Law Firm Diversity Demographics Show Little Change, Despite Economic Downturn

Representation in Some Markets Declines While Others Show Small Gains

October 21, 2009

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In 2009, the percentage of women and minority lawyers in law firms across the nation was only slightly higher than in 2008, with rates of change in some cases less than in previous years. Representation in some cities showed small gains, while in other markets the percentage of women and minority lawyers actually declined. Throughout most jurisdictions, minority women continue to be the most dramatically underrepresented group at the partnership level.

Minority women make up less than 2% of the partners in the nation’s major law firms. At just 1.88% of partners in 2009, this group is particularly underrepresented in the partnership ranks, even more so than minority men, who account for just 4.17% of partners this year. These are the most significant findings of NALP’s recent analyses of the 2009-2010 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, 2.33%, 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 6.30%. This contrasts with nine cities where minority women make up less than 1% of partners.

During the 17 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 2009, minorities account for 6.05% of partners in the nation’s major firms, and women account for 19.21% of the partners in these firms. In 2008, the figures were 5.92% and 18.74%, 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 law firm setting. Despite the fact that minority women outnumber minority men in law schools, minority women continue to leave law firms at a faster pace than their male and non-minority peers, often to pursue legal careers that are not law firm based.”

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. In 2009, women account for 45.66% of associates, minorities for 19.67% of associates, and minority women for 11.02% of associates. Each group lags in their representation 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 between 22% and 23%. During the same period, the presence of women among law school graduates has grown from 40% to about 48%. Summer associate classes best reflect law school enrollment, with women comprising 46.62% of summer associates, minorities 24.04%, and minority women 12.90% of summer associates in 2009. Despite little change in the percentage of minority summer associates since 2007, in 2009 minority representation in summer programs slightly exceeded their representation among law students for the fifth year in a row, even though the aggregate number of summer associates was down by about 20%, reflecting smaller summer classes.

Analyses for the 45 cities with the most attorneys represented in the directory reveal considerable variations in these demographic measures. Representation of women among partners ranges from a low of 10.76% in Salt Lake City to a high of 24.36% in San Francisco. Percentages for minority partners range from a low of 1.68% in Cincinnati to a high of 23.46% in Miami. These same two cities also anchor the range of minority women partners — from a low of 0.48% to a high of 6.30%. Likewise percentages for women associates ranged from 36.8% in Orange County, CA, to 53.37% in San Francisco. For minority associates the range was from 5.94% in Salt Lake City to almost 39% in Miami. The range for minority women associates was from 2.81% in Birmingham to almost 20% in Miami.

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 12.13% and 10.26% of partners in these two cities, respectively, and women account for 19.70% and 24.36% of partners, respectively. More than 3% of partners are minority women in both cities. Firms in Atlanta, New York, Seattle, and Washington, DC, also are close to or exceed national averages on most measures.

Among smaller cities, Miami, the Fort Lauderdale area, and San Jose exceeded national averages. In Miami, women account for 21.73% of partners; minorities, many of whom are Hispanic, account for 23.46% of partners, and 6.30% of partners are minority women. Comparable figures in the San Jose area are 19.05%, 15.89%, and 4.00%. In the Fort Lauderdale area the percentages are 22.54%, 7.38%, and 2.87%, respectively.

In many other cities, the picture is considerably different: Firms in about 30% of the cities are below average on most or all measures and considerably so with respect to minorities. Cities in this category include Birmingham, Charlotte, Grand Rapids, Kansas City, Nashville, Salt Lake City, and Wilmington. Numerous others, such as Boston, Cleveland, Minneapolis, and Pittsburgh, are about average with respect to women, but lag on minority representation. In a few cities, such as Hartford and Richmond, only the percentage of women associates 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 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 one-third or more are minority. Representation of minority women among summer associates is highest in Hartford, San Francisco, and Seattle. (See Tables 1 and 2 for the data from 45 individual cities and metropolitan areas, and from nine other states or geographic areas.)

Despite incremental increases in the representation of women and minorities in the aggregate from 2008 to 2009, this 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 — representation of women and minorities among partners and associates generally at least held steady, if not registered small gains. In other cities where the core of reporting offices was relatively stable, however, decreases in the aggregate are noted. In Houston and New Orleans, for example, representation of women and minorities decreased among associates, and to a lesser extent among partners. Losses at the associate level are noted in Cincinnati, Detroit, Milwaukee, Northern New Jersey, and Orange County, CA. Increased representation among associates occurred as well, for example, in Austin, Portland, OR, and Wilmington, DE.

