08 February 2010

Kerr & Wagstaffe:
Besmirched and Beslurred?

Since I've been posting on this blawg, I've gotten a lot of email press releases. Politicians, publishers, think tanks, and people who want the world to know about something that has piqued their ire all seem to think it to be important that I know certain things. So, I can't say I was surprised when I got another one on Saturday (and yet another on Sunday).

In faux neutral manner, it was a slap at a San Francisco law firm, Kerr & Wagstaffe, and one of its senior partners, James Wagstaffe, who is an adjunct professor at UC Hastings Law. Basically, the evil of this firm is that "out of the ten attorneys currently employed nine are "white", six out of the seven partners are males , and the only associates are young and attractive white females." Heaven forfend!

So, I first go off to check out the attorneys at the firm, if for no other reason than to get a look at the hot women. Sadly, while none of the women were bad looking, none of them were so drop dead gorgeous that I became instantly smitten and ran to my car and started driving to SanFran to pledge my undying love. As well, they all seem entirely too smart and qualified (University of Michigan Law School, Ann Arbor; magna cum laude, Harvard Law School; B.A. degree in Political Science from the Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski in Bulgaria; 2 X UC Hastings Law). Gotta admit, with the implied "they were only hired because they are hotties" in the email, I was under the impression that they would have names like Trixie and Bubbles and be dressed in skimpy, tight fitting clothes. Instead, they're intimidating as all get out. I'm not sure I'd want to pit my poor besotted mind against any of them in a BS philosophy/political discussion at a party, much less face them in litigation.

So then I went on to check out the rest of the claim. Sure enough there's one female partner and one partner with a Chinese last name. Of course, if we assume he's Chinese, I guess we have to sort the others by names as well (4 English, 2 Scottish, 1 German, 1 French, & 1 Irish). Personally, I don't much go in for that kind of rubbish, so I'm going to assume they're all Americans. After all, if they ethnically identified the English and Irish would be shooting and bombing each other, and that doesn't make for a very productive law office. Just like the women, all the men seem very well qualified and experienced, although, admittedly, they weren't as easy on the eyes.

So, I decided to go look at the "electronic petition" mentioned in the email. Herein we are informed of such interesting "facts" as
*Mediocre firms and solo practitioners are a hodgepodge of Whites, Asians, Jews, and some Latinos. Of the solo practitioners, a large percentage of them are Jews, as oppose to other minorities, who are not incline to practice solo.

* Most firms, with very few exceptions, will employ Asians, usually females, and usually as associates. Asian associates tend to be hired in larger numbers because they are being perceived as hard workers, subservient, and with a very little chance of causing troubles or rocking the boat, so to speak. Also, hiring an Asian tends to serve as an "insurance" against allegation of racism and lack of diversity. Likewise, employing minorities as staff such as secretaries, clerks, legal assistants and receptionists will serve to rebut allegation of racism and discrimination in case such a claim is made. It also serves as a way of convincing the hiring partner that that he is not a racist by creating diverse workplace, and a chance to do some good while he is doing very well, indeed.

*If one of those "white shoe" firms will have a minority partner, he/she will be displayed and advertised to the world in an aggressive fashion, and in various ways such as award ceremonies, media interviews, luncheons, symposiums, MCLE, etc. Morrison & Forrester, for example, has a Latino partner that with the help of the media is being heavily promoted. Do not be surprised if you will see his white colleagues parading him on Market St.
Wow. An anti-racist petition which spews racist stereotypes. Why exactly are ethnic groups other than Jewish "not incline to practice solo?" That's not been my experience. I've seen quite a few people of ethnic groups ranging from Black, to Filipino, to Melungeons practicing solo and doing quite well at it, thank you very much. And what's with the inverse of that statement? Why does being Jewish lead to a burning desire to have a solo practice?

And, of course, Asian lawyers couldn't possibly be hired because they have earned the job. Nope, they are only hired because they'll sit there and stay shut up. And if you think a competent lawyer is willing to hire an incompetent person to answer the phone, keep his schedule, and keep his paperwork flowing, just so he can say his office is diverse, you're an idiot. A brand new lawyer, of any ethnicity or creed, is liable to do less damage than a bad secretary any day.

As to the third point, of course law firms show off their ethnic hires. It is a sad thing that they do so and it is terribly wrong to do to the lawyer. However, if they don't they get fussed at for not having anyone of a particular set. It sucks, but if they don't show that they've hired people of different sets they are liable to have someone file an electronic petition against them.

As I write this, the petition has 13 whole "signatures", 4 of which call out the author and 1 of which is the author threatening a disagreeing signatory with sanction by the law school. It's the exchange between these two which clarified what's actually going on here. I had thought that this was a non-hire who was striking back at the firm, but apparently it's even more petty than that. This is about a bad grade which the author got from James Wagstaffe in a CivPro class. A BAD GRADE. A law firm, which by all appearances is filled with bright, capable people, is dragged through the mud over a grade. YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

[addendum] The person in control of the e-petition has removed the two "signatures", claiming that it pointed to the wrong person. So, maybe it is about not getting hired. In any event, to pick on a particular 10 person law firm in a city the size of SanFran fairly screams "I'll get you!" for whatever reason.

BTW: The person who sent this to me did so through an Indian site "in.com". There wasn't even a Californian IP address attached to the email.


1) Before anyone graces me with a comment: I freely admit that I am a narrow minded, German-Catholic-Appalachian-Neanderthal-American who would be Center/Center Right where I now live (which means most SanFran citizens would probably see me as right of Moussolini) and just assume that I know I have all the evil prejudices and terrible traits that you are about to tell me I have. You don't have to waste your time typing all that into comments.

2) Yes, I realize that big firms tend to have monochromatic tendencies, although I think I've seen more BigLaw female lawyers than I've ever seen in CrimLaw / small firm circles. Still, a 10 person firm isn't BigLaw, and no matter who they hire a firm that size isn't going to ever get a correct demographic distribution. Note, for instance, that about 20% of the US is Germanic, but this firm only has one person with a Germanic name. Perhaps they should go out and hire another person of Germanic descent. In fact, if they desperately want to hire someone, anyone - no matter how unqualified he is - I'd be happy to take a $20k moving fee and guaranteed $250k a year for two years as my name is Germanic and my family is originally from Cincinnati, which is the most German city in the US.

[addendum] The law firm scrambled the order in which it presents its attorneys. Instead of being presented from senior to junior it's now a scramble with the top six faces including 3 females and the two most "non-white" males. See my paragraph above starting "As to the third point . . ."

[addendum] A comment noted that the name Ng is most likely Chinese rather than Vietnamese. I checked and this appears to be correct. The Vietnamese name would Ngo. Therefore, I have substituted Chinese for Vietnamese in the post above.

Links to Follow-up Posts:
Kerr & Wagstaffe, Part Deux
Kerr & Wagstaffe: The Final Word

Click on "CrimLaw" at top to go to main page.


ParatrooperJJ said...

Kelly is cute though.

Ken Lammers said...

Actually, I favor Cherokee.

Anonymous said...

The attorney names look alphabetical, not scrambled. For whatever that means.

Ken Lammers said...

Yes, they are. I didn't catch that initially - I think I got thrown off by the way Ms Scott Corley's name is presented. In any event, it still has the effect of changing the initial impression. Most firms avoid this in a different manner. They list members and you only see a picture if you click through to that individual's page.

Anonymous said...

Please note that "Ng" is most likely not a Vietnamese surname, but rather a Chinese surname.

Ken Lammers said...

Sorry, I will correct this.