Representation of Women Among Associates Continues to Fall, Even as Minority Associates Make Gains

December 13, 2012

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While women and minority partners continue to mark small gains in their representation among law firm partners as a whole, and while the percentage of minority associates has rebounded after falling in the wake of the recession, the percentage of women associates continues to fall compared to their male counterparts.

The latest NALP findings on law firm demographics reveal that law firms have continued to make up most, but not all, of the ground lost when diversity figures fell in 2010. While the overall representation of minorities continued to inch up, the overall representation of women increased by only a very small amount, and all of this gain can be attributed to increases in women among the partnership ranks. Since the overall figure for women fell in 2011 compared to 2010, this small increase means that the overall percentage for women remains virtually flat compared to 2010.

In 2012, the percentage of both women and minority partners in law firms across the nation was up by a small amount compared with 2011. Among associates, however, representation of women declined slightly for the third year in a row and for only the third time since NALP started compiling this information in the 1990s. The net effect was that, for lawyers as a whole, representation of women was almost flat and remains lower than in 2009. Representation of minority women was up by a very small amount. For minorities as a whole, representation was up slightly. Minorities now make up 12.91% of lawyers at these law firms, compared with 12.70% in 2011. Just under one-third of lawyers at these same firms are women — 32.67% in 2012 compared with 32.61% in 2011 and 32.69% in 2010, all lower than the 32.97% mark reached in 2009. Minority women now account for 6.32% of lawyers at these firms, up a bit from 6.23% in 2011, and returning to a level comparable to the 6.33% figure for 2009. Among associates specifically, however, the representation of women has continued its incremental but steady slide from 45.66% in 2009 to 45.05% in 2012. Representation of minority women among associates is now just barely higher than the 11.02% figure for 2009.

During most of the 20 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 2012 that slow upward trend continued for partners, with minorities accounting for 6.71% of partners in the nation’s major firms, and women accounting for 19.91% of the partners in these firms. In 2011, the figures were 6.56% and 19.54%, 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 each year since. Over the same period, minority percentages have increased from 8.36% to 20.32%, more than recovering from a slight decline from 2009 to 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 2.16% of partners in 2012, this group continues to be particularly underrepresented in the partnership ranks, despite a small increase from 2.04% in 2011. The representation of minority women partners is somewhat higher, 2.62%, at the largest firms of more than 700 lawyers. Minority men, meanwhile, account for just 4.55% of partners this year, almost unchanged from 4.52% in 2011. At the associate level, minorities account for 20.32% of associates, up from 19.90% in 2011, and minority women account for 11.08% of associates, a small increase from 10.96% in 2011, and only a bit higher than the 11.02% figure reached in 2009.

These are the most significant findings of NALP’s recent analyses of the 2012-2013 NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE), the annual compendium of legal employer data published by NALP.

“In 2010, 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. Since then we have seen the figures for minority associates steadily bounce back, but the overall representation of women associates has continued to decline. This is a significant and troubling trend,” said James Leipold, NALP’s Executive Director. “While the percentage of women partners, small as it is, has continued to grow, that incremental growth will likely become unsustainable if the percentage of women associates continues to inch downward. The 2012 data suggest that the temporary setback for minority representation brought on by recession-era layoffs has been effectively reversed but that the decline in the representation of women among associates has not been stemmed. The continued loss of women from the associate ranks, at a time when far too few women make up the partners of U.S. law firms, is a problem that firms must begin to address head-on,” 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 24%, while women have accounted for 46% to 49% of graduates, with the high point coming in the mid-2000s. Women comprise 46.26% of summer associates, minorities 29.55%, and minority women 16.26% of summer associates in 2012. However, even as the representation of minority women has increased from 12.90% in 2009 to 16.26% in 2012, representation of women as a whole has fallen to below its 2009 level of 46.62%, after reaching 47.71% in 2011. In addition, the overall number of summer associates remains off by over 30% compared with 2009, despite increases in the numbers since then.

