The Nation's Leading Black Law Firms

By Branch, Shelly; Clarke, Caroline V. | Black Enterprise, August 1993 | Go to article overview

The Nation's Leading Black Law Firms


Branch, Shelly, Clarke, Caroline V., Black Enterprise


TO BE "BLUE CHIP AND BLACK." THAT'S how William Hastie, founding partner of the San Francisco law firm Arnelle & Hastie, sums up the mission of his 31-lawyer shop. It's an apt calling card for the nation's 12 leading black law firms. Once limited to handling wills, domestic spats and other low-profile cases, practices today have earned their spurs in more sophisticated, high-stakes law.

Having shed their image as walk-in mom and pop shops, today's largest black firms are building viable, etched-in-stone institutions. Their clients' names are on the lips of every American, as their bottom lines - from $2.5 million to $9 million - climb steadily upward. Works in progress, these firms share the goal of creating legacies - the sort that may some day rival Wall Street's hallowed "white-shoe" firms. (See sidebar, "The Firms At-A-Glance.")

"What we're doing is a far-fetched dream," says Alan Brothers of Chicago-based Carney & Brothers. "I did not want a job, I wanted to give jobs. I never wanted to be middle class, I wanted to be rich. So I put myself in a position to be run over by the train of opportunity and I rode the train instead."

In 1970, when BLACK ENTERPRISE published its first issue, this story wouldn't have been possible. There were just 3,379 black lawyers practicing in the U.S. then - and none of the firms on the following list even existed. Throughout the years, though, prominent African-American lawyers - from the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to A. Leon Higgenbotham, Chief Justice Emeritus, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit - have shaped American law as we know it today.

Yet even as the drive to diversify government and private industry gained momentum during the 1970s, opportunities in the legal arena lagged. If jobs in the nation's most prominent "blue chip" law firms were elusive to blacks, then the chances of launching one's own corporate firm were virtually nil. Of those who struck out on their own, most found success in such niche practice areas as civil rights, family and personal injury law. (See, "A Champion For The Underdog" and "Jones For The Defense.")

This month, as BE celebrates its 23rd anniversary, the number of African-American lawyers has topped the 25,000 mark. The profiles of the 12 firms that accompany this story show not only how blacks have successfully tackled the practice of law, but how they've mastered the business of law by attracting an elite clientele.

The 12 firms cited in this report have managed to be on the cutting edge of their profession. For starters, many have achieved true racial integration - a feat which majority firms have failed to accomplish. Benefiting from a unique blend of talents, they've recruited seasoned attorneys displaced from the big firms, while attracting others yearning to work on the front lines for a diverse company. And, like other smaller firms, where pay scales are about 20% less than at the majors, junior attorneys get the kind of experience that's the envy of their law school peers.

Perhaps the key to their success has to do with the areas of law in which these firms practice. Though most bill themselves as "full-service," a glimpse through their resumes shows that the majority specialize in trial law - a prudent strategy, given our increasingly litigious society. In general, these black firms are wisely moving towards specialization; such areas as environmental law and bankruptcy are particularly hot among the firms featured in this issue.

The Great Client Chase

The '90s should be good to black lawyers and law firms. in addition to the 12 firms listed in this report, several smaller practices of like caliber are increasing their ranks and clout. (Two notables: Jackson & Associates in Los Angeles and Thomas, Kennedy, Sampson & Patterson in Atlanta.) As more black elected officials enter office, minority-owned law firms are getting a better shot at lucrative government work, including municipal bond underwritings.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Nation's Leading Black Law Firms
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.