Race/Ethnicity and the Geographic Distribution of Law Firm Jobs Taken by New Graduates - Class of 2015

NALP Bulletin, November 2016

Among law school graduates taking jobs in private practice, minorities are more likely than their non-minority peers to take that job in one of the 21 largest law firm employment markets for new graduates. As Table 1 shows, of law firm jobs taken by the Class of 2015, about 46% were taken in the 21 cities that provided 100 or more jobs to that class. However, among racial/ethnic minorities as a whole the figure was over half (51.7%) compared with 43% among non-minorities. Looking at specific racial/ethnic groups, Asian/ Pacific Islander graduates are most concentrated in these cities (58.3% of law firm jobs). In contrast, almost 82% of the relatively small number of law firm jobs taken by Native American graduates are located outside of these 21 largest cities.

It is worth noting how these percentages compare with similar analyses for the Classes of 2008 and 2012, also shown in Table 1. The percentage of firm jobs in the 20 largest cities was close to half (49.3%) in 2008; it dropped to 46.2% for the 20 largest cities for the Class of 2012, as jobs in large firms eroded; and it settled in between those percentages for the 21 largest cities for 2015. However, this general pattern did not hold for minorities as a whole, and in particular not for Black/African-American graduates taking jobs in law firms, where the percentage of jobs taken in the largest cities has steadily eroded between 2008 and 2015. (Note that the 20 cities for 2008 and 2012 and the 21 cities for 2015 vary somewhat at the bottom end — that is, in those with the smallest number of jobs — but the vast majority of law firm jobs are in cities consistently among the top 20 cities.)

As Table 2 shows, the proportion of jobs taken by minorities in each of the 21 cities ranged from a high of 62% in Miami to just 9% in New Orleans and 12.5% in Indianapolis. In some cities, one specific group dominates minority graduates. In Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC, it is Asian/ Pacific Islanders; in Miami and, to a lesser extent, Phoenix, it is Hispanics; and in Atlanta and Pittsburgh it is Black/African-American graduates. In Dallas and Philadelphia, Asian/Pacific Islanders and Black/African-Americans are more equally prevalent. A relatively equal mix between the three groups is not typical — Houston comes the closest.

Earlier NALP Bulletin columns on this topic can be found at www.nalp.org/0913research and www.nalp.org/oct09geogdistribution.


Table 1. Geographic Distribution of Law Firm Jobs Taken by the Classes of 2008, 2012, and 2015

Law Firm Jobs Taken by: % in 20 Largest Cities % in Other Locations # of Jobs
2008 2012 2015 2008 2012 2015 2008 2012 2015
All graduates 49.3% 42.4% 46.2% 50.7% 57.6% 53.8% 20,281 19,042 17,168
Non-minorities 46.6 37.9 43.1 53.4 62.1 56.9 14,833 13,683 11,663
All minorities 59.0 51.8 51.7 41.0 48.2 48.3 3,924 3,693 4,115
American Indian/Alaska Native 39.0 38.7 18.1 61.0 61.3 81.9 90 75 72
Asian/Pacific Islanders 64.4 57.9 58.3 35.6 42.1 41.7 1,659 1,421 1,434
Black/African-Americans 58.2 53.7 51.2 41.8 46.3 48.9 898 792 812
Hispanics 53.0 46.4 49.3 47.0 53.6 50.7 1,032 1,082 1,096
Multi-racial 58.4 39.9 45.9 41.6 60.1 54.1 245 323 701

Note: All counts exclude law firm jobs for which location was not reported. All counts except the overall count exclude jobs taken by graduates for whom race/ethnicity was not reported. The Asian/Pacific Islander category includes Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander graduates.


Table 2. Distribution of Law Firm Jobs by Race/Ethnicity — Class of 2015

City Asian/Pacific Islander Black/African-American Hispanic Multi-racial Total Minority White/Caucasian # of Jobs
Atlanta 7.52% 14.66% 1.88% 3.76% 28.20% 71.80% 266
Boston 9.85 4.78 6.57 2.09 23.28 76.72 335
Charlotte 6.03 9.48 5.17 1.72 22.41 77.59 116
Chicago 8.50 4.52 6.37 4.12 23.64 76.36 753
Dallas 5.52 5.52 10.00 5.86 27.24 72.76 290
Denver 3.20 1.60 8.80 4.00 17.60 82.40 125
Houston 10.66 12.18 11.93 5.33 40.10 59.90 394
Indianapolis 2.08 8.33 1.04 1.04 12.50 87.50 96
Los Angeles 20.24 3.97 7.94 7.74 40.08 59.92 504
Miami 1.28 4.68 46.38 9.79 62.13 37.87 235
Minneapolis/St. Paul 13.51 4.05 2.70 1.35 21.62 78.38 148
New Orleans 0.00 5.10 0.00 4.08 9.18 90.82 98
New York City 15.09 5.26 5.55 3.88 30.02 69.98 2,035
Philadelphia 6.45 6.91 1.84 3.23 18.89 81.11 217
Phoenix 2.86 5.00 10.00 3.57 21.43 78.57 140
Pittsburgh 4.90 8.82 3.92 0.00 17.65 82.35 102
San Diego 14.68 2.75 13.76 9.63 40.83 59.17 218
San Francisco 23.36 3.65 6.93 8.39 42.70 57.30 274
Seattle 14.73 3.10 0.78 3.10 21.71 78.29 129
St. Louis 2.73 6.36 2.73 3.64 16.36 83.64 110
Washington, DC 13.30 6.03 5.32 3.01 27.84 72.16 564

Note: Law firm jobs taken by graduates for whom race/ethnicity was not reported are excluded from this table. Percentages for the few Native American graduates taking law firm jobs in these cities are not shown, but they were included when calculating percentages and are included in the total minority figures. The Asian/Pacific Islander category includes Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander graduates.

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