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Lawyers of Color names best corporate attorneys

The best Black attorneys practicing in white-shoe law firms and large companies have been identified by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Lawyers of Color.

The inaugural “Nation’s Best” list — presented by Major, Lindsey & Africa with the support of the Diverse Partners Network — hails law firm partners and senior-level corporate counsel. Among the honorees are Alexander Gladney, vice president of Capital Health System, and law firm partners Lisa Tavares of Venable LLP and Sherrie L. Farrell of Dykema.

Lawyers of Color recognized the need to identify these unicorns of the legal profession after compiling the first-ever comprehensive listing of Black attorney percentages at nearly 400 law firms. The study was reported in the Black Student’s Guide to Law Schools & Firms and revealed that the vast majority of corporate law firms have few Black lawyers. There were 40 firms with no Black attorneys and an additional 80 firms with less than 2 percent.

While companies do not report their minority attorney numbers, anecdotal evidence suggests corporate in-house teams are more diverse than law firms generally but not in executive roles. The 2019 General Counsel Landscape study by LawGeex found that less than 20 percent of Fortune 500 general counsel were people of color. Unconscious bias, a lack of mentorship opportunities and inadequate pipelines are to blame. In-house counsel recruit heavily from large law firms where there is already only a very low percentage of Black lawyers.

Lawyers of Color, which is devoted to promoting diversity in the legal profession, sees the “Nation’s Best” list as a way to bring attention to outstanding Black attorneys. Lawyers of Color’s fellows, advisers and editorial staff sought to identify attorneys who had noteworthy accomplishments and a commitment to diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

One hundred attorneys were selected to represent each of six regions. After being feted at receptions across the country hosted by Foley & Lardner LLP, honorees will be profiled in the “Nation’s Best” July 2019 issue, which will be available on Lawyers of Color’s website, lawyersofcolor.org.