Women and Minorities at Law Firms — What Has Changed and What Has Not in the Past 25 Years

NALP Bulletin, February 2018

NALP's reporting on the presence of women and minorities in large firms now spans 25 years. Findings have been reported out year by year over that time period, but summary findings are presented here all together for the first time. These tables largely speak for themselves, but a few highlights are noted below.

For findings available for the entire 1993-2017 period:

  • The percentage of partners who are women or minorities has increased at least some every year, but the partnership ranks remain overwhelmingly white and male.
  • The percentage of associates who are minority has increased at least some every year, and has increased from less than 8% to over 23%. However, this figure continues to lag behind minority enrollment and graduation from law school.
  • The percentage of associates who are women has grown at times, stalled at other times, and decreased at others. The figure peaked in 2009 and has decreased in five of the eight years since, and in 2017 remains slightly below its 2009 level.
  • The percentages of summer associates who are women or minorities have seen a net increase over the period and have generally tracked with their representation among law school graduates as a whole. Nonetheless, there have been periods of backsliding in both of these measures.

Findings based on the specific racial or ethnic groups tracked in the Directory were compiled starting in 1997, and dig into overall figures in more detail, revealing discrepancies. For example:

  • Most of the growth in minority representation in the associate ranks is accounted for by Asians and to a much lesser extent, Hispanics. At over 11% of all associates, Asians account for over half of minority associates; moreover, their share has increased every year.
  • In contrast, growth in the share of African-American/Blacks among associates has been virtually non-existent, and peaked in 2008. This was followed by a seven-year decline.
  • Among partners, interestingly, prior to 2005 African-American/Blacks had the largest minority representation among partners, albeit, at just over 1% of partners, a tiny one. Things began to change in the mid-2000's, at which point growth in the share of partners who are African-American/Black essentially stalled out, while the share of partners who are Asian or Hispanic kept increasing.
  • Just over 8% of partners were minorities in 2017, and less than 3% were minority women.

Finally, figures for all lawyers have been compiled since 2006.

  • The decline in minority representation among associates that occurred in 2010 is also reflected in the figures for all attorneys.
  • The percentage of minority women among all attorneys was essentially unchanged over a four-year period from 2009 to 2012.

NALP press releases and research NALP Bulletin columns from which these summary findings were compiled can be found on the NALP website at www.nalp.org/pastpressreleases and www.nalp.org/minoritieswomen.


Table 1. Women and Minorities at Law Firms
Summary of Press Release National Findings 1993-2017

 

% Minority % Women
Partners Associates Summer
Associates
Partners Associates Summer
Associates
1993 2.55%* 7.69%* 18.91% 12.27%* 38.78%* 41.16%
1994 2.68* 8.36* 19.74 12.91* 38.99* 42.16
1995 2.79* 9.29* 19.28 13.43* 38.98* 44.14
1996 2.93* 10.17* 19.27 14.19* 39.79* 43.34
1997 2.95 11.06* 18.66 14.21 40.11* 43.95
1998 3.07 11.81* 18.47 14.55 40.90* 44.41
1999 3.25 12.06* 17.67 15.04 41.39* 45.97
2000 3.35 12.86* 17.28 15.63 41.69* 46.26
2001 3.55 13.70* 17.26 15.80 41.94* 48.23
2002 3.71 14.27* 19.19 16.30 42.42* 48.22
2003 4.04 14.63* 18.67 16.81 43.02* 49.20
2004 4.32 15.06* 20.15 17.06 43.96* 47.74
2005 4.63 15.62* 22.85 17.29 44.12* 47.92
2006 5.01 16.72 23.05 17.9 44.33 46.67
2007 5.40 18.07 24.19 18.34 45.06 45.58
2008 5.92 19.08 24.04 18.74 45.34 45.42
2009 6.05 19.67 24.04 19.21 45.66 46.62
2010 6.16 19.53 26.99 19.43 45.41 47.35
2011 6.56 19.90 27.11 19.54 45.35 47.71
2012 6.71 20.32 29.55 19.91 45.05 46.26
2013 7.10 20.93 29.51 20.22 44.79 45.32
2014 7.33 21.63 30.27 21.05 44.94 46.33
2015 7.52 22.00 31.16 21.46 44.68 47.78
2016 8.05 22.72 32.33 22.13 45.00 48.71
2017 8.42 23.32 32.33 22.70 45.48 49.87

