Women and Minorities at Law Firms - Additional Findings for 2017

NALP Bulletin, May 2018

When it comes to law firm diversity, reporting national averages can mask what are in fact huge variations in representation between individual firms as well as between firms of different sizes. It also masks outlier firms and offices where the representation of minority or women partners and associates deviates significantly up or down from the national figures.

As has been reported earlier, in the February 2018 NALP Bulletin and in NALP's Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms in 2017, just over 8% of partners at major US law firms in 2017 were minorities and almost 23% were women. For associates the figures were just over 23% and about 45.5%, respectively. These figures have generally gone up over time. For example, in 1997 not quite 3% of partners were minorities and 14% were women. Among associates, the respective figures were 11% and 40%.

Additional insight on women and minorities at law firms comes from looking at the extent to which women and minorities are represented at each office, rather than for a city or for the nation as a whole. Thus, the fact that 8.42% of partners as a whole are minorities does not mean that minorities make up 8.42% of partners at each of the over 1,000 offices and firms represented in the 2017 Directory, or that in 1997 the figure was 3% uniformly. In fact, almost 19% of offices reported no minority partners and over 45% reported no minority women partners. Likewise, almost 10% of offices/firms have no minority associates, and 18.5% reported no minority women associates. Just over 30% of offices reported that more than half of associates were women. (See Table 1 and Table 2.)

Variations by firm size are evident. For example, the largest firms are more likely than average to have reported no women partners, whereas firms of 101-250 lawyers are least likely to have no minority partners or no minority women partners. Conversely, the largest firms are least likely to have no minority associates, or no minority women associates.

Just as we know the extent to which the representation of women and minorities has changed over the years, it is instructive to look at what has happened to those 'None' measures over the years. Over a 20-year span of time, the percentage of offices in any of the 'none' categories has decreased (Table 3). For example, in 1997, half of offices reported no minority partners; today the figure is less than one in five. The percentage of offices with no minority associates has gone from not quite one-quarter to one in ten. Tracking both gender and race does not go back as far, but in 2007, almost two-thirds of offices reported no minority women partners, whereas more recently the figure is about 45%.

A few things about the recent figures can be noted. While the percentage of offices with no minority partners was essentially flat in 2017 compared with 2016, the percentage of offices with no women partners or no minority women partners increased some. For associates, all the 'none' categories got bigger in 2015 compared with 2014. Since then the figures have fallen, now either matching the 2014 figures or improving on them. Whether these fluctuations in recent years represent a settling into a longer-term level or not remains to be seen.

 

Table 1. Representation of Women and Minorities Among Law Firm Partners — 2017
(percent of offices in each range of representation)

  Women Minorities Minority Women
None Up to 23% More than 23% None Up to 8% More than 8% None Up to 3% More than 3%
Total 5.6% 51.2% 43.3% 19.7% 34.2% 46.1% 45.1% 18.4% 36.5%

By Size of Firm:

100 or fewer lawyers 2.3 52.3 45.5 21.6 45.5 33.0 48.9 20.5 30.7
101-250 lawyers 4.0 54.0 42.0 14.0 54.7 31.3 36.0 36.0 28.0
251-500 lawyers 4.2 52.6 43.2 25.8 30.5 43.7 48.8 17.4 33.8
501-700 lawyers 6.3 49.5 44.1 18.9 37.8 43.2 45.0 20.7 34.2
701+ lawyers 7.0 49.9 43.1 18.6 26.9 54.5 45.5 12.8 41.7

Source: 2017-2018 NALP Directory of Legal Employers. Figures are based on 1,063 offices reporting at least 1 partner in the office.

 

Table 2. Representation of Women and Minorities Among Law Firm Associates — 2017
(percent of offices in each range of representation)

  Women Minorities Minority Women
Less than 45% 45 - 50% More than 50% None Up to 23% More than 23% None Up to 13% More than 13%
Total 47.2% 22.4% 30.4% 9.8% 45.1% 45.1% 18.5% 41.9% 39.7%

By Size of Firm:

100 or fewer lawyers 58.0 19.3 22.7 18.2 58.0 23.9 30.7 48.9 20.5
101-250 lawyers 48.6 18.9 32.4 10.8 61.5 27.7 17.6 54.7 27.7
251-500 lawyers 43.1 25.1 31.8 11.4 40.3 48.3 20.9 39.8 39.3
501-700 lawyers 49.1 17.3 33.6 10.9 41.8 47.3 16.4 42.7 40.9
701+ lawyers 46.1 24.0 29.9 7.2 40.7 52.1 16.0 37.5 46.5

Source: 2017-2018 NALP Directory of Legal Employers. Figures are based on 1,056 offices reporting at least 1 associate in the office.

 

Table 3. Percentage of Offices Falling into Selected Categories of Women and Minority Representation Among Partners

Percent of Offices Reporting:

  No minority partners No women partners No minority women partners
1997 49.6% 12.5% N/A
2007 35.8 10.8 63.0%
2014 21.2 7.1 47.6
2015 19.6 5.8 46.6
2016 18.4 5.1 44.6
2017 18.6 7.0 45.5

 

Table 4. Percentage of Offices Falling into Selected Categories of Women and Minority Representation Among Associates

Percent of Offices Reporting:
  No minority associates Women associates below nat'l average* No minority women associates
Contemporary nat'l average Women associates
1997 22.7% Less than 33% 24.9% N/A
2007 19.4 Less than 40% 32.7 29.3%
2014 10.0 Less than 45% 51.3 22.8
2015 11.7 Less than 45% 51.3 22.8
2016 9.8 Less than 45% 48.9 19.8
2017 9.8 Less than 45% 47.2 18.5

*The percentage of offices with no women associates has not been calculated, as it is very small. Instead the percentage of offices with representation of women below the approximate level of the national average that year was calculated.

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