The Mad March: Mandatory Law Firm Diversity

If you prioritize traits which have nothing to do with performance when you select a service provider, you introduce a potential for greater inefficiency and poorer quality than if you just focused on merit.

If you are looking for a legal service provider, for example, it is important to examine your counsel’s legal pedigree, achievements, performance records, pricing, experience, and whether or not he has a large portfolio of satisfied clients.

Going out of your way to focus on traits which have no relation to service quality, such as gender or the melanin content of an attorney’s skin for example, is a profoundly ill-informed decision-making standard for service selection.

So why do it? That is a question best reserved for the organization General Counsel for Law Firm Diversity which recently drafted a letter to law firms demanding potential service providers follow their  race and gender quotas or be cut off.

A total of 179 general counsels and chief legal officers (titles for the attorneys who work in corporations) from big and small companies mostly in the Silicon Valley or San Francisco area signed the letter as a sign of solidarity and show of force.

Though it seems unwise to make these types of demands of third party companies, the organization’s very name, General Counsel (ie, in house attorneys) for Law Firm (as in outside corporate law firms) Diveristy, reveals its intent to assault law firm boardrooms with its unsolicited advice.

The recommendations not only defy business sense, they are bigoted. Why pay attention to race or gender at all if neither of these things matter when it comes to legal experience?

“Collectively, our companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on legal services and we are committed to ensuring equality in the legal profession,” the letter explains. “We expect the outside law firms we retain to reflect the diversity of the legal community and the companies and customers we serve. We applaud those firms that have worked hard to hire, retain, and promote to partnership this year outstanding and highly accomplished lawyers who are diverse in race, color, age, gender, gender orientation, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, and without regard to disabilities.”

While the signers claim to be all about representation across demographic categories, their criticism of law firm management practices reveals they are chiefly concerned about chromosomes and melanin: “At the same time, we are disappointed to see that many law firms continue to promote partner classes that in no way reflect the demographic composition of entering associate classes. Partnership classes remain largely male and largely white.” (emphasis added)

The signers seem to operating under the assumption that, for every two high-powered male attorney rising in the ranks, there is at least one female (or person of color or other victim class) who was passed up because of racism/sexism/etc-ism.

“We have no doubt that these lawyers worked hard to earn partnership and deserve the success they have obtained at your firms. We also know that there are women, people of color, and members of the LGTBQIA community and others who are no doubt equally deserving, but are not equally rewarded.” (emphasis added).

The only solution to this problem, says the General Counsel for Law Firm Diversity, is law firms “must consciously and personally invest in diversity and inclusion” as part of its HR practices with attorneys.

Most people do not have a problem with the concept of openness as a corrective for unwarranted biases or stereotypes. America’s strength, after all, is her diversity and a commitment to excellence demands a colorblind approach.

But whereas that traditional concept of diversity was seen as a strength achieved through a commitment to fairness, this new breed of diversity promoted by the General Counsel for Law Firm Diversity advocates representation – ostensibly on census population percentages (the concept is not exactly clear.)

Mindfulness is the proposed cure of the problem known as “unconscious bias” – the idea that people in power (whites and males especially) are inherently bigoted as a product of “institutional racism” and cannot be trusted to make decisions free from bias and must therefore select non-white and non-male candidates regardless of actual circumstances and data.

In practice, this means if you fail to advance a representative number of non-whites and non-males, it is because you are a bigot.

People’s merits do not matter as much as their race, gender/gender preference, etc. so accordingly you must dismiss out of hand 50-25% of your male, white, or white male choices for the sake of proper representation in your galactic senate. I mean company.

The letter’s intent is to influence hiring and promotion decisions and comes across as a form of intimidation: “Run your business our way or risk losing our business.”

I have read a lot of articles advocating their own management or business practices and exactly none make their point through threats.

“The boss says youse ain’t using the open office floor plan, but we’re here to make sure there ain’t no misunderstanding regarding its benefits in fostering a collaborative environment, capische?”

“That’s a nice daughter in you have there. If you want to keep her safe, you’d better wise up and implement kaizen.”

Never happened.

When you consider the goal is to exert pressure along purely racial and gender lines, the letter to law firms is suddenly downright legally questionable. This is astonishing when you consider the very people who drafted and signed the letter are all top attorneys in their respective companies.

Yet law firms cannot voice concern even though they are more than equipped to handle the challenge legally. Despite being the legal muscle companies rely on to fight the big cases, law firms are crippled by the fear of bad optics.

By publicly asserting their right to control their own firms, the upstart rebel attorneys could set into motion a series of events that could leave even well-established firms gutted within a matter of months.

For the same reasons, even these attorneys’ own bosses are powerless to say anything about choosing outside legal teams based on traits other than merit.

The General Counsel for Law Firm Diversity are the ones who are really in charge here. Law firm partners and corporate CEOs locked in a cage. This letter is just a polite tap of the nightstick on the bars to let everyone know they are being watched.

What is worse, you will not find the position even mildly criticized by outsiders or any third party either.

Google’s James Damore was a PhD engineer who anonymously crafted a carefully worded and well-researched criticism of the company’s institutionalized racist and sexist policies.

His subsequent public shaming and firing was a warning to corporate employees across the country: Keep your head low and never question the liberal narrative.

And remember to keep your papers in order, comrade.

This means, across the country, no one who thinks these types of diversity programs are a problem is free to say anything about it. Whether they are corporate leaders or corporate employees, your qualifications, reasonable argument, or even non-controversial views are not enough to keep you or your job safe.

The sequence of events also reveals the invaluable utility of diversity programs in companies as a form of licit intimidation and control over the rank and file.

Companies with diversity programs benefit beyond merely providing goods and services to their customers. Constantly hand-wringing over imagined “subconscious” insults now perverts the once novel concept of “value-added capitalism” through the secondary benefit of control.

This is a proven mode of mental manipulation that rids entire portions of the population of their agency to the extent where corporate campaigns can effectively reshape society.

Case in point: Obergefell v. Hodges – the Supreme Court case responsible for the redefinition of the millennia-old concept of marriage. In the lead-up to courtroom arguments, 379 corporations signed a Friend of the Court briefing arguing in favor of the redefinition and by so doing put their public stamp on a contentious issue which honest people could charitably disagree over.

These companies all took the same side. At issue for them was not the ethical, moral, or linguistic question, but the fact that laws opposing same sex unions hurt their bottom line forcing companies to “operate against a complicated, uncertain, and frequently changing backdrop of laws and employment-related regulations that increase our administrative costs.”

Laws against same sex marriage were blanketed with the code word “discriminatory” and were accused of impinging on “corporate principles of diversity and inclusion.”

Of course, the argument was made not from the perspective of corporations, but from the perspective of employers – a brilliant choice which allowed faceless multinational conglomerates to pose as humble champions of their employees.

Unless of course you happened to be one of those employees who believed differently in which case the message was clear: shut up, bigot, or you’ll face repercussions.

Compared to the General Counsel for Law Firm Diversity signers, the list of employers who signed the Obergefell briefing is a powerhouse roster of the biggest and most powerful companies in the country. From AT&T to Wal-Mart to United Airlines to Verizon. If you want to see for yourself, the document “Brief amici curiae of 379 Employers and Organizations Representing Employers” is available on the SCOTUS blog.

The number of people directly affected (or, more accurately, threatened) by the briefing extended far beyond the mere hundreds of thousands of employees of these companies. By including business-to-business services and other client relationships,  a very sizable portion of the population was put on alert regarding the new moral orthodoxy.

Such was the sheer size and scope of the collective corporate reach that the only way to boycott those companies which signed the briefing would be to leave the country or live with the Amish.

The General Counsel for Law Firm Diversity is yet another in a series of well-positioned zealots exercising this power to push our country along their Mad March to Utopia.

The corporate villains of our age very much resemble the stereotypical boardroom tyrants of ages past. Only the tools differ. Here again we are confronted by by the rot resulting from corruption brought about by insatiable greed and pure lust for power.

Until now the only people capable of challenging this new orthodoxy have remained quiet for fear of losing their income. As the job market continues to improve and wages continue to increase, we may hope to see more find the courage to call out these bigots for the villains they are.