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Hartford Lawyer Helping Bar Association Attract More Minorities To The Profession

FIVE QUESTIONS: DAVID JIMENEZ

DAVID HOLAHAN

October 24, 2008

Hartford lawyer David Jimenez was recently appointed as the labor and employment law section liaison to the American Bar Association's Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.

As liaison, Jimenez will promote and monitor diversity issues in the legal profession. Jimenez is a partner in Jackson Lewis LLP, which has an office in Hartford and in cities throughout the U.S. The firm specializes in representing management in the arena of workplace law. A 1991 graduate of Hofstra Law School, Jimenez advises employers on human resources issues and litigation, including job discrimination, corporate reorganizations and work force reductions.

Q. Have you ever experienced discrimination in your law career?

A. I don't think I have ever been the subject of discrimination. I have witnessed over the years some degree of insensitivity and some lack of awareness, some ignorance in terms of the differences of backgrounds and cultures that might come to the surface in the workplace in a law firm setting. And with that, I have seen the need for patience and understanding, to reach out to individuals if they are insensitive and to point this out to them, to help educate them.

Q. Are minorities underrepresented in the legal profession?

A. Absolutely. There have been tremendous gains in my career. I have been practicing law for 17 years, and I have seen the number of minorities in law firms grow. But I do think there is still a far way to go. I can still remember being the first [minority] in a couple of places where I worked. It is still surprising to me when I hear references to the first minority in this organization or the first minority partner in a major New York City firm. You don't have to look too far back for examples like that.

Q. Why are minorities underrepresented?

A. From my own personal experience and observations, there are a couple of factors that come to mind. Access to education is one. Minority communities have had barriers to higher levels of education. It's not easy to afford a college education and then the additional cost of law school. I also think the lack of mentors and role models in the legal profession has had consequences. It has led to minorities, perhaps, as not seeing the law as a possible or likely career path.

I know that the American Bar Association at all levels is actively engaged in mentoring programs, trying to get minority attorneys out into the communities to interact with kids to help them see this is a possible future for them.

Q. What is your role as a labor and employment law section liaison?

A. The idea is for the liaisons to bring to the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity the knowledge of best practices and the challenges that their respective sections are facing in trying to increase minority participation and advancement in my case, in the area of labor and employment law. It is both to determine what we can do to promote the success of minority attorneys already in the profession and also to work at the local and community level on mentoring programs, to work to increase the number of minorities who choose to go to law school.

Q. Is this new position something of a role reversal, with you supporting the aspirations of employees, albeit lawyers, as opposed to strictly representing concerns of management?

A. I don't see it as a role reversal. I see it as a separate but complimentary effort in my general interest in helping women and minorities to be successful as lawyers. I don't see it as a contradiction. There are duties to your client base, and then there are duties to your profession.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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