Analyses for the 42 cities with the most lawyers represented in the directory reveal considerable variations in measures of racial/ethnic diversity. Representation of women among partners ranges from 13% in Salt Lake City and Northern Virginia to about one-quarter in Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach, Seattle, and San Francisco. Percentages for minority partners range from less than 2% in Grand Rapids and just over 2% in Pittsburgh to a high of 27.30% in Miami. The newest NDLE data also reveal that representation of minority women among partners varies considerably by geographic location, with firms in Miami reporting the highest level of representation, at 7.83%. This contrasts with 13 cities where minority women make up less than 1% of partners. Likewise percentages for women associates ranged from 25% in Salt Lake City to close to half or more in Minneapolis, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Grand Rapids. For minority associates the range was from 7.80% in Cleveland to over 36% in Miami and the San Jose area. The range for minority women associates was from 1.77% in Salt Lake City to 16-17% in Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the San Jose area.

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 12.42% and 10.78% of partners in these two cities, respectively, and women account for 19.96% and 24.85% of partners, respectively. Figures for minority women are 3.98% and 3.96%, respectively. Firms in Seattle and Washington, DC, also at least slightly exceed national averages on most measures.

Among smaller cities, Miami exceeds national averages, and San Jose and Orange County, CA, do so with respect to minority associates. In Miami, women account for 23.65% of partners; minorities, many of whom are Hispanic, account for 27.30% of partners, and 7.83% of partners are minority women. In the San Jose area almost 37% of associates are minorities and almost 17% are minority women. In Orange County, CA, almost one-quarter of associates are minorities, though the percentage of minority women, at just over 10% is somewhat below average.

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 Charlotte, Cincinnati, Columbus, Grand Rapids, Kansas City, Nashville, Northern New Jersey, and Wilmington. Numerous others, such as Boston, Minneapolis, Portland, OR, and St. Louis are at or above average with respect to women, but lag on minority representation. In still other cities, such as Denver, Detroit, Milwaukee, Phoenix, and Raleigh, 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 U.S. 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 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 Miami, Portland, OR, and San Jose, where 43-44% are minority. Representation of minority women among summer associates is highest in Detroit, San Francisco, and the San Jose area. (See Table 2 and Table 3 for the figures for individual cities and metropolitan areas, and for seven other states or geographic areas.)

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 just one-third of 1 percent of partners reported as having a disability, though the figure is higher than the less than one-quarter of one percent figures for the prior two years. Similarly, associates with disabilities account for a tiny fraction, just 0.24%, of associates in law firms, but again this is a higher figure than in the past two years. Although the presence of individuals with disabilities among law school graduates is not precisely known, other NALP research suggests that somewhat fewer than 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 2012-2013 NDLE includes attorney race/ethnicity and gender information for almost 118,000 partners, associates, and other lawyers in 1,209 offices, and for almost 6,500 summer associates in 790 offices nationwide. Information on disability status was reported for not quite 86,000 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. Table 4 presents national aggregate figures for the representation of women and racial/ethnic minorities among partners and associates at law firms for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. For purposes of the figures in these three 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 2012-2013 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 —2012

  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 131 0.33% 35 0.24% 19 0.23% 35 0.56% 42 0.38%
Associates 85 0.24 12 0.12 20 0.32 15 0.24 39 0.27
All lawyers 255 0.30 58 0.22 48 0.29 58 0.40 92 0.32

Note: Figures for lawyers with disabilities are based on 908 offices/firms reporting counts, including zero, in all lawyer categories. Counts of individuals with disabilities, including zero, cover 85,986 lawyers. Because so few summer associates with disabilities were reported (6 total), they are not included in the table.