“It is likely that layoffs and reduced hiring during the past year have contributed to the small declines we have been able to measure,” according to Leipold, NALP’s Executive Director. “These data were gathered early in 2009, and therefore do not reflect all of the layoffs that have occurred, and in fact continue to occur, as a result of the economic slowdown. I think law firms are working very hard to maintain a diverse workforce, even as they experience overall reductions in headcount, but I am fearful that we may see further erosion of some of these numbers when we look at the data for 2010. The good news is that the 2009 data do not reflect more widespread decreases, and in fact in most markets, diversity levels rose in spite of the tough economic times.”

The 2009-2010 NDLE includes attorney demographic information for almost 139,000 partners, associates, and other lawyers in over 1,500 offices, and for over 9,000 summer associates in over 1,000 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 45 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 2009-2010 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 — 2009
  Partners Associates # of Offices
Total # %
Women
%
Minority
% Minority
Women
Total # %
Women
%
Minority
% Minority
Women
Total 61,821 19.21 6.05 1.88 63,168 45.66 19.67 11.02 1,514
By # of Lawyers Firmwide:
50 or fewer lawyers 2,116 20.79 5.25 2.13 1,468 40.60 14.31 7.90 125
51-100 lawyers 5,234 18.86 5.81 2.03 3,317 44.02 15.19 8.77 151
101-250 lawyers 14,756 19.19 4.52 1.36 10,105 44.81 15.83 8.61 254
251-500 lawyers 12,502 19.09 5.34 1.58 10,655 45.81 17.02 9.44 290
501-700 lawyers 6,821 19.62 6.35 2.07 7,295 45.65 18.78 10.72 192
701+ lawyers 20,392 19.10 7.63 2.33 30,328 46.31 22.85 12.86 502
Offices in:
Atlanta 1,694 18.42 7.20 2.36 1,701 49.56 17.87 12.11 39
Austin 482 24.07 9.34 3.73 410 43.41 17.32 8.54 22
Baltimore 605 21.16 4.30 1.16 346 41.91 12.43 6.36 12
Birmingham 656 17.07 2.90 1.52 320 40.63 6.88 2.81 11
Boston area 1,907 20.71 3.46 1.31 2,278 47.37 14.22 7.95 37
Charlotte 619 16.16 4.85 1.78 627 39.71 12.12 7.02 22
Chicago 4,380 20.11 5.84 1.92 4,006 44.61 17.32 9.61 65
Cincinnati 416 18.75 1.68 0.48 252 42.46 10.71 6.35 12
Cleveland 703 19.91 3.98 1.42 542 46.68 8.30 4.98 15
Columbus 586 16.89 3.92 0.51 386 44.04 12.18 7.51 13
Dallas 1,408 17.76 5.89 1.56 1,500 40.80 16.00 8.67 36
Denver 683 22.55 5.42 1.76 599 47.41 12.85 6.51 28
Detroit area 921 20.09 4.56 1.63 451 43.46 11.09 6.21 14
