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Ron Jordan is the founding principal of Carter-White & Shaw (CW&S), LLC, a black-owned and operated diverse attorney legal search firm based in Chestertown, Maryland. CW&S specializes in recruiting a diverse pool of exceptional attorneys for corporate legal departments and law firms throughout the country. They also facilitate acquisitions and mergers of law firm practice groups.
CW&S has been in business since 1991 to serve what is an undeserved market in legal recruiting: attorneys of color, disabled attorneys, and gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender attorneys who are seeking employers that appreciate their talents and value diversity. The firm's concentration is exclusively on the placement of law firm partners and associates. CW&S has never had to advertise, as satisfied clients and candidates have spread the word of their ability to place exceptional attorneys with diverse national employers. Their reputation for excellence and the attorneys they have placed has been the foundation of the firm's continued success.
The firm's mission is two-fold: To meet or exceed the expectations of their clients and candidates in the increasingly competitive and rapidly changing competitive global legal community; and to be the leader in promotion and discovery of diverse legal talent, especially amongst black attorneys. CW&S has already succeeded in accomplishing much of their mission - the firm's stream of referrals from former clients and candidates is a testament to their ability to meet or exceed diversity placement expectations.
"Carter-White & Shaw understands the strength of diversity."
In 2005, Mr. Jordan and Carter-White & Shaw facilitated the largest placement of diverse color of attorneys ever in the history of the legal search business. Mr. Jordan brought together the largest contingent of diverse partners to one law firm (Mintz Levin). The total placement was fifteen attorneys, which included eight associate attorneys and seven senior attorneys of color. Ten percent of the attorneys were Latino-American and ninety percent were African-American, and included the former Chairman of the EEOC under the Clinton Administration.
Mr. Jordan has 30 years of experience in the executive search and attorney placement and law firm acquisitions and mergers industry. Throughout his career, he has successfully facilitated mergers with major law firms while placing numerous associates, senior associates, Of Counsel, and law firm partners. Mr. Jordan considers diversifying the ranks of corporate law departments and law firms to be his passion and mission.
Ron born was born in San Francisco and raised in Berkeley, CA. In his youth, Mr. Jordan taught swimming to disadvantaged children at the Berkeley YMCA. As fate would have it, several of these children grew up to become law firm partners whom he has placed. When he isn't working, Mr. Jordan enjoys golf and his current handicap is 13.
Mr. Jordan's Successful Career Path and Tips for Legal Recruiters
Does Mr. Jordan have a top memory from school?
"I attended Berkeley High School, Regular Baptist High School and Salesian High School and UC Berkeley as well as other colleges. One of the great joys I received was being in Professor Slottmann's class." He also recalled participating in a white fraternity (a black fraternity hadn't been established at UC Berkeley during that time) through his fraternity it was the meeting place as Black Fraternities and Sororities were establishing their presence on Cal's campus. The presence of our fraternity was a catalyst in bringing in a more diverse and inclusive fraternity organization and he loved listening to early West coast rap music, NWA, Curtis Blow and Run DMC.
What does it take to become a successful legal recruiter?
"A successful legal recruiter must have the ability to listen. Recruiters should listen and understand what their clients and candidates want and to help them accomplish that goal." Mr. Jordan noted that recruiters should be patient with lawyers since they have to earn their trust before placing them. He also believes recruiters should be resilient and they should make time for meaningful conversation with their clients and candidates. Mr. Jordan added, "I respect lawyers for their "intellectual property" (their intelligence) and drive and their understanding of the necessity of producing great work products with a reasonable and acceptable rate structure."
Did Mr. Jordan transition into working as a recruiter?
He pointed out that he entered the recruiting business right out of college, after serving as a recruiter for two years, with a company from Chicago, General Employment Enterprises, in their San Francisco office. He worked for three other firms before he decided to start his own firm and had the chance to be rewarded more both monetarily and morally. The name of the firm is named after his Mother's side of the family, the Carter's, White's and Shaw's. His initial thought was the name was indicative of something that he hadn't seen in the legal search business, a sense of community, family. The diverse attorney community of color is like a family in the sense that all attorneys of color were fighting stereotypes about their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disabilities and their place within the legal business, both within law firms and corporate legal departments. He has been working non-stop for the past thirty years.
What motivated him to work as a recruiter?
