Law Firm Diversity Wobbles: Minority Numbers Bounce Back While Women Associates Extend Two-Year Decline

November 3, 2011

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The latest NALP findings on law firm demographics reveal that law firms have made up some but not all of the lost ground after diversity figures fell in 2010. While the representation of minorities increased, more than making up for the decrease from 2009 to 2010, the overall representation of women declined slightly further in 2011 compared with 2010.

In 2011, the percentage of both women and minority partners in law firms included in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers was up by a small amount compared with 2010. Among associates, however, representation of women declined slightly for the second year in a row and for only the second time since NALP started compiling this information in the 1990's. The net effect was that, for lawyers as a whole, representation of women overall decreased by a tiny amount and the representation of minority women remained about flat. For minorities as a whole, representation was up slightly. Minorities now make up 12.70% of lawyers reported in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers, compared with 12.40% in 2010. Just under one-third of lawyers at these same firms are women — 32.61% in 2011 compared with 32.69% in 2010, both of these most recent years lower than the 32.97% mark reached in 2009. Minority women now account for just over 6% of lawyers at these firms — 6.23% in 2011, comparable to the 6.20% figure for 2010, and lower than the 6.33% figure for 2009.

During most of the 19 years that NALP has been compiling this information, law firms had made steady, if somewhat slow progress in increasing the presence of women and minorities in both the partner and associate ranks. In 2011, that slow upward trend continued for partners, with minorities accounting for 6.56% of partners in the nation's major firms, and women accounting for 19.54% of the partners in these firms. In 2010, the figures were 6.16% and 19.43%, respectively. Nonetheless, the total change since 1993, the first year for which NALP has comparable aggregate information, has been only marginal. At that time minorities accounted for 2.55% of partners, and women accounted for 12.27% of partners. Among associates, the percentage of women had increased from 38.99% in 1993 to 45.66% in 2009, before falling back to 45.41% in 2010 and to 45.35% in 2011. Over the same period, minority percentages have increased from 8.36% to 19.90%, more than recovering from a slight decline to 19.53% in 2010.

Minority women continue to be the most dramatically underrepresented group at the partnership level, a pattern that holds across all firm sizes and most jurisdictions. Minority women make up just over 2% of the partners in the nation's major law firms. At just 2.04% of partners in 2011, this group continues to be particularly underrepresented in the partnership ranks, despite a small increase from 1.95% in 2010. The representation of minority women partners is only a bit higher, 2.47%, at the largest firms of more than 700 lawyers. Minority men, meanwhile, account for just 4.52% of partners this year, up from 4.21% in 2010. At the associate level, minorities account for 19.90% of associates, up from 19.53% in 2010, and minority women account for 10.96% of associates, a tiny increase from 10.90 in 2010, and still below the 11.02% figure reached in 2009.

These are the most significant findings of NALP's recent analyses of the 2011-2012 NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE), the annual compendium of legal employer data published by NALP.

"Last year, on the heels of the recession, we saw the figures for women and minority associates dip for the first time since NALP began tracking lawyer demographics at law firms. The 2011 figures reveal that a year later, while the figures for minority associates have bounced back, the overall number of women associates actually declined further. This is a significant finding," said James Leipold, NALP's Executive Director. "As law firms work to redouble their diversity efforts in the wake of the widespread layoffs in 2008 and 2009, we might have expected the representation of women and minorities among associates to bounce back together, but that is not the case. The newest data suggest that the temporary set-back for minority representation has been reversed but that the representation of women among associates has continued to trend downward. The loss of women has slowed, but at a time when far too few women make up the partnership ranks of US law firms, this is not a trend that can be ignored," Leipold concluded.