Ft. Lauderdale/W. Palm Beach 244 22.54 7.38 2.87 172 45.93 21.51 13.95 11
Grand Rapids 449 15.14 2.00 0.67 163 44.79 12.27 8.59 10
Hartford 308 17.86 2.60 1.30 224 45.98 13.84 8.04 11
Houston 1,365 17.00 7.25 1.83 1,409 42.73 20.30 10.43 42
Indianapolis 761 20.24 3.02 1.18 436 44.50 11.01 5.73 12
Kansas City area 832 17.67 2.28 0.48 525 43.05 10.67 5.33 11
Las Vegas 211 19.91 5.69 1.90 239 39.75 13.39 6.28 15
Los Angeles area 2,655 19.70 12.13 3.69 3,295 49.10 29.59 16.81 92
Miami 635 21.73 23.46 6.30 516 46.51 38.95 19.96 19
Milwaukee 679 21.50 3.53 1.18 428 46.26 13.08 7.48 7
Minneapolis 1,337 20.94 2.17 0.60 864 45.83 13.89 7.06 21
Nashville 390 16.92 2.82 1.03 274 43.43 12.77 8.76 9
New Orleans 379 23.22 4.22 0.79 234 47.86 10.26 5.56 8
New York City 7,524 16.85 6.38 2.02 14,753 44.99 23.95 13.43 131
Nothern NJ/Newark area 1,269 17.10 3.78 1.42 1,288 46.35 13.82 8.62 25
Northern Virginia 326 14.72 6.44 2.45 308 44.48 18.51 9.42 18
Orange Co., CA 649 15.56 9.40 2.62 769 36.80 24.58 11.05 31
Philadelphia 1,023 18.96 3.91 1.17 1,185 47.85 13.25 8.10 17
Phoenix 798 18.30 4.76 1.25 602 39.87 15.61 7.14 20
Pittsburgh 552 17.93 1.99 0.36 423 47.52 10.64 8.04 11
Portland, OR area 585 19.83 3.25 1.37 345 49.28 12.75 8.70 19
Raleigh/Durham 401 21.45 2.74 0.75 287 44.95 8.01 4.88 20
Richmond 392 14.54 3.06 1.02 326 46.01 11.04 6.13 8
Salt Lake City 251 10.76 1.20 0.40 202 23.76 5.94 2.97 12
San Diego 419 18.14 8.59 1.43 557 43.63 19.03 10.05 19
San Francisco 1,716 24.36 10.26 3.85 2,089 53.37 28.43 17.66 61
San Jose area 950 19.05 15.89 4.00 1,626 45.57 36.96 18.14 51
Seattle area 1,055 22.46 8.34 2.94 703 47.80 20.48 11.24 36
St. Louis 767 19.95 3.26 1.17 570 44.74 13.33 7.02 9
Tampa/St. Petersburg 422 18.48 7.11 1.90 276 48.55 15.22 8.70 13
Washington, D.C. 6,068 20.19 6.79 2.29 7,032 46.33 20.83 12.00 133
Wilmington 310 16.77 3.23 1.29 369 41.46 11.11 5.69 11
States:
Other areas in California 375 21.60 9.33 2.93 387 48.84 21.71 9.56 19
Other areas in Connecticut 310 25.16 1.29 0.65 241 56.85 15.35 9.96 11
Other areas in Florida 374 19.52 6.15 2.41 263 47.15 14.07 7.22 19
Kentucky 546 21.25 2.01 0.37 289 45.67 12.11 4.84 7
Other areas in New Jersey 203 16.75 2.96 0.99 167 41.32 11.98 4.19 6
Other areas in New York State 824 16.87 2.91 0.73 508 47.83 9.25 5.71 17
Other areas in Ohio 372 18.55 2.69 1.08 229 39.30 7.42 4.37 10
Other areas in Pennsylvania 306 17.32 2.94 0.65 153 38.56 3.27 1.96 8
Other areas in Texas 280 16.79 5.71 0.71 207 39.61 16.91 8.21 14

