Law Firm Diversity Demographics Slow to Change — Minority Women Remain Particularly Scarce in Law Firm Partnership Ranks

October 10, 2008

(Revised December 10, 2008)  The percentage of women and minority lawyers at law firms continues to increase, although the rate of change is very slow, and minority women continue to be dramatically underrepresented at the partnership level.

Minority women make up less than 2% of partners in the nation's major law firms. At just 1.84% of partners, this group is thus particularly underrepresented in the partnership ranks, even more so than minority men, who account for just 4.08% of partners. These are the most significant findings of NALP's recent analyses of the 2008-2009 NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE), the annual compendium of legal employer data published by NALP. The representation of minority women partners is only slightly higher, 2.27%, at the largest firms of more than 700 lawyers. 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 5.98%. This contrasts sharply with more than 15 cities where minority women make up fewer than 1% of partners.

During the 16 years that NALP has been compiling this information, law firms have made steady, albeit slow progress in increasing the presence of women and minorities among their lawyers and summer associates. In 2008, minorities account for 5.92% of partners in the nation's major firms, and women account for 18.74% of the partners in these firms. In 2007, the figures were 5.40% and 18.34%, respectively. 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. Looking at all lawyers represented, minorities now make up just over 12% of lawyers at these law firms, just under one-third of lawyers at these same firms are women, and minority women account for just over 6% of lawyers at these firms.

According to NALP Executive Director James Leipold, "It is clear that the overlap of race and gender is significant, and presents unique hurdles for minority women in the industry. These findings mirror the findings of other similar studies, including the report by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Law Firms, that documents some of the reasons that this is so."

The most recent findings from the NALP Directory of Legal Employers also reveal that, nationally, women and minorities continue to be much better represented in associate and summer associate ranks than in the partnership ranks. Women account for 45.34% of associates, minorities for 19.08% of associates, and minority women for 10.73% of associates. Each group lags in their representation by 3 to 5 percentage points compared to the population of recent law school graduates. According to the American Bar Association, since the late 1980s, the percentage of minority law school graduates has more than doubled, from 10% to 23%. During the same period, the presence of women among law school graduates has grown from 40% to nearly half. Summer associate classes best reflect law school enrollment, with women comprising 45.42% of summer associates, minorities 24.04%, and minority women 12.99% of summer associates in 2008. Despite a slight decrease from 24.19% in 2007 to 24.04% in 2008, minority representation in summer programs slightly exceeded their representation among law students for the fourth year in a row.

"It is clear that recruiting efforts, particularly at the largest law firms, are very successful in recruiting women and minorities into law firm summer programs," says Leipold. "But what these numbers confirm is what many other studies have shown, and that is that women and minorities leave their law firm jobs at a higher rate than their male and non-minority colleagues. The challenge now is to make meaningful changes to efforts to successfully retain and promote women and minority lawyers in order to increase their presence in the leadership ranks of the nation's leading law firms."

Analyses for the 46 cities with the most attorneys represented in the directory reveal considerable variations in these demographic measures. Among the largest of these cities (those with more than 1,000 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 12.03% and 9.43% of partners in these cities, respectively, and women account for 19.42% and 23.17% of partners, respectively. Somewhat more than 3% of partners are minority women. Firms in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, New York, Seattle, and Washington, DC, also are close to or exceed national averages on most measures.

Among smaller cities, Miami and San Jose exceeded national averages, and San Diego is close to or exceeds national averages. In Miami, women account for 21.38% of partners; minorities, many of whom are Hispanic, account for 21.51% of partners, and 5.98% of partners are minority women. In the San Jose area the figures are 19.70%, 14.51%, and 3.39%, respectively. Some cities rank high on specific measures. For example, cities with relatively high percentages of women partners include: Austin, Denver, and New Orleans — all of which report at least 20% women partners. Similarly, Austin and Orange County have relatively high percentages of minority partners.

Among all cities, offices in Houston, Los Angeles, and Orange County, Miami, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Washington, DC rank highest on the representation of minorities among associates, with representation at one in five or greater in all of these cities. Representation of women among associates is highest in Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Seattle, where about half of associates are women. Minority women are most prevalent among associates in Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, and Washington, DC.

In many other cities, the picture is considerably different: Firms in over 40% of the cities are below average on most or all measures and considerably so with respect to minorities. Cities in this category include Charlotte, Grand Rapids, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Raleigh/Durham, Richmond, Salt Lake City, and St. Louis. An additional half dozen, such as Cleveland, Detroit, and Pittsburgh, are about average with respect to women, but lag on minority representation. 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 Salt Lake County is only about 19% minority. In the Grand Rapids and Pittsburgh areas, the figures are about the same. In contrast, the population of Los Angeles is 68% 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, and in Richmond about 60% is minority, but this diversity is not reflected among lawyers working in law firms in those cities.

Among summer associates, minorities have the highest representation in Hartford, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle, where 30% or more are minority. Representation of minority women among summer associates is highest in Hartford, Las Vegas, Miami, Orlando, and Seattle.

A similar analysis of nine states or portions of states outside of the 46 cities also yields interesting findings. Representation of minorities and minority women among partners is highest in California, Mississippi, and Texas, and considerably below average in the other areas. These latter areas are also below average with respect to minority representation among associates. All of these areas are below average in terms of minority women associates. Finally, although women are generally well represented among summer associates in these areas, none come up to national averages with respect to minority summer associates and minority women summer associates.

The 2008-2009 NDLE includes attorney demographic information for about 138,000 partners, associates, and other lawyers in over 1,500 offices, and for almost 12,000 summer associates in over 1,100 offices nationwide. Table 1 presents the most recent findings on the representation of women and minorities among partners and associates at law firms. It provides nationwide figures, figures broken down by law firm size, and figures for 46 cities and nine additional states or portions of states. Table 2 presents analogous information for summer associates and for all lawyers. For purposes of these analyses, 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 all partners because the NDLE does not ask law firms to report equity and non-equity partners separately.

The 2008-2009 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. Women and Minorities at Law Firms—Partners and Associates—2008


Partners Associates # of
Offices
Total # %
Women
%
Minority
% Minority
Women
Total # %
Women
%
Minority
% Minority
Women
Total 61,572 18.74 5.92 1.84 62,939 45.34 19.08 10.73 1,572
By # of Lawyers Firmwide:
50 or fewer lawyers 2,205 17.32 4.94 1.86 1,651 40.52 12.36 7.15 137
51-100 lawyers 5,492 18.26 5.64 1.84 3,688 43.19 14.59 8.35 159
101-250 lawyers 15,396 18.52 4.68 1.45 10,599 44.66 15.44 8.63 296
251-500 lawyers 12,694 18.74 5.18 1.60 11,625 45.28 16.96 9.37 348
501-700 lawyers 7,369 19.66 6.31 1.95 8,456 45.66 19.63 11.10 195
701+ lawyers 18,416 18.88 7.50 2.27 26,920 46.11 22.29 12.57 437
Offices in:
Atlanta 1,795 18.38 6.52 2.12 1,770 48.87 17.06 10.96 41
Austin 479 22.13 9.60 3.34 436 40.37 16.28 8.03 21
Baltimore 566 19.61 4.24 1.06 342 44.15 12.87 6.43 11
Birmingham 433 19.63 2.54 0.92 232 36.21 7.33 3.88 10
Boston area 2,009 20.36 3.38 1.19 2,336 46.23 13.74 7.62 40
Charlotte 728 15.25 4.26 1.37 698 40.26 10.89 6.02 24
Chicago 4,509 19.65 5.68 2.00 3,942 44.75 16.64 9.51 69
Cincinnati 459 16.12 1.74 0.44 293 44.37 11.26 7.17 12
Cleveland 685 18.25 4.09 1.61 563 45.65 7.46 4.44 14
Columbus 556 16.37 4.32 0.54 389 42.93 9.25 4.63 12
Dallas 1,477 17.67 5.82 1.56 1,574 40.66 15.25 7.81 38
Denver 749 22.03 5.21 1.74 633 49.45 12.01 5.85 32
Detroit area 1,045 20.29 4.40 1.44 517 45.84 12.77 7.16 15
Ft. Lauderdale/W. Palm Beach 189 19.05 6.35 1.59 133 49.62 12.78 8.27 13
Grand Rapids 445 13.71 1.12 0.00 167 41.92 16.17 10.78 10
Hartford 297 17.51 3.03 1.35 244 43.03 10.25 5.33 13
Houston 1,390 17.70 7.34 2.01 1,380 43.41 21.81 11.88 43
Indianapolis 624 19.87 2.72 0.80 367 45.23 13.35 8.17 9
Kansas City area 681 15.42 2.50 0.73 436 38.30 8.49 3.67 11
Las Vegas 188 17.02 2.66 0.53 235 34.04 12.34 6.38 18
Los Angeles area 2,652 19.42 12.03 3.81 3,314 47.25 29.60 16.17 92
Miami 753 21.38 21.51 5.98 599 45.41 37.06 19.37 22
Milwaukee 731 19.43 2.87 1.09 440 48.64 11.36 6.59 9
Minneapolis/St. Paul 1,347 21.16 2.75 0.82 901 45.73 11.54 6.44 25
Nashville 436 16.51 2.06 0.23 300 46.33 13.00 9.67 10
New Orleans 316 24.37 5.70 0.95 170 49.41 15.29 10.00 10
New York City 7,528 16.23 6.27 1.87 14,498 45.68 23.15 13.18 144
Nothern NJ/Newark area 1,165 16.82 3.26 1.12 1,321 45.95 15.14 8.86 26
Northern Virginia 404 13.86 6.19 1.98 390 39.74 17.44 8.97 21
Orange Co., CA 620 14.84 9.68 2.74 764 36.52 21.07 10.08 32
Orlando 250 16.40 6.80 1.20 174 44.83 15.52 9.20 10
Philadelphia 1,254 19.70 3.75 1.28 1,461 45.59 12.59 7.53 25
Phoenix 809 18.42 4.70 1.24 599 40.90 15.69 7.35 21
Pittsburgh 506 19.37 2.17 0.79 428 44.63 8.64 6.54 12
Portland, OR area 610 18.69 2.79 0.82 359 44.29 12.81 8.36 23
Raleigh/Durham 259 17.37 2.70 0.77 175 39.43 10.29 4.57 14
Richmond 381 15.22 2.89 1.05 323 47.06 10.53 6.19 8
Salt Lake City 271 8.49 1.48 0.37 190 22.11 4.74 2.11 10
San Diego 545 18.17 7.71 1.83 659 44.16 20.03 11.53 25
San Francisco 1,739 23.17 9.43 3.22 2,094 50.96 28.18 16.48 59
San Jose area 944 19.70 14.51 3.39 1,645 45.90 35.44 17.69 44
Seattle area 1,047 21.78 7.93 2.87 678 49.26 18.88 10.77 35
St. Louis 631 16.96 2.54 0.95 492 46.54 12.20 7.52 8
Tampa/St. Petersburg 487 18.69 5.54 1.23 328 46.04 16.46 10.06 17
Washington, D.C. 6,103 20.27 6.98 2.31 6,866 45.79 20.13 11.52 138
Wilmington 317 16.72 3.15 1.26 353 38.24 10.20 4.53 13
States:
Other areas in California 384 20.31 7.81 2.34 397 46.35 19.40 9.82 20
Other areas in Connecticut 315 17.78 1.59 0.32 230 55.22 13.48 9.13 14
Kentucky 458 19.00 1.31 0.66 275 45.82 11.64 5.09 7
Mississippi 251 12.75 5.58 2.39 118 38.98 8.47 5.08 11
Other areas in New Jersey 225 18.22 3.11 1.33 208 44.71 12.98 6.25 9
Other areas in New York State 830 16.51 2.77 0.60 548 45.62 8.94 5.47 16
Other areas in Ohio 415 16.63 2.65 0.96 243 43.62 9.88 6.58 9
Other areas in Pennsylvania 352 15.34 1.99 0.57 209 41.15 5.26 2.87 13
Other areas in Texas 282 17.38 5.67 1.06 193 41.45 18.65 7.25 14

Source: The 2008-2009 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 Cupertino, 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, Madison, Murray Hill Roseland, West Orange, Florham Park, Hackensack, Morristown, Parsippany, Westfield, Bridgewater, and Woodbridge. Northern Virginia includes offices in Falls Church, McLean/Tysons Corner, 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 2. Women and Minorities at Law Firms—Total Lawyers and Summer Associates—2008


Total Lawyers Summer Associates
Total # %
Women
%
Minority
% Minority
Women
# of
Offices
Total # %
Women
%
Minority
% Minority
Women
Total 138,123 32.58 12.26 6.18 1,572 11,915 45.42 24.04 12.99
By # of Lawyers Firmwide:
50 or fewer lawyers 4,203 27.19 7.73 3.85 137 246 39.43 18.29 8.94
51-100 lawyers 10,049 27.88 8.94 4.29 159 583 44.43 22.13 12.52
101-250 lawyers 28,856 29.53 8.76 4.20 296 1,790 45.08 18.94 9.55
251-500 lawyers 27,288 32.06 10.69 5.26 348 2,141 45.21 23.31 12.28
501-700 lawyers 17,681 34.15 13.13 6.69 195 1,522 46.58 25.62 15.05
701+ lawyers 50,046 35.45 15.89 8.21 437 5,633 45.66 25.95 14.02
Offices in:
Atlanta 3,895 33.97 11.76 6.47 41 360 52.22 20.83 13.33
Austin 1,007 31.78 12.31 5.56 21 98 35.71 28.57 9.18
Baltimore 1,041 30.16 7.49 2.98 11 57 49.12 19.30 12.28
Birmingham 724 25.97 4.14 1.93 10 76 47.37 6.58 5.26
Boston area 4,755 35.14 8.75 4.54 40 497 44.27 20.32 10.87
Charlotte 1,577 28.60 7.74 3.74 24 150 46.00 14.00 6.00
Chicago 9,030 31.76 10.49 5.36 69 822 43.67 22.38 12.41
Cincinnati 859 27.36 5.24 2.79 12 67 46.27 17.91 10.45
Cleveland 1,412 32.15 5.52 2.69 14 100 47.00 19.00 10.00
Columbus 1,084 28.14 6.18 2.21 12 89 52.81 22.47 13.48
Dallas 3,378 29.81 10.51 4.85 38 400 39.00 24.25 10.50
Denver 1,560 35.45 7.88 3.46 32 116 45.69 25.86 12.07
Detroit area 1,773 28.31 7.05 3.10 15 63 39.68 15.87 7.94
Ft. Lauderdale/W. Palm Beach 359 33.15 8.91 4.74 13 6 83.33 0.00 0.00
Grand Rapids 696 21.12 5.17 2.87 10 45 46.67 24.44 11.11
Hartford 606 29.21 5.78 2.81 13 33 57.58 30.30 21.21
Houston 3,080 31.46 13.86 6.59 43 365 41.10 24.93 10.96
Indianapolis 1,162 30.98 6.63 3.44 9 78 47.44 24.36 15.38
Kansas City area 1,361 27.77 4.70 2.06 11 72 54.17 15.28 2.78
Las Vegas 459 25.93 7.84 3.70 18 14 64.29 35.71 28.57
Los Angeles area 6,490 34.62 21.11 10.34 92 567 46.56 31.39 16.93
Miami 1,446 32.16 28.15 11.69 22 84 54.76 35.71 20.24
Milwaukee 1,247 29.99 5.85 3.05 9 99 42.42 21.21 12.12