Table 2. Women and Minorities and Law Firms — Partners and Associates — 2012

  Partners Associates # of Offices
Total # % Women % Minority % Minority Women Total # % Women % Minority % Minority Women
Total 53,725 19.91 6.71 2.16 49,190 45.05 20.32 11.08 1,209
By # of Lawyers Firmwide:
100 or fewer 4,724 19.64 6.22 2.27 2,612 44.26 15.93 8.69 159
101-250 12,077 19.43 4.81 1.48 7,090 43.81 15.26 8.28 190
251-500 10,815 20.03 6.44 2.07 7,942 44.37 19.15 10.06 225
501-700 8,450 19.76 7.55 2.21 7,987 45.76 20.05 11.23 210
701+ 17,659 20.29 7.91 2.62 23,559 45.50 22.82 12.48 425
Offices in:
Atlanta 1,338 18.68 7.17 1.94 1,092 45.79 18.22 11.36 31
Austin 358 22.07 9.22 3.07 273 41.39 20.88 8.79 18
Baltimore 343 19.24 3.50 0.58 181 44.75 14.36 8.29 6
Boston area 1,734 21.22 3.63 1.33 1,982 45.76 14.83 8.78 34
Charlotte 505 15.64 4.16 1.19 360 38.06 12.50 6.67 14
Chicago 4,030 20.32 6.30 2.16 3,102 43.97 18.15 10.03 61
Cincinnati 305 20.00 3.28 1.31 136 41.91 13.97 6.62 7
Cleveland 460 18.26 3.04 0.87 295 45.08 7.80 4.07 7
Columbus 369 19.51 4.07 0.81 185 44.32 11.89 4.86 10
Dallas 1,115 17.85 6.73 2.06 1,094 38.57 18.46 8.41 31
Denver 612 23.86 6.37 2.45 486 42.18 13.79 7.41 26
Detroit area 584 22.26 4.62 1.54 247 42.11 12.55 6.88 8
Ft. Lauderdale/W. Palm Beach 203 25.62 5.42 3.94 138 40.58 13.77 7.97 10
Grand Rapids 397 16.62 1.76 0.25 125 48.00 12.00 7.20 8
Houston 1,168 16.95 8.39 2.48 1,161 40.91 20.07 9.73 35
Indianapolis 534 18.16 3.00 0.75 226 45.13 13.27 7.08 7
Kansas City, MO 692 18.06 3.03 0.72 373 44.50 13.67 6.97 9
Los Angeles area 2,134 19.96 12.42 3.98 2,480 48.59 30.28 16.49 77
Miami 575 23.65 27.30 7.83 383 44.39 36.03 17.49 17
Milwaukee 664 20.48 3.16 1.05 357 40.34 8.96 4.48 7
Minneapolis 1,305 22.45 2.91 0.92 709 48.52 11.71 6.77 21
Nashville 344 17.15 2.62 0.87 204 45.59 12.75 6.37 7
New York City 6,883 17.51 6.89 2.32 12,502 44.57 24.28 13.20 118
Nothern NJ/Newark area 839 16.33 3.69 0.95 691 44.86 15.63 8.39 19
Northern Virginia 263 12.93 5.32 0.76 236 37.71 16.53 8.47 12
Orange Co., CA 565 14.69 11.86 3.54 609 35.96 24.63 10.18 24
Orlando 175 18.86 3.43 0.00 96 45.83 15.63 8.33 5
Philadelphia 864 19.33 3.59 1.27 888 47.41 13.85 7.55 13
Phoenix 599 20.20 6.68 1.84 354 43.50 14.41 6.78 17
Pittsburgh 395 18.73 2.03 0.76 281 43.42 8.90 5.34 8
Portland, OR area 464 20.91 3.23 1.51 225 47.56 15.56 8.89 12
Raleigh/Durham 267 22.10 2.25 1.50 158 41.77 9.49 5.06 12
Richmond 308 17.21 4.55 1.95 229 42.79 8.30 5.24 5
Salt Lake City 174 13.22 2.87 0.57 113 25.66 8.85 1.77 8
San Diego 294 20.75 9.86 1.70 375 41.60 19.20 7.20 19
San Francisco 1,364 24.85 10.78 3.96 1,577 51.55 26.57 16.17 50
San Jose area 867 19.72 16.26 3.81 1,319 41.62 36.85 16.76 44
Seattle area 906 24.06 8.50 2.65 526 47.53 22.05 12.93 26
St. Louis 821 21.32 3.65 1.22 409 45.72 11.74 5.13 10
Tampa 288 18.40 8.68 1.74 163 46.01 11.66 6.75 11
Washington, D.C. 5,412 20.42 7.65 2.62 5,712 46.17 21.03 11.94 113
Wilmington 304 19.74 4.61 1.64 311 40.84 9.97 4.82 12
States:
Other areas in Connecticut 376 22.07 1.86 0.53 270 50.37 20.00 12.96 9
Other areas in Florida 133 18.05 6.02 2.26 84 46.43 14.29 5.95 9
Kentucky 486 19.96 1.85 0.41 203 45.32 12.81 7.88 7
Other areas in New Jersey 244 18.85 5.74 2.46 157 42.68 15.92 4.46 7
Other areas in New York State 1,088 22.06 5.97 2.21 659 50.83 15.33 10.02 12
Other areas in Ohio 244 18.44 2.46 0.82 110 43.64 7.27 2.73 5
Other areas in Texas 210 18.57 10.48 1.43 130 36.92 18.46 7.69 9