Source: The 2009-2010 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, Short Hills, 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 — 2009

  Total Lawyers Summer Associates
Total # %
Women
%
Minority
% Minority
Women
# of
Offices
Total # %
Women
%
Minority
% Minority
Women
Total 138,914 32.97 12.59 6.33 1,514 9,422 46.62 24.04 12.90
By # of Lawyers Firmwide:
50 or fewer lawyers 3,883 29.05 8.50 4.25 125 234 37.18 16.67 9.40
51-100 lawyers 9,432 28.31 9.06 4.44 151 475 43.58 21.05 12.63
101-250 lawyers 27,689 29.80 8.81 4.12 254 1,462 47.13 22.30 11.63
251-500 lawyers 26,072 32.05 10.61 5.18 290 1,472 46.74 21.88 12.36
501-700 lawyers 16,114 34.05 12.48 6.44 192 1,124 45.28 24.20 11.30
701+ lawyers 55,724 35.72 16.30 8.41 502 4,655 47.54 25.91 14.05
Offices in:
Atlanta 3,782 34.93 12.56 7.22 39 210 45.71 24.29 13.33
Austin 983 34.28 12.51 6.00 22 79 46.84 29.11 18.99
Baltimore 1,119 30.56 7.33 3.13 12 44 47.73 22.73 13.64
Birmingham 1,045 25.93 4.02 1.91 11 138 41.30 3.62 2.90
Boston area 4,598 35.80 9.05 4.72 37 377 52.25 18.04 9.55
Charlotte 1,373 29.13 8.59 4.44 22 68 38.24 10.29 2.94
Chicago 8,982 32.02 11.03 5.47 65 522 44.83 23.56 10.92
Cincinnati 775 28.90 4.77 2.45 12 38 26.32 18.42 5.26
Cleveland 1,424 32.79 5.62 2.74 15 87 43.68 19.54 9.20
Columbus 1,123 29.12 6.86 3.12 13 52 65.38 23.08 13.46
Dallas 3,229 29.70 10.90 5.17 36 268 46.27 22.01 10.45
Denver 1,444 34.70 8.45 3.88 28 70 51.43 25.71 12.86
Detroit area 1,502 27.70 6.72 3.13 14 48 35.42 22.92 14.58
Ft. Lauderdale/W. Palm Beach 452 32.96 13.05 7.52 11 15 40.00 26.67 20.00
Grand Rapids 724 21.55 4.56 2.62 10 50 42.00 24.00 12.00
Hartford 602 30.73 6.48 3.65 11 25 48.00 36.00 24.00
Houston 3,086 31.27 13.38 5.99 42 348 41.09 29.31 12.36
Indianapolis 1,361 31.23 5.80 2.79 12 38 50.00 23.68 13.16
Kansas City area 1,647 30.12 5.34 2.37 11 82 45.12 28.05 14.63
Las Vegas 486 29.84 9.26 4.12 15 12 25.00 8.33 8.33
Los Angeles area 6,508 36.08 21.07 10.63 92 471 48.83 32.48 16.99
Miami 1,220 32.87 30.49 12.30 19 44 47.73 34.09 20.45
Milwaukee 1,174 31.35 7.16 3.58 7 64 40.63 17.19 6.25
Minneapolis 2,450 30.90 6.53 3.14 21 150 50.00 23.33 12.00
Nashville 712 29.63 6.88 4.21 9 24 45.83 20.83 16.67
New Orleans 725 33.66 6.62 2.76 8 84 48.81 14.29 9.52
New York City 24,496 35.57 17.54 9.30 131 2,386 46.69 26.28 14.79
Nothern NJ/Newark area 2,896 31.28 8.32 4.66 25 120 49.17 27.50 15.00
Northern Virginia 695 30.65 12.23 5.76 18 24 33.33 16.67 8.33
Orange Co., CA 1,509 27.97 17.89 7.82 31 126 36.51 19.05 5.56
Philadelphia 2,507 34.50 8.50 4.63 17 125 50.40 22.40 12.00
Phoenix 1,507 28.73 9.69 3.98 20 74 43.24 17.57 8.11
Pittsburgh 1,093 31.02 5.22 3.39 11 42 47.62 11.90 2.38
Portland, OR area 1,011 31.06 6.43 3.86 19 47 44.68 27.66 8.51
Raleigh/Durham 799 33.29 5.38 2.75 20 48 60.42 18.75 14.58
Richmond 781 30.60 6.27 3.20 8 43 46.51 18.60 11.63
Salt Lake City 494 16.40 3.44 1.42 12 24 37.50 4.17 0.00
San Diego 1,037 32.88 14.56 6.46 19 53 47.17 30.19 15.09
San Francisco 4,208 40.42 19.39 10.84 61 272 53.68 35.29 21.69
San Jose area 2,760 36.01 28.70 12.61 51 264 40.91 38.64 20.08
Seattle area 1,933 32.95 12.62 6.16 36 79 54.43 32.91 21.52
St. Louis 1,471 31.00 7.07 3.54 9 57 54.39 19.30 10.53
Tampa/St. Petersburg 742 30.19 10.65 4.58 13 34 44.12 14.71 0.00
Washington, D.C. 15,014 34.53 14.25 7.41 133 1,109 48.51 22.27 12.80
Wilmington 735 29.52 7.48 3.54 11 58 29.31 13.79 6.90
States:
Other areas in California 865 35.14 15.61 6.47 19 25 48.00 36.00 24.00
Other areas in Connecticut 594 39.73 7.24 4.71 11 23 43.48 21.74 13.04
Other areas in Florida 702 31.62 8.97 4.13 19 29 37.93 20.69 13.79
Kentucky 976 30.12 5.43 1.95 7 32 53.13 9.38 3.13
Other areas in New Jersey 408 27.94 6.62 2.45 6 14 64.29 28.57 21.43
Other areas in New York State 1,558 27.73 4.88 2.25 17 51 50.98 25.49 15.69
Other areas in Ohio 656 26.37 4.27 2.13 10 15 46.67 26.67 20.00
Other areas in Pennsylvania 542 24.54 3.32 1.29 8 15 53.33 6.67 6.67
Other areas in Texas 568 28.70 10.04 4.05 14 40 45.00 20.00 7.50

Source: The 2009-2010 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, Short Hills, 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 demographic information, was 1,056.


About NALP: Founded in 1971, the National Association for Law Placement, Inc.® (NALP) is dedicated to facilitating legal career counseling and planning, recruitment and retention, and the professional development of law students and lawyers. NALP maintains an online archive of press releases at . For additional information about NALP research, contact Judith Collins (jcollins@nalp.org), Director of Research, or James G. Leipold (jleipold@nalp.org), Executive Director, 202-835-1001. Mailing address: National Association for Law Placement, 1025 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 1110, Washington, DC 20036-5413.

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