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Lawyers of Color

The best Native American attorneys practicing in white shoe law firms and large companies have been identified by the nonprofit Lawyers of Color. The inaugural Nation’s Best list, which is presented by Major, Lindsey & Africa with the support of the Diverse Partners Network, hails law firm partners and senior-level corporate counsel. One of the honorees is Charles W. Galbraith, a citizen of the Navajo Nation and a partner at Kilpatrick Townsend.

Lawyers of Color recognized the need to identify these unicorns of the legal profession after reports revealed that the legal profession is the least diverse with 88 percent of U.S. lawyers being white, the figures are even worse in law firms. While companies do not report their minority attorney numbers, anecdotal evidence suggests corporate in-house teams are more diverse than law firms generally but not in executive roles. The 2019 General Counsel Landscape study by LawGeex found that less than 20 percent of Fortune 500 general counsel were people of color.

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These figures are even worse for Native American attorneys. With many law schools admitting only one or in some cases, no Native American students, it is impossible to increase the Native American representation pipeline. “Although the total number of Native American law students has steadily increased over the past four decades, legal education in the United States includes very few Native American law students, professors and/or administrators. The Native student population remains well below one percent of the total J.D. enrollment in U.S. law schools,” according to the report THE PURSUIT OF INCLUSION: An In-Depth Exploration of the Experiences and Perspectives of Native American Attorneys in the Legal Profession. The report notes that Native Americans represent less than 2% of large law firm attorneys.

Even for those who become lawyers, unconscious bias and a lack of mentorship opportunities make it difficult to become a corporate lawyer. In-house counsel recruit heavily from large law firms where there are only a very low percentage of Native American lawyers. Additionally, even when they have these jobs, a significant percentage of Native American attorneys reported having experienced exclusion, disrespect, and marginalization in their workplaces.

Lawyers of Color, a nonprofit devoted to promoting diversity in the legal profession, sees the Nation’s Best list as a way to bring attention to outstanding Native American attorneys. Lawyers of Color’s fellows, advisers, and editorial staff sought to identify attorneys who had noteworthy accomplishments and a commitment to diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. One hundred attorneys were selected to represent each of six regions.After being feted at receptions across the country hosted by Foley & Lardner LLP, honorees will be profiled in the Nation’s Best July 2019 Issue, which will be available on Lawyers of Color’s website.