Law firms are hiring more people of color but are less successful at retaining them, according to the recent Vault Diversity Survey. More than 22% of the lawyers who left their firms last year were members of racial or ethnic minority groups, even though attorneys of color represent only 17% of attorneys at surveyed firms.
In this podcast, Conway Ekpo, an in-house lawyer at a Wall Street bank, and Erika Stallings, an entertainment lawyer, discuss how they and 20 other seasoned black lawyers — consisting of partners, mid-level and senior associates, and in-house attorneys — realized they needed to use their knowledge and expertise to address the dearth of black lawyers in the legal industry. “If you look at most large law firms, black associate ranks tend to hover around 4% at the most, give or take,” Ekpo says.
To address this gap, Ekpo and Stallings and a few others founded the Black BigLaw Pipeline (BBP) to provide younger attorneys with the skills and training needed to navigate Big Law and develop meaningful relationships that will benefit them in the long-term. In a bootcamp format, the BBP focuses on litigation and transactional skills training along with personal effectiveness skills that emphasizes emotional intelligence, branding, and relationship-building. In addition, the BBP provides sponsorship, mentoring, and a community to address what many early-career black lawyers describe as feelings of isolation at their respective firms.
In this podcast, Stallings and Ekpo also talk with Demetria Johnson, a contributor to Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, about how BBP was inspired by the African proverb “each one, teach one…” and how they see this initiative having success in advancing the black lawyer talent pipeline within Big Law.