There's an Astonishing Lack of Minority Partners at Cleveland-area Law Firms

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[image-1] Of the 1,343 partners at the region's top 40 law firms, only 56 are minorities. According to the annual 'Largest Law Firms' list and survey by Crain's Cleveland Business, the total number of minority partners declined by three in the past decade, even as the number of female partners rose slightly.

Crain's Chuck Soder, who analyzed the data, reported that the increase in female partners was driven by "small gains" at firms outside of the region's Top 10, which are as follows, with number of (total partners / female partners / minority partners) in parentheses:

1) Jones Day (60 / 12 / 1 )
2) Baker & Hostetler (93 / 21 / 2)
3) Benesch (82 /13 / 5)
4) Tucker & Ellis (59 / 12 / 5)
5) Thompson Hine (67 / 13 / 3)
6) Calfee Halter & Griswold (69 / 11 / 2)
7) Squire Patton Boggs (43 / 9 / 2)
8) Ulmer & Berne (46 / 12 / 1)
9) Roetzel & Andress (48 / 9 / 2)
10) McDonald Hopkins  (42 / 3 / 0)

While these top firms employ fewer attorneys, overall, than they did in 2008 — they evidently never fully recovered from the Great Recession — they also employ fewer female partners (115 today, down from 122 in 2008) and fewer minority partners (23, down from 31), a discouraging trend.

These are striking statistics. The median number of minority partners at the region's top 40 law firms is one. Only two of the top 40 firms employ fewer  than 10 local partners, yet 16 of the top 40 don't have a single partner who's nonwhite.

White men make up 75 percent of all partners at the Top 40 firms, via Soder's analysis. And if you're a white male attorney at one of these firms, "there's a 64 percent chance that you're a partner."

There are only two minorities who serve as their firm's top local executive: Himanshu Amin, managing partner at Amin, Turocy & Watson; and Fred Nance, global managing partner at Squire Patton Boggs. Nance, though, has always punched above his weight class.

There was a good deal of fuss, last month, about a speech by Jon Pinney at the City Club in which he challenged the region's leaders to come together to repair an economic development sector in disarray. The most durable news item from his speech, however, was his failure to identify a diverse crop of emerging leaders. Of the eight economic development leaders he called out by name to take charge, all were white men.

Pinney sidestepped questions in the City Club's Q&A on the topic, agreeing with those who challenged him that the quote unquote "alignment process" must be inclusive. He said he was merely naming the existing leaders in the economic development community. He had no role in selecting them. The blame for leadership homogeneity could be placed at the feet of the boards.

Alas. Cleveland's institutional boards are overwhelmingly made up of business executives: the presidents, vice presidents and partners at banks, regional corporations and law firms. These are dudes much like Pinney himself, who enjoys board memberships at the Cuyahoga Community College Foundation, Destination Cleveland, the Front Exhibition Company, the Rock Hall, and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Pinney was also an executive committee member of the 2016 RNC Host Committee and a co-author of Cleveland's winning bid.

At only 42, Pinney is the managing partner of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, which is #25 on Crain's annual list of the region's largest firms. At Kohrman, Pinney actually does wield the requisite influence to determine the makeup of his firm's leadership. Of the 22 partners there, five are female. (With 23 percent female partners, this is actually near the high end of the Top 40, where the vast majority count female partners in the 15 - 25 percent range.)

*Correction: According to Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, after recent hirings and the promotion of a female associate last fall, the firm now employs seven female partners out of a total 25 locally.* 

The total number of minority partners at Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, however, is zero. 

Where is the fuss about this egregious lack of diversity, one wonders? Where is the outrage at McDonald Hopkins, a corporate law firm in the region's Top 10 with only three females and zero minorities as their top attorneys? What about Jones Day, the region's largest firm, with only one nonwhite partner out of 60?

Crain's, to its credit, included questions about minority hiring on its survey for the first time this year. But the list has received precious little coverage. Likewise Soder's analysis. When Soder Tweeted out his story and an accompanying graphic Monday morning, it didn't garner a single like or retweet.

About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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