30 January 2019

Male, pale and stale complaint from general counsel

Ethnically mixed partnerships: diversity depends on geography

170 GC's open letter to law firms demands improved diversity or risk business, flags 'largely male and largely white' partner promotions.

Over 170 general counsel and corporate legal officers have signed an open letter to big law firms, highlighting new partner classes that ‘remain largely male and largely white.’


The letter explains corporates prefer to commit legal spend on firms committed to diversity and inclusion. The letter was signed by chief legal officers in a broad range of industries, including technology, retail and financial services. The companies included Google Fiber, Heineken USA, S&P Global Ratings and Booz Allen Hamilton. The letter explains, ‘we, as a group, will direct our substantial outside counsel spend to those law firms that manifest results with respect to diversity and inclusion, in addition to providing the highest degree of quality representation. We sincerely hope that you and your firm will be among those that demonstrate this commitment.’


The letter came as a direct response to a discussion which included Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian, and other law firms. The discussion referred to firms appearing to promote few women and minorities to partner in their most recent round of promotions. The letter stated, ‘we are disappointed to see that many law firms continue to promote partner classes that in no way reflect the demographic composition of entering associate classes. Partnership classes remain largely male and largely white.’ The warning was stated, ‘collectively, our companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on legal services and we are committed to ensuring equality in the legal profession,,’ adding ‘we expect the outside law firms we retain to reflect the diversity of the legal community and the companies and the customers we serve.’