LGBT Representation Among Lawyers in 2018

NALP Bulletin, February 2019

The overall percentage of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) lawyers reported in the 2018 NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE) increased to 2.86%, compared with 2.64% in the 2017 NDLE. Increases were seen across all lawyer types and ranged from less than a 0.1 percentage point for counsel and non-traditional track attorneys to about a 0.35 percentage point gain for associates. The percentage of offices reporting LGBT counts has been relatively stable at about 90% of offices since 2008. About half of these reporting offices reported at least one LGBT lawyer among partners and associates in 2018.

The overall count in 2018 of 2,827 LGBT lawyers is up by just over 6% from 2017 — and is more than 2.5 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%. A retrospective on the overall trends is shown in Table 2.

The presence of LGBT lawyers continues to be highest among associates, at 3.80% (see Table 1), and is up from the figure of 3.45% reported in 2017. LGBT associates are also better represented at large law firms — with firms of 701+ lawyers reporting 4.17% LGBT associates. Firms of 701+ lawyers reported 2.33% LGBT partners, compared to 2.17% in 2017. For smaller firms, the percentages are closer to 2%.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are wide geographic disparities in these numbers, and in fact, about 55% 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 accounted for about 39% of the not quite 99,000 lawyers included in these analyses. Thus, the percentage of LGBT lawyers in these cities is correspondingly higher — about 4% overall (and highest in San Francisco specifically at 5.8%) — compared with the 2.86% nationwide figure. In these same four cities, the percentage of LGBT summer associates is also higher — about 7% compared with 5.73% nationwide.

The percentage of LGBT lawyers has generally been trending upward over the 17-year period in which NALP has been compiling these figures, and small increases from 2017 to 2018 occurred across all lawyer types. The percentage of LGBT summer associates continues to 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 5.73%, compared with 4.66% in 2017. In firms of more than 700 lawyers, it has exceeded 5% in the five most recent years. This is also consistent with Class of 2017 findings that lesbian, gay, and bisexual graduates going into private practice were more likely to take a job in a firm of 251+ lawyers than were graduates as a whole taking jobs in private practice.

Full details on LGBT lawyers in prior years can be found in previous NALP Bulletin columns at www.nalp.org/lgbt_lawyers.


Table 1. Reporting of LGBT Lawyers — NALP Directory of Legal Employers 2018

LGBT ALL FIRMS FIRMS OF 100 OR FEWER LAWYERS FIRMS OF 101-250 LAWYERS
# Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
Partners 900 2.11% 45 2.08% 130 1.88%
Associates 1,581 3.80 39 2.99 90 2.25
Other lawyers 346 2.37 6 0.77 33 1.98
All lawyers 2,827 2.86 90 2.12 253 2.01
Summer associates 333 5.73 4 1.94 17 3.77


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 158 1.87% 105 1.93% 462 2.33%
Associates 194 3.25 210 4.02 1,048 4.17
Other lawyers 61 2.38 44 2.24 202 2.65
All lawyers 413 2.43 359 359 1,7121 3.26
Summer associates 38 5.11 42 5.32 232 6.42

Note: Figures for LGBT lawyers are based on 914 offices/firms reporting counts, including zero, in all lawyer categories; figures for LGBT summer associates are based on 594 offices/firms with a summer program and reporting counts, including zero. Overall, LGBT counts, including zero, cover 98,942 lawyers and 5,807 summer associates.


Table 2. Reporting of LGBT Lawyers — A Decade Overview

  ALL LAWYERS PARTNERS ASSOCIATES SUMMER ASSOCIATES
# Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
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

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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