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General Counsel and City Attorneys Announce That Progress on Diversity Will Be Linked To Hiring and Firing Law Firms

May 11, 2005 - San Francisco —General Counsel of five major Bay Area corporations and the City Attorneys of San Francisco and Oakland, working together with the Bar Association of San Francisco's (BASF) Diversity Task Force, the California Minority Counsel Program (CMCP) and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), have sent a letter (attached) to over 400 corporate general counsel in the State of California urging them to take the lead in promoting diversity in the Bay Area legal community. Recognizing that the success of many Bay Area law firms' diversity efforts has been a direct outgrowth of the expectations of their corporate clients, this new initiative seeks to further the work of the past 16 years and maintain the Bay Area's number one place in the diversity rankings.

A group of prominent Bay Area General Counsel and City Attorneys-James Potter from Del Monte; Guy Rounsaville from Visa; Lauri Shanahan from Gap; Michael Dillon from Sun Microsystems; James Strother from Wells Fargo Bank; San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Oakland City Attorney John Russo-have recently prepared a draft Plan of Action (attached) for increasing the diversity of the firms that work for them. The Plan includes monitoring of (1) the diversity of the firm as a whole and that of the lawyers assigned to their matters, (2) the programs the firms have in place to enhance the number of minority and women lawyers, and (3) the allocation of billing credit to minority and women attorneys and the development of criteria to increase or reduce the amount of business to firms based on progress on diversity.

Nationally, the representation of minorities in the legal profession is far lower than in other professions. According to the 2000 U.S. census, total minority representation among lawyers is about 9.7%, compared to 24.6% among physicians and surgeons. Nationally, minority representation among partners is less than 4.0%. Moreover, total minority representation among law students has dropped for the last two years, with African-American representation among law students dropping to 6.6%7—a twelve year low.

While the Bay Area picture is brighter, with most of San Francisco's large and medium size firms having met BASF's 2000 goal that 25% of associates, and 10% of partners be persons of color, only a few of San Francisco's largest firms will meet the 2005 goals that 35% of associates and 12% of partners be people of color. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera stated, "We hope that the Call to Action plan will encourage law firms to renew and refocus their commitment to creating diversity at every level within the legal community. Improving upon the success we have seen in increasing diversity over the last decade must be a top priority for everyone in the legal profession."

According to BASF President James Finberg, "This letter is evidence of the fact that clients really care and that law firms who seek to continue to work for these corporations will have to step up their diversity efforts. These corporations are declaring that diversity will be critical in the decision to award business."

The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) is a nonprofit voluntary membership organization of over 8,000 attorneys, law students and legal professionals in the Bay Area. Founded in 1872, BASF is one of the largest and most dynamic metropolitan bar associations in the U.S., with a long and distinguished record of community action, public service and service to the legal profession.

Questions about media relations, BASF issues currently in the news, San Francisco Attorney magazine, marketing and communications:

Ann Murphy, Director of Communications & Public Relations
(415) 782-9000 x8792

For general communications inquiries:

Sayre Happich, Assistant Director of Communications & Public Relations
(415) 782-9000 x8104