Over the past few weeks, the entire country has pondered how do we end the systemic racism targeting the black community that has plagued our nation for centuries. The horrific murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have left us angered and looking for ways we can contribute to long overdue changes. Many of us have been having these discussions internally and have asked the tough question: What can we do at Starnes? Today, the Executive Committee announces the following actions:
- Invest in Change
Rather than join the flood of pablum and platitudes found in press releases crafted by PR firms, we think the firm should focus on ways it can help effectuate real change. Accordingly, the firm will direct a substantial portion of its annual giving to a charity working to solve racial injustice. This year, we have decided to donate to the Equal Justice Initiative, which is based in Montgomery and is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society. We will also continue our support of the Magic City Bar. In addition, we will be examining all of our vendor relationships to search for ways we can increase our support for minority-owned businesses.
- Invigorate Our Diversity and Inclusion Programs
We operate in a profession that is woefully behind in terms of diversity. Nationally, 85% of lawyers are white, compared to 77% of the U.S. population. Only 36% of lawyers are women, 5% are African American, 5% are Hispanic, 3% are Asian, and 0.52% have a disability. While we have improved our diversity, we can do better with more voices on our diversity and inclusion team. Accordingly, we are opening the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee to allow voices other than partners by allowing associates, officers, and department heads to be selected for the Committee. If you are interested in joining, please let me know.
- Implement the Mansfield Rule
In 2017, the Diversity Lab proposed the Mansfield Rule, which was inspired by the Rooney Rule used by the NFL. It measures whether law firms have affirmatively considered at least 30 percent women, attorneys of color, LGBTQ+, and lawyers with disabilities for leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions, formal client pitch opportunities, and attorney hires. Previously, the certification process has not been open to firms smaller than 100 lawyers because of the substantial volume of hiring, promotions, and leadership transitions required for certification, but they just decided to open the process to mid-size firms. To date, no firms headquartered in Birmingham, Mobile, or Nashville have obtained the certification. We have decided to be the first.
Please continue to support one another. These recent outrages strike at an already difficult time, but we will get through this together, and will move forward as a united firm.