David B. Wilkins

Lester Kissel Professor of Law

Director, Center on the Legal Profession

Vice Dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession

Biography

Professor Wilkins is the Lester Kissel Professor of Law, Vice Dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession, and Faculty Director of the Center on the Legal Profession and the Center for Lawyers and the Professional Services Industry at Harvard Law School. He is also a Senior Research Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a Fellow of the Harvard University Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics.

       

Professor Wilkins has written over 80 articles on the legal profession in leading scholarly journals and the popular press and is the co-author (along with his Harvard Law School colleague Andrew Kaufman) of one of the leading casebooks in the field.  His current scholarly projects include Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economies (where he directs over 50 researchers studying the impact of globalization on the market for legal services in rapidly developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe); After the JD (a ten-year nationwide longitudinal study of lawyers' careers); The Harvard Law School Career Study (examining, among other things, differences in the experiences of male and female graduates and the careers of lawyers who do not practice law); and The New Social Engineers (charting the historical development and current experiences of black lawyers in corporate law practice).

 

Professor Wilkins teaches several courses on lawyers including The Legal Profession, Legal Education for the Twenty-First Century, and Challenges of a General Counsel. In 2007, he co-founded Harvard Law School’s Executive Education Program, where he teaches in several courses including Leadership in Law Firms and Leadership in Corporate Counsel.

 

Professor Wilkins has given over 40 endowed lectures at universities around the world and is a frequent speaker at professional conferences and law firm and corporate retreats.  His recent academic honors include the 2012 Honorary Doctorate in Law from Stockholm University in Sweden, the 2012 Distinguished Visiting Mentor Award from Australia National University, the 2012 Genest Fellowship from Osgoode Hall Law School, the 2010 American Bar Foundation Scholar of the Year Award, the 2009 J. Clay Smith Award from Howard University School of Law, and the 2008 Order of the Coif Distinguished Visitor Fellowship.  In 2012, Professor Wilkins was elected as a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Areas of Interest

David B. Wilkins & Mihaela Papa, The Rise of the Corporate Legal Elite in the BRICS: Implications for Global Governance, 54 B.C. L. Rev . 1149 (2013).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Global Lawyering
,
Legal Services
Type: Article
Abstract
Both international relations scholars interested in the future of global governance and sociologists of the legal profession studying the globalization of the legal services market are devoting increasing attention to rising powers, particularly the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). Yet very little of this rich literature addresses the intersection between these two theoretical domains. In this Article, we explore one such intersection that is likely to be increasingly important in the coming years: the role that the new corporate legal elite emerging within the BRICS countries will play in shaping global governance. We conceptualize three processes through which this new elite can exert its influence: participation in corporate legal networks, engagement in the integration of the legal industry and of the world economy generally, and facilitation of the global rule of capital. Based on the analysis of these processes in the BRICS context, this Article discusses the potential implications of this new corporate legal elite for global governance – both of the legal profession and of the world order generally. We conclude by proposing a research agenda for advancing scholarship at the intersection of international relations and the sociology of the legal profession.
