Second Law Firm Opens Diversity Program to All Following Lawsuit

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Perkins Coie, a major U.S. law firm with over 1,200 lawyers, has become the second firm to expand the eligibility criteria for its diversity fellowship program in the wake of a discrimination lawsuit.

Under the updated criteria unveiled on Friday, Perkins Coie has changed its 2024 diversity fellowship program to be open to all first-year law students, regardless of race or gender identity.

The firm made the announcement ahead of a Monday deadline to respond to a lawsuit filed by the American Alliance for Equal Rights (AAER), a group led by affirmative action critic Edward Blum. AAER sued Perkins Coie and another law firm, Morrison Foerster, in August, alleging that their diversity fellowship programs unlawfully discriminated against applicants based on race. The suits referenced the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling against affirmative action in college admissions, a case also brought by Blum.

Morrison Foerster revised its diversity fellowship criteria in response to the legal challenge, leading AAER to drop the lawsuit against the firm on Friday.

Now, Perkins Coie is also altering its fellowship requirements, a turnabout from its initial statement on August 22 saying the firm intended to “defend this lawsuit vigorously,” Bloomberg Law reports.

“The new Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship Program expands the applicant pool to all and clarifies the factors that the firm will consider in selecting fellows,” a statement from the firm reads. “The revised criteria will ensure that the firm continues to hire accomplished lawyers with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences.”