Source: The 2012-2013 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 Los Angeles area includes offices in Pasadena and Santa Monica. The Northern New Jersey/Newark area includes offices in Newark, Roseland, West Orange, Florham Park, Hackensack, Morristown, Parsippany, Westfield, Short Hills, and Woodbridge. Northern Virginia includes offices in Falls Church, McLean/Tyson's Corner, Reston, 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 — 2012

  Total Lawyers Summer Associates
Total # % Women % Minority % Minority Women # of Offices Total # % Women % Minority % Minority Women
Total 117,934 32.67 12.91 6.32 1,209 6,464 46.26 29.55 16.26
By # of Lawyers Firmwide:
100 or fewer 8,265 28.70 9.33 4.32 159 372 43.55 23.12 10.75
101-250 21,927 28.97 8.49 3.93 190 806 46.28 29.28 15.76
251-500 21,700 31.41 11.52 5.35 225 1,030 46.70 30.58 18.16
501-700 19,104 33.49 13.43 6.53 210 922 47.40 29.61 15.73
701+ 46,938 35.34 16.04 8.15 425 3,334 46.10 29.99 16.56
Offices in:
Atlanta 2,838 32.21 12.40 6.45 31 113 57.52 31.86 25.66
Austin 724 31.91 13.40 5.66 18 39 43.59 23.08 10.26
Baltimore 622 30.06 7.72 3.70 6 24 50.00 33.33 20.83
Boston area 4,157 34.98 9.21 5.10 34 249 49.40 21.69 13.65
Charlotte 1,021 27.62 7.84 3.82 14 22 31.82 36.36 13.64
Chicago 7,972 31.41 11.24 5.49 61 362 47.79 22.65 12.43
Cincinnati 522 28.54 6.90 3.45 7 20 35.00 30.00 5.00
Cleveland 921 31.27 4.99 2.28 7 44 31.82 31.82 20.45
Columbus 677 29.54 6.20 2.36 10 30 53.33 36.67 20.00
Dallas 2,464 28.94 12.09 4.95 31 189 40.21 23.81 10.05
Denver 1,324 32.18 8.91 4.53 26 38 31.58 39.47 18.42
Detroit area 916 28.49 7.21 3.28 8 40 62.50 37.50 27.50
Ft. Lauderdale/W. Palm Beach 392 32.91 8.93 5.61 10
Grand Rapids 651 23.35 3.84 1.84 8 32 53.13 25.00 21.88
Houston 2,657 30.75 14.15 6.17 35 319 44.83 31.03 16.93
Indianapolis 879 27.76 5.92 2.50 7 37 43.24 21.62 10.81
Kansas City, MO 1,304 31.29 6.13 2.68 9 50 38.00 32.00 16.00
Los Angeles area 5,178 35.61 21.28 10.39 77 355 47.61 34.65 19.15
Miami 1,045 32.54 31.00 12.25 17 50 42.00 44.00 20.00
Milwaukee 1,113 28.03 5.12 2.16 7 36 50.00 25.00 11.11
Minneapolis 2,281 32.05 6.14 3.16 21 92 40.22 35.87 11.96
Nashville 604 28.81 6.29 2.65 7 21 38.10 14.29 4.76
New York City 21,834 35.06 17.67 9.05 118 1,865 46.22 32.71 18.93
Nothern NJ/Newark area 1,856 30.06 8.84 4.20 19 55 41.82 21.82 10.91
Northern Virginia 536 25.75 10.63 4.10 12 13 30.77 15.38 0.00
Orange Co., CA 1,240 27.18 18.55 7.50 24 78 37.18 26.92 10.26
Orlando 304 29.93 7.24 2.63 5
Philadelphia 2,034 34.76 8.90 4.77 13 72 50.00 33.33 20.83
Phoenix 1,033 29.33 9.68 3.87 17 28 39.29 39.29 14.29
Pittsburgh 827 29.99 4.96 2.66 8 36 44.44 11.11 8.33
Portland, OR area 743 29.07 6.86 3.63 12 21 52.38 42.86 19.05
Raleigh/Durham 470 30.85 5.74 2.77 12 27 51.85 25.93 7.41
Richmond 630 30.32 5.40 3.02 5 24 50.00 25.00 16.67
Salt Lake City 314 19.43 5.10 0.96 8
San Diego 730 33.84 15.07 5.21 19 40 40.00 32.50 12.50
San Francisco 3,352 39.56 18.85 10.20 50 180 46.67 32.22 16.11
San Jose area 2,398 33.24 27.94 11.30 44 220 41.82 43.18 24.55
Seattle area 1,601 33.29 13.12 6.31 26 40 57.50 40.00 25.00
St. Louis 1,406 29.94 6.33 2.77 10 49 36.73 20.41 10.20
Tampa 491 28.31 9.78 3.67 11 18 27.78 11.11 11.11
Washington, D.C. 13,293 34.36 14.38 7.41 113 716 49.30 27.79 14.66
Wilmington 663 30.17 7.54 3.17 12 47 42.55 23.40 8.51
States:
Other areas in Connecticut 746 35.52 8.31 5.09 9 19 63.16 36.84 31.58
Other areas in Florida 237 29.96 8.44 3.38 9 10 40.00 20.00 10.00
Kentucky 819 28.69 4.76 2.44 7 11 36.36 27.27 0.00
Other areas in New Jersey 444 28.60 9.01 3.15 7 12 33.33 41.67 16.67
Other areas in New York State 1,977 32.88 8.80 4.81 12 60 51.67 20.00 6.67
Other areas in Ohio 382 27.49 3.66 1.31 5
Other areas in Texas 418 28.23 12.20 3.35 9 22 63.64 18.18 9.09