David B. Wilkins, Team of Rivals? Toward a New Model of the Corporate Attorney-Client Relationship, 78 Fordham L. Rev. 2067 (2010).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Corporate Law & Securities
Sub-Categories:
Corporate Law
,
Legal Services
Type: Article
Abstract
At the heart of the traditional understanding of the lawyer's role stands a simple but powerful assumption: That the attorney/client relationship is essentially one of agency. In this paper, I argue that notwithstanding its pedigree and intuitive appeal, this traditional assumption is no longer an appropriate template for the relationship between large companies and their primary outside law firms. My claim is both descriptive and normative. Using a variety of data including the results of an on-going study of the legal purchasing decisions of large US companies, I argue that a series of recent trends - the "convergence" of law firm relationships by companies, "consolidation" among firms, increasing integration and information exchange both within and across organizational boundaries, and a surprising amount of turnover among in-house lawyers - are leading companies and firms to enter into relationships that look more like the kind of strategic alliances or partnerships that companies often have with their other important suppliers than the principal-agent relationship envisioned by the traditional model. Borrowing a phrase that has been used to describe the long-term strategic partnerships between Japanese automakers and their suppliers, I call these new relationships "legal keiretsus".Rather than emphasizing the typical principal-agent "logic of power" where stronger actors attempt to gain by coercing their exchange partners into an asymmetric distribution of value, these new legal keiretsus rely on a "logic of embeddedness" that seeks to encourage reciprocity and mutual trust to produce joint gains that will be fairly distributed between the parties. This new logic, however, arguably threatens the ability of outside counsel to function as public-regarding gatekeepers. Although these concerns are legitimate, I will argue that the logic of embeddedness is no more corrosive of public regarding values than the logic of power that now typifies the relationship between companies and their outside firms. Indeed, this logic has the potential to be significantly less corrosive - particularly if we move away from an ethical and regulatory structures based on a principal-agent model that serves only to entrench the ability of powerful corporate-principals to impose their will on increasingly vulnerable lawyer-agents. I conclude by identifying questions for future research, particularly in light of the current economic crisis, recent initiatives such as the American Corporate Counsel Association's Value Challenge, and the growing tendency among corporate clients to focus on the "department" or "team" level when making legal purchasing decisions.
David B. Wilkins & Mitu G. Gulati, Why Are There So Few Black Lawyers in Corporate Law Firms?: An Institutional Analysis, 84 Calif. L. Rev. 493 (1996).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
,
Labor & Employment
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Discrimination
,
Civil Rights
,
Employment Discrimination
,
Legal Services
Type: Article
Abstract
Although the number of black students graduating from law schools has increased significantly in recent decades, blacks still make up a very small minority of the lawyers working in large corporate law firms. Available data indicate that these firms hire few blacks, and that those they do hire are more likely than their white peers to leave the firms before becoming partners. Conventional explanations blame the underrepresentation of blacks in corporate firms on either the racism of firms and their clients, or a shortage of qualified, interested black candidates. While acknowledging that in some instances these factors may help to explain the problem, this Article looks behind them to examine institutional factors that tend to perpetuate the existing underrepresentation. Specifically, the Article shows how the ways in which large corporate firms recruit and train lawyers tend both to shield discriminatory choices between black and white candidates from any competitive disadvantage, and to discourage black law students and lawyers from investing in skills that will enable them to succeed within corporate firms. Thus, the Article argues, firms' hiring and training decisions both shape and are shaped by the strategic choices of black candidates, with the net effect of keeping all but a few blacks from being hired and succeeding in the firm setting. Finally, this Article explores the implications of these incentives for five commonly proposed tools for diversifying corporate law firms: anti-discrimination laws, race-neutral institutional reforms, diversity education within firms, demand-creation initiatives, and supply-side initiatives to encourage hiring and promotion of black lawyers.
Scott A. Westfahl & David B. Wilkins, The Leadership Imperative: A Collaborative Approach to Professional Development in the Global Age of More for Less, 69 Stan. L. Rev. 1667 (2017).
Categories:
Corporate Law & Securities
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Legal Education
,
Legal Services
Type: Article
Abstract
Notwithstanding the increasing importance of technology, the practice of corporate law is—and is likely to remain for the foreseeable future—a human capital business. As a result, law firms must continue to attract, develop, and retain talented lawyers. Unfortunately, the traditional approach, which divides responsibility for professional development among law schools, which are supposed to teach students to think like a lawyer; law firms, which are expected to train associates to “be” lawyers; and corporate clients, whose job it is to foot the bill, is no longer well aligned to the current realities of the marketplace. In this Article, we document the causes for this misalignment and propose a new model of professional development in which law schools, law firms, and corporate clients collaborate to train lawyers to be lifelong learners in the full range of technical, professional, and network-building skills they will need to flourish throughout their careers. We offer specific proposals for how to achieve this realignment and confront the resistance that will inevitably greet any attempt to do so.
David B. Wilkins, Vikramaditya S. Khanna & David M. Trubek, An Introduction to Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economics: The Case of India, in The Indian Legal Profession in the Age of Globalization: The Rise of the Corporate Legal Sector and its Impact on Lawyers and Society 3 (David B. Wilkins, Vikramaditya S. Khanna & David M. Trubek eds., 2017).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Global Lawyering
,
Developing & Emerging Nations
,
Legal Services
Type: Book
Abstract
This book provides the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of globalization on the Indian legal profession.
