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12/01/06

Wilson Elser strengthens lobbying compliance practice





In view of the ever-evolving government lobbying rules, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker proposes to form a new group in its Albany, NY office to help clients comply with the new stringent lobbying laws. The government affairs practice group of the firm's NY office has entrusted the job to Theresa Russo, currently serving the firm as a compliance officer in lobby law, to head the team.

The new state laws require that companies wanting to sell their goods and services to the New York state government, or municipalities of more than 50,000 people, must be registered as lobbyists. The law became effective this year, states bizjournals.com. Apart from this, other common business practices also require the Lobbying Commission's registration and compliance report. The New York Temporary State Commission on Lobbying also occasionally conducts audits and civil penalty hearings where the firm has to help its clients with the litigation process.

With 21 registered lobbyists, Wilson Elser is undisputedly a top-drawer firm for government affairs and lobbying in Albany, and according to the Lobbying Commission reports, did $5.4 million worth of business last year. Apart from government affairs and lobbying compliance, the firm's attorneys also practice in health law, civil and commercial litigation, and municipal law.

Climb Vs Color equations in law firms
Even though hiring patterns in the U.S. law firms have changed, and retention levels of minority, women, and diverse attorneys have considerably increased, the modus operandi as far as promotions are concerned is still archaic. In its report, nytimes.com, commented that despite large scale hiring of African American attorneys, these attorneys do not make it to the top rung as fast as their Caucasian peers do.

In his reports, Richard H. Sander, in The North Carolina Law Review, stated that very few blacks graduated from top-30 law schools with high grades and hence firms who are under tremendous pressure from clients to hire minority attorneys have to compromise quality for quantity, which then gets reflected in the promotion factor. Sander 's study found out that African American lawyers are about .25% likely to get promoted to partner compared to white lawyers from the same batch of fresh associates.

The findings by Sander, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles was published in July first, since when it courted severe criticism and drew flak from the law firm seniors like Bruce McClean, chairman of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, who stated that Sander's report was very opinionated and lacked "detailed data analysis."

Most legal pundits are of the opinion that Sander, while paying more attention to grades, has negated the other attributes that goes into forging good lawyering skills like writing, comprehensive analytical minds, oral advocacy, etc. Good schools also make up a percentage of corporate law firm hiring criteria.

The firms also acknowledge the race to achieve racial diversity within the firm, but the new associates can hardly withstand the race till the new partners are announced. High rate of attrition among attorneys of color also affect their progress. Despite the fact that starting salaries for an average African American attorney can start somewhere at $135,000, their lack of retention finds almost all firms left with little options while finalizing the partners' lists.

A few intellectuals in the arena attribute this factor to failure of providing minority associates with mentoring, encouragement, and good assignments, which leads to dejection and loss of confidence among the minority associates. The Director of the New York City Bar Association's diversity office, Meredith Moore says colored attorneys are often seen stagnating and in most cases, their numbers dwindle. Though these minority attorneys are often said to make it big in firms of lesser fame and reach, because of less peer pressure and good mentoring, Sander however said he did not have direct evidence on that point.

Sander's efforts have been slammed for its merit with a sledgehammer by critics, who while acknowledging the truth, cite different reasons for the disparity. While some concede racial discrimination to be one of the factors, others opine individuals' excellence also counts.

In comparison to minority associates, women showed more zeal while shouldering responsibility and were "positive" than their male counterparts.


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