BCG Attorney Search Founder Harrison Barnes Releases Landmark Book on Diversity in Big Law Firms

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In response to client demands and changing sociopolitical norms, large American law firms are making increasing efforts to become more diverse. These efforts have been marginally successful but not as successful as law firms would like because they have been slow to move away from historical ways of evaluating attorneys--before and after they are hired.

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Despite their best intentions, many large law firms are difficult places for diverse attorneys to get hired and advance in.

Harrison Barnes, founder and Chief Executive Officer of BCG Attorney Search, the nation’s leading law firm legal recruiting firm, has released a new book that examines the lack of diversity in big law firms.

Mr. Barnes spent six months researching the book and reflecting on his career, during which he has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms throughout the country.

The book, “Law Firm Diversity: How Race, Gender, Age, Social and Economic Divisions Impact the Hiring, Retention and Advancement of Big Law Attorneys,” is based on numerous interviews with attorneys and law firm leaders, published studies and personal experience.

The book’s conclusions include:

  • Law firms often favor male attorneys, creating a damaging environment of sexism;
  • Even though clients are increasingly asking firms for diverse attorneys, particularly African-Americans, many law firms do not place a high priority on hiring – and promoting – diverse attorneys;
  • Ethnic minorities are often viewed as unqualified by white attorneys, who assume they were hired only because of their ethnicity;
  • Minorities are sometimes given less-challenging assignments in big law firms and are more often subject to criticism than their white counterparts;
  • Women and diverse attorneys have difficulty thriving inside firms because they do not benefit from informal networks – predominantly white male attorneys – that share work with attorneys with similar backgrounds;
  • Support staff at law firms tends to be overwhelmingly diverse, and the attorneys they serve overwhelmingly white, creating tension between the two groups in major law firms.

Mr. Barnes is making the book available for free on his company website:

Mr. Barnes said: “Many law firms recognize the need for diversity, but they do not do enough to recruit diverse attorneys, or help them succeed after they are hired. I hope my book helps attorneys from diverse backgrounds find employment, and thrive, in big law firms.”

The book is based on Barnes’ unique perspective as a legal recruiter who has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms throughout the country and who has built a company of dedicated legal recruiters who have collectively placed countless attorneys in firms of all sizes and specialties.

Barnes and his team are in a position to know what firms want in attorneys, and which attorneys get hired and develop successful careers within law firms and which do not. Because BCG Attorney Search specializes in legal placements within the country’s largest and most prestigious firms—known as “BigLaw”—the book concentrates on those firms.

From his vantage point, Barnes sees a disconnect in what BigLaw firms say about diversity and what they actually do when it comes to hiring and promoting (or failing to hire and promote) diverse attorneys. The book examines the underlying reasons for this disconnect and explores ways in which it can be mitigated so BigLaw firms can move towards closing the diversity gap.

About BCG Attorney Search: Since its founding in 2000, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in Big Law firms and earned a reputation as one of the nation’s leading legal recruiting firms.

Media contact: Stuart Pfeifer, (310) 432-4130; spfeifer(at)sitrick(dot)com

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