Representation of Women and People of Color in U.S. Law Firms in 2020

NALP Bulletin+
June 2021

NALP's 2020 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms shows that overall, women and people of color continued to make incremental progress in representation at major U.S. law firms in 2020. Women grew from 46.8% of all associates in 2019 to 47.5% in 2020 and associates of color grew from 25.4% of all associates in 2019 to 26.5% in 2020. At the partnership level, the share of women grew from 24.2% in 2019 to 25.1% in 2020 and partners of color increased from 9.6% of all partners in 2019 to 10.2% in 2020. Despite these gains, both women and partners of color remain substantially underrepresented in the partnership ranks.

While these are national figures, exploring these data by office provides further insights as percentages can vary by factors such as firm size and geography. Looking at the percentage of offices that do not have any partners or associates who are people of color, or which lack representation of lawyers from some racial or ethnic groups, provides another way of evaluating the diversity — or absence thereof — within U.S. law firms.

Table 1 shows the representation of women and people of color within the partnership ranks at U.S. law firms in 2020 by firm size. The first column for each group reports the percentage of all partners represented by that subset of the partner population. For example, just over 25% of partners were women in 2020. The second column indicates the percentage of offices that reported that they did not have any partners represented from that subset of the population. In the case of women, just over 3% of offices indicated that they had zero partners who were women in 2020. While most offices had at least one woman partner in 2020, about 18% did not have at least one partner of color, and 38% did not have at least one woman partner of color. A higher percentage of offices in smaller firms of 100 or fewer lawyers reported having zero partners of color and zero women partners of color compared to offices overall.

Table 2 takes a closer look at these data for Asian, Black, and Latinx partners. Data are not broken out separately within the table for Native American or Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander partners due to the small number of partners reported within these groups, but overall percentages are included in the table footnotes. About 40% of offices had no Asian partners, 51% had no Latinx partners, and 57% had no Black partners in 2020. Black women and Latinx women were included in the partnership ranks of only one in four offices.

Table 3 and Table 4 examine similar data for associates. As there is greater diversity at the associate level, the percentages of offices with no representation for certain subsets of associates is lower as compared to the partner data. Just under 3% of offices reported no women associates, less than 9% reported zero associates of color, and about 16% reported zero women associates of color. About 28% of offices reported no Asian associates, 37% reported zero Latinx associates, and 41% reported zero Black associates. Despite greater diversity in the associate ranks and recent steady year-over-year improvements, women associates and associates of color still remain underrepresented in law firms. The dual effects of this under-representation particularly impact Black and Latinx women associates — with each group of women being found in fewer than half of all offices — numbers that remain soberingly low in 2020.


Table 1: Representation of Women and People of Color Among U.S. Law Firm Partners in 2020

  Women People of Color Women of Color
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Partners
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Partners
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Partners
Total 25.05% 3.40% 10.23% 18.25% 3.79% 38.44%
By Firm Size:
100 or Fewer Lawyers 23.71 0.00 8.57 23.53 3.36 45.10
101-250 Lawyers 24.40 2.00 7.56 11.00 2.61 32.00
251-500 Lawyers 24.97 5.43 8.97 20.65 3.34 42.93
501-700 Lawyers 26.41 2.00 9.74 19.72 3.91 35.21
701+ Lawyers 25.12 3.78 11.54 18.07 4.25 37.82

Source: 2020-2021 NALP Directory of Legal Employers. Figures are based on 882 offices reporting at least one partner in the office.


Table 2: Representation of Asian, Black, and Latinx Partners at U.S. Law Firms in 2020

  All Asian Partners Asian Women All Black Partners Black Women All Latinx Partners Latinx Women
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Partners
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Partners
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Partners
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Partners
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Partners
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Partners
Total 4.08% 40.02% 1.62% 62.02% 2.10% 56.92% 0.80% 76.08% 2.80% 51.47% 0.90% 75.17%
By Firm Size:
100 or Fewer Lawyers 3.70 45.10 1.71 60.78 1.51 64.71 0.48 86.27 1.71 76.47 0.69 90.20
101-250 Lawyers 3.23 26.00 1.17 60.00 1.40 54.00 0.47 80.00 1.93 48.00 0.64 72.00
251-500 Lawyers 3.07 45.11 1.32 66.30 2.05 55.43 0.80 75.54 2.41 52.72 0.74 78.26
501-700 Lawyers 3.91 39.44 1.70 60.56 1.95 60.56 0.87 71.83 2.76 47.89 0.81 73.24
701+ Lawyers 4.70 40.55 1.83 61.13 2.35 56.72 0.89 75.00 3.24 49.58 1.05 73.32

Source: 2020-2021 NALP Directory of Legal Employers. Figures are based on 882 offices reporting at least one partner in the office.

Note: Overall, 0.18% of all partners were Native American or Alaska Native and 0.07% were Native American or Alaska Native women, 0.06% of all partners were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander and 0.02% were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander women, and 1.02% of all partners were multiracial and 0.38% were multiracial women. Due to the small number of partners within these groups, data are not further broken out by firm size.


Table 3: Representation of Women and People of Color Among U.S. Law Firm Associates in 2020

  Women People of Color Women of Color
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Associates
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Associates
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Associates
Total 47.45% 2.51% 26.48% 8.56% 15.17% 16.10%
By Firm Size:
100 or Fewer Lawyers 41.18 3.92 21.30 21.57 12.07 37.25
101-250 Lawyers 47.11 2.02 20.74 8.08 12.22 12.12
251-500 Lawyers 45.93 4.44 24.51 12.22 13.36 19.44
501-700 Lawyers 47.54 4.23 26.80 2.82 15.44 14.08
701+ Lawyers 47.96 1.47 27.64 6.74 15.92 13.68

Source: 2020-2021 NALP Directory of Legal Employers. Figures are based on 876 offices reporting at least one associate in the office.


Table 4: Representation of Asian, Black, and Latinx Associates at U.S. Law Firms in 2020

  All Asian Associates Asian Women All Black Associates Black Women All Latinx Associates Latinx Women
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Associates
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Associates
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Associates
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Associates
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Associates
Total % % of Offices
with Zero Associates
Total 12.12% 27.63% 7.18% 37.79% 5.10% 41.10% 3.04% 52.63% 5.64% 37.33% 2.99% 53.08%
By Firm Size
100 or Fewer Lawyers 10.77 35.29 6.04 54.90 4.50 54.90 2.13 74.51 4.14 58.82 2.84 66.67
101-250 Lawyers 8.71 30.30 5.46 37.37 4.46 36.36 2.59 48.48 4.37 41.41 2.44 56.57
251-500 Lawyers 10.70 28.89 6.12 41.11 4.84 48.89 2.72 58.89 5.46 48.33 2.69 61.67
501-700 Lawyers 11.49 32.39 6.63 46.48 6.66 36.62 3.92 45.07 5.13 35.21 3.01 53.52
701+ Lawyers 12.91 25.05 7.67 33.47 5.07 38.32 3.09 49.89 5.92 30.32 3.11 47.58

Source: 2020-2021 NALP Directory of Legal Employers. Figures are based on 876 offices reporting at least one associate in the office.

Note: Overall, 0.17% of all associates were Native American or Alaska Native and 0.09% were Native American or Alaska Native women, 0.08% of all associates were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander and 0.04% were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander women, and 3.36% of all associates were multiracial and 1.83% were multiracial women. Due to the small number of associates within these groups, data are not further broken out by firm size.

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