David B. Wilkins, Vikramaditya S. Khanna & David M. Trubek, An Introduction to Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economics: The Case of India, in The Indian Legal Profession in the Age of Globalization: The Rise of the Corporate Legal Sector and its Impact on Lawyers and Society 3 (David B. Wilkins, Vikramaditya S. Khanna & David M. Trubek eds., 2017).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Global Lawyering
,
Legal Services
Type: Book
Abstract
This book provides the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of globalization on the Indian legal profession.
David B. Wilkins & Vikramaditya S. Khanna, Globalization and the Rise of the In-House Counsel Movement in India, in The Indian Legal Profession in the Age of Globalization: The Rise of the Corporate Legal Sector and its Impact on Lawyers and Society 114 (David B. Wilkins, Vikramaditya S. Khanna & David M. Trubek eds., 2017).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Global Lawyering
,
Legal Services
Type: Book
Abstract
This book provides the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of globalization on the Indian legal profession.
David B. Wilkins & Vikramaditya S. Khanna, Globalization and the Rise of the In-House Counsel Movement in India, in The Indian Legal Profession in the Age of Globalization: The Rise of the Corporate Legal Sector and its Impact on Lawyers and Society 114 (David B. Wilkins, Vikramaditya S. Khanna & David M. Trubek eds., 2017).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Global Lawyering
,
Legal Services
Type: Book
Abstract
This book provides the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of globalization on the Indian legal profession.
Ashish Nanda, David B. Wilkins & Bryon Fong, Mapping India’s Corporate Law Firm Sector, in The Indian Legal Profession in the Age of Globalization: The Rise of the Corporate Legal Sector and its Impact on Lawyers and Society 69 (David B. Wilkins, Vikramaditya S. Khanna & David M. Trubek eds., 2017).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Global Lawyering
,
Legal Services
Type: Book
Abstract
This book provides the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of globalization on the Indian legal profession.
Arpita Gupta, Vikramaditya S. Khanna & David B. Wilkins, Overview of Legal Practice in India and the Indian Legal Profession, in The Indian Legal Profession in the Age of Globalization: The Rise of the Corporate Legal Sector and its Impact on Lawyers and Society 40 (David B. Wilkins, Vikramaditya S. Khanna & David M. Trubek eds., 2017).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Global Lawyering
,
Legal Services
Type: Book
Abstract
This book provides the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of globalization on the Indian legal profession.
Arpita Gupta, Vikramaditya S. Khanna & David B. Wilkins, Overview of Legal Practice in India and the Indian Legal Profession, in The Indian Legal Profession in the Age of Globalization: The Rise of the Corporate Legal Sector and its Impact on Lawyers and Society 40 (David B. Wilkins, Vikramaditya S. Khanna & David M. Trubek eds., 2017).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Foreign Law
,
Global Lawyering
,
Legal Services
Type: Book
Abstract
This book provides the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of globalization on the Indian legal profession.
