“Diversenfreude” And The Case Of Jones Day


Once based in


Cleveland
,
the huge law firm of


Jones Day

now calls itself a


“Global
Institution.”

The firm—courtroom defenders of Big Tobacco, the 19th
most prestigious firm in the United States


according to
Vault.com,

 and the
eighth-highest grossing firm in the


Global 100
—has
been hit with a racial discrimination suit filed by a
black ex-secretary named Jaki Nelson.


She alleges that she was fired for being a troublemaker
after complaining about discrimination, and that Jones
Day tolerated an atmosphere of
“racism”— and
that Frederick
“Rick”
McNight, the managing partner in charge of
Jones Day`s Los Angeles office,



once used the
N-word to describe a robber!

[Ex-Jones
Day Secretary Sues, Claims Layoffs Targeted Minorities,
Troublemakers
,
By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal, November 9, 2010.]

The complaint
Nelson filed is indeed


“salacious”

and includes allegations of racial slurs and
“inappropriate
sexual conduct.”
[
PDF]

Biglaw gossip
blog Above the Law has gathered comments from those
inside the firm who demur. [
Nelson
v. Jones Day: Another Side to the Story
,
November 11, 2010]

I`m inclined
to believe the firm insiders who say that Nelson, rather
than being a victim of racial discrimination, was an
underperformer who spent firm hours monitoring her Ebay
business. Law firms are famously harsh environments, but
partners do not run around yelling the
“n-word”
.

My guess would
be that Nelson, who was let go along with other staffers
in a group layoff, is taking advantage of her racial
status to squeeze more money out of the firm—standard
operating procedure in


American
corporate life today.

The Above the
Law commenters say Jones Day is actually terrified of
dealing squarely with minority employees for fear of a
discrimination suit. So these employees get away with
bloody murder. That`s not hard to believe either.

Elsewhere,
there`s a similar effect with non-white lawyers. [
`Confrontational`
Lawyer Loses DLA Piper Bias Suit,

 By Debra Cassens
Weiss, ABA Journal, December 7, 2007]

In
my time as a lawyer, I`ve seen the same patterns. I`ve
worked in government litigation offices where black or
Hispanic “support
staffers”
, as we called them, came to work
intoxicated, refused to work and ran around like
screaming children during work hours. But they couldn`t
be fired, either for union or racial reasons, or both.
One black man was only fired after he was caught
masturbating in a closet. (It probably helped that the
woman who caught him was also black, and not shy about
her displeasure).

The private
sector`s diversity plagues are perhaps less acute, but
still felt. At the law firm where I toiled for several
years, there was a single black associate and a single
black partner. The black associate was remarkably
personable, but his billable hours were woeful (our
system allowed you to check up on anyone else`s
hours—and I once checked everyone in a fit of
competitive curiosity). The black partner was also a
social ace, but I recall one white associate who`d been
teamed up with him for a trial being baffled by the
partner`s bizarre courtroom approach. The case—a rare
plaintiff`s side matter for our firm, which almost
always took the defense side—was a dog that lost the
firm a lot of money).

But so what?
As the sole black associate and sole black partner, both
these men were bulletproof.

What was the
firm going to do—fire its only black associate? Not a
chance.

It amazes me
how lawyers, so quick to pounce on the slightest mistake
of an adversary and so ruthless in their analysis of a
given situation, can go completely blind when faced with
underperforming or incompetent non-whites. But you can
be sure that no legal employer will ever issue a
statement like this:

“Come to think of it, folks,
“diversity” is a big joke. We should be going by the
skills and performance of the individual, not trying to
assemble a palette of colorful faces for a brochure
shoot. If someone`s not cutting it, they should be fired
without fear of a race discrimination suit.”

No, they`re
going to continue to mouth their
“commitment to diversity”
.

Jones Day,
like every other institution in America,


extols the
benefits of “diversity”
.
Someone somewhere can probably tell you the princely sum
the firm has spent on
“diversity”
.


In the cringe-inducting doublespeak of the times, Jones
Day endorses the notion of diversity as an
investment.


So, in the spirit of Above The Law`s
Skaddenfreude—a
combination of the German
schadenfreude and the name of another prestigious law
firm,


Skadden Arps
,
meaning


taking pleasure in the misfortune of others who work at
large law firms
—I
hereby coin
“Diversenfreude”
.

“Di∙vers∙en∙freude”: (Noun)
taking pleasure in the difficulties suffered by
prestigious American institutions caused by the very
multiracialism they tell the rest of us is so wonderful.
Example: “When the


EEOC itself
was sued for employment discrimination,

I couldn`t help but feel a little diversenfreude.”

Because the gritty truth is that
“diversity”,
rather than being an
“investment”
for Jones Day, is making it really miserable right about
now.

The firm—along
with publicly-named partners, associates and staff—has
its name dragged through the mud, must shell out cash
for its own legal defense, and will spend precious firm
hours dealing with both the lawsuit and the surrounding
publicity issues.

They may well
lose clients like Wal-Mart, who


insist on
“diversity”

in their law firms.




Pushed by Clients, Law Firms Step Up Diversity Efforts
,
By
Karen Donovan, New York Times, July 21, 2006

They may have
to sit for hours of depositions conducted


by Johnny
Darnell Griggs
,
Nelson`s lawyer.

To
say nothing of the costs incurred over the years by
hard-to-discipline, underperforming employees like Jaki
Nelson—who lounge about with impunity, knowing that fear
of a lawsuit insulates them from being fired.


Actual studies of diversity in the business world tell
us that it either makes no difference to the bottom
line, or actually hurts it.(See
The Effects Of
Diversity On Business Performance: Report Of The
Diversity Research Network,


PDF
,
whose authors mildly suggest that
“more nuanced
view of the “business case” for diversity may be
appropriate,”
or


When quotas replace merit,
everybody suffers,


by Peter Brimelow and Leslie Spencer Forbes, 1993

)

This is where the reality smacks up against the
rhetoric. Racial diversity isn`t an
“opportunity”,
it`s an inefficient mess, a financial sinkhole, and a
ridiculous distraction.


Thomas
Jefferson

once


quipped

that “It is error alone which needs the support of
government. Truth can stand by itself.”


Similarly, it is
“diversity”
alone that requires a propaganda poster on every wall, a
full-time coordinator on every floor, and endless
litigation.

If
the cold and calculating world of
Biglaw isn`t getting it, who will?



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