The Life

September 6, 2011 12:10 PM

Diversity Rising Slowly at Law Firms

Posted by John Hazard

Karen Sloan, The National Law Journal

Despite all the talk of boosting diversity in the legal profession, the percentage of minorities inched up from 9.7 percent in 2000 to 11.6 percent in 2009, according to a report by the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession, sibling publication The National Law Journal reported.

The institute—a nonprofit formed in 2010 to advocate for more diversity in the profession—plans to release an annual review of attorney demographics and diversity. The Chicago-based group is led by a board that includes academics, law firm partners, corporate counsel, government attorneys, and nonlawyers, and it receives financial support from law firms, corporations, bar associations, and individuals.

"The review contains comprehensive data—some encouraging; some troubling—on representation and other key measures," wrote institute chairman Marc Firestone, general counsel of Kraft Foods Inc. "A shared understanding of these data and a continued focus on the facts and figures is essential to finding and fixing problems."

The review was based on data from a number of sources, including academic studies and government statistics. In addition to diversity figures, the review included 11 essays on various topics, including the barriers Latinas face in the profession, the pressure black attorneys may feel to "act white," the challenges people with disabilities face in law school and why more gay and lesbian attorneys are not "out" at their firms.

The report quotes a New York City Bar "Diversity Benchmarking" study that concluded earlier this year that the recession had hampered efforts to promote diversity. The survey of 88 firms said there had been a "slippage of hard-won diversity gains" from 2009 to 2010 (NYLJ, Jan. 26).

According to the survey, minority attorneys represented 16.6 percent of all attorneys at surveyed firms, down from 18.1 percent. Women made up 35.3 percent of attorney ranks, down from 36 percent.

According to NALP statistics quoted in the institute study, minorities comprised 23.3 percent of associates in New York City in 2010, compared to 19.5 percent nationwide. But only 6.3 percent of minorities held partnerships, about the national average.

Read the complete story New Review of Attorney Demographics Shows Slow Growth in Firm Diversity from The New York Law Journal.

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