Ashish Nanda, David B. Wilkins & Bryon Fong, Mapping India’s Corporate Law Firm Sector, in The Indian Legal Profession in the Age of Globalization: The Rise of the Corporate Legal Sector and its Impact on Lawyers and Society 69 (David B. Wilkins, Vikramaditya S. Khanna & David M. Trubek eds., 2017).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Foreign Law
,
Legal Services
Type: Book
The Indian Legal Profession in the Age of Globalization: The Rise of the Corporate Legal Sector and its Impact on Lawyers and Society, (David B. Wilkins, Vikramaditya S. Khanna & David M. Trubek eds., Cambridge Univ. Press 2017).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Global Lawyering
,
Developing & Emerging Nations
,
Legal Services
Type: Book
Abstract
"This book provides the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of globalization on the Indian legal profession. Employing a range of original data from twenty empirical studies, the book details the emergence of a new corporate legal sector in India including large and sophisticated law firms and in-house legal departments, as well as legal process outsourcing companies. As the book's authors document, this new corporate legal sector is reshaping other parts of the Indian legal profession, including legal education, the development of pro bono and corporate social responsibility, the regulation of legal services, and gender, communal, and professional hierarchies with the bar. Taken as a whole, the book will be of interest to academics, lawyers, and policymakers interested in the critical role that a rapidly globalizing legal profession is playing in the legal, political, and economic development of important emerging economies like India, and how these countries are integrating into the institutions of global governance and the overall global market for legal services." --Publisher
David B. Wilkins & Maria J. Esteban Ferrer, The Integration of Law into Global Business Solutions: The Rise, Transformation, and Potential Future of the Big Four Accountancy Networks in the Global Legal Services Market, 42 Law & Soc. Inquiry (forthcoming 2017).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Global Lawyering
,
Legal Services
Type: Article
Abstract
Using a unique data set comprised of original research of both the corporate Web sites of the Big Four—PwC, Deloitte, KPMG, and EY—and their affiliated law firms, as well as archival material from the legal and accountancy press, this article documents the rise and transformation of the Big Four legal service lines since the enactment of the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002. Moreover, it demonstrates that there are good reasons to believe that these sophisticated players will be even more successful in penetrating the corporate legal services market in the decades to come, as that market increasingly matures in a direction that favors the integration of law into a wider category of business solutions that these globally integrated multidisciplinary practices now champion. We conclude with some preliminary observations about the implications of the reemergence of the Big Four legal networks for the legal profession.
Sida Liu, David M. Trubek & David B. Wilkins, Mapping the Ecology of China’s Corporate Legal Sector: Globalization and its Impact on Lawyers and Society, 3 Asian J.L & Soc’y 273 (2016).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Global Lawyering
,
East Asian Legal Studies
,
Legal Services
Type: Article
Abstract
Globalization is rapidly changing the landscape of law practice in China, especially its corporate legal sector. This article reports on the preliminary findings of the China research of the Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economies (GLEE) Project—a comparative study that examines how globalization is reshaping the market for legal services in important emerging economies and how these developments are contributing to the transformation of the political economy in these countries and beyond. Adopting an ecological approach, which examines how different segments of the legal system interact with one another in complex ways, this article maps the corporate core, international linkages, and domestic contexts of China’s globalizing corporate legal sector and discusses its impact on lawyers and society.
Diversity in Practice: Race, Gender, and Class in Legal and Professional Careers (Spencer Headworth, Robert L. Nelson, Ronit Dinovitzer & David B. Wilkins eds., Cambridge Univ. Press 2016).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Labor & Employment
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Gender & Sexuality
,
Civil Rights
,
Discrimination
,
Employment Discrimination
,
Employment Practice
,
Legal Services
,
Legal Education
Type: Book
Abstract
"Expressions of support for diversity are nearly ubiquitous among contemporary law firms and corporations. Organizations back these rhetorical commitments with dedicated diversity staff and various diversity and inclusion initiatives. Yet, the goal of proportionate representation for people of color and women remains unrealized. Members of historically underrepresented groups remain seriously disadvantaged in professional training and work environments that white, upper-class men continue to dominate. While many professional labor markets manifest patterns of demographic inequality, these patterns are particularly pronounced in the law and elite segments of many professions. Diversity in Practice analyzes the disconnect between expressed commitments to diversity and practical achievements, revealing the often obscure systemic causes that drive persistent professional inequalities. These original contributions build on existing literature and forge new paths in explaining enduring patterns of stratification in professional careers. These more realistic assessments provide opportunities to move beyond mere rhetoric to something approaching diversity in practice" -- Back cover.
David B. Wilkins & Young-Kyu Kim, The Action After the Call: What general counsels say about the value of diversity in legal purchasing decisions in the years following the “Call to Action”, in Diversity in Practice:  Race, Gender, and Class in Legal and Professional Careers 37 (Spencer Headworth, Robert L. Nelson, Ronit Dinovitzer & David B. Wilkins eds., 2016).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Legal Services
Type: Book
Abstract
Expressions of support for diversity are nearly ubiquitous among contemporary law firms and corporations. Organizations back these rhetorical commitments with dedicated diversity staff and various diversity and inclusion initiatives.