The representation of women and minorities in the summer associate ranks compares much more favorably to the population of recent law school graduates. According to the American Bar Association, since 2000, the percentage of minority law school graduates has ranged from 20% to 23%, while women have accounted for 46% to 49% of graduates, with the high point coming in the mid-2000's. Women comprise 47.71% of summer associates, minorities 27.11%, and minority women 15.19% of summer associates in 2011. In fact, these percentages exceed overall percentages for law school graduates and are higher than for 2010, even as the aggregate number of summer associates remained relatively steady compared with 2010, and off by over 40% compared with 2009.

Analyses for the 44 cities with the most attorneys represented in the directory reveal considerable variations in measures of racial/ethnic diversity. Representation of women among partners ranges from between 14 and 15% in Charlotte, NC, Northern Virginia, and Orange County, CA, to almost one-quarter in Denver, Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach, Hartford, Miami, and San Francisco. Percentages for minority partners range from less than 2% in Grand Rapids and Pittsburgh to a high of 23.91% in Miami. The newest NDLE also reveals that representation of minority women among partners varies considerably by geographic location, with firms in Miami reporting the highest level of representation, at 7.66%. This contrasts with seven cities where minority women make up less than 1% of partners. Likewise percentages for women associates ranged from 35-36% in Orange County, CA and Northern Virginia, to about half in Hartford, Minneapolis, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle, and Tampa. For minority associates the range was from 7.18% in Cleveland to just over 37% in Miami. The range for minority women associates was from 2.46% in Birmingham to almost 20% in Miami.

Among the largest of these cities (those with more than 900 partners represented), Los Angeles and San Francisco show the highest representation of women, minorities, and minority women among both partners and associates. Minorities account for 12.19% and 11.79% of partners in these two cities, respectively, and women account for 19.28% and 24.72% of partners, respectively. Figures for minority women are 3.68% and 4.02%, respectively. Firms in Seattle and Washington, DC, also exceed national averages on most measures.

Among smaller cities, Miami and the San Jose area generally meet or exceed national averages. In Miami, women account for 24.22% of partners; minorities, many of whom are Hispanic, account for 23.91% of partners, and 7.66% of partners are minority women. Comparable figures in the San Jose area are 19.55%, 14.61%, and 4.04%, respectively.

In many other cities, the picture is considerably different: Cities that are below average on most or all measures and considerably so with respect to minorities include Birmingham, Charlotte, Columbus, Grand Rapids, Kansas City, Nashville, Northern New Jersey, and Wilmington. Numerous others, such as Boston, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Denver, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Portland, OR, are at or above average with respect to women, but lag on minority representation. In still other cities, such as Detroit, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Raleigh, and St. Louis, only the percentage of women partners is at or above average. These findings reflect in part considerable contrasts in the population as a whole in these areas. For example, according to recent population estimates from the US Census Bureau, the population of the Grand Rapids and Pittsburgh areas is only about 20% minority (that is, Hispanic or non-White.) In contrast, at over 70% Hispanic or non-White, the population of Los Angeles can be characterized as majority minority. But minority representation within law firms does not always parallel minority representation within the overall population of an area. For example, in the Charlotte area, almost half of the population is minority, but this diversity is not reflected among lawyers working in law firms in that city.

Among summer associates, minorities have the highest representation in Columbus, Miami, Portland, OR, Raleigh/Durham, and San Jose, where 40% or more are minority. Representation of minority women among summer associates is highest in Miami and the Raleigh/Durham area. (See Table 2 and Table 3 for the figures for individual cities and metropolitan areas, and for eight other states or geographic areas.)

The direction of change in the representation of women and minorities among partners in the aggregate from 2010 to 2011 has not been the case everywhere. Although exact comparisons with prior years are not possible because of variations in offices listing in the directory each year, a core consistency in office listings allows for some approximate comparisons. In the five largest markets represented in the directory — Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, DC — only in New York and Washington, DC did the representation of women and minorities among partners and associates increase at least somewhat. The other cities saw a mix of increases, decreases, and generally steady percentages. In none of these cities, however, were large changes noted; most of the differentials were much smaller than one percentage point.

Lawyers with Disabilities

The directory also collects information about lawyers with disabilities, though this information is much less widely reported than information on race/ethnicity and gender, making it much harder to say anything definitive about the representation of lawyers with disabilities. The information that is available suggests that partners with disabilities (of any race or gender) are scarce, with less than one-quarter of 1 percent of partners reported as having a disability, a figure that is essentially unchanged from that for 2010. Similarly, associates with disabilities account for a tiny fraction, just 0.17 percent, of associates in law firms, even lower than in 2010. Although the presence of individuals with disabilities among law school graduates is not precisely known, other NALP research suggests that some 2% of graduates self-identify as having a disability. Disability figures for partners, associates, and all attorneys with disabilities are reported in Table 1.

The 2011-2012 NALP Directory of Legal Employers includes attorney race/ethnicity and gender information for almost 124,000 partners, associates, and other lawyers in 1,349 offices, and for over 5,300 summer associates in 765 offices nationwide. Information on disability status was reported for not quite 99,000 of these lawyers. Table 1 provides information on lawyers with disabilities; because of the small numbers involved, only nationwide figures are presented. Table 2 presents the most recent findings on the representation of women and racial/ethnic minorities among partners and associates at law firms. Table 3 presents analogous information for summer associates and for all lawyers. For purposes of the figures in these two tables, minority attorneys include those whose race or ethnicity is Black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and those of multi-racial heritage, as reported by the law firms in the NDLE. The partner numbers include both equity and non-equity partners.

The 2011-2012 NALP Directory of Legal Employers, which provides the individual firm listings on which these aggregate analyses are based, is available online at www.nalpdirectory.com.


Table 1. Reporting of Lawyers with Disabilities — 2011

  ALL FIRMS FIRMS OF 250 OR FEWER LAWYERS FIRMS OF 251-500 LAWYERS FIRMS OF 501-700 LAWYERS FIRMS OF 701+ LAWYERS
# Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
Partners 109 0.23% 36 0.19% 21 0.22% 23 0.36% 29 0.24%
Associates 68 0.17 11 0.10 21 0.27 8 0.13 28 0.17
All lawyers 219 0.22 61 0.18 53 0.27 38 0.26 67 0.21

Note: Figures for lawyers with disabilities are based on 1,121 offices/firms reporting counts, including zero, in all lawyer categories. Counts of individuals with disabilities, including zero, cover 98,949 lawyers. Because so few summer associates with disabilities were reported (4 total), they are not included in the table.


Table 2. Women and Minorities at Law Firms — Partners and Associates — 2011

  PARTNERS ASSOCIATES # of Offices
Total # % Women % Minority % Minority Women Total # % Women % Minority % Minority Women
Total 56,599 19.54 6.56 2.04 52,786 45.35 19.90 10.96 1,349
By # of Lawyers Firmwide:
100 or fewer lawyers 6,305 19.98 6.50 2.25 3,648 42.41 15.38 8.25 229
101-250 lawyers 13,340 19.51 4.65 1.33 7,968 45.02 15.05 8.04 212
251-500 lawyers 11,213 19.85 6.26 2.14 8,863 45.66 18.21 9.82 269
501-700 lawyers 7,928 19.21 7.39 1.93 7,631 44.73 19.07 10.67 221
701+ lawyers 17,813 19.35 7.82 2.47 24,676 45.97 22.99 12.79 418
Offices in:
Atlanta 1,401 18.06 6.64 1.86 1,213 47.57 17.31 10.39 34
Austin 354 22.32 7.91 3.11 294 42.18 19.05 7.14 16
Baltimore 427 19.67 2.81 0.47 248 41.94 10.89 5.24 8
Birmingham 455 17.58 2.42 1.54 203 37.44 8.87 2.46 7
Boston area 1,775 20.45 3.21 1.01 2,003 47.13 14.98 8.84 35
Charlotte 524 14.50 4.39 1.15 397 39.04 12.34 7.81 15
Chicago 3,891 19.56 5.89 1.88 3,115 44.30 17.01 9.47 64
Cincinnati 363 19.83 2.75 1.10 205 45.37 11.22 6.34 10
Cleveland 574 19.69 3.14 1.05 376 46.28 7.18 3.19 12
Columbus 537 16.57 4.84 0.37 276 45.29 12.68 6.16 13
Dallas 1,326 17.57 6.26 1.51 1,299 39.88 16.24 7.85 35
Denver 730 24.93 5.89 1.92 548 45.44 12.96 6.75 27
Detroit area 828 21.50 4.83 1.57 375 41.60 10.67 5.60 13
Ft. Lauderdale/W. Palm Beach 155 23.87 3.23 2.58 128 43.75 16.41 10.16 10
Grand Rapids 448 15.63 1.79 0.22 146 45.89 10.96 6.16 10
Hartford 153 24.18 2.61 1.31 107 52.34 16.82 11.21 6
Houston 1,267 16.18 7.66 2.05 1,263 39.35 19.79 8.79 41
Indianapolis 744 20.03 3.09 0.94 324 42.90 13.89 6.79 11
Kansas City, MO 649 18.18 2.77 0.62 390 42.05 11.54 5.64 7
Las Vegas 166 21.69 4.82 1.81 169 40.24 12.43 7.10 11
Los Angeles area 2,256 19.28 12.19 3.68 2,667 48.37 28.91 15.94 77
Miami 640 24.22 23.91 7.66 424 47.41 37.03 19.58 19
Milwaukee 662 19.94 3.93 1.36 380 42.37 9.47 5.00 9
Minneapolis 1,276 22.26 5.02 1.18 732 49.73 13.25 6.69 22
Nashville 341 17.89 2.64 1.17 225 40.89 12.89 7.11 8
New York City 7,152 17.30 6.66 2.32 13,177 44.66 24.04 13.35 127
Nothern NJ/Newark area 1,078 17.53 4.55 1.39 955 46.49 14.87 8.27 22
Northern Virginia 293 14.33 6.48 1.71 264 35.23 16.67 7.95 15
Orange Co., CA 598 14.88 11.20 3.18 674 36.05 24.04 10.24 28
Orlando 205 19.51 3.90 0.00 118 50.85 16.95 11.86 7
Philadelphia 1,021 19.20 3.82 1.18 1,002 47.11 13.37 8.28 16
Phoenix 694 22.33 5.62 1.73 427 40.05 15.93 7.49 17
Pittsburgh 534 19.48 1.69 0.37 374 46.26 8.82 6.42 10
Portland, OR area 518 20.27 3.67 1.74 260 47.31 15.38 10.00 17
Raleigh/Durham 296 21.62 2.36 1.35 187 44.39 11.23 5.88 14
Richmond 314 15.61 4.46 1.59 249 42.17 10.04 7.23 6
San Diego 393 20.36 8.91 1.78 437 44.39 18.54 8.24 22
San Francisco 1,493 24.72 11.79 4.02 1,689 50.92 26.76 15.75 52
San Jose area 890 19.55 14.61 4.04 1,429 43.95 36.32 17.56 45
Seattle area 968 22.52 8.47 2.89 567 49.56 21.16 11.46 29
St. Louis 835 21.56 3.59 1.20 467 42.83 11.13 5.35 9
Tampa 372 18.28 8.33 2.42 210 50.00 14.29 10.00 12
Washington, D.C. 5,396 20.33 8.10 2.54 5,862 46.42 21.10 12.09 122
Wilmington 315 18.10 3.81 1.59 355 38.87 8.73 3.94 11
States:
Other areas in Connecticut 278 22.66 2.52 0.72 184 54.89 16.30 10.33 9
Other areas in Florida 189 19.05 5.82 2.65 106 45.28 12.26 7.55 12
Kentucky 418 19.38 1.20 0.48 190 49.47 9.47 4.21 5
Louisiana 401 20.70 5.99 2.00 246 51.63 10.16 6.50 8
Mississippi 173 15.03 8.09 2.89 108 41.67 12.04 4.63 6
Other areas in New York State 685 18.25 2.92 0.73 370 44.59 10.00 5.95 14
Other areas in Ohio 348 18.68 2.87 0.86 182 40.66 8.79 3.85 10
Other areas in Texas 227 18.06 7.49 0.88 142 38.03 19.01 7.75 10

Source: The 2011-2012 NALP Directory of Legal Employers. Some city information includes one or more offices in adjacent suburbs. Orange County includes offices in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Newport Beach. The San Jose area includes offices in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and E. Palo Alto, Redwood Shores/Redwood City, San Jose, and Sunnyvale. The Northern New Jersey/Newark area includes offices in Newark, Roseland, West Orange, Florham Park, Hackensack, Morristown, Parsippany, Westfield, Bridgewater, and Woodbridge. Northern Virginia includes offices in Falls Church, McLean, Fairfax, Reston, Vienna, and Alexandria. State figures exclude cities reported separately. For multi-office firms that reported only firmwide figures, the information was attributed to the reporting city if at least 60% of the firms lawyers are in that city.


Table 3. Women and Minorities at Law Firms — Total Lawyers and Summer Associates — 2011

  TOTAL LAWYERS SUMMER ASSOCIATES
Total # % Women % Minority % Minority Women # of Offices Total # % Women % Minority % Minority Women
Total 123,912 32.61 12.70 6.23 1,349 5,305 47.71 27.11 15.19
By # of Lawyers Firmwide:
100 or fewer lawyers 11,002 28.42 9.54 4.44 229 375 49.07 22.67 12.00
101-250 lawyers 24,098 29.50 8.18 3.68 212 773 52.26 23.42 13.45
251-500 lawyers 23,170 32.13 11.65 5.55 269 909 46.42 25.96 14.74
501-700 lawyers 17,858 32.78 12.77 6.08 221 723 45.64 29.60 15.35
701+ lawyers 47,784 35.32 16.20 8.32 418 2,525 47.17 28.59 16.32
Offices in:
Atlanta 2,994 32.63 11.69 6.01 34 80 56.25 31.25 20.00
Austin 726 32.09 12.26 4.96 16 27 48.15 14.81 7.41
Baltimore 786 29.64 5.98 2.54 8 17 41.18 11.76 0.00
Birmingham 717 23.29 4.32 1.81 7 58 53.45 15.52 13.79
Boston area 4,148 35.49 9.19 5.01 35 200 49.50 26.00 15.50
Charlotte 1,049 26.60 8.20 4.29 15 20 30.00 10.00 10.00
Chicago 7,649 31.10 10.52 5.19 64 233 45.06 24.46 12.45
Cincinnati 659 30.50 5.31 2.73 10 20 55.00 20.00 15.00
Cleveland 1,114 31.78 4.67 1.80 12 34 41.18 23.53 14.71
Columbus 933 28.30 7.40 2.47 13 31 54.84 41.94 25.81
Dallas 2,918 29.13 10.83 4.56 35 167 45.51 26.95 11.98
Denver 1,460 33.77 8.42 3.84 27 53 47.17 20.75 11.32
Detroit area 1,374 27.80 6.48 2.77 13 32 46.88 37.50 21.88
Ft. Lauderdale/W. Palm Beach 332 34.34 9.04 6.02 10
Grand Rapids 733 21.83 3.41 1.50 10 28 53.57 14.29 7.14
Hartford 303 35.31 7.26 4.62 6
Houston 2,860 29.55 13.50 5.59 41 235 48.51 26.81 15.74
Indianapolis 1,238 28.76 6.46 2.67 11 39 35.90 20.51 5.13
Kansas City, MO 1,301 30.59 5.61 2.31 7 28 57.14 17.86 17.86
Las Vegas 355 30.70 8.45 4.23 11 12 41.67 16.67 16.67
Los Angeles area 5,503 35.14 20.77 10.01 77 256 46.09 28.13 15.63
Miami 1,160 34.22 29.66 12.76 19 34 47.06 58.82 29.41
Milwaukee 1,127 29.10 5.94 2.66 9 30 50.00 26.67 16.67
Minneapolis 2,272 32.61 7.97 3.30 22 89 51.69 29.21 15.73
Nashville 620 27.74 6.45 3.39 8 30 40.00 6.67 6.67
New York City 22,806 35.14 17.43 9.12 127 1,475 47.46 30.17 17.08
Nothern NJ/Newark area 2,397 31.41 9.05 4.38 22 52 48.08 15.38 9.62
Northern Virginia 628 25.00 11.78 4.62 15 21 33.33 23.81 14.29
Orange Co., CA 1,352 27.37 18.20 7.47 28 91 47.25 30.77 15.38
Orlando 355 31.55 8.17 3.94 7
Philadelphia 2,309 33.56 8.23 4.59 16 72 52.78 31.94 16.67
Phoenix 1,222 29.71 9.82 4.17 17 43 53.49 18.60 13.95
Pittsburgh 1,028 31.52 4.47 2.82 10 33 48.48 3.03 0.00
Portland, OR area 845 28.88 7.10 4.26 17 25 52.00 40.00 24.00
Raleigh/Durham 528 32.01 5.87 3.03 14 15 46.67 46.67 26.67
Richmond 647 30.29 6.34 3.86 6 12 58.33 16.67 16.67
San Diego 921 33.66 14.12 5.54 22 33 36.36 18.18 0.00
San Francisco 3,567 38.74 19.15 10.06 52 169 50.30 30.77 19.53
San Jose area 2,521 35.14 27.33 12.02 45 169 41.42 41.42 22.49
Seattle area 1,712 32.89 12.44 5.84 29 53 45.28 37.74 20.75
St. Louis 1,457 29.24 5.90 2.61 9 29 55.17 10.34 10.34
Tampa 627 29.82 11.16 5.26 12 12 33.33 16.67 8.33
Washington, D.C. 13,279 34.38 14.55 7.40 122 587 45.49 24.87 13.80
Wilmington 720 29.58 6.67 2.92 11 43 48.84 11.63 6.98
States:
Other areas in Connecticut 506 36.36 7.51 4.35 9 22 40.91 27.27 18.18
Other areas in Florida 319 29.47 8.15 4.39 12
Kentucky 716 29.47 3.91 1.82 5 13 53.85 7.69 7.69
Louisiana 780 34.23 7.18 3.46 8 19 47.37 26.32 10.53
Mississippi 327 26.30 8.26 3.06 6 23 43.48 13.04 4.35
Other areas in New York State 1,179 28.24 4.92 2.37 14 40 50.00 22.50 7.50
Other areas in Ohio 570 26.32 4.74 1.75 10 10 60.00 10.00 0.00
Other areas in Texas 446 28.25 10.31 3.14 10 27 62.96 25.93 18.52

Source: The 2011-2012 NALP Directory of Legal Employers. Some city information includes one or more offices in adjacent suburbs. Orange County includes offices in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Newport Beach. The San Jose area includes offices in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and E. Palo Alto, Redwood Shores/Redwood City, San Jose, and Sunnyvale. The Northern New Jersey/Newark area includes offices in Newark, Roseland, West Orange, Florham Park, Hackensack, Morristown, Parsippany, Westfield, Bridgewater, and Woodbridge. Northern Virginia includes offices in Falls Church, McLean, Fairfax, Reston, Vienna, and Alexandria. State figures exclude cities reported separately. For multi-office firms that reported only firmwide figures, the information was attributed to the reporting city if at least 60% of the firms lawyers are in that city.
Note: The number of offices reporting one or more summer associates, including demographic information, was 765. Dashes in the summer associates columns indicate that fewer than 10 summer associates were reported for that city.

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