Mr. Jordan explained that he was motivated to become a recruiter after he talked to African American law students who attended UC Berkeley when he was an undergrad and many he hung out with. They told him their classmates had brought them some discouraging news about finding an opportunity to work in Big Law firms in San Francisco and some East Bay law firms, but he thought their comments had no validity. Mr. Jordan knew he could open doors for African American attorneys. He realized he could pave the way for law students of color by becoming a legal recruiter. Based on the history of black and other diverse attorneys of color, he felt that these young lawyers needed to have an advocate in their corner, to tell their story.
What percentage of Mr. Jordan's candidates are African Americans?
"89 percent are African Americans and eleven percent are Hispanic and Asian Americans and other diverse attorneys."
How does he assist his diverse candidates in attaining the positions they want?
"I talk to my candidates and they know I care about them and the firms I approach in their behalf know that the attorneys I represent have a strong moral and work ethic."
What advice would Mr. Jordan give to African Americans who are brand-new to recruiting?
"I would tell them the truth: Recruiting is hard, challenging, frustrating and fun, but the reward is, that you are helping intelligent people who are driven. A really good recruiter has no fear. They will have to put their ego in their back pocket in order to succeed. You are not only helping your candidates, but you are also assisting their families. Recruiters must be empathetic towards lawyers and they should always ask them how can I help you be "more" successful?" The operative word is "more." When black attorneys/diverse attorneys of color come to me for advice and counsel concerning the transition in their careers, they are successful already. My job is to find a firm, a platform or in house corporate legal department where they can excel more, learn more, enhance the "craft" we call being a lawyer. The practice of law is like being a craftsman/woman, someone who over time becomes an expert in their chosen practice or craft. My only job is to find that platform for them to continue in being more successful."
What information does he wish he had when starting out?
"I wish I had more empathy towards lawyers. In the beginning I saw my job as only a way to make money. As with all business owners as people, we evolve, our thinking, our mindset. You start to look at the human aspect of the candidates. My candidates are not products. Attorneys are human beings and you have to treat and respect them as human beings."
What's one of the things that Mr. Jordan finds most challenging about his job?
"I am not a big fan of HR people who don't know why diversity is an important issue for their firms." In 2014 in a country that as two African-American Attorneys in the White House, the President and the First Lady, I am perplexed that some in-house recruiters are not aware of the impact of diversity and inclusion can have on the practices in their firms.
What would he say is the most important thing he learned as a legal recruiter?
"Money is not as important as I thought it is. I sleep well after helping my candidates attain the positions they want but as important is helping a young black or diverse associate of color, with an edit in their resume or bouncing ideas concerning firms and in-house counsel opportunities. That's what rocks my world."
What is Mr. Jordan known for professionally?
"People say I can open doors for them, where they may not have the time or inclination to do those themselves, even with friends and acquaintances. Many lawyers in general are deathly afraid of rejection from a friend when they are seeking a new opportunity and more importantly, I can bring their talents to folks I know on the QT. If my process doesn't work, the friendship is not tainted and the business relationship is intact.
What does he look for to find the right fit? What makes a great candidate?
"Besides the ability to practice law, I look for personal characteristics that match what my clients are looking for and what the candidate doesn't have at in their present environment." Not every personality fits each environment. Some firms are seeking legal candidates that "hit the ground running "with an aggressive attitude backed by intelligence and guile. Other firms want a candidate that may be more like them that are more cerebral in their baring, more of a technician than a person who has a "take no prisoners mentality." Each firm has a different criteria of what their environment is, and depending on what the firm's culture is, my job is bring in the best talent for that client practice area and platform for the candidate. It must be a two way street, so the employer and the candidate can work in tandem towards a more successful organization."
In regards to what makes a great candidate, Mr. Jordan said, "A great candidate is someone who has the ability to listen. A great candidate must also be balanced in their home life and in their endeavors/activities outside of work." When a Partner or Associate doesn't have a work/life balance outside of their legal careers, then they will surely burnout at the beginning of their careers. As Partners, they need to have some down time, away from the practice of law. It is the firm's responsibility to make an attorney's job at the firm able to have a work/life balance. Those firms that do this are able to give black and diverse attorneys of color the greatest chances of current and continued success."
Does the businessman have a recipe for a perfect match?
What are his strengths and one weakness as a recruiter?
"There is no limit on how much I can make. I am the best at what I do."
