Leaders of Hollywood’s legal community who gathered at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel Thursday morning at Variety’s Power of Law Breakfast heard a cautiously optimistic Nina Shaw address the issues of diversity and inclusion that plague the industry.
Speaking in a keynote conversation with Variety’s Ted Johnson, the co-founding partner of Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano, who is African American, told the audience that despite all the progress made in recent years – of which she is a leading example – more needs to be done.
Asked by Johnson whether this moment in history, with so many forces in the business behind a renewed diversity push, will finally make a permanent difference for women and people of color, Shaw said, “I’m never convinced there will be change until there is real change.”
Shaw also pointed out that 88% of all lawyers are white. “That means that only 12% are everything else,” she said. “We have to make these issues more of a priority in our profession.”
In the conversation, Shaw recalled her upbringing in a modest family in Harlem, how she and other black kids had to endure verbal abuse when they were bussed to a mostly white school in Queens, and how from an early age she became interested in the legal profession and in entertainment.
After earning a law degree from Columbia Law School in 1979, Shaw moved to Los Angeles and joined law firm O’Melveny & Myers. Her clients included Norman Lear, whom she continues to praise for his progressive views and actions in hiring and promoting women.
In 1989 she and Ernest Del started their own law firm. “People asked Ernest, ‘bring in another guy and we’ll give you business,’ but he stood by me.”
The Power of Law Breakfast also honored John Frankenheimer, chairman emeritus and music industry chair at law firm Loeb & Loeb for his years of charitable work on behalf of the City of Hope medical institution.
Frankenheimer, the award’s second recipient after last year’s honoree Ken Kleinberg of Kleinberg Lange Cuddy & Carlo, thanked Variety for putting the spotlight on the legal community’s charitable and pro bono work. “If you truly want to know yourself, be in the service of others,” he said.
Marc Gurvitz of Brillstein Entertainment Partners introduced Frankheimer.
(Pictured above: Ted Johnson, Nina Shaw, and Jon Moonves, another partner at Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano)