- Edward Blum’s group sends letters to three law firms questioning diversity fellowships
- Group earlier sued Perkins Coie, Morrison & Foerster
Oct 12 (Reuters) – An anti-affirmative action group whose lawsuits pushed two major law firms to recently alter fellowships they offered law students to help bolster diversity in their ranks on Thursday said it was considering suing three more unless they did the same.
A group founded by Edward Blum, the activist behind the successful U.S. Supreme Court challenge to race-conscious college admissions policies, in letters said it was considering similar legal action against Winston & Strawn, Hunton Andrews Kurth, and Adams and Reese and asked whether they planned to change their programs.
New Orleans-based Adams and Reese told Blum’s group in a letter later on Thursday that it would not proceed in 2024 with its Adams and Reese 1L Minority Fellowship, a summer-associate program that was open to first-year law students who were “members of racial and ethnic minority groups and other disadvantaged groups.”
Winston, Hunton and Adams and Reese did not respond to requests for comment.
Blum’s American Alliance for Equal Rights said each firm had fellowship programs that it viewed as “racially exclusive” in violation of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, a Civil War-era law that bars racial bias in contracting.
“To avoid litigation, the Alliance hopes these law firms will immediately modify their programs to bring them into compliance with our nation’s civil rights laws,” Blum said in a statement.
The non-profit had relied on that law for two earlier lawsuits against the law firms Perkins Coie and Morrison & Foerster, alleging their programs unlawfully excluded certain people, including white students, based on their race.
Blum’s group dismissed those cases recently after the firms changed the application criteria to be race-neutral.
At issue are paid fellowships designed in part to help major law firms recruit people of color, which major law firms have long struggled to add to their partnership ranks.
Winston & Strawn, a Chicago-founded law firm, runs a summer-associate program called the 1L Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Scholars program.
Applicants must be from a “disadvantaged and historically underrepresented group in the legal profession.” Participants work as paid summer associates and can potentially receive $50,000 scholarships.
Hunton Andrews Kurth’s 1L Diversity Clerkship program is similarly a summer-associate program and is restricted to law students who self-identify as Hispanic; Black; American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; or two or more races.
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Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston
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