Our campus outreach tour began at Harvard Law School. One question in particular that was asked at HLS helped illustrate the importance of BBLP. The question was why wouldn't minority students want to go to law firms where they are "the only one" and thus more "valued" and more likely to be retained. I can understand where this sentiment comes from, but believe strongly that it is misplaced. When you see that you will be the only one of your ethnic background or gender or one of few in a particular firm, you have to ask why there are no others like you and have there been others like you in the past who are no longer here? The answers will provide more insight into the firm's real desire to retain minorities such as yourself as well as insight into why previous attempts were unsuccessful, if they occurred at all. Additionally, looking forward, you will need to ask yourself how important it is to have people with similar backgrounds as mentors when you encounter situations that people without your ethnic background or gender may not understand (like those times when you may be mistaken for IT or a secretary because the lawyers at your firm are not used to seeing Asian Americans or black women as their colleagues). If you still believe that you will not only survive, but also thrive at a place like that, despite the horrible attrition rates in firms to begin with, then good luck! BBLP is just here to provide greater transparency so law students know what to expect when they enter the legal profession. We would suggest, however, that the added burden of not having any peers or mentors who share your ethnic background or gender may make BigLaw life unbearable and that such a firm is clearly not committed to retaining diverse attorneys, but simply recruiting "token" minorities every few years when they realize there are few if any of a particular group working as lawyers in their firm.
We had several other interesting questions in addition to that one, but that one was probably the most important to be answered, because it is such a pervasive, potentially damaging myth that too many lawyers of color and women have believed to their detriment.
Building a Better Legal Profession (BBLP) is an organization based at Stanford Law School. BBLP is a national grassroots movement that seeks market-based workplace reforms in large private law firms. For more information, visit BBLP's Web site at www.betterlegalprofession.org.