David B. Wilkins, The Accountants are Coming–Again! The Rise and Transformation of the Big 4 Accountancy Firms and What it Means for the Global Market for Legal Services (Sibley Lecture Series, Univ. Ga. Sch. Law Paper 87, Jan. 28, 2016).
Categories:
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Legal Services
Type: Presentation
Abstract
On January 28, 2016 Georgia Law's 113th Sibley Lecture was delivered by Harvard Law School's David B. Wilkins, who currently serves as the school's Kissel Professor of Law, its director of the Center on the Legal Profession and its vice dean for global initiatives on the legal profession. Wilkins presented "The Accountants Are Coming ― Again!: The Rise and Transformation of the Big 4 Accountancy Firms and What it Means for the Global Market for Legal Services” at the event.
David B. Wilkins, Bryon Fong & Ronit Dinovitzer, The Women and Men of Harvard Law School: The Preliminary Results from the HLS Career Study (Harvard Law Sch. Ctr. on the Legal Profession Research Paper No. 2015-6, May 22, 2015).
Categories:
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Legal Education
Type: Other
Abstract
There is widespread consensus that the legal profession stands at an important inflection point. Traditional models of professional organization, practice, and education are under increasing pressure to adapt to important changes in the environments in which lawyers work. At the same time, these same forces make the profession’s commitment to its traditional ideals of equality and the rule of law more relevant and important than ever. The current status of women in the legal profession mirrors this complex duality. On the one hand, the number of women entering the profession has increased dramatically in recent decades, and women lawyers can now be found in leadership positions in virtually every major legal institution in the country, including three female justices on the United States Supreme Court. And yet, the percentage of women in these top positions remains far below their representation in the profession, even when adjusted for the fact that women did not begin to enter legal practice in significant numbers until the 1970s. To make matters worse, even women who have achieved important career success appear to be leaving their prestigious positions - and the profession as a whole - in alarming numbers. It is against this background that we offer this Preliminary Report on The Women and Men of Harvard Law School. The Preliminary Report presents the results of the Harvard Law School Career Study (HLSCS), conducted by the school’s Center on the Legal Profession (CLP). Begun with a generous grant from a visionary group of women alumnae in connection with the 55th celebration of the graduation of the school’s first female students in 1953, the study seeks to deepen the understanding of the career choices made by HLS graduates by providing for the first time systematic empirical information about the careers trajectories of graduates from different points in the school’s history. In this Preliminary Report, we offer a first look at the Study’s findings about the salient similarities and differences between the careers of the school’s female and male graduates.
David B. Wikins, Law Firms, in International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences 578 (James D. Wright ed., 2nd ed. 2015).
Categories:
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Legal Services
Type: Book
Abstract
Large law firms patterned on the Anglo-American model can now be found in most major commercial centers around the world. Yet, at the very time that mode of the production of law is spreading around the world, the traditional ‘Cravath System’ upon which the Anglo-American model is based is increasingly under pressure, both by sophisticated clients demanding ‘more for less,’ and by a range of alternative providers offering competing services at the intersection of law, technology, project management, and other professional expertise. This article seeks to explain this paradox and posits some alternative futures for large law firms in the new ‘global age of more for less.’
Ben W. Heineman, Jr., William F. Lee & David B. Wilkins, Lawyers as Professionals and Citizens: Key Roles and Responsibilities in the 21st Century (Harv. Law Sch. Ctr. on the Legal Profession 2014).
Categories:
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Legal Services
Type: Other
Abstract
This essay presents a practical vision of the responsibilities of lawyers as both professionals and as citizens at the beginning of the 21st century. Specifically, we seek to define and give content to four ethical responsibilities that we believe are of signal importance to lawyers in their fundamental roles as expert technicians, wise counselors, and effective leaders: responsibilities to their clients and stakeholders; responsibilities to the legal system; responsibilities to their institutions; and responsibilities to society at large. Our fundamental point is that the ethical dimensions of lawyering for this era must be given equal attention to—and must be highlighted and integrated with—the significant economic, political, and cultural changes affecting major legal institutions and the people and institutions lawyers serve.
