Friday, July 11, 2008

Doing Well By Doing Right

A few days ago I finished David B. Wilkin's article From "Separate is Inherently Unequal" to "Diversity is Good for Business": The Rise of Market-Based Diversity Arguments and the Fate of the Black Corporate Bar [117 Harv. L. Rev. 1548 (2004)]. It undertakes a sophisticated analysis of the so-called "business case for diversity" (that diversity in various ways improves the bottom line of corporations, and thus companies should pursue it), and sounds alarms as to why it may not cross-over well in terms of advancing the career prospects of Black lawyers in the corporate bar (though his ultimate conclusions on the matter are mixed).

It was one of the better articles dealing with diversity issues that I've read, and it's critical approach was an important one for me to keep in mind as someone who really is a cheerleader for diversity as being part of "doing well" as well as "doing right."

However, this article on, detailing how big corporations are beginning to demand real commitment to diversity from the law firms they work with, offers hope to those demoralized by Wilkins article. Most notably, it provides examples of companies taking aggressive action to prevent "gaming" -- companies who, for example, bring a Black attorneys to client meetings to flash diversity but give him no substantive work on the case. If companies were just showing "commitment to diversity" as a PR effort, this would probably be sufficient to insulate themselves from criticism. The fact that they trying to eliminate that sort of superficial diversity effort and are demanding that attorneys of various backgrounds actually get assigned to the meaty parts of the cases indicates that they see value in diversity beyond just imagery.


Jake Liscow said...

I'm not really sure what you think after reading your post, David. Are you cautiously optimistic after reading the article, or did you find Wilkin's article to be more compelling?

I'm rather skeptical. I look forward to seeing the long term trends of diversity in the legal arena... Some PR campaigns are extremely well-guised. Let's hope that this is not one of them, and that there is genuine progress being made.

Anonymous said...

Our dumb world: the Iranians photoshop missiles, while Fox "News" photoshops Jews:

Incredible. How do these people get away with things like that?