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Paul Weiss Partner Posting Proves Diversity Still Lacking in BigLaw

The picture has been all over social media. Prominent law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison proudly displayed its new class of partners. Twelve lawyers, all white and mostly male. There was one woman, reflected in the bottom right corner. The backlash to this photo has been fierce and widespread. 

Above the Law, a legal industry website, responded by mocking the firm’s “commitment to putting the white in white shoe.” A group of general counsels from 170 companies, including Lyft, Mozilla, Heineken, and 23andMe that often hire large law firms, responded with an open letter. “We expect the outside law firms we retain to reflect the diversity of the legal community and the companies and customers we serve.” They go on to acknowledge that while the men in the picture no doubt earned their partnership status, they also believe that “there are women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA community and others who are no doubt equally deserving, but are not equally rewarded.” They demand that the firms “consciously and personally invest in diversity and inclusion and interview, hire, mentor, support, sponsor, and promoted talented attorneys who don’t always look like your or share your background.”

Just a week after posting the picture, Paul Weiss removed it and responded that the 2019 class was an outlier. According to the New York Times, Paul Weiss is, in fact, more diverse at the partner level than many other large law firms. Still, the number of women and minorities earning partnerships in big law firms is smaller than number reflected in associate positions and law school populations. There are ongoing questions about whether big law hires women and minorities in appropriate numbers but then creates uninviting cultures, imposes more significant repercussions for errors, and sidelines them from important opportunities to advance.