*An asterisk indicates that the partner figures include of counsel, or that the associate figure includes senior attorneys, and staff attorneys.
Source: Figures compiled from NALP's Directory of Legal Employers for the years 1993-2017.


Table 2. Partner and Associate Demographics — 1997-2017

  Partners Associates
  % Black/
African-American
% Asian % Hispanic % Black/
African-America
n
% Asian % Hispanic
1997 1.08% 0.94% 0.85% 3.77% 4.57% 2.57%
1998 1.12 0.97 0.92 3.96 5.15 2.54
1999 1.16 1.00 1.01 3.85 5.49 2.52
2000 1.21 1.04 1.02 4.00 6.00 2.65
2001 1.28 1.14 1.04 4.24 6.52 2.74
2002 1.32 1.18 1.09 4.23 6.99 2.84
2003 1.38 1.31 1.20 4.07 7.01 2.96
2004 1.47 1.40 1.27 4.13 7.40 3.03
2005 NC NC NC NC NC NC
2006 1.55 1.78 1.38 4.49 8.13 3.44
2007 1.64 1.94 1.56 4.65 8.94 3.68
2008 1.71 2.05 1.68 4.75 9.05 3.86
2009 1.71 2.20 1.65 4.66 9.28 3.89
2010 1.70 2.30 1.70 4.36 9.39 3.81
2011 1.71 2.36 1.92 4.29 9.65 3.83
2012 1.73 2.48 1.91 4.19 10.01 3.90
2013 1.78 2.67 1.99 4.10 10.48 3.82
2014 1.72 2.74 2.16 4.01 10.80 3.95
2015 1.77 2.89 2.19 3.95 10.93 4.28
2016 1.81 3.13 2.31 4.11 11.25 4.42
2017 1.83 3.31 2.40 4.28 11.40 4.57

Source: Figures compiled from NALP's Directory of Legal Employers for all the years 1997-2017, except 2005.

Table 3. Minorities and Minority Women at Law Firms — 2006-2017

  Partners Associates All Lawyers Summer Associates
  % Minority % Minority
Women
% Minority % Minority
Women
% Minority % Minority
Women
% Minority % Minority
Women
2006 5.01% 1.48% 16.72% 9.16% 10.58% 5.18% 23.05% 12.40%
2007 5.40 1.65 18.07 10.07 11.43 5.70 24.19 13.25
2008 5.92 1.84 19.08 10.73 12.26 6.18 24.04 12.99
2009 6.05 1.88 19.67 11.02 12.59 6.33 24.04 12.90
2010 6.16 1.95 19.53 10.90 12.40 6.20 26.99 14.92
2011 6.56 2.04 19.90 10.96 12.70 6.23 27.11 15.19
2012 6.71 2.16 20.32 11.08 12.91 6.32 29.55 16.26
2013 7.10 2.26 20.93 11.29 13.36 6.49 29.51 15.78
2014 7.33 2.45 21.63 11.51 13.83 6.74 30.27 16.63
2015 7.52 2.55 22.00 11.78 13.97 6.81 31.16 16.99
2016 8.05 2.76 22.72 12.42 14.62 7.23 32.33 18.05
2017 8.42 2.90 23.32 12.86 15.18 7.54 32.33 18.23

Note: Starting in 2006, data collection was expanded to include gender within each racial/ethnic category. Figures for all lawyers were calculated starting in 2006.
Source: Figures compiled from NALP's Directory of Legal Employers for the years 2006-2017.




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