David B. Wilkins, Is the In-House Counsel Movement Going Global? A Preliminary Assessment of the Role of Internal Counsel in Emerging Economies, 2012 Wisc. L. Rev. 251 (2012).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Corporate Law & Securities
Sub-Categories:
Corporate Law
,
Developing & Emerging Nations
,
Global Lawyering
,
Legal Services
Type: Article
Abstract
The article discusses the growth of in-house counsel in U.S. companies and their performing the work traditionally done by the outside counsel. It also discusses the rise of in-house counsel movement in other parts of the world, especially in the emerging economies. The internal counsel's new and increased roles in the companies are also discussed.
John C. Coates, Michele M. DeStefano, Ashish Nanda & David B. Wilkins, Hiring Teams, Firms, and Lawyers: Evidence of the Evolving Relationships in the Corporate Legal Market, 36 Law & Soc. Inquiry 999 (2011).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
Corporate Law & Securities
Sub-Categories:
Corporate Law
,
Empirical Legal Studies
,
Legal Services
Type: Article
Abstract
How are relationships between corporate clients and law firms evolving? Drawing on interview and survey data from 166 chief legal officers of S&P 500 companies from 2006–2007, we find that—contrary to standard depictions of corporate client-provider relationships—(1) large companies have relationships with ten to twenty preferred providers; (2) these relationships continue to be enduring; and (3) clients focus not only on law firm platforms and lead partners, but also on teams and departments within preferred providers, allocating work to these subunits at rival firms over time and following “star” lawyers, especially if they move as part of a team. The combination of long-term relationships and subunit rivalry provides law firms with steady work flows and allows companies to keep cost pressure on firms while preserving relationship-specific capital, quality assurance, and soft forms of legal capacity insurance. Our findings have implications for law firms, corporate departments, and law schools.
Michael Ashley Stein, Michael E. Waterstone & David B. Wilkins, Cause Lawyering for People with Disabilities, 123 Harv. L. Rev. 1658 (2010) (reviewing Samuel R. Bagenstos, Law and the Contradictions of the Disability Rights Movement (2009)).
Categories:
Health Care
,
Government & Politics
,
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Civil Rights
,
Disability Rights
,
Discrimination
,
Judges & Jurisprudence
,
Supreme Court of the United States
,
Disability Law
,
Legal Reform
Type: Article
David B. Wilkins, "If You Can't Join 'Em, Beat 'Em!": The Rise and Fall of the Black Corporate Law Firm, 60 Stan. L. Rev. 1733 (2008).
Categories:
Corporate Law & Securities
,
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Corporate Law
,
Race & Ethnicity
,
Legal Services
Type: Article
Abstract
Beginning in the 1980s, a group of black legal entrepreneurs frustrated with the slow pace of integration in mainstream large law firms set out to create their own “black” (or “minority”) “corporate” firms. Although rarely articulated in quite these terms, their goal was to create institutions capable of doing for black lawyers in the waning decades of the twentieth century what the “Jewish” firms successfully accomplished for a similarly marginalized group in the century’s middle decades: to create institutions so large and successful that they would eventually forced the mainstream bar to eliminate (or at least significantly reduce) the discriminatory barriers that prevented blacks from achieving full professional status. For a brief period, it seemed like history would repeat itself and the dream of creating true black corporate law firms would succeed. But by the turn of the twenty first century, most of the firms that had been started with such hope just a few years before had either shuttered their doors or shrunk significantly in both size and ambition. In this article, I chronicle this rise and fall through the voices of over 50 lawyers who were either involved in creating black corporate law firms or were in a position to help these fledgling organizations succeed. I argue that the stories of these pioneers shed important light on the transformation of the market for legal services, as well as contemporary debates about diversity in the legal profession, the importance of self-identified “black” institutions in an increasingly integrated world, and the lasting value of quixotic quests.