As for his weakness, Mr. Jordan stated, "I have the inability to stay organized in a conventional way." My memory is legendary, for places I have met people, the setting in which we met. I also, have a bad memory for little things that my wife may have told me two seconds ago."
Where does Mr. Jordan see the legal field in the next five years?
He said mid-sized firms will continue to merge with larger firms. Also, there will be some Partners that will become more specialized in a practice for a boutique. Mr. Jordan also acknowledged that corporate clients will hire more inside counsel. He admitted, "If firms want to compete, they will have to lower their rates and continue in producing excellent work product." Also, firms have to develop deeper relationships with diverse in-house counsel. Firms in the US have a blind spot to the legal services they provide on a global scale. Firms here in the US are not always culturally competent in working in the global legal services arena. US firms need to be more competitive and that is why domestically and internationally, diversity is the main component in developing new relationships with clients. Corporations around the globe compete on a world-wide basis and law firms must have the foresight and vision to be competitive in order for their in house clients to maintain their services and for firms to continue to win new matters. US firms are slow to understand where the next growth of global business is for their clients/customers.
I was told that in order to compete, you go where your clients/customers are. Some US firms, figured out, almost too late about China, the Magic Circle (UK/EU) firms were already there with their outposts in Hong Kong. When the China markets opened, they were primed and ready. US law firms were slower in making the leap. Africa is the newest and last frontier for emerging business and earth minerals; the Chinese/Asian market is there. Only a handful of US firms have an office on the continent of Africa, which is sad.
Where does he see the legal recruiting field in the next five years?
Mr. Jordan pointed out that legal recruiting firms will continue to fluctuate. He said many recruiters who didn't establish a relationship with their clients during the recession left the industry. "Big recruiting firms will grow and smaller firms might survive, but there will be less recruiting and executive search firms five to ten years from now." Technology can be our friend if we embrace it or our foe and our defeat if we don't."
How does Mr. Jordan process fear?
"I walk head-long through it. My only fear is public speaking." Fear is a necessity in being successful, I do have a healthy amount of fear, but it is not there to defeat my cause and my mission. I do have respect for the fear of the unknown, but my belief in my God and my faith gets me through the first steps and then it's on."
What motivates him to be a legal recruiter every day?
"I see stuff that blows my mind. Law firms don't give African Americans equal access. Your ethnicity, color, and sexual orientation have no bearing on practicing law." I have been very blessed to have found this profession. At the top of the interview, I said the historical significance of what black lawyers have done for this nation and subsequently other nations that respect freedom, is phenomenal. I have a great deal of respect for the legal professionals I work with.
Has Mr. Jordan learned something of value from his mistakes? "Absolutely. You can't be successful unless you make mistakes. I have made many mistakes, I try and not repeat them, but learn from them, but nobody is perfect at what they do."
Where does he derive his confidence?
"My parents when I was young and from my wife each day and for close to 20 years. My parents encouraged me that I can be anything I wanted to be and for a young black boy, even growing up in one of the most liberal places on the planet then, Berkeley had its issues and suspect the city and State still do, they still encouraged me. The people I have worked with throughout my career have also given me confidence. They know I have their best interest in mind."
Mr. Jordan Discusses How Racism Effects African Americans Lawyers in Law Firms
According to an article featured in The American Lawyer, "The Diversity Crisis: Time to Call It Racism?" African Americans make up only two percent of AM Law 100 partners; for Wall Street firms, it's 1.6 percent. Why does Mr. Jordan think so many prominent firms are hesitant to hire black candidates? "It's not that prominent firms are hesitant. They are hiring African Americans, but they don't support and mentor them, especially when they are close to making partnership."
Does Mr. Jordan think these law firms prefer to spotlight their relative success with Hispanics/Latin Americans or Asian Americans rather than African Americans?
He candidly said it's easier for law firms to embrace Latin Americans and Asian Americans since the history of black attorneys, thus black people are the ancestors of an enslaved people. Despite this legacy, black people and black attorneys continue to succeed in spite of some stereotypes, micro-aggressions and micro-inequities that some firms foster.
