LGBT Representation Among Lawyers in 2016

NALP Bulletin, January 2017

The overall percentage of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) lawyers reported in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE) in 2016 increased by a small amount to 2.48% compared with 2.34% in 2015. Increases were seen across all lawyer types and ranged from not quite 0.1 percentage point for partners to almost 0.2 percentage points for counsel and non-traditional track attorneys. About 40% of offices reported at least one LGBT lawyer among partners and associates. The percentage of offices reporting LGBT counts has been relatively stable at about 88-89% of offices since 2008.

The overall count in 2016 of 2,431 LGBT lawyers is up by almost 6% from 2015, and because the total number of lawyers was relatively flat, overall representation of LGBT lawyers increased somewhat. Over a longer span of time, the numbers have more than doubled. In the 2002-2003 NDLE, the number of openly gay lawyers reported was just over 1,100 — less than 1% of the total lawyers represented. It took until 2012 for the overall percentage to exceed 2%.

The presence of LGBT lawyers continues to be highest among associates, at 3.24%, as shown in the accompanying table, and is up from the figure of 3.08% reported in 2015. Openly LGBT associates are also better represented at large law firms — with firms of 701+ lawyers reporting 3.81% openly LGBT associates. However, LGBT representation among associates at firms of 101-250 lawyers and 251-500 lawyers declined compared with 2015. Similarly, in the U.S. openly LGBT partners are best represented at the largest firms — with firms of 701+ lawyers reporting 2.15% openly LGBT partners, compared with 1.89% among partners overall. The 2016 level at the largest firms is the highest recorded, after hovering at about 2% for the previous five years. After steady increases in openly LGBT partners in firms of 100 or fewer lawyers from 0.63% in 2009 to just over 2% in 2015, the figure dropped back to 1.88% in 2016.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are wide geographic disparities in these numbers, and in fact about 56% of the reported openly LGBT lawyers are accounted for by just four cities: New York City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. These same four cities accounted for about 38% of the just over 98,000 lawyers included in these analyses. Thus the percentage of openly LGBT lawyers in these cities is correspondingly higher — about 3.6% overall (and highest in San Francisco specifically at 5.7%) compared with the 2.48% nationwide figure. In these same four cities, the percentage of openly LGBT summer associates is also higher — about 6.1% compared with 4.86% nationwide.

The percentage of LGBT lawyers has generally been trending upward over the period since 2002 when NALP first began compiling these figures, and small increases from 2015 to 2016 occurred across all lawyer types, though this was not necessarily the case for every firm size. However, figures for summer associates suggest that there is still potential for some growth in the presence of LGBT associates at these firms. The overall figure for summer associates was 4.86%, compared with 4.43% in 2015. In firms of more than 700 lawyers, it has exceeded 5% in the three most recent years. In firms of 251+ lawyers as a whole, the figure was about 5.3% compared with just over 2% at the smaller firms. This is also consistent with Class of 2015 findings that lesbian, gay, and bisexual graduates going into private practice are more likely to take a job in a firm of 251+ lawyers than were graduates as a whole.


Reporting of Openly LGBT Lawyers — 2016 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

Openly LGBT ALL FIRMS FIRMS OF 100 OR FEWER LAWYERS FIRMS OF 101-250 LAWYERS
# Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
Partners 825 1.89% 53 1.88% 135 1.72%
Associates 1,304 3.24 34 3.56 89 1.98
Other lawyers 302 2.13 12 1.75 38 2.14
All lawyers 2,431 2.48 99 1.98 262 1.86
Summer associates 291 4.86 6 2.50 11 1.91


Openly LGBT FIRMS OF 251-500 LAWYERS FIRMS OF 501-700 LAWYERS FIRMS OF 701+ LAWYERS
# Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
Partners 141 1.59% 100 1.76% 396 2.15%
Associates 149 2.33 158 3.21 874 3.81
Other lawyers 45 1.71 29 1.41 178 2.54
All lawyers 335 1.87 287 2.27 1,448 2.99
Summer associates 45 4.67 39 6.15 190 5.31

Note: Figures for openly LGBT lawyers are based on 936 offices/firms reporting counts, including zero, in all lawyer categories; figures for openly LGBT summer associates are based on 662 offices/firms with a summer program and reporting counts, including zero. Overall, LGBT counts, including zero, cover 98,093 lawyers and 5,990 summer associates.

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