Minneapolis/St. Paul 2,498 31.35 6.00 2.96 25 183 44.26 18.58 10.93
Nashville 806 30.65 6.58 4.09 10 31 51.61 19.35 12.90
New Orleans 544 34.19 8.82 4.04 10 73 49.32 9.59 5.48
New York City 24,311 35.83 16.98 9.09 144 2,954 44.55 26.13 14.22
Nothern NJ/Newark area 2,797 31.89 8.97 4.86 26 120 53.33 26.67 17.50
Northern Virginia 872 27.41 11.81 5.39 21 55 47.27 18.18 10.91
Orange Co., CA 1,465 27.78 16.31 7.24 32 137 35.77 27.01 11.68
Orlando 473 28.75 10.15 4.23 10 29 55.17 31.03 20.69
Philadelphia 3,110 33.79 8.30 4.50 25 157 50.32 25.48 15.29
Phoenix 1,510 29.14 9.54 3.97 21 86 44.19 20.93 11.63
Pittsburgh 1,038 31.21 4.72 3.18 12 67 40.30 19.40 13.43
Portland, OR area 1,070 28.41 6.07 3.36 23 71 42.25 26.76 5.63
Raleigh/Durham 530 31.32 5.66 2.64 14 39 46.15 15.38 2.56
Richmond 761 30.49 5.91 3.15 8 49 46.94 12.24 8.16
Salt Lake City 489 14.31 2.86 1.02 10 19 10.53 5.26 0.00
San Diego 1,308 33.03 14.37 6.96 25 82 41.46 25.61 10.98
San Francisco 4,174 38.50 18.83 9.99 59 333 52.55 32.73 19.22
San Jose area 2,770 36.39 27.40 12.31 44 343 42.27 35.86 17.49
Seattle area 1,923 32.40 11.44 5.67 35 132 51.52 33.33 22.73
St. Louis 1,256 30.18 6.29 3.66 8 65 44.62 20.00 15.38
Tampa/St. Petersburg 861 29.38 10.22 4.88 17 46 54.35 17.39 6.52
Washington, D.C. 14,891 34.13 13.91 7.18 138 1,453 47.28 25.26 14.18
Wilmington 727 27.92 7.29 3.30 13 80 32.50 12.50 7.50

 States:
Other areas in California 869 33.26 13.00 5.75 20 34 52.94 11.76 5.88
Other areas in Connecticut 595 34.79 6.39 3.87 14 27 62.96 14.81 11.11
Kentucky 844 29.15 4.98 2.13 7 33 45.45 12.12 3.03
Mississippi 417 22.54 6.24 3.36 11 37 48.65 18.92 5.41
Other areas in New Jersey 471 31.42 7.43 3.61 9 14 50.00 0.00 0.00
Other areas in New York State 1,612 26.99 4.96 2.36 16 51 43.14 13.73 5.88
Other areas in Ohio 703 26.60 5.12 2.84 9 27 66.67 7.41 7.41
Other areas in Pennsylvania 643 25.19 3.42 1.56 13 19 47.37 15.79 5.26
Other areas in Texas 548 29.20 10.22 3.47 14 52 40.38 9.62 3.85

Source: The NALP 2008-2009 National 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 Cupertino, 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, Madison, Murray Hill, Roseland, West Orange, Florham Park, Hackensack, Morristown, Parsippany, Westfield, Bridgewater, and Woodbridge. Northern Virginia includes offices in Falls Church, McLean/Tysons Corner, 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 demographics information, was 1,117.

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