published : 2023-09-08

San Francisco Law Firm Opens Fellowship to All Students After Discrimination Lawsuit

Morrison & Foerster Changes Criteria for Diversity Fellowship

A photo of the San Francisco skyline, taken with a Nikon D850

A San Francisco law firm, Morrison & Foerster, has decided to open its fellowship to all students following a lawsuit alleging discrimination.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Alliance for Equal Rights (AAFER), challenged the firm's 'Keith Wetmore 1L Fellowship for Excellence, Diversity, and Inclusion' for discriminating against certain applicants based on their race.

Led by activist Edward Blum, AAFER's lawsuit aimed to include underrepresented groups and accused the firm of excluding applicants based on their race.

However, Morrison & Foerster made changes to their fellowship criteria eight days after the lawsuit was filed, removing the race and sexual orientation criteria from the application.

The fellowship is now open to all law students who have a demonstrated commitment to promoting diversity and bring a diverse perspective to the firm.

This change in stance by Morrison & Foerster suggests that the firm is unwilling to defend its race-based initiatives in light of the evolving legal climate.

An image of a diverse group of law students working together in a classroom, taken with a Canon EOS R

The firm has advised its clients, following a recent Supreme Court decision, to evaluate their diversity programs and eliminate any unlawful preferences such as quotas or set asides.

Representatives from Morrison & Foerster were not immediately available for comment on the matter.

In addition to the lawsuit against Morrison & Foerster, AAFER has also filed a lawsuit against Perkins Coie LLP, another law firm that is defending its fellowship from the allegations of discrimination.

AAFER claims that the fellowship offered by Perkins Coie LLP violated the Civil Rights Act of 1866 by limiting it to students of color, students who identify as LGBTQ+, or students with disabilities.

Edward Blum, the activist behind the Supreme Court case that banned affirmative action in college admissions, leads AAFER.

Blum argues that excluding students from fellowships based on their race is unfair, polarizing, and illegal.

A picture of Edward Blum, the activist behind the Supreme Court case, taken with a Sony Alpha A7 III

He believes that race and ethnicity should not be factors in hiring or promotion decisions.

AAFUR hopes that law firms like Morrison & Foerster and Perkins Coie LLP will end racial restrictions in their fellowship programs and open them to all qualified applicants.

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a ruling in June, rejecting the use of race as a factor in college admissions, stating that it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

The controversy surrounding affirmative action and diversity initiatives continues to be a significant topic in the legal and educational realms.