Tuesday, July 6, 2021

How are Balch & Bingham's diversity efforts going? Not so well, considering that a black attorney has bailed out after eight months at the embattled firm

Stephen McKitt

Birmingham's Balch & Bingham law firm, with racism and segregation in its past, has seen one of its few black attorneys hit the exits after only eight months on the job, according to a report at banbalch.com. After watching Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank acquire its No. 2 revenue-producing client (BBVA USA) last November, Balch made quite  a show of forming a diversity initiative -- apparently designed to impress PNC, which has a history of taking diversity seriously. But the effort, it appears, did not make a lasting impression on Balch attorney Stephen Phillip McKitt. Reports Ban Balch Publisher K.B. Forbes:

With about one percent of their partners being people of color, Balch & Bingham’s claims of “diversity and inclusion” smell worse than a manure lagoon.

Now attorney Stephen Phillip McKitt, an African-American who joined Balch & Bingham last November, has left the alleged racist firm after only eight months.

McKitt recently joined the prestigious Akerman firm, with 25 offices and 700 attorneys nationwide.

Did McKitt realize he was little more than a token at Balch? That's not clear, but the firm's roster of attorneys with non-white skin does not appear to be growing -- at least not very fast:

Balch’s hypocritical managing partner Stan Blanton had the foolish audacity to call “diversity and inclusion” a core value of the embattled firm long accused of racism and tokenism.

In recent weeks, Balch has boasted about expanding its footprint to Austin (with a one-man pony) and hiring new associates and partners in Florida, none of whom appear to be African-American.

Earlier this year, Balch announced the hiring of a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. We believe the hire was simply more window dressing by the embattled firm.

In February, Balch promoted McKitt’s involvement in the University of Alabama School of Law’s Diversity Matters Open House, and likewise in April, Balch promoted McKitt’s presentation before UAB Honors Students on pursuing a law school education.

Like an Orwellian memory hole, both Balch news releases and his hiring announcement from November have been scrubbed clean.

How does Balch outrun the ugliness in its recent and more distant history? There probably is no easy answer to that question, but the firm's initial steps seem shaky, at best:

The hubris and sheer stupidity of Balch & Bingham’s leadership is an enormous embarrassment not only to the legal community but the honorable men and women who work at Balch & Bingham.

Stan Blanton should be removed as managing partner and the new leadership should boldly apologize for the firm’s alleged criminal and racist misconduct.


Anonymous said...

This is one of those "will a tiger change his stripes?" kind of stories. My guess is that it's not going to happen.

legalschnauzer said...

When you think of the Balch history, going back to the George Wallace days and trying to keep blacks out of the University of Alabama, the tiger stripes are deeply ingrained. I agree they aren't likely to change.

Anonymous said...

Let's get down to what's really important here. If Wallace had succeeded at keeping blacks out of UAT, how would that have affected Crimson Tide football?

legalschnauzer said...

@4:38 --
Thanks for reminding us of what's important in Alabama. Without black players, I think you could safely assume that all six of Nick Saban's national championships would be wiped out. In fact, Saban almost certainly not have taken the Alabama job without the ability to recruit black players. I can't imagine that any reputable coach would have taken the Alabama job under such circumstances.

legalschnauzer said...

You could make a reasonable argument that white supremacy and segregation in general -- and George Wallace and his enablers at Balch & Bingham, in particular -- were the greatest threat ever to University of Alabama football.

legalschnauzer said...

If the Wallace/Balch "states' rights" argument had carried the day, Crimson Tide football would be a relic in the dustbin of history.