Out of the estimated 1.3 million active lawyers in the United States, only five percent of them identify as Black and this fraction has been static for the past decade. Furthermore, Black attorneys represent less than 2 percent of partners at law firms. But many Black-owned law firms view themselves as working assiduously to bridge this gap.
Black-owned law firms are at the forefront of advocating for civil rights, challenging discriminatory legislation and policies, and providing legal representation to marginalized communities. Reports show that low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected by unmet civil legal needs in the nation. Black-owned law firms have taken on landmark cases that have shaped legal precedents, created progress and empowered the Black community.
The work done by these law firms are and will continue to have a role in delivering the economic, educational and civic rights of not just Black people but Americans of all ethnicity.
A such we take a look at these five leading Black-owned law firms that are transforming the American legal terrain for the better.
1. SSW Law Group
SSW is a Black and woman-owned law firm based in Newark, New Jersey. It was founded Calvin Souder, Esq., Khalifah Shabazz, Esq., and Kyana Woolridge, Esq. in 2015. Although the firm was formed to address the needs of urban New Jersey, it has since expanded to form a national firm. It now has two new offices in New York and Pennsylvania with a a team of nearly 40 employees. SSW deals in Real Estate/Economic Development, Education, Litigation, and Government Affairs.
2. The Law Offices of Zulu Ali & Associates, LLP
The Law Offices of Zulu Ali & Associates, LLP are led by Attorney Zulu Ali and his daughter, Attorney Whitney Ali. Inspired by the legacy of civil rights attorneys, it was founded in 2007 with a focus on representing persons accused of crimes, immigrants, and persons seeking civil justice in state and federal courts. The firm recently won a landmark decision before the United States Court of Appeals establishing the standard to present claims under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. The father-daughter led offices were named Best Law Firm by The American Institute of Trial Lawyers in 2023.
3. The Law Firm of Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley
Ronald C. Hunt, Raymond L. Hamlin, and the late Terry Ridley founded The Law Firm of Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley having first met at a small Newark firm in the 1980s. The three attorneys started out in three small offices in Newark’s Military Park Building, eventually occupying the building’s entire 16th floor. Initially, the firm faced challenges bringing on clients but established a reputation as civil rights champion after winning several high-profile cases against large entities such as Port Authority of NY/NJ and NJ Transit.
“Work as hard as you can and be consistent. Make sure that those you surround yourself with have the same drive as you and put your ego aside for the greater good. Lastly, recognize that longevity requires some luck and a lot of sacrifice and dedication,” Ray Hamlin reveals the method behind the firm’s success over 25 years.
4. Lewis & Munday, P.C
The firm was originally founded as Lewis, White & Clay, P.C. in 1972. It has become one of the oldest and largest firms founded by African Americans. By 1985, the firm had served as counsel for more than $1 billion in long-term bond issues, and another $1 billion in short-term bonds. Lewis & Munday, P.C was prompted by this unprecedented success in Public law to expand its services to Corporate, Real Estate and Litigation Practice Groups. Over the past 50 years, the firm has represented the City of Detroit and mist major corporations including Ford Motor Company, Pepsi, and AT&T, among others.
5. Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel
Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel has grown from only three attorneys in one office to 45 attorneys in seven offices since its founding in 2006. It has offices in most of Florida’s major cities, New York City and the Caribbean. The firm has previously defended claims arising out of the largest oil spill in U.S. history and served as counsel of multinational corporations such as AIG, Marriott International, Walmart, AT&T, Comcast-NBC Universal and the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association.