Even a blind squirrel finds an occasional nut, and so this post at the Social Justice Law Blog raised a surprisingly interesting point.
Whenever I apply for a job at a major company, their job application website states that the company is an equal opportunity employer. And for those who want to learn more, they provide a link to their equal opportunity policy statement. Most of these policy statements sound the same and at times use very technical terms. This leads me to believe that these policy statements are there for legal reasons. I also find it amusing when they ask for your ethnic background for “statistical purposes.” I’m sure that’s the reason.
Alright, granted that stuff somebody named Shannon Achimalbe finds amusing isn’t interesting to anyone but her, but bear with me.
Over the years, there have been calls by thought leaders to increase diversity in the workforce. While businesses tried and succeeded on various levels to improve the numbers of minorities on their payroll, the legal sector has been slow and reluctant to do so. As noted by Renwei Chung, Above the Law’s diversity columnist, law firms are perceived to have the lowest commitment to diversity when it comes to hiring and retention.
Heh. “Thought leaders.” Sorry, I digress.
I think law firms genuinely like diversity, but they will not go out of their way to recruit minorities who do not fit the “top school, top grades” mold. Law firms say they believe in diversity, but they rarely follow through on trying to increase minority hiring. Of course, they won’t mention this publicly unless they are ready to face the wrath of Elie Mystal.
Just because Elie is black is no reason to assume he’s a blithering idiot, but then again, he is male and straight, so he might be. Anyway, we’re almost there, as Achimalbe has that most dreaded of combinations, verbosity and narcissism (because it’s all about what she feelz, because feelz matter at the Social Justice Law Blog.)
The reason why law firms don’t care too much about diversity is that most of their clients don’t care either. We’re not selling frozen pizza or dog walking services. Legal fights are serious business with money, family, livelihoods, honor, and even lives on the line.
Bingo. I can’t explain how that happened, but happen it did. And coming on the heels of the ABA’s divergence away from giving a damn about banal stuff like clients and law, and instead obsessing over female lawyers never hearing the word “girls*” so that they’re forced to curl up in a corner and cry, this is a remarkable assertion.
Lawyers represent clients. Despite all the cries to the contrary, lawyers do not represent social justice. Remember when past-ABA president Paulette Brown said, the “ABA would be ‘social engineers for justice”? She was wrong. Misguided beyond comprehension. It may have warmed your feelz to the core to hear it, but that’s just because you didn’t get it any better than she did.
Contrary to the monumental arrogance of the types who frequent conferences like the ABA’s, lawyers are not special. We’re not serious and important leaders, to whom society looks for guidance. The pompous fools who promote that tripe need to get out more. People aren’t all that fond of lawyers. Often with good reason. Sometimes for poor reasons. Even occasionally because they don’t get what we do.
But if people don’t get what we do, it’s largely because lawyers seem to have lost the concept of what we do. All you little butthurt social justice babies are so self-absorbed that you forgot, or maybe nobody ever told you, that lawyers exist for one purpose, and one purpose only: to serve clients.
Putting aside financial considerations, because nobody wants to piss away hard-earned money on lawyers if they can help it, the client wants his lawyer to be good, to be zealous, to be ethical, to be honest, but mostly to win.
It’s okay that I’ve been sentenced to death. As long as my lawyer was intersectional, I’m willing to sacrifice my life to diversity because it’s the right thing to do.
–Said no client ever.
While Achimalbe’s focus is on law firms, because some people view the world through the aspirational eyes of an employee, her observation that clients don’t really care about diversity is absolutely correct. Nor should they. Clients don’t exist to make lawyers happy, to give us a job and an income, work/life balance, self-esteem, or to assure that every marginalized person graduating law school has a place to go during the day.
It’s not that there aren’t occupations that exist for reasons other than to serve others, but not the law. The law is a profession, a calling that requires its practitioners to put their clients’ interests ahead of their own. There is no caveat that excepts this duty when the lawyer is female, black, gay or Aleut.
If law firms refuse to hire competent lawyers because of their race, gender or other immutable characteristic (and this was the case not too long ago, as firms considered whether new hires were “their kind of people,” so that they could be assured they would know which fork to use at dinner with a client), they would run afoul of discrimination laws. As well they should.
But competence still reigns supreme in the law, as it should. Because it’s not about you, deeply passionate young lawyer. It’s about the clients. And if it ever stops being about the client, then there is no reason for lawyers to exist, so better snarf up that cool job as assistant manager at Dairy Queen, where diversity is at the top of the list.
*It’s a tradition.