David B. Wilkins, Partner, Shmartner! EEOC v. Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, 120 Harv. L. Rev. 1264 (2007).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Labor & Employment
Sub-Categories:
Employment Discrimination
,
Employment Practice
,
Legal Services
Type: Article
David B. Wilkins, A Systematic Response to Systemic Disadvantage: A Response to Sander, 57 Stan. L. Rev. 1915 (2005).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Discrimination
,
Legal Education
Type: Article
Abstract
In a recent article in the Stanford Law Review, Professor Richard Sander argues that law schools should dramatically reduce or eliminate their affirmative action policies for black applicants because these policies harm rather than help their intended beneficiaries. Although Sander presents many troubling statistics about black performance in law school and on the bar exam, his core claim that blacks are harmed by affirmative action rests on the counterintuitive assertion that blacks who attend more highly ranked law schools because of such policies are hurt more by the lower grades that they are likely to receive at these institutions than they are helped by the benefits of graduating from a more prestigious institution. In a Response that will also be published in the Stanford Law Review, I argue that the evidence Sander proffers does not come anywhere close to proving that most black lawyers would be better off in a world in which the vast majority of them would attend law schools 20-50 places below the ones that they currently attend, and where hundreds of blacks who currently attend law school today would be denied the opportunity to do so altogether. Affirmative action has played a crucial role in helping black lawyers to overcome the systematic and persistent obstacles that continue to make it more difficult for these new entrants to succeed notwithstanding the progress the country has made in reducing the overt discrimination that for the first two centuries of our history kept blacks out of virtually every desirable aspect of American society. Indeed, it is precisely because these policies have been so successful that for the first time blacks with high grades from lower-status schools have a plausible chance of gaining entry into high-paying positions in the legal profession. These tentative gains, however, are unlikely to continue if the number of black graduates from highly-ranked schools were to decline dramatically. Although the picture is more complex with respect to those black students who are unlikely to end up in high-status jobs, they too have benefited more from affirmative action than Sander's analysis suggests. Equally important, the problems those in this group undoubtedly confront have as much to do with the way that bar exams are conceived and administered as they do with these students' potential to become competent practitioners. The argument proceeds in four parts. Part I briefly reminds us of the long and sorry history of exclusion that gave rise to the need for affirmative action in the first place and examines how this legacy continues to disadvantage black lawyers. Part II examines Sander's contention that grades are more important than law school status in the context of black graduates from highly-ranked schools. Contrary to Sander's assertion, black lawyers in this group gain benefits from their prestigious degrees that extend far beyond the starting salaries that they receive upon graduation. In turn, these fledgling members of the profession's elite provide important benefits to all black lawyers - and to society as a whole. Part III examines those black lawyers who appear to have benefited the least from affirmative action: those who attend lower-tier local and regional law schools. Although Sander makes a persuasive claim that these students face daunting risks in pursuing a career in law, a significant number plausibly benefit from their legal education, even if they do not go on to become lawyers. Moreover, given that bar passage is the most important obstacle facing blacks in this group, we can gain as many new black lawyers by reforming the way that such exams are administered and taken as Sander claims will result from eliminating affirmative action. Part IV briefly concludes by arguing that, rather than improving conditions for black lawyers, Sander's proposal runs the risk of making many of the problems he identifies worse.
David B. Wilkins, From "Separate is Inherently Unequal" to "Diversity is Good for Business": The Rise of Market-Based Diversity Arguments and the Fate of the Black Corporate Bar, 117 Harv. L. Rev. 1548 (2004).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Corporate Law & Securities
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
,
Labor & Employment
Sub-Categories:
Corporate Law
,
Race & Ethnicity
,
Discrimination
,
Employment Discrimination
,
Legal Services
Type: Article
Abstract
Fifty years after John W. Davis, one of America's premier corporate lawyers, took on the defense of segregation in Brown v. Board of Education as a pro bono case, corporate America appears to have firmly embraced the mantra that diversity is good for business. In this Article, I examine this surprising turn of events by investigating the rise of market-based diversity arguments in the legal profession itself. Specifically, I examine how black lawyers seeking to integrate corporate law firms have increasingly staked their claim on the contention that diversity is good for the business of law firms and clients. Although it is not surprising that diversity advocates have been drawn to such arguments, I argue that whether these claims will actually produce greater opportunities for black lawyers - and whether the resulting diversity will in turn further Brown's other goal of promoting social justice through law for all Americans - depends upon a closer examination of the connection between diversity and business than most proponents of the business case for diversity in the legal profession have been willing to undertake or even to acknowledge. As a preliminary matter, advocates must confront the profession's deep commitment to the idea that it is actually homogeneity that best serves firms and clients - a commitment that may be even harder to shake in law firms than it apparently has been in corporate America. At the same time, advocates must also be aware of the danger that market-based diversity arguments will encourage various forms of race-matching, pigeonholing, and moral evasion that can end up harming the cause of diversity by marginalizing and alienating minority lawyers. Ironically, taking note of these complexities may also hold the key to making progress on Brown's social justice goals as well. Integrating the corporate bar is a social justice issue of considerable importance. Nevertheless, if bringing diversity to the elite ranks of the American legal profession is going to do more than accentuate the yawning gap between the legal haves and have-nots, then those who come to occupy these positions of power must have normative commitments that both shape and constrain the business interests of their powerful clients. Contrary to the gloomy predictions of diversity advocates who urge abandoning social justice arguments for diversity altogether, however, there are good reasons to believe that black lawyers who maintain a normative understanding of diversity that goes beyond corporate self-interest may, paradoxically, have important advantages in building a credible business case for diversity in their own careers.
