for associates to proactively reach out to partners who're doing work they'd be interested in joining.
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 5:36 pm
For certain high visibility roles, though, like trial teams, I suspect partners DO take race and other appearance-based considerations into account when creating teams.
Firms won't admit this openly, but yea, this definitely happens. If you have a case going to trial in the Eastern District of Texas in small-town Tyler (kind of a mecca for big patent cases for a while)... yea, race is going to be a consideration when partners staff that trial team.

Throwaway5818

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by Throwaway5818 » Thu May 14, 2020 8:24 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 3:08 pm
QContinuum wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 2:53 pm
cheaptilts wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 9:38 am
QContinuum wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 8:12 pm
There's no question BigLaw remains (heterosexual, conventionally attractive) white male-dominated, but I have a hard time believing your boutique literally has 100% heterosexual white male partners. If there's even one minority partner, you can/should reach out to him/her regardless whether you've ever spoken to them before. They don't need to be the same ethnicity as you - even if, say, you're black, and they're Middle Eastern, you're still in the same boat of both being minorities at the firm. You can also consider reaching out to a female partner - this is especially the case if you're a woman, but even if you're a man, still worth giving it a shot.
I know your intentions were good, but I found it somewhat disheartening that you’d express skepticism at a claim (albeit one that wasn’t pressed) that OP worked at a boutique with all white male partners. While the popular “elite” boutiques have integrated their partnerships (to varying degrees of success), one need only look at the equity partnership of Morvillo or Mololamken to understand how common it is to have an all-white partnership with little to no women (especially in cities outside of NY/DC/LA/SF).
Not sure why you'd find my post "disheartening." I began my post by acknowledging (lamenting, really) that "BigLaw remeains (heterosexual, conventionally attractive) white male-dominated".

I do find it hard to believe there are still elite boutiques that have 100% heterosexual white male partners. Tiny "small law" practices, sure - many of these are like 2-3 man shops, so even by random chance I wouldn't necessarily expect an even racial or gender distribution; but it sounds like OP works at a BigLaw or at least midlaw litigation shop, which would typically be large and high-profile enough as a firm that I do find it hard to believe that in 2020, the entire partnership would be 100% straight white men.

You mention Morvillo and Momolamken. I agree their partnerships are lacking on the diversity front. But I also don't think their partnerships can be accurately characterized as having "virtually no" diverse partners. Morvillo has 2 female partners, out of 15 total - that's 13.3% non-straight white men, which, yes, is (way) too low, but isn't "virtually zero". Further, Morvillo has 1 female counsel, out of 5 total - that's 20%, which again isn't "virtually zero". If OP's at Morvillo, that's 3 diverse seniors out of 20 total seniors - two partners and one counsel - they can consider approaching.

Momolamken has 4 female partners, out of 16 total - that's 25%, which, again, is low, but a pretty long way away from "virtually none".

(I haven't Googled whether any of Morvillo/Momolamken's partners or counsels are openly LGBTQ.)

I'd also add that OP and others in their position need not limit themselves to only approaching diverse partners or counsels. A more senior associate can also serve as a helpful mentor. A fifth year could very well obtain helpful guidance from a seventh year.
We have a few white female partners at my firm. Sorry, I suppose that is diverse as well. But even then our "diversity rates" are like Morvillo and Mololamken's. And they got worse recently, lol.

I can think of 1 diverse senior associate above me who I've worked with a couple times and am somewhat familiar with. Unfortunately this senior is extremely unfriendly. She has a take-no-prisoners approach in her path to making partner. And I mean cc-entire-team-to-inquire-into-your-mistake type of approach, including cc'ing people who have no clue wtf is going on. I avoid her at all costs.

I will probably broach some issues I've faced with a white male mentor or two without pinning the issue on diversity. It's really tough, though - I don't want to come off as whiny and want to save my political capital for only when I really need it. A lot of the time making partner seems to involve working hard and looking undefeatable, and if I raise an issue it could make me look weak/needy.
I'd be willing to bet whenever that one unfriendly senior associate encounters faces any work problems, she chalks it up to racism too lol.

Throwaway5818

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Re: Associate Frequently "Used" For Diversity Purposes

Post by Throwaway5818 » Thu May 14, 2020 8:29 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 6:06 pm
OP here. To be clear, I am a "PoC," though I've never been a fan of or really comfortable with that term (or the term "white privilege, either, frankly).

I think a lot of white and white male partners create an ecosystem wherein only non-diverse attorneys can succeed. For example, I know of a white female sr partner at my firm, and she is well known to prefer working on all female teams. Problem is, I have never seen her work with a non-white associate in my 3 years at the firm. No, seriously.

I don't think white male partners consciously think "Oh I don't like X because X is Asian/Latino/Black/Middle Eastern so I don't want to staff them on anything." I think they tend to navigate towards associates they feel comfortable with, and these tend to be associates who remind them of themselves. It is even worse for the diverse associate if they are introverted. Before you know it, the lone Asian/Latino/Black/Middle Eastern associate is just left out of big matters, and fills their billable hours serving the core members on various teams. I find myself to be that associate sometimes, more than I'd like to be the case for my class year.

For certain high visibility roles, though, like trial teams, I suspect partners DO take race and other appearance-based considerations into account when creating teams.

I've tried the asking-for-advice approach but have been told more times than I can count that my work product is great, my work ethic is great, and I'll be staffed on [X assignment I requested] when it comes in. Problem is, I never am one of the first people staffed on these cases. I am always staffed at a much later point in time, in a support role. Sometimes I am supporting less experienced associates...
I'm sorry you've had this experience. I have had it also, multiple times. I work at a "top" / "elite" litigation boutique that is well-known to swing left/liberal, and yet I still have had this same experience many times, whether it is because the top-dog partners would rather staff people who look like them, people with same social-economic background as them, people whose names are easier to pronounce, or whatever. It is something that goes on at firms both large and small, and I don't know how to address it. (There's only so many times you can tell the partner they are mispronouncing your name, for example, or that you would like to be staffed on a case in not just in a support role now that you're a mid-level associate).
Leftists are the most obsessed with race, I don't know why you would expect them to lack prejudice.

Seriously? What are you waiting for?

Now there's a charge.
Just kidding ... it's still FREE!


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