Source: The 2012-2013 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 Los Angeles area includes offices in Pasadena and Santa Monica. The Northern New Jersey/Newark area includes offices in Newark, Roseland, West Orange, Florham Park, Hackensack, Morristown, Parsippany, Westfield, Short Hills, and Woodbridge. Northern Virginia includes offices in Falls Church, McLean/Tyson's Corner, Reston, 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 790. Dashes in the summer associates columns indicate that fewer than 10 summer associates were reported for that city.


Table 4. Women and Minorities at Law Firms — 2009-2012

  PARTNERS ASSOCIATES TOTAL LAWYERS SUMMER ASSOCIATES
% Women % Minority % Minority Women % Women % Minority % Minority Women % Women % Minority % Minority Women % Women % Minority % Minority Women
2009 19.21% 6.05% 1.88% 45.66% 19.67% 11.02% 32.97% 12.59% 6.33% 46.62% 24.04% 12.90%
2010 19.43 6.16 1.95 45.41 19.53 10.90 32.69 12.40 6.20 47.35 26.99 14.92
2011 19.54 6.56 2.04 45.35 19.90 10.96 32.61 12.70 6.23 47.71 27.11 15.19
2012 19.91 6.71 2.16 45.05 20.32 11.08 32.67 12.91 6.32 46.26 29.55 16.26



About NALP: Founded in 1971, the National Association for Law Placement, Inc.® (NALP) is dedicated to continuously improving career counseling and planning, recruitment, and retention, and the professional development of law students, lawyers, and its members. NALP maintains an online archive of press releases at www.nalp.org/pressreleases. For additional information about NALP research, contact Judith Collins (jcollins@nalp.org), Director of Research, or James G. Leipold (jleipold@nalp.org), Executive Director, at 202-835-1001.

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