ETHICS 101 – Affirmative Action at Work

| August 31, 2017

Question
Scenario Summary—Is Affirmative Action at Work?
Smulderbaum, Hammers & Stein is a 100-year-old law firm specializing in corporate
law. The firm employs over 100 attorneys; among them are 15 junior partners and five
senior partners. All of the partners are white men. Out of the 80 remaining attorneys at
the firm, only 20 are female and there is one Asian-American male. The firm is now
searching for another associate attorney. Recently, the senior partners have been very
vocal about adding more diversity to the firm. Your best friend, Richard (a white male),
just graduated at the top of his class from Yale Law School. He received his MBA from
Harvard before attending Yale and interned at several other law firms while he was in
law school. He also speaks three languages.
You recommend Richard to a senior partner, who is ecstatic about having someone of
his caliber join the firm. Richard is interviewed, along with other candidates, and the
senior partner tells you that everyone loves him. Two weeks later, Susan (a black
woman), is introduced to the firm as the new Associate. Your Role/Assignment
You are an associate attorney at the firm. You want to complain about the hiring
process because you suspect that Susan was hired only as a way to increase
diversity. You strongly believe that Richard was overlooked only because he was
white. Before you take action, you decide to speak with a couple of people in the
law firm. Based on their responses, decide what the proper course of action should be. Samuel Thompson, Senior Partner "Susan comes highly recommended and has been working in corporate transactions for almost 10 years. She will be an excellent fit in this firm." Thomas Cleveland, Junior Partner "We desperately need some diversity in this firm. We have the reputation of being a bunch of stodgy, old, white men. In order to appeal to more clients,
we have to change our image. Susan will help us do that." William Wilkins, Senior Partner "Susan was editor of Columbia Law Review. She graduated magna cum laude and Order of the Coif. She has argued cases before the U.S. Court of
Appeals and is licensed in three states. She will be a tremendous asset to this firm." Lindsey Kurtz, Junior Associate "Everyone knows that Susan was hired because she’s black. How else would someone with a Harvard and Yale background AND who speaks three
languages be overlooked? It is not fair!"

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