LGBT Representation Among Lawyers in 2019

NALP Bulletin, January 2020

The overall percentage of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) lawyers reported in the 2019 NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE) increased slightly to 2.99%, compared with 2.86% in the 2018 NDLE. However, growth in the percentage of LGBT lawyers was not universal across all lawyer types. Representation among partners and other lawyers, such as counsel and non-traditional track/staff attorneys, was essentially flat, with the percentage of LGBT partners dropping slightly from 2.11% in 2018 to 2.07% in 2019 and the percentage for other lawyers also falling just a bit from 2.37% in 2018 to 2.32% in 2019. However, associates saw an increase of about one-third of a percentage point in comparison to 2018, increasing from 3.80% in 2018 to 4.14% in 2019. Although the percentage of LGBT lawyers overall only grew by slightly over one-tenth of a percentage point from 2018 to 2019, the percentage of LGBT summer associates grew much more substantially, climbing 1.1 percentage points, from 5.73% in 2018 to 6.86% in 2019. The percentage of offices reporting LGBT counts has been around 90% or higher since 2008, and in 2019, 93% of offices reported LGBT counts. About two-thirds of these offices reported at least one LGBT lawyer among partners and associates in 2019.

The overall count in 2019 of 3,028 LGBT lawyers is up by 7.1% from 2018 — and is approximately 2.75 times larger than the number of LGBT lawyers reported in the 2002 NDLE, when the numbers were first collected/compiled. In the 2002 NDLE, the number of LGBT lawyers reported was just over 1,100 — less than 1% of the total lawyers represented in that directory. It took until 2012 for the overall percentage to exceed 2% and the 2019 figure is now just shy of 3%. A retrospective on the overall trends is shown in Table 2.

The presence of LGBT lawyers continues to be highest among associates, at 4.14% (see Table 1). LGBT associates are also better represented at large law firms — with firms of more than 701 lawyers reporting 4.45% of their associates as LGBT. Conversely, small firms of 100 or fewer lawyers reported the highest percentage of LGBT partners in 2019, at 2.42%. In 2018, firms with more than 701 lawyers had the highest percentage of LGBT partners; however, their percentages declined from 2.33% in 2018 to 2.19% in 2019.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are wide geographic disparities in these numbers, and in 2019, as in recent years prior, more than half (53%) of the reported LGBT lawyers are accounted for by just four cities: New York City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. These same four cities comprised roughly 38% of the approximately 101,000 lawyers included in these analyses. Thus, the percentage of LGBT lawyers in these cities is correspondingly higher — 4.2% overall (and highest in San Francisco specifically at 5.9%) — compared with the 2.99% nationwide figure. In these same four cities, the percentage of LGBT summer associates is also higher — about 8.5% compared with 6.86% nationwide.

Nationwide, the percentage of LGBT lawyers has generally been trending upward over the 18-year period in which NALP has been compiling these figures as seen in Chart 1. While growth has been slow and steady for partners, the share of LGBT summer associates has increased much more dramatically during this period, rising from just 0.61% in 2004 to 6.86% in 2019. With the percentage of LGBT summer associates in 2019 over 2.7 percentage points higher than that of associates, there is potential for some continued growth in the presence of LGBT associates at these firms.

Although the overall figure for summer associates in 2019 was 6.86%, there is considerable variability by firm size, ranging from 3.55% in firms of 100 or fewer lawyers to 8.09% in firms of 501-700 lawyers. This is also consistent with Class of 2018 findings that lesbian, gay, and bisexual graduates going into private practice were more likely to take a job in a firm of more than 251 lawyers than were graduates taking jobs in private practice as a whole.

Full details on LGBT lawyers in prior years can be found in previous NALP Bulletin columns at www.nalp.org/lgbtq_lawyers and in NALP's 2019 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms at www.nalp.org/reportondiversity.


Chart 1. Percentage of LGBT Lawyers, 2004 — 2019


Note: All figures were compiled from the NALP Directory of Legal Employers for the year specified.


Table 1. Reporting of LGBT Lawyers in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers — 2019

LGBT ALL FIRMS FIRMS OF 100 OR FEWER LAWYERS FIRMS OF 101-250 LAWYERS
# Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
Partners 892 2.07% 46 2.42% 137 1.87%
Associates 1,796 4.14 34 3.29 109 2.72
Other lawyers 340 2.32 6 1.17 25 1.50
All lawyers 3,028 2.99 86 2.49 271 2.09
Summer associates 415 6.86 7 3.55 20 4.81


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 142 1.83% 100 2.07% 467 2.19%
Associates 203 3.63 176 4.25 1,274 4.45
Other lawyers 60 2.49 37 2.07 212 2.56
All lawyers 405 2.57 313 2.91 1,953 3.35
Summer associates 41 5.40 44 8.09 303 7.33

Note: Figures for LGBT lawyers are based on 910 offices/firms reporting counts, including zero, in all lawyer categories; figures for LGBT summer associates are based on 579 offices/firms with a summer program and reporting counts, including zero. Overall, LGBT counts, including zero, cover 101,221 lawyers and 6,052 summer associates.


Table 2. Reporting of LGBT Lawyers — A 15-Year Retrospective

LGBT ALL LAWYERS PARTNERS ASSOCIATES SUMMER ASSOCIATES
# Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
2004 1,316 1.07% 429 0.79% 815 1.33% 61 0.61%
2005 1,458 1.18 504 0.91 869 1.44 93 0.89
2006 1,733 1.42 618 1.11 979 1.78 129 1.27
2007 1,884 1.52 666 1.19 1,056 1.89 197 1.75
2008 2,050 1.71 670 1.27 1,209 2.19 184 1.85
2009 2,200 1.82 723 1.36 1,280 2.29 172 2.21
2010 2137 1.88 752 1.47 1,182 2.35 122 2.83
2011 2,087 1.88 724 1.44 1,166 2.43 128 2.75
2012 2,105 2.07 718 1.58 1,169 2.69 182 3.47
2013 2,085 2.19 695 1.65 1,146 2.83 202 3.76
2014 2,182 2.30 748 1.77 1,172 2.93 210 3.98
2015 2,297 2.34 785 1.80 1,244 3.08 248 4.43
2016 2,431 2.48 825 1.89 1,304 3.24 291 4.86
2017 2,664 2.64 880 1.99 1,438 3.45 287 4.66
2018 2,827 2.86 900 2.11 1,581 3.80 333 5.73
2019 3,028 2.99 892 2.07 1,796 4.14 415 6.86

Note: Figures were first reported out in a full table starting in 2004. All figures were compiled from the NALP Directory of Legal Employers for the year specified.

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