David B. Wilkins, Rollin' On the River: Race, Elite Schools, and the Equality Paradox, 25 Law & Soc. Inquiry 527 (2000).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Discrimination
,
Legal Education
Type: Article
David B. Wilkins, Why Global Law Firms Should Care about Diversity: Five Lessons from the American Experience, 2 Eur. J.L. Reform 415 (2000).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Global Lawyering
,
Legal Services
Type: Article
Abstract
Globalization has finally hit the legal services market. Not surprisingly, lawyers in Britain, Europe, Asia, and other commercial centers who seek to take advantage of this trend frequently pattern their efforts on American law firms. Lawyers from around the world, however, should pause before uncritically accepting the self-interested claims of US lawyers about the competitive and professional virtues of American-style legal practice in a global marketplace. To be sure, the fast paced, entrepreneurial, and business oriented style of lawyering pioneered by US law firms is at the heart of global legal practice. What is less easy to see - but no less true - is that the "Cravath System" which most American firms employ also contains structural and ideological features that will make it difficult for firms embracing this system to meet the challenges of globalization. To see these limitations, the world's aspiring global legal elite would do well to look carefully at the record of US law firms on what might at first seem like an unrelated issue: the attempt by women and minority lawyers in the US to integrate elite law firms. Globalization and diversity are almost never expressly linked beyond the trite (albeit true) observation by diversity advocates in the United States that the majority of the world's population is neither white nor male. This truism, and the corresponding claim that "diversity is good for business," however, obscures as much as it reveals about the important connection between these two concurrent trends. Whether or not the world's undeniable demographic diversity will be good for the business of global law firms depends upon whether these institutions learn how to compete in a global arena in which many of the conditions that spawned the American model of legal practice have been fundamentally transformed. Specifically, in order to be successful, global law firms must confront five interrelated challenges: growth, cultural conflict, institutional innovation, fluid career paths, and the transformation of professional ideals. In this paper I will argue that efforts to diversify American law firms cast important light on each of these important issues. A careful review of this history, I submit, yields important lessons about the limitations of nineteenth century Cravathism as a blueprint for twenty first century global law firms.
David B. Wilkins, On Being Good “and” Black, 112 Harv. L. Rev. 1924 (reviewing Paul M. Barrett, The Good Black: A True Story of Race in America (1999)).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Discrimination
,
Legal Services
Type: Article
David B. Wilkins, Everyday Practice Is the Troubling Case: Confronting Context in Legal Ethics, in Everyday Practice and Trouble Cases (Austin Sarat et al., eds., 1998).
Categories:
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Legal Ethics
Type: Book
David B. Wilkins & Mitu G. Gulati, Reconceiving the Tournament of Lawyers: Tracking, Seeding, and Information Control in the Internal Labor Markets of Elite Law Firms, 84 Va. L. Rev. 1581 (1998).
Categories:
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Legal Services
Type: Article
David B. Wilkins, Who Should Regulate Lawyers, 105 Harv. L. Rev. 801 (1992).
Categories:
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Legal Services
,
Professional Responsibility
Type: Article

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