Two Law Firms Sued Over DEI Programs After Affirmative Action Overturned


The American Alliance for Equal Rights, a non-profit whose stated purpose is to challenge race and ethnicity-based preferences, is suing the southern U.S.-based offices of two international law firms for their diversity fellowships after the Supreme Court outlawed affirmative action.

Key Facts

The AAER alleges Morrison and Foerster LLP, an international law firm with a Miami office, and Perkins Coie LLP, another international firm with a Dallas location, are both violating the Civil Rights Act of 1866 with their fellowships for law students.

Though unnamed, the filing against Perkins Coie mentions an alliance member—identified as a white, non-disabled, heterosexual, first-year male law student who wants to support diversity, equity and inclusion efforts when he enters the legal realm—whom the filing states is interested in applying to Perkins Coie’s 1L and 2L fellowships, but is harmed by the policies.

The Morrison and Foerster filing mentions another unnamed AAER member who is identified as a white, heterosexual male law school student who it states is interested in working in the firm’s Miami office through the Wetmore fellowship.

Among other forms of relief, AAER is calling for an order to stop all aforementioned fellowships, alter their requirements to be race-neutral and redo applications and fellow selection in a race-neutral manner if necessary.

Forbes reached out to Edward Jay Blum, the president of AAER, Morrison and Foerster and Perkins Coie for comment.

Surprising Fact

Morrison and Foerster received a Chambers Diversity and Inclusion Award for Outstanding Firm for Diversity this year. Perkins Coie received a Mansfield 5.0 Certification Plus from Diversity Labs, a system that measures the diversity of law firms, last year with an incoming associate class that was considered 83% diverse.

Key Background

The purpose of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was “to protect all persons in the United States in their civil rights, and furnish the means of their vindication.” The lawsuit is arguing on the basis of Section 1981 that prohibits “discrimination on the basis of race, color, and ethnicity when making and enforcing contracts.” The Wetmore fellowship has had 136 fellows—all of whom have been rewarded $25,000 stipends. At Perkins Coie, diversity fellows receive paid summer associate positions and a $15,000 stipend each year they participate in the fellowship and a $10,000 award if they work for the firm upon graduating law school. Both unnamed members cite the prestige of the firms and monetary payment of the fellowships as reasons for wanting to apply, as the filings state they are interested in gaining work experience and money to help them pay for expenses.


The lawsuit comes after the Supreme Court outlawed affirmative action, or race as a factor, in college admissions this past June. The case that provoked this was a lawsuit from the Students for Fair Admissions against the University of North Carolina and Harvard. The AAER member in the Morrison and Foerster filing formerly attended an Ivy League college, though the filing does not confirm which one.

Further Reading

Supreme Court Gets Rid Of Affirmative Action In College Admissions (Forbes)

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