Biglaw firms are not going to cower in fear when it comes to their diversity fellowships.
Last week, Edward Blum, leader of the American Alliance for Equal Rights, sent letters to Winston & Strawn, Hunton Andrews & Kurth, and Adams and Reese, instructing them to answer questions about their diversity fellowship programs. Specifically, the conservative legal activist asked the firms whether those programs would continue, whether they would use race as a factor in the application process, and what role race would play in their selection process.
Blum gave the firms a deadline of October 13 to respond, holding the threat of additional lawsuits over their heads. “To avoid litigation, the Alliance hopes these law firms will immediately modify their programs to bring them into compliance with our nation’s civil rights laws,” he said. “No student should be treated differently because of their race or ethnicity.” Although Adams and Reese scrapped its program in response, Winston and Hunton aren’t playing along, and have actively refused to respond to Blum’s questions. The American Lawyer has the scoop on Winston’s full-throated response in defense of its diversity fellowship:
“We are proud of the program and note that your statement that it ‘excludes certain applicants based on race’ is simply false,” Winston Chicago managing partner Cardelle Spangler told Blum’s lawyer, Thomas McCarthy, of litigation boutique Consovoy McCarthy. “Applicants of all races, ethnicities, socio-economic orientations and all other backgrounds are eligible and encouraged to apply.”
“Note that your implication that the terms “disadvantaged” and “historically underrepresented” necessarily refer to race is baseless,” Spangler added. “Winston & Strawn does not make employment decisions on the basis of race or ethnicity.”
“Our program is appropriate, legal and compliant and it will continue,” the Winston letter added.
Hunton kept its response short and sweet, with its general counsel Greg Walker simply telling Blum that the firm “is not able to answer your questions at this time” and that the firm may update its programs based on “changing legal considerations or otherwise.” Walker concluded by noting that “as those decisions remain in process, the Firm cannot and will not make any pronouncements about the program now.”
We suppose we’ll have to wait and see what happens here, but we’re going to go ahead and guess that both firms will be facing lawsuits sometime soon — and they’ll both be ready.
Earlier: Blum Group Threatens To Sue More Biglaw Firms Over Their Diversity Fellowships
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Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter and Threads or connect with her on LinkedIn.