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Diversity is Dead!

July 24, 2007

As a minority student, I have frequently been asked, “Did you apply for PDLG?” For those of you who do not know, PDLG stands for Philadelphia Diversity Law Group, which interviews first year law students and gives them summer associate positions at a number of top 100 firms such as Dechert, Morgan Lewis, and Blank Rome. Although this program has been applauded for its noble and ambitious goal of achieving diversity in a profession that is starved for representation comparable to the society we live in, the truth is the program fails on many levels because of its lack of its commitment. For example, the program looks only to first year law students. I have serious doubts about the legitimacy of an organization that claims it wishes to achieve more diversity and help diverse students “kick-start” their legal careers when that same group only gives you one bite at the apple in terms of employment opportunities. The notion of someone having their whole legal career determined by one semester of law school is vastly unfair in the world of “who you know” hiring practices and nepotism, which I believe is rampant in the profession. In the PDLG process, there are two rounds of interviewing and the law firm or corporation typically interviews three candidates for one position. It’s pretty much an unwritten rule in Philadelphia that U Penn students get first dibs on all jobs because for whatever reason every firm believes that they can turn that student, who is more than likely already secretly planning their move to NY or DC after graduation, into practicing in Philadelphia. So that Penn student will likely receive the offer if they can walk and chew gum at the same time. (Hey, I didn’t make the rules, but I understand them). That leaves students from Villanova, Temple, Rutgers, Widener, Dickenson, and now even Drexel, to compete for whatever positions that are available. Also, up for consideration is the number of students with local ties from law schools in other cities, whom apply for those same limited positions.

The truth is PDLG has limited success and is not an answer to the growing problem of diversity in the legal profession. If you doubt my thoughts just look at the PDLG site yourself and take another look at the numbers. There were 72 applicants for PDLG last year, however, only 23 were hired. It is worth nothing that the 23 number includes those students hired at corporations and consequently they will not receive an offer for after their second year. So after careful analysis of the actual results of PDLG for 2006, 72 applied, but only 15 received offers for their third year. Is that something to really celebrate? I don’t think so. Too many firms are patting themselves on the back for their “achievements” of diversity, when they are merely celebrating mediocrity. How can a firm be sincere about making strides towards achieving diversity? Simple. Instead of hiring that 1 required law student among 3 qualified applicants, go that extra mile and hire all 3! That will more than likely represent a 25% increase in diversity within the firm from what I’ve seen. Nevertheless, until the day comes when firms truly desire to address this problem, which puts talented minorities against each other for what some have termed as a tokenistic “quota” position, I say “Diversity is Dead!”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 24, 2007 9:19 pm

    I disagree. I think what the PDLG is doing is commendable. The problem that many legal employers face is that they are all competing for the same small pool of minority candidates with stellar grades. The PDLG program gives those minority students who may not be part of that pool an additional route to summer employment with top firms and corporations. That is, the PDLG program gives those first year law students from disadvantaged backgrounds a chance to work for the city’s top firms and corporations even if they don’t have stellar grades. As we all know, most firms hire 2Ls as their summer associates; perhaps giving these 1Ls who have overcome obstacles a chance to work at top firms will make them better candidates to sell themselves when it’s time for them to look for a job as summer associates when they become 2Ls. By the way, according to an article in the Philadelphia Business Journal, of the 28 students that participated in the program’s first two years, 18 are either working at local firms or plan to do so after completing a judicial clerkship. And at least 11 of 20 from the third year will be starting at local firms next year. The PDLG was implemented to foster diversity, and while it may not be perfect (remember, it was formed only in 2003), it is a first step in the right direction. .

  2. April 15, 2009 12:03 pm

    This is very up-to-date information. I think I’ll share it on Twitter.

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