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06 March 2019 at 11:12 BST

Suit alleges law firm's minority lawyers used as 'diversity props'

Black lawyer tells her story in law suit and calls southern US firm's 'trailblazer' diversity commitment 'blatant lies' and a false façade.'

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Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson PA, a US Southeast law firm, is accused in a new lawsuit of using minority lawyers as ‘diversity props’ to profit a still largely white male partnership.

Cards stacked

Sharika Robinson, a black former associate with the firm, describes race discrimination in the firm as a continuing course of conduct that dates back to 2002. At that time, the firm became an ‘original signatory’ to a local bar association’s call to action of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, Ms Robinson explains. She argues the firm’s claimed commitment to that pledge is ‘blatant lies’ used by the firm to market it as a ‘trailblazer’ to clients, and a ‘false façade’ that deceived her into joining the firm. Ms Robinson states that she had overcome many obstacles as ‘a teen mother with the cards stacked against her’ to work her way through college and law school, and managed to gain ‘two highly coveted judicial clerkships.’ Soon after being hired in 2015, she explained that black lawyers face a different reality at Robinson Bradshaw, including a separate Christmas party just for black attorneys at which they are prohibited to discuss race relations. It also includes less favorable job assignments, she says.

Firm denial

The lawsuit names four male partners, three white and one black, as defendants. Ms Robinson says she may add more claims once the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finishes investigating a race and sex discrimination charge she filed with the agency in November. She said the firm retaliated by cutting her off from ‘meaningful legal work, leaving her alone and isolated.’ General counsel Kate Maynard said, ‘Robinson Bradshaw denies Sharika Robinson’s claims, and specifically denies that the firm discriminated against her in any way. We are committed to diversity and inclusion, as evidenced by our attorneys’ contributions to the firm, profession and community as a whole.’

 
   
 
 
 

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