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Republican Senator Raises Concerns About Potential Illegality of Big Law’s Diversity Initiatives
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Senator Tom Cotton, a prominent critic of progressive ideas, has warned 51 global and national law firms about their usage of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs. This comes in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn affirmative action in higher education institutions. The Republican Senator from Arkansas believes that the continued implementation of race-based DEI programs by law firms and providing advice to their clients on these programs may potentially violate federal law and expose them to legal action.

In letters sent out on Monday, Cotton expressed his concerns and cautioned that Congress and private individuals or organizations may intensify their oversight and scrutiny of race-based employment practices after the Supreme Court’s ruling against affirmative action. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Cotton wields significant influence in matters concerning the legal system.

Having previously worked for McKinsey & Co before being elected to Congress in 2012, Cotton’s background in the corporate world adds weight to his critique of DEI programs in the legal industry. Notably, last year, he delayed the nominations of nearly a dozen of President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) nominees over unrelated concerns related to Black Lives Matter litigation stemming from the 2020 protests in Portland, Oregon.


Among the firms singled out in Cotton’s letter are prominent names such as Allen & Overy, Greenberg Traurig, and Hogan Lovells. A majority of these firms rank among the top 50 in this year’s AmLaw 100 rankings, underscoring the potential impact of Cotton’s scrutiny on the legal landscape.

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A spokesperson for Senator Cotton emphasized that the Supreme Court’s ruling against affirmative action will inevitably lead to investigations into race-based DEI programs. The Senator’s letter aims to prompt law firms to be prepared to answer to Congress if they continue to employ such programs.

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However, it’s not only law firms that have received warnings. Over a dozen Republican Attorneys General, representing states such as Iowa and South Carolina, have sent letters to Fortune 100 CEOs urging caution in their use of race in hiring and recruiting practices.

This isn’t the first time Senator Cotton has taken such action. On July 7, he sent a letter to the CEO of Target, demanding an end to all of the company’s race-based employment and partnership practices. Failure to comply with this request could potentially result in costly litigation for the retail giant.

Moreover, in November, Senator Cotton and several other Republican senators, including Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah), sent letters to the same group of law firms, warning them of potential risks arising from their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices.

The implications of Senator Cotton’s actions are likely to reverberate throughout the legal and corporate worlds. Law firms and businesses alike will need to carefully assess their diversity and inclusion programs to ensure compliance with the evolving legal landscape. As the debate around DEI programs continues, it remains to be seen how Congress and the legal community will respond to the intersection of diversity efforts and the potential legal challenges they may face in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Senator Tom Cotton’s warning to law firms regarding their DEI programs and the potential legal consequences marks a significant development in the ongoing discussions surrounding diversity and inclusion in the legal industry. As businesses navigate the changing legal landscape, they will need to carefully consider the implications of their hiring and recruiting practices to avoid potential litigation and ensure compliance with federal laws.

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