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A Response Paper To The Good Black

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A Response Essay to The Good Black

The experiences of Larry Mungin, as detailed in Paul Barrett's novel, The Good Black provide the reader with a good framework for understanding the complex issues that face companies and employees when racial questions are on the table. Mungin's experiences at Katten Muchin & Zavis reflect the problems that are involved when a company moves to diversify its work force and the challenges minorities face when considering employment opportunities. One can see that the problems of defining racism against the context of poor management and the typical corporate working environment is extremely difficult. The subsequent litigation in this dispute also gives one insight into the problems of trying a racial discrimination suit.

To best understand the problems that developed between Larry Mungin and his employers as Katten Muchin & Zavis one must consider the reasons why he was offered employment. The position that Mungin was to fill was a recent construct of Mark Dombroff. Dombroff had only recently become a member of the firm himself and was recruited as a "rainmaker" for the firm. Dombroff's first move at Katten Muchin and Zavis was to aggressively pursue a new track for the firm. He envisioned as inclusive Insurance and bankruptcy practice which would cater to the needs of large corporate clients.

Enter Larry Mungin. Mungin was a burgeoning bankruptcy lawyer ready to aggressively pursue a partnership. This was not Mungin's first job, in fact he was looking for a firm in which he could launch his bid for a partnership as he entered his eight year of practicing law. He sought the services of a headhunter who paired him up with Katten Muchin & Zavis. Mungin's headhunter overplayed the possibility of Mungin bringing the FDIC with him if he were to accept an offer from Katten Muchin & Zavis. One can speculate that Dombroff initially considered Mungin because of the possibility of K.M.&Z adding the FDIC to their client list. However, it is also clear that Mungin's race became a deciding factor in his hire. As Dombroff noted " Harvard-Harvard, Weil Gotshal. His experience is bankruptcy, bankruptcy, bankruptcy. He's perfect! And he's black."(Barrett,p.9) Ergo, despite the reservations of partners like Vincent Sergi, concerning the amount of work available for Mungin, Dombroff offered Mungin a job.

Larry Mungin also had some expectations of his own as he considered taking a job at Katten Muchin & Zavis. As we know Larry Mungin sought a job with a firm in which he would be able to make partner. Mungin was apprehensive about the opportunities at Weil Gotshal, because the firm was extremely competitive and partnership was only awarded to those willing to put in extreme hours. At Katten Muchin and Zavis Mungin saw the opportunity to move up in a burgeoning law-firm that was dominated by the under fifty crowd. Mungin was well aware of the possibility that his race combined with his double Harvard pedigree would be an asset for him in the job market. He also wanted to be involved in a firm where his hard work would not be overlooked and the relatively small Katten Muchin & Zavis office in Washington appeared to be just what Mungin had been searching for in a new employer.

The problems that ensued after Larry Mungin was hired can be attributed to three main areas. First, Dumbroff's vision for nation wide insurance and bankruptcy litigation covered by the all inclusive service offered by Katten Muchin and Zavis was never realized. Second, Katten Muchin and Zavis attempted to retain Mungin after the bankruptcy work dried up because of his race. And thirdly, Larry Mungin's life experiences and personal inklings added to the complexity of the situation.

Larry Mungin was recruited to work for Katten Muchin and Zavis because Dombroff believed that bankruptcy work at the firm was going to increase. However, as time wore on business shrunk. When the firm lost a majority of AIG's business Jeff Sherman, Mungin's immediate supervisor, left the firm. Upon Sherman's departure it became clear that the remaining work that Katten Muchin & Zavis had for Mungin was routine at best. This was combined with Gilmore and Dombroff's tendency to cut all other lawyers, at the D.C. office out of the loop on important decisions, both about clients and the functioning of the office. This left Mungin adrift in the office, with work that was not inclined to propel toward a partnership opportunity.

The second major problem was the effort that Katten Muchin and Zavis made to retain Mungin after his job opportunities at the firm folded. Here we see the first point at which Mungin's race separated him from other employees. Had Mungin not been black he may have been fired soon after bankruptcy litigation futures at KMZ were not forthcoming. On the surface and indeed in the minds of senior partners at KMZ, the firm was helping Mungin by keeping him employed. However, his retention was not contingent on placing him in a position where his chances of making partner could be realized.

This brings us to our third area of conflict between Mungin and KMZ. Mungin



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