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25 June 2020

Alliance of top US law firms to launch high-impact litigation to stamp out racism

Law Firm Antiracism Alliance signs up more than 125 law firms it says are 'uniquely positioned' to effect change

By Ben Edwards

Legal observers in New York during protests against the killing of George Floyd; The LFAA says law firms and lawyers are in a unique position to effect change Ron Adar/Shutterstock

More than 125 US law firms have signed up to an antiracism initiative which aims to root out and end structural and systemic racism.

This week’s launch of the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance (LFAA) has sprung from the outpouring of anguish and pledges to take action by business law firm leaders on behalf of their firms that followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.

The charter and a list of participating firms are currently being hosted on Skadden’s website, one of the charter’s signatories. As of yesterday (24 June), 127 firms had signed up.

‘Lawyers and law firms are uniquely positioned to analyse and advocate to change laws and policies that encourage, perpetuate or allow racial injustice,’ the charter states.

It adds: ‘Recent events have affirmed and highlighted the need and responsibility for law firms to do more in partnership with legal services organisations to identify and dismantle structural or systemic racism in the law.’

The LFAA will coordinate with members to create large-scale and long-term pro bono projects, as well as demanding that member firms eliminate policies and practices that could perpetuate racial inequalities within their businesses.

It plans to create a Systemic Racism Legal Inventory of ‘laws, rules, policies and practices that result in negative outcomes for people of colour’ and ‘implement legislative and regulatory advocacy strategies’ to change them, including ‘high-impact litigation’.

The Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo) is charged with co-ordinating the alliance, which is planning to host a summit of key stakeholders.

Ben Weinberg, pro bono partner at charter signatory Dentons and a former president of APBCo, said: “We are stronger together, and I’m gratified by our collective resolve to accept responsibility and contribute to permanent change in the unjust application of our laws. The current situation is widespread and untenable, and as lawyers we recognise the ability we have to help create solutions.”

Julie Jones, chair of signatory Ropes & Gray, said: “Ropes & Gray is committed to true equality. Racist structures and systems stand in the way of that and are perpetuating inequities in our society. We are proud to be a leader in this alliance, identifying and deconstructing areas of the law that create a cycle of inequality and injustice. Working in a coordinated, deliberate way, this group’s aim is to create a deep, lasting change.”

Further reading on diversity and inclusion

'Constantly having to prove myself' - ABA research highlights obstacles facing women lawyers of colour - New study based on in-depth interviews argues legal profession is yet to create truly inclusive culture

Orrick hires senior JP Morgan lawyer to lead diversity push - Duane Hughes will co-ordinate firm's work on $5m Move the Needle Fund to improve diversity Seyfarth Shaw forms coalition to prevent impact of Covid-19 from undermining diversity - US firm teams up with array of representative groups to establish The Belonging Project

More women must enter male-dominated legal tech to guard against AI bias, conference hears - Former UK law society president warns of risk of bias being hardwired into AI

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