Archive for October 2007

Wanted for Next Diversity Summit: More White Guys

October 31, 2007

I had the good fortune to attend a portion of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s 2nd Annual Diversity Summit last week. It looked as if it was a big success. There were about 300 attendees or so, which outside a bench bar is the biggest turnout I’ve ever seen for an event like that. I was only able to stay for about 3 hours, but between that and what my reporters relayed to me, I heard some interesting things.

First, it was stunning to see statistics showing that while the percentage of law students who are women or minorities has grown dramatically in the past 30 years or so – growing in leaps and bounds if you will – the percentage of women and minorities who are partners at large law firms has barely increased at all.

That may be apparent to a lot of people in the legal community, but seeing such growth and progress on one end, and hardly any on the other, presented so plainly, shocked me. I would think it would shock some others too.

Which is probably why there was an undercurrent of frustration from some of the people I heard speak. Frustration at the lack of progress, and frustration in the minds of some that issues aren’t being addressed to fix that.

Memo to law firm leadership: if you don’t think diversity is a problem, you’re kidding yourselves. And unless you start addressing the issue, you’re going to lose clients and talent at some point.

Which brings me to my one critique of the summit: it needed more white guys.

I’m not trying to be wise guy either. The vast majority of those in attendance were minorities and women. And that’s great. But if the majority of partners, particularly at the large firms, are white men, then they are the ones who probably needed to hear what was being said more than a lot of the attendees.

If things are going to change, isn’t it going to have to start with a lot of those white men in management?

I know the organizers were aiming to have managing partners and those in firm management in attendance, so I doubt it was a lack of effort on their part.

You would think that if a law firm was concerned about the issue and wanted to improve the diversity at the firm, it would send upper management to an event like the summit. Hmm.

I wasn’t the only person who commented on that. One woman, who identified herself as a government lawyer, expressed some frustration that her bosses weren’t at the summit and didn’t get to hear some of the issues and comments that were coming up.

This isn’t to suggest that the summit wasn’t a success or helpful. It sure seemed to be on both counts, and the organizers should be proud. I just think there would be greater potential for change if more of the white men in upper management attended.

Again, I wasn’t there the whole day. But I didn’t see a whole lot of managing partners. I was hoping I would. I guess there’s always next year.

–Hank Grezlak, Editor-in-Chief


Immigration Lawyers – Health Care Yes, Driver’s License No?

October 30, 2007

Sen. Chris Dodd and Sen. Hillary Clinton had their own debate at the end of the night. Clinton said she understands New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.Clinton wouldn’t nail down where she stood on the issue except to say she understood where Spitzer was coming from.

Dodd said licenses should not be extended to illegal immigrants. He said it is a privilege, not a right.

Health care is another story he said because it protects the public health at large.

Sen. Barack Obama was for the issuance of licenses to track illegal immigrants, but said the larger issue of immigration reform needs to be tackled.

~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Tax and Corporate Lawyers – What do you think?

October 30, 2007

Tim Russert wanted to know what Rep. Dennis Kucinich would do about the tax structure for hedge funds. Kucinich said he fully supports upping the current 16 percent tax rate. He said one of the reasons the American public is so distressed about the Democratic party is because it has said it wouldn’t do anything about increasing taxes on hedge funds – at least for this year.Former Sen. John Edwards – the only other candidate to get a chance to respond to the question – said Congress started to move to make changes on the tax structure but it was simply shut down by lobbyists.

~ Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

The Effects of Saber-Rattling

October 30, 2007

The use of the term “saber-rattling” was right up there with “Clinton” and “Hillary.” Apparently the use of saber-rattling by the current administration has done everything from drive up oil prices to hamper any negotiations with Iran.

~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Clinton’s Response to Iran Question

October 30, 2007

 In responding to attacks on her vote to approve a resolution deeming the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, Clinton rejected that it opened doors for Bush to go to war with Iran.”Well, first of all, we have to try diplomacy, and I see economic sanctions as part of diplomacy,” she said. “We have used it with other very difficult situations — like Libya, like North Korea.  I think that what we’re trying to do here is put pressure on the Bush

She said she invites all of her colleagues to pass a resolution opposing Bush’s ability to go to war. She said at the start that she is not in favor of a rush for war, but isn’t in favor of doing nothing.

~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Richardson to the Rescue

October 30, 2007

Sen. Hillary Clinton looked from left to right and from left to right and from… you get the picture… as former Sen. John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama questioned her ability to differentiate herself from past administrations. Obama said Clinton received the most money from special interests, including the most of all presidential candidates from defense groups.

It was Clinton’s vote for the resolution on Iran that started the debate as her opponents questioned why she would open the door for President George W. Bush to go to war with the country.

Taking away the camera from the trio that perfectly fit in the lens, Gov. Bill Richardson put a very temporary end to the back and forth.

“I’m hearing this holier-than-thou attitude toward Sen. Clinton,” he said.

Richardson said it was starting to bother him and he wanted his Democratic colleagues to focus their energy on distinguishing themselves from the Republicans.



Welcome to Philadelphia…

October 30, 2007

 Dilworth Paxson Chairman Joe Jacovini made an appearance on stage in his role as chairman of the board of trustees of Drexel University.  As part of the pre-debate welcoming committee, Jacovini said it was fitting for a presidential debate to be held in Philadelphia, just blocks from where democracy started.

Gov. Ed Rendell also gave a welcome speech, talking mainly about his proposed health care plan.

Mayor John Street isn’t in attendance. DNC Chairman Howard Dean said he was sick. His son Sharif is in the audience, however, as is Philadelphia Democratic mayoral candidate Michael Nutter. More celebrity sightings to come… and of course some debate action as well.

~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter