Findings on Racial Justice and DEI Efforts at U.S. Law Schools and Legal Employers

NALP Bulletin, October 2020

In May 2020, NALP began administering a series of short "pulse" surveys to learn more about the impacts of recent events on U.S. legal employers and law schools. These surveys were designed to quantify the rapidly evolving changes occurring in the industry. While the first two rounds of surveys focused on items related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the final set of surveys — conducted in late July through early August 2020 — was centered on racial justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at U.S. law schools and legal employers, and in particular, changes that have occurred due to the events that have transpired since the murder of George Floyd on May 25. This article will highlight some of the key findings from this final series of pulse surveys.

Legal Employer Key Findings:

  • As of early August 2020, nearly all legal employers (99%) had implemented new anti-racism and/or DEI efforts and initiatives since the murder of George Floyd. The most commonly reported activities include issuing a policy statement related to racial justice (76%), increasing racial justice related pro bono commitments (69%), and implementing new or increasing existing anti-racism and/or DEI training for lawyers and staff (63%). In general, offices of more than 250 attorneys and offices in the Northeast were most likely to have implemented several different types of initiatives.

  • Almost all offices (96%) reported that they provide professional staff with at least some of the same DEI training opportunities and resources as lawyers. While the vast majority of those offices that provide at least some joint DEI opportunities make training (88%) and support services (96%) available to both professional staff and lawyers, far fewer (62%) invite both staff and lawyers to affinity network events.

  • Most offices (57%) reported that they require mandatory anti-bias training for lawyers and/or staff. Of those offices that require training, 72% require participation from both lawyers and staff and 28% only mandate participation from lawyers.

  • Of those offices with 2020 summer associates, 57% had planned new anti-racism and/or DEI training for summer associates in response to these recent events. As seen in Table 1, responses varied by firm size — with offices in smaller firms of 100 or fewer attorneys less likely to have planned new training (22%) — and by region, with offices in the Northeast (63%) more likely to have done so.

  • Most legal employers (93%) reported that they have at least one DEI staff member or committee/task force. DEI committees were the most frequently reported (87%), followed by a DEI senior leader (65%). In general, offices in firms of 100 or fewer attorneys and offices of fewer than 25 attorneys were less likely to report DEI committees and staff members.

  • Nearly two-thirds of offices (64%) designated Juneteenth as a paid holiday in 2020, but as of early August only 16% have made it a permanent holiday beyond this year. As seen in Table 2, there were notable differences in the observance of Juneteenth in 2020 by firm size and region. Only one-quarter (25%) of offices in firms of 100 or fewer attorneys provided Juneteenth as a paid holiday this year, compared to 85% of offices in firms of more than 700 attorneys. While most offices in the Northeast (78%), West/Rocky Mountain (77%), and Mid-Atlantic (75%) regions observed Juneteenth as a paid holiday this year, just 37% of offices in the Midwest did so. Of those cities with at least five offices reporting data, offices in San Francisco, CA were most likely to provide the paid holiday in 2020 (100%), while those in Minneapolis, MN were least likely (31%).

  • The majority of offices (55%) offered law student diversity fellowships prior to June 1, 2020. Of those that already offered fellowships, only five percent have increased the number of and/or the total funding for these fellowships since June 1.


Law School Key Findings:

  • As of early August 2020, nearly 90% of law schools had implemented new anti-racism and/or DEI efforts and initiatives since the murder of George Floyd. Hosting town halls (64%), increasing the amount of anti-racism and/or DEI training for faculty and staff (49%), and increasing the amount of anti-racism and/or DEI training for students (39%) were the most frequently reported initiatives. While public schools, schools in the Midwest, and schools with fewer than 350 JD students were somewhat less likely than schools overall to have implemented at least one new initiative, the overwhelming majority of schools in these groups still had taken some action.

  • Just under half (48%) of law schools reported that they require mandatory anti-bias training for faculty, staff, and/or students, however, required training varied by region. Just one quarter (25%) of schools in the Mid-Atlantic region mandated anti-bias training, while 69% of schools in the Northeast required training. Of those schools that do require anti-bias training, most mandated training for all three groups, but students were the group most likely to have the requirement overall (70%).

  • Almost all law schools (97%) reported that they have at least one dedicated DEI staff member or governance group. DEI committees were the most commonly reported (74%), followed by a dedicated DEI professional within the law school (60%).

  • The majority of law schools (58%) have a formal complaint procedure in place if students experience bias or discrimination in the recruiting/interviewing process. As seen in Chart 1, the likelihood of having a complaint procedure in place increased with the number of enrolled JD students within the school. By region, schools in the Southeast and West/Rocky Mountain regions were more likely to have a formal complaint procedure (72% each), compared to just 37% of schools in the Midwest.


The law school survey also included two open-response items in which schools were asked to provide details on what their Career Services Office (CSO) — either as a department or in coordination with other groups — was doing to support students of color, and Black students specifically. Common themes included: individual student outreach, addressing student mental health and well-being, supporting and attending affinity group meetings, hosting anti-bias and DEI programming, employer outreach and training, updating employer policies and procedures, creating a new CSO DEI staff position or incorporating DEI responsibilities into an existing CSO staff position, ensuring that Black voices are represented in CSO programming, and re-evaluating all programming and resources to ensure inclusivity. A few selected responses are below:

"We are continuing the efforts that we began last year around focusing on enhancing supporting students through programs relating to student programs and services, staff professional development, and relationship building. This includes the following: 1) offered program for diversity fellowships and enhanced access to resources regarding these opportunities; 2) offered programming for diverse students relating to navigating the clerkship process, and judicial careers for lawyers of color, surveyed alumni clerks to establish mentoring contacts for clerking; 3) supported/attended affinity group meetings regarding careers, as well as affinity group conference career fairs; 4) staff development; 5) designated a member of the team as the liaison/champion for Diversity and Inclusion; 6) attended professional development programs; 7) engaged a consultant who conducted implicit bias training with our team; and 8) multiple meetings with affinity group leaders to hear how we can address their needs and took that feedback to develop these responses."

"We have prioritized highlighting Black voices and the BIPOC experience in the profession and in America in our weekly Career Center newsletters. We do this primarily through linking to articles, professional development events, and other resources for students and alumni. Our team has also worked with affinity bar leaders and the state bar to cultivate a mentor list for diverse students. It includes diverse lawyers and judges from around the state."

"CSO staff are required to attend all NALP diversity town halls and webinars and were required to complete implicit bias training. We are increasing our programming to encourage students of color to consider certain career paths."

"We have engaged with employers in our outreach and in response to employer questions about how to create better diversity pipelines to their firms and how to provide better experiences for diverse law students in their firms."

"Team members are engaging in training/educational opportunities specific to anti-Black racism. We are also working to identify and share additional opportunities for our students to engage in pro bono and other activities that address anti-Black racism. Our law school has also created (and the CSO has contributed to) a webpage devoted to racial justice resources for students."


The full results from the third round of pulse surveys, as well as additional pulse surveys, are available on the 2020 Pulse Surveys page.


Table 1: Percentage of Offices* that Planned New Anti-Racism and/or DEI Training for their Summer 2020 Associates

Legal Employers Subset % of Offices that Planned New Training Total Number of Offices
All Offices 56.9% 167
By Firm Size (Number of Attorneys)
100 or Fewer 22.2 9
101-250 44.8 29
251-500 56.7 30
501-700 71.4 14
701+ 62.7 83
By Office Size (Number of Attorneys)
25 or Fewer 60.0 15
26-50 44.4 18
51-100 58.5 41
101-250 57.6 59
251+ 57.7 26
By Region and City
Northeast 63.2 38
Boston, MA 80.0 5
New York, NY 67.9 28
Mid-Atlantic 57.7 26
Washington, DC/Northern VA 64.7 17
Southeast 45.8 24
Midwest 53.1 32
Chicago, IL 36.4 11
Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN 60.0 10
West/Rocky Mountain 60.0 45
Los Angeles, CA 50.0 8
San Francisco, CA 50.0 8
Silicon Valley, CA 62.5 8

*Of offices hosting a 2020 summer program

Note: The total number of offices reported reflects all offices with 2020 summer programs that responded to the survey question, including both those that did and did not plan new training.


Table 2: Percentage of Offices that Designated Juneteenth a Paid Holiday in 2020 and Beyond

  Offices that Made Juneteenth a Holiday in 2020 Offices that Have Made Juneteenth a Permanent Holiday*
Legal Employers Subset % of Offices Total Number of Offices % of Offices Total Number of Offices
All Offices 64.4% 239 15.8% 234
By Firm Size (Number of Attorneys)
100 or Fewer 25.0 12 25.0 12
101-250 43.6 39 7.7 39
251-500 41.5 53 15.4 52
501-700 64.3 14 7.7 13
701+ 85.5 117 17.5 114
By Office Size (Number of Attorneys)
25 or Fewer 61.5 39 12.8 39
26-50 69.0 29 13.8 29
51-100 61.5 52 19.6 51
101-250 64.2 81 12.7 79
251+ 73.1 26 20.0 25
By Region and City
Northeast 77.8 54 26.4 53
Boston, MA 81.8 11 36.4 11
New York, NY 82.4 34 18.2 33
Mid-Atlantic 75.0 44 25.0 44
Philadelphia, PA 57.1 7 42.9 7
Washington, DC/Northern VA 87.0 23 30.4 23
Southeast 48.5 33 9.1 33
Atlanta, GA 85.7 7 14.3 7
Midwest 36.7 49 6.4 47
Chicago, IL 50.0 16 7.1 14
Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN 30.8 13 15.4 13
West/Rocky Mountain 77.2 57 10.9 55
Los Angeles, CA 66.7 12 9.1 11
San Francisco, CA 100.0 9 22.2 9
Silicon Valley, CA 66.7 9 11.1 9


Chart 1: Percentage of Law Schools with a Formal Complaint Procedure for Students Experiencing Bias in the Recruiting/Interviewing Process by Region and Enrollment Size


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