The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the phenomenon of the lingering effects of structural discrimination upon African American attorneys in this post-civil rights era. This study was designed to obtain the perspectives of African American attorneys regarding any challenges and/or barriers they faced in their professional development. Additionally, this study obtained the perspectives of the participants regarding whether or not a management-based regulatory system can bridge the gap in the current Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) employment guidelines for small law firms. African American attorneys in the legal profession suffer from the effects of structural discrimination which creates stagnation in their professional development. This observation is counterbalanced by the view, that this society has fulfilled its affirmative action goals that were formerly targeted to provide equal employment opportunities in the workplace, to embrace the notion that our society is premised upon meritocracy. Prior affirmative action goals and diversity programs were geared towards resolving the inequities in the workplace among minorities. However, there are lingering relics of discriminatory animus expressed in cognitive and implicit forms which perpetuate challenges and create subtle barriers which have had an adverse impact on African American attorneys in small law firms. Currently, the EEOC provides fair employment guidelines for employers with fifteen or more employees. For purposes of this study, a small law firm has fewer than fifteen employees. It is the intent of this study to introduce the supposition that a management-based regulatory system can bridge the gap in the current EEOC employment guidelines which currently exempt small law firms and provide a model to combat structural discrimination in the legal profession.
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