I recently put together a panel on Insurance Issues for New Insurance Defense Attorneys for the Boston Bar Association's subcommittee on Insurance Law. I was thrilled to find panelists who were knowledgeable and engaging. In light of a commitment I have made to look for opportunities to amplify voices of people of color, I had hoped to find an additional panelist who was an attorney of color at an insurance defense firm interested in an opportunity to educate newer associates.
I reached out to affinity groups at bar associations, senior partners at insurance defense firms, and more general networking groups. A couple of names popped up -- the same names over and over again. I reached out to those people and did not hear back, I can only assume because they are so overwhelmed with people who want them to add diversity to panels and the like that they simply can't respond to all the offers.
This situation is a shame. Early in my career I was lucky enough to work for two excellent insurance defense firms. Racial diversity among the attorneys was virtually non-existent -- but that was a long time ago. I am disheartened that the situation does not appear to have changed.
Here's the thing: insurance defense is a fantastic start to a practice in civil litigation. Associates can expect to be arguing in court within a few weeks of starting out and to take depositions within a few more weeks. Trial work (increasingly hard to come by in civil practice) follows. I had oral argument in the US Court of Appeals as a second year associate. Big firms don't offer these opportunities. Many plaintiffs' side firms spend a large percentage of their time on pre-litigation activities. I constantly recommend to law students and young attorneys that they consider insurance defense firms.
The hiring partners at insurance defense firms should be actively recruiting, and making a plan to hire, young associates who are people of color. It's good for a firm that represents diverse people (anyone who gets sued after a car accident will have an insurance defense firm representing them) to have a diverse staff. It's good for the profession to provide excellent litigation opportunities to everyone. And, in this day and age (in every day and age), it's just the right thing to do.