Plaintiff Trial Lawyers may act as if but are not – holier than thou.
As protesters topple monuments that symbolize white supremacy, the progressive trial bar stands proudly to the side watching. Perhaps not all applauding loudly. But as advocates for the constitution and against race based discrimination, we agree. It is time those monuments came down. For a great explanation – see Jeffrey Robinson’s YouTube “opening statement” type presentation.
Yet, as a profession we have not done much better in terms of recognizing our own worship of the long time dominant majority White male trial lawyer model.
Lawyers are social creatures. We join organizations. We celebrate the outstanding chosen few among us. We do so by handing out awards. But if we were to turn the lens on ourselves, we would see that we are just as resistant to change as the Tennessee legislature which to this day refuses to remove the bust of the Grand Wizard of the KKK from its capital building.
The trial bar has historically named awards after the White male trial lawyer icon of the moment. In Washington, our trial bar diversity award is named after Carl Maxey who was Black. But all the rest honor White men who have either died or retired – Tom Chambers, Alvin Anderson, Gerhard Letzing. Nationally, AAJ awards are named after White men – Harry Philo, Steven Sharp, David Shrager, Howard Twiggs, Widemann & Wysocki, and Leonard Ring. Though the AAJ minority caucus named its soaring eagle award after Johnnie Cochran.
Most new lawyers have not a clue who any of these iconic-at-the-time lawyers were.
Of course the problem goes further than just the name of the award. The most coveted award of Washington State Association for Justice is the Tom Chambers Trial Lawyer of the Year Award. It has been handed out 40 times since 1978. Of the 40 recipients, 35 are male with 4 of those males of color. 5 are female with 1 of those (yours truly) of color. This means that 87.5% of the recipients are male; 12.5% female; that 87.5 of the recipients are white and 12.5% of color. It also means (if you are keeping track) that female of color represents 2.5% of the total. These statistics probably won’t improve any time soon.
Which brings me back to the topic of trial lawyers branding all the aspirational awards as White Men (except the diversity awards).
How about we undo that. Not to say each person was not extremely worthy and important in their own right. But unless we tear down all the White male monuments, there will never be room for anyone else.
Photo: My 3 White male award busts along with the personalized bobble head Michael gave me and an RBG toy.