Tips on collecting demographic info

The information provided on an employer's NALP Form or a law school's NDLS form provides an excellent resource for students and candidates to learn about the organization. The demographics section is an essential snapshot of an organization's environment, diversity and culture.

How to collect demographic information

Visual surveys may be the most commonly used method of demographic data collection, but they are also the least accurate. You can help ensure accuracy by allowing students and attorneys to self-identify for all the demographic categories, including gay and lesbian information and ethnicity.

The most important point to remember in collecting demographic information is the need to respect an individual's choice about whether to self-identify. Collecting demographic information by anonymous questionnaire allows the process to be impartial and free of judgments.

How to report demographic information

All of NALP’s demographic categories, including the GLBT and disabled categories, automatically default to “zero.” The only acceptable entries besides numerals in this grid are the abbreviations “NC’ for “not collected” and “UNK” for “unknown.” As explained in the NALP Form instructions, if you enter a zero or make no entry at all in any area of the demographics grid, it will appear as a zero on your NALP Form, in print and online.

Race/ethnicity categories collected by NALP

At its February 2007 meeting, NALP's Board of Directors voted to adopt, with minor modifications, the new EEOC race/ethnicity demographic categories for inclusion in the 2008-2009 NALP Directory of Legal Employers. The categories are listed below, and for your reference have been annotated with the definitions published by the OMB in the October 30, 1997 Federal Register. [The full Federal Register notice "Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity (October 30, 1997) is posted at: www.whitehouse.gov/omb/fedreg/1997standards.html.] Note in particular that 'White' includes individuals of Middle Eastern and North African origin.

  • Hispanic or Latino — A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
  • White — A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.
  • Black or African American — A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander — A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
  • Asian — A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • American Indian or Alaska Native — A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment.
  • Two or More Races — A person who self-reports as belonging to more than one racial category.

Special notes on the importance of collecting gay and lesbian demographics

Although the federal government does not collect information on GLBT status, NALP has long included this demographic category on the NALP Form and began collecting it on the NDLS form in 2011. Only by fully reporting on all demographic categories, including gay and lesbian information, will an organization provide an accurate picture of the diversity of its work force or enrollment. Moreover, client requests for demographic data are becoming more common as corporations focus on diversity; thus, not providing this information could cost your organization an important client. Beginning in 2011 this information will be collected for law schools as well as for employers.

Accurately completing the form is an inexpensive but very real way to support the gay and lesbian attorneys in your organization and is an effective tool in the recruitment and retention of diverse attorneys. Further, it is better to report “0” than to list “NC” (not collected) or “UNK” (unknown). By listing zero you are indicating to law students and attorneys that you have conducted a thoughtful inquiry into the representation of GLBT employees at your workplace and that you would likely welcome applications from qualified students and professionals who do identify as GLBT. A report that states that the information is not collected or is unknown suggests that your organization does not recognize or support gay and lesbian attorneys or students.

Additional information for law schools on collecting demographic information

Additional information for employers on collecting demographic information

NALP Research on Diversity Categories

GWU Aug_Sept 2014
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