According to a New York Times article, "Black Lawyers Lose Ground at Top Firms," other minorities are claiming a larger presence in big legal firms, with Asian Americans taking the biggest share of positions and Hispanics the next largest share, surpassing blacks for the first time. Will this trend continue? "The trend will continue until everyone is on the same playing field." Mr. Jordan stated that there aren't a lot of black engineers, scientists, and computer engineers in the U.S. He said the only way for African Americans to close the gap is to put an emphasis on educational opportunities. "It's up to the educational system to assist African Americans with the hard sciences. African Americans must take a rigorous academic schedule to compete with other Americans. In other areas, another problem lies in that law firms have a propensity to continue to recruit from the same law schools, year after year, after year, this limiting the pool of great summer associates and lateral associates that didn't attend, Harvard, Yale, Stanford or Columbia. The recruitment of African-Americans and other diverse law students could be broaden to include more Historically Black Law Schools, Southern University, Howard, Thurgood Marshall and others that may not be on the US World Report rankings. Law school grades are precursor to one element of practicing law, but there are other criteria that should be considered, and even if a black or diverse law student is attending a Historically Black Law School, firms should venture to those schools and see for themselves, and stop being so 'damn lazy.'"
According to The American Lawyer article, many believe big firms are making a good-faith effort to increase the number of black attorneys in their ranks, but they congratulate themselves for going the extra mile to recruit African Americans while waiting for them to implode. Does Mr. Jordan agree with this statement? "I don't think law firm management are waiting to watch African American lawyers implode. However, I don't believe diversity committees and law firm management put enough emphasis in success as they do with women and gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender attorneys. Diversity and Inclusion couldn't be put much plainer, equity and parity for all diverse attorneys. There are not enough Black Partners in firms to mentor/sponsor black and other diverse attorneys of color. Firms have to step up to the plate with those Partners who are seeking to leave a legacy of excellence when they exit the firm. There aren't enough black partners to sponsor African American lawyers at law firms. Each attorney that works for a BigLaw firm will either sink or swim, but wouldn't it be better for the firms if everyone had an equal chance to do so? Otherwise firms should cut their losses and admit that it is not part of their job to mentor black attorneys. It's better to admit that you don't have the heart to work towards a more equal firm for all your Partners and Associates, that you may have a greater affinity for another group of diverse attorneys than others. The truth is a better way of going than lying for a client's sake and in the process if one does have a "Come to meet Jesus" moment it is a great way to start anew.
Professional Associations, A Rewarding Position, Being a Mentor, People Who Inspire Mr. Jordan and His Goals
Does Mr. Jordan currently hold a membership with any professional associations?
"I am affiliate of the National Bar Association their officers. This includes Ex. Director Alfreda Davis, an Associate member of the American Bar Association, and a longtime friend of former Ex. Director Veta Richardson, her successor Ex. Director Joseph West, Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) and the California Minority Counsel Program (CMCP) founder Guy Rousaville and Ex. Director Marci Ruben and ACCA SF-Chapter Director, Dee-Dee Ford."
Does he find his work rewarding?
"It's great. I have met some of the greatest people; I used to read about, when I was a young man, such as former columnist of the Washington Post William Raspberry, the former Senator from Illinois and our current White House resident, Barack H. Obama, Bill and Hilary Clinton, Vernon Jordan, and Billy Martin."
Does Mr. Jordan consider himself a mentor?
"I love mentoring young associates of color and basketball coaches. I currently mentor a Division III basketball coach at our local college and a couple of young black men, some I coached in the past."
Has anyone inspired him?
"My wife and mother have inspired me." Mr. Jordan explained how his parents had to endure Jim Crow laws while growing up in the South. "Any disparaging remarks made by African Americans resulted in lynching." He said his parents found refuge once they migrated to California after World War 2. Even though San Francisco was a safer haven than Louisiana, it must not be taken as a great place for black folks after WWll. It was a thousand times better than the South, but there were still laws in San Francisco that kept black people segregated where they could live and work.
"My parents sacrifice and their wholesale belief in me and my brother and sister gave us the unfettered confidence that we could be who we are and what we wanted to be. Nothing could deter our dreams but us. I have been able to attain some great friends and colleagues in this job; they have allowed me into their hearts and homes. I am always grateful for the abilities I have a garnered along the way to be good at what I do, be a good mentor and sponsor to friends and clients, be a good man and great husband to my wife, a good son and brother to my siblings and a decent and caring man to my mother-in law and her children.
Does he have goals?
"I will expand CW&S and continue to provide great service to our clients and diverse candidates."