WILMINGTON, Del.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Following news that Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP will observe Juneteenth as a firm-wide holiday, civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton released the following statement:
“Juneteenth is a celebration of the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans and the history of oppressed people in this country. It is not an occasion for systematically exclusionary corporations to crassly and opportunistically burnish their reputations and give their white associates a three-day weekend.
“That Skadden Arps would rather pull a cheap public relations stunt than do the hard work of reckoning with the appallingly low levels of diversity their firm’s ranks is wholly offensive. Even more so than their cynical and disingenuous use of an image of the National Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on their website.
“After more than a year of advocating for diversity in Delaware’s legal industry, including the state’s courts and elite law firms, it is disheartening to see that systemic reforms are being ignored for meaningless gestures.
“Per the National Association for Law Placement’s (NALP) 2019 Report on Diversity in US Law Firms, just 5.52% of partners in Delaware law firms are racial minorities, only 1.38% are Black, and just 0.69% are Black women. And of the 299 associates in Wilmington, DE, only 11.71% are racial minorities, only 2.01% are Black, and just 1.34% are Black women.
“Skadden Arps is not immune to this disparity, and while the firm claims that ‘diversity and inclusion are fundamental to Skadden’s success as a global law firm,’ the firm’s stunningly low levels of diversity tell a different story. Of thirteen new partners announced by Skadden in April, eleven were white and none were Black. According to Skadden’s own website, of 66 attorneys in the firm’s Wilmington office, there are zero Black partners and only one Black associate.
“As I’ve made clear before, there will never be true equal representation of minority groups in our justice system as long as they are disenfranchised from leadership positions as the top law firms, which serve as a pipeline to important judgeships.
“It’s time for firms that trumpet diversity and inclusion to commit to meaningful reforms that increase the representation of people of color, particularly Black Americans, in their workforce, rather than making hollow gestures.”
The statement follows Reverend Sharpton’s recent appearance at the Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware (CPBD) Black History Month Dinner in Wilmington, DE. In the past several months, Reverend Sharpton has visited Delaware on several occasions calling for progress on the issue and even penned a letter to leading law firm Skadden Arps calling for elite firms to do their part in advancing people of color in the legal industry.