LGBT Representation Among Lawyers in 2015

NALP Bulletin, December 2015

The overall percentage of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) lawyers reported in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE) in 2015 increased by a very small amount to 2.34% compared with 2.30% in 2014. However, most of the increase can be attributed to an increase among associates, from 2.93% to 3.08%. Representation of LGBT attorneys among partners was almost flat, and it decreased a bit among other attorneys — counsel and non-traditional track attorneys. About 40% of offices reported at least one LGBT lawyer among partners and associates. The percentage of offices reporting LGBT counts has been relatively stable at about 88-89% of offices since 2008.

The overall count in 2015 of 2,297 LGBT lawyers is up by over 5% from 2014, but since the total number of lawyers was also up, overall representation of LGBT lawyers did not change much. Over a longer span of time, the numbers have about doubled. In the 2002-2003 NDLE, the number of openly gay lawyers reported was just over 1,100 — less than 1% of the total lawyers represented. It took until 2012 for the overall percentage to exceed 2%.

The presence of LGBT lawyers continues to be highest among associates, at 3.08%, as shown in the accompanying table, and is up from the figure of 2.93% reported in 2014. Openly LGBT associates are also better represented at large law firms — with firms of 701+ lawyers reporting 3.61% openly LGBT associates. Similarly, openly LGBT partners are best represented at the largest firms in the U.S. — with firms of 701+ lawyers reporting 2.04% openly LGBT partners, compared with 1.80% among partners overall. An increase in openly LGBT partners in firms of 100 or fewer lawyers from 0.63% in 2009 to just over 2% since then (for example, 1.13% in 2011, 1.49% in 2013, and 1.87% in 2014) is notable. However, fluctuating figures, with no net increases among partners at the largest firms — from 2.05% in 2011, to 1.93% in 2012, to 2.01% in 2013, and 2.04% in both 2014 and 2015 — is also noted.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are wide geographic disparities in these numbers, and in fact about 57% of the reported openly 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 38% of the just over 98,000 lawyers included in these analyses. Thus the percentage of openly LGBT lawyers in these cities is correspondingly higher — about 3.5% overall (and highest in San Francisco specifically at 5.5%) compared with the 2.34% nationwide figure. In these same four cities, the percentage of openly LGBT summer associates is also higher — about 5.2% compared with 4.43% nationwide.

Although the percentage of LGBT lawyers has generally been trending upward over the period since 2002 when NALP first began compiling these figures, the change from 2014 to 2015 was very small and mostly accounted for at the associate level, and specifically at firms of 251 or more lawyers. However, figures for summer associates suggest that there is still potential for some growth of the presence of LGBT associates at these firms. The overall figure for summer associates was 4.43%, compared with 3.98% in 2014. In firms of more than 700 lawyers, it has exceeded 5% in the two most recent years. In firms of 251+ lawyers as a whole, the figure was about 4.6% compared with just over 3% at the smaller firms. This is also consistent with Class of 2014 findings that lesbian, gay, and bisexual graduates going into private practice are more likely to take a job in a firm of 251+ lawyers than were graduates as a whole. (Too few transgender Class of 2014 graduates were reported to permit analysis.)

Reporting of Openly LGBT Lawyers — NALP Directory of Legal Employers 2015

# Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
Partners 785 1.80% 65 2.03% 133 1.55%
Associates 1,244 3.08 36 2.11 105 2.16
Other lawyers 268 1.94 13 1.82 27 1.41
All lawyers 2,297 2.34 114 2.03 265 1.73
Summer associates 248 4.43 10 4.15 16 2.74

# Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
Partners 143 1.57% 87 1.52% 357 2.04%
Associates 166 2.60 138 2.63 799 3.61
Other lawyers 48 1.83 33 1.79 147 2.18
All lawyers 357 1.97 258 2.01 1,303 2.81
Summer associates 34 3.94 24 3.27 164 5.17

Note: Figures for openly LGBT lawyers are based on 943 offices/firms reporting counts, including zero, in all lawyer categories; figures for openly LGBT summer associates are based on 648 offices/firms with a summer program and reporting counts, including zero. Overall, LGBT counts, including zero, cover 98,277 lawyers and 5,597 summer associates.

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