Was it the snub heard ’round the world?
At a conference earlier this year, one speaker told the crowd that his former company, McKesson Corp., had cut a prominent firm out of the bidding for its legal work.
Though Arthur says he didn’t name the firm, he did explain his reason to the audience: “It had been highlighted in a legal magazine for having [more black partners than average].”
Arthur was followed on stage by Wal-Mart General Counsel Thomas Mars, who, Arthur and others say, told the audience: “I know who that firm is, and I am going to speak to them.”
As for Arthur, making business decisions based on diversity just makes good sense, he said. “Law firms exist to please and serve clients,” he said.
Outrageous that a client would give or take away business based on the completely irrelevant skin color of its attorneys, no?
Excuse me, I misquoted the adjectives in the story: the McKesson attorney, Arthur Chong, was complaining that the law firm had too many white partners. Which is apparently so unnotable that an entire article in The Recorder about Chong’s speech does not speak to or raise the point that his statement was appalling. (Kellie Schmitt, “Corporate Diversity Demands Put Pressure on Outside Counsel”, The Recorder, Dec. 28). Stories like this put the lie to any claim that African-American participation in big law firms is hindered by racism; if anything, law firms are forced by this socially-accepted racism to compete against one another to recruit and retain the few African-American attorneys out there, because clients apparently value the sneetches with the stars on their bellies more than sneetches who are merely the best lawyers, and shareholders tolerate this dissipation of value. (And welcome, WSJ Law blog readers, where there is a big debate in the comments.)