Robinson, Malcolm S. 1948–
Malcolm S. Robinson 1948–
Lawyer, association executive
Among the most prominent recent advocates for increased African-American representation in the legal profession has been Dallas attorney Malcolm S. Robinson, who gained a valuable new platform for his views when he became president of the National Bar Association in 2003. Robinson has been particularly forceful in urging black lawyers to start firms of their own, as opposed to simply encouraging white-owned law offices to hire more minority lawyers. Although representation of minority groups in the legal profession increased in the last decades of the twentieth century, Robinson pointed to a glaring disparity between the races in terms of firm ownership.
“The goal is not minority partners in majority firms,” Robinson told the Tampa Bay Business Journal. “The goal is African-American-owned and -operated law firms. Take the top 200 law firms in the U.S. What percentage are African-American-owned and -operated or owned and operated by people of color? The answer is zero.” Over a long legal career in Dallas, Texas, Robinson provided a model for how his ideas might be achieved: working in a variety of positions and specializations, becoming involved with a host of civic organizations, and founding two law firms on his own.
Born in 1948 in Chicago, Robinson left home to attend Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas. He graduated in 1970 with a BA in speech communications. Robinson went on to law school in Kansas, receiving his JD degree from the University of Kansas School of Law in 1975. After his son Brian entered the same school a quarter century later, Robinson looked back fondly on his years there. “KU’s a great law school,” he told the Lawrence Journal-World. “A degree from the KU law school is equal to any degree from any school, in my opinion—public or private.”
Robinson returned home to Chicago after obtaining his degree, winning admission to the Illinois Bar and taking a position as a corporate lawyer at a Chicago insurance office, the Alliance of American Insurers. In 1979 he moved to Dallas for another insurance-industry job, this one with the Scor Reinsurance Company. In five years with the firm, Robinson rose to the rank of vice president.
In 1984, Robinson joined with another Dallas attorney to form the law firm of Robinson & West, and four years later he was honored with an award from Quest for Success, a program that recognized the efforts of young black entrepreneurs. Over the next decade and a half, Robinson raised his profile through a lengthy list of community service and professional leadership positions. He was president of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce from 1990 to 1992 and continued to serve as the organization’s general counsel. Robinson participated in the Dallas Together Forum, an organization that aimed to bring about broad-based changes in race relations in the Dallas community, and was chairman of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau from 1998 to 2000. Robinson joined the Greater Dallas Crime Commission, an advisory group that worked to support law enforcement efforts and foster
At a Glance…
Born in 1948 in Chicago, IL. Education: Ottawa University, Ottawa, KS, BA, speech communications, 1970; University of Kansas School of Law, Lawrence, KS, JD, 1975.
Career: Alliance of American Insurers, Chicago, IL, corporate counsel, 1975-79; Scor Reinsurance Co., Dallas, TX, corporate counsel and vice president, 1979-84; Robinson West & Gooden, P.C., formerly known as Robinson & West, Dallas, TX, senior managing partner and co-founder, 1988-2002; Robinson & Hoskins, L.L.P., Dallas, TX, co-founder and partner, 2002-.
Selected memberships: Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, president; Dallas Together Forum; Greater Dallas Crime Commission, president; National Bar Association, president; Salesmanship Club of Dallas; Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, chairman.
Selected awards: Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, Chairman’s Award, 1999 and 2000; J.L. Turner Legal Association, President’s Award, 1999; J.L. Turner Legal Association, C.B. Bunkley Award, 2000; National Bar Association, Presidential Award, 2001; Dallas Bar Association, Martin L. King, Jr. Justice Award, 2003; University of Kansas School of Law Distinguished Alumni Award, 2003.
Addresses: Office —Robinson & Hoskins L.L.P., Suite 600, 400 South Zang Blvd., Dallas, TX 75208. Web site —http://robinsonandhoskins.com.
crime prevention efforts. He became the organization’s president and, in 2000, its chairman.
Robinson called for greater diversity within the Greater Dallas Crime Commission, furthering his quest for equity, an issue for which he advocated as a community spokesman as early as 1992. When it came to light that a major construction project associated with Dallas’s new light rail system had employed no black subcontractors, Robinson threatened to file suit against the Dallas Rapid Transit Agency. Agency staffers contended that they had worked from a list of minority subcontractor prospects that did not indicate the specific race of individual firm owners, but Robinson called for government investigations. “This was no an accident, the problem is systemic,” he was quoted as saying by the Engineering News-Record.
In 1998 Robinson became Vice President of Finance for the National Bar Association (NBA), an organization that was founded in 1925 and boasted a membership of about 20,000 predominantly African-American attorneys, judges, and other legal professionals. In 2003 he became the group’s 60th president. He used his new visibility to amplify his calls for greater equity within legal profession, in whose ranks African Americans held a place he termed separate and unequal. “There is no real diversity in the legal profession. The legal profession is separated into two worlds,” he was quoted as saying by the Newark (New Jersey) Star-Ledger. “We will never achieve true diversity within the legal profession without parity—professional parity and economic parity.”
Black-owned law firms “can’t get access to the business at the same rate as the other firms,” he told the Lawrence Journal-World. “There are glass ceilings for African-American-owned and -operated firms.” As NBA president, Robinson resisted efforts to dismantle affirmative action programs in academia and the awarding of government contracts. The NBA supported the University of Michigan’s 2003 effort, ultimately mostly successful, to retain its affirmative action policies. “How can we ensure that our schools remain diverse and that minority students have the opportunity to reach the levels of higher education, without serious efforts to make amends for the racism that has held them back for decades?” he asked in the Recorder of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Pointing to the friend-of-the-court brief filed with the Supreme Court by the administration of President George W. Bush, Robinson thundered that “President Bush wants us to ignore generations of prejudice and discrimination. Bush claims that he supports diversity, but he is hindering, if not destroying, one of the few means of securing it. It is clear that Bush does not believe that diversity on college campuses is a compelling governmental issue,” according to the Recorder. Robinson told the Tampa Bay Business Journal more pointedly, that “if anyone says in 2003 they believe in equal opportunity and don’t believe in affirmative action, we have to point out they are not being truthful.”
Nevertheless, Robinson also believed that the key to increasing African Americans’ success in the profession lay in inducing more young black lawyers to start their own firms rather than depending on existing white-owned offices. He had already done much in his own career to show the way, and in 2002 he renewed his efforts by opening a new law office with attorney Sonya Hoskins, Robinson & Hoskins, L.L.R “The key to America is about ownership, not jobs,” he told the Tampa Bay Business Journal. “It’s about capital and ownership. Money matters, and money is part of capital… If you have 10 percent African Americans in the body politic, you should have 10 percent African-American law firms.”
Dallas Business Journal August 25, 2000, p. 12.
Dallas Morning News, February 27, 1988, p. A36.
Engineering News-Record, March 9, 1992, p. 20.
Lawrence Journal-World, October 26, 2002.
Recorder (Indianapolis, IN), January 31, 2003, p. A2.
Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), September 20, 2002, p. 52.
Tampa Bay Business Journal, January 17, 2003.
“Malcolm S. Robinson,” Law Office of Robinson & Hoskins, L.L.R, http://robinsonandhoskins.lawoffice.com (February 16, 2004).
“Malcolm S. Robinson,” National Bar Association, www.nationalbar/org/about/pres-60th.shtml (February 16, 2004).
—James M. Manheim
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