Why Black Attorneys Don’t Stand Up – Part 2 of 3

black-powerAfter I submitted my “Jim Crow” essay to The Huffington Post, I found out it had been posted when a barrage of angry emails started filling up my screen. Interestingly enough, they weren’t coming from the HuffPo but from one of my favorite blawgs, Above The Law. The website’s founder, David Lat is a member of The Federalist Society and admits to fanning “the flames of racial tension.”  [See Correction] More than being a conservative, he is honest, ironic and in the know—he has an eye in every corner of BigLaw. Though a regular ATL reader, I’d never bothered with the comments, so I was shocked (and more than a little hurt) to be assaulted with irrelevant rants about the injustices of Affirmative Action.

For the most part their remarks defied logic and even ignored facts eventually verified by Covington. They did, however, get in one good lick. My essay contained a few misspelled words. In one instance, I had meant to type General “Counsel,” which I’d spelled correctly throughout the piece, but mistakenly typed “Council.” I was troubled by the mistake for quite some time (even though my HuffPo editor, who is now with the Wall Street Journal, missed the error as well). A friend tried to offer perspective by pointing out this NYTimes article that explains to its readers that misspellings are an occupational hazard to writing.

But what really opened my eyes to the true workings of this world was another ATL post.This time, Lat turned his attention to the sloppily written missive, he gently said included “a handful of minor typos,” emailed by Paul Hastings Associate, Shinyung Oh, on her way out the door.  The post received over a thousand comments, and I could find not a single quip about the flaws in her writing.

Only a few months ago, I came upon the ATL story of two Cleary associates, who, lacking sleep and excel spreadsheet acumen, made a gross error:

According to the various affidavits (posted below) the Cleary first-year did not notice that the 179 contracts were marked as “hidden” in Excel, and certainly didn’t notice that those entries became “un-hidden” when he globally reformatted the document.

Cleary had to file a motion before the bankruptcy court asking for relief from the final sale order due to mistake or excusable neglect. After reading the comments and finding not a single suggestion that the two were “incompetent” or “unqualified,” I knew, even before identifying them on Cleary’s website, that the two were not black.

Apparently, making a mistake is only a problem when you’re black! Since everyone makes mistakes, black attorneys know that if they stand up, they are vulnerable to attacks. We don’t get the benefit of the doubt or even the opportunity to tell the whole story.  At no time was this more apparent than when ATL revealed that the anonymous contestant readers had selected as the next editor-in-chief of ATL was, SURPRISE, a brother.

Part 1 of 3 – Should Eric Holder Stand Up For Black Attorneys At Covington?
Part 3 of 3 – Why I Decided To Stand Up

Elie’s saga after the jump.
Under the pseudonym, SOPHIST, Elie Mystal had received accolades from the contest judges and readers throughout the process:

“This was a pretty well-done post. Probably [the] best of the contest so far.”

“[T]his is just going to be a blowout.”

“This is a pretty solid (and humorous) thread.”

“I am cautiously optimistic. He was the only contestant who looked like he could handle the job. I’m glad the process worked.”

“I gotta say: I really loved a couple of his posts. The Lat-Sophist  tag team might work out nicely. The guy is funny. Let’s just see if he can handle the rigors of the job.”

“Looking forward to finding out who you really are, Sophist. Keep up the good work or, you know, we’ll kill you.”

elie-mystal-elie-ying-mystal-above-the-law-editorBut when Elie’s café mocha mug was posted, there was shock and awe. Some tried to remain upbeat, pointing out Elie’s credentials, but the true colors of others bled through.

Wow. Now I know Lat was no hottie, but c’mon…

Harvard College, Harvard Law School, Debevoise — not too shabby.

Cautiously optimistic about where ATL will go from here.

I kind of love that the contestant accused of racism was black, and the one accused of anti-semitism was jewish. Welcome!

Please don’t make this more political than it already is. We’re not all liberal in these parts.

Shit, Shit, Shit. I have been duped into voting for the enemy. Damn you!!!!! Bring back Exley!!!!!

From Maverick’s commander in Top Gun: “One more screw up and you’ll being flying rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong!”

Another minority writer for a majority white/wealthy readership.

As the weeks wore on, the tone and frequency of the criticism increased.  People pointed out typos, spelling and grammatical errors and suggested they were proof that Elie wasn’t qualified.  This comment is a good example:

Little did we know when this was posted that you would turn out to be an utterly forgettable writer whose bland posts would ultimately drive ATL into the ground and result in your firing no more than a few months after winning the contest to replace Lat. You suck, Elie.

Actually, Elie is rocking and rolling.  In his first month, he delivered record numbers. He is every bit as funny as Lat and posts a lot more than the founder did. (Is it possible the black man is working harder than his Asian counterpart—wink to Lat).  From ATL:

The U.S. economy may be going down, down, down — but traffic on ATL is up, up, up. When it comes to your new editor, Elie Mystal, it seems that you like him, you really like him (which is not surprising, since you picked him, through the ATL Idol contest).

In September, Elie’s first full month on the job, the site received a record number of unique visitors (over 325,000) and pageviews (almost 4 million).

Yolanda Young

Come back in a few hours for my Q & A with Mr. Mystal, who offers insight and optimism regarding race relations over at ATL.

Above the Law founder, David Lat, wrote in to make the following correction:  First, I wouldn’t call myself a “conservative”; I am not registered with any political party. Second, I am not currently a member of the Federalist Society; I have not been a member for a number of years (although I do support their goal of fostering debate within the legal academy by bringing speakers of different viewpoints to campuses).


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