Partnership at Law Firms Elusive for Minority Women
11-08-2006

Minority women constitute just 1.48% of partners in the nation’s major law firms. This group is thus particularly underrepresented in the partnership ranks, even more so than minority men, who account for just 3.53% of partners. These are the most startling findings of NALP’s recent analyses of the 2006-2007 NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE), the annual compendium of legal employer data published by NALP. The representation of minority women partners is only slightly higher, 1.91%, at the largest firms of more than 700 lawyers. The newest NDLE also reveals that representation of minority women among partners varies considerably by geographic location, with firms in Miami reporting the highest level of representation, at 6.03%. This contrasts sharply with more than 20 cities where minority women make up fewer than 1% of partners.

During the fourteen years that NALP has been compiling this information, law firms have made steady, albeit slow progress in increasing the presence of women and minorities among their lawyers and summer associates. Expanded demographic tracking in the 2006-2007 NDLE allows for information on minority attorneys to be delineated by gender for the first time. In 2006, minorities account for 5.01% of partners in the nation’s major firms, and women account for 17.90% of the partners in these firms. In 2005, the figures were 4.63% and 17.29% respectively. The total change since 1993, the first year for which NALP has comparable aggregate information, has been only marginal. At that time minorities accounted for 2.55% of partners and women accounted for 12.27% of partners. Looking at all lawyers represented, minorities now make up just over 10% of lawyers at these law firms, women make up just under one-third of lawyers at these same firms, and minority women make up about 5% of lawyers at these firms.

The most recent NALP findings from the NDLE also reveal that, nationally, women and minorities continue to be much better represented in associate and summer associate ranks than in the partnership ranks. Women account for 44.33% of associates, minorities for 16.72% of associates, and minority women for 9.16% of associates. Each group lags in their representation by 3 to 5 percentage points compared to the population of recent law school graduates. According to the American Bar Association, since the late 1980s, the percentage of minority law school graduates has doubled, from 10% to 20%. During the same period, the presence of women among law school graduates has grown from 40% to nearly half. Summer associate classes best reflect law school enrollment, with women comprising 46.67% of summer associates, minorities 23.05%, and minority women 12.40% of summer associates in 2006. With an increase from 22.85% in 2005 to 23.05% in 2006, minority representation in summer programs slightly exceeded their representation among law students for the second year in a row.

Analyses for the 44 cities with the most attorneys represented in the directory reveal considerable variations in these measures. Among the largest of these cities (those with more than 1,000 partners represented), Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, show the highest representation of women, minorities, and minority women among both partners and associates. Minorities account for 9.29%, 8.36%, and 6.15% of partners in these cities, respectively, and women account for 19.15%, 22.19%, and 19.25% of partners, respectively. Between 2% and 3% of partners are minority women. Firms in Atlanta also are close to or exceed national averages on most measures.

Among smaller cities, Miami and San Jose exceeded national averages. In Miami, women account for 21.38% of partners; minorities, many of whom are Hispanic, account for 20.09% of partners, and 6.03% of partners are minority women. In the San Jose area the figures are 18.44%, 11.94%, and 2.60%, respectively. Some cities rank high on specific measures. For example, cities with relatively high percentages of women partners include: Austin, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, New Orleans, and Seattle — all of which report at least 20% women partners. Similarly, Austin, Orange County, San Diego, and Seattle have relatively high percentages of minority partners.

Among all the cities listed, offices in Los Angeles and Orange County, Miami, New York City, and the San Francisco and San Jose areas rank highest on the representation of minorities among associates, with representation at one in five or greater in all of these cities. Representation of women among associates is highest in Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, Hartford, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Seattle, where about half of associates are women. Minority women are most prevalent among associates in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Orange County, Miami, New York City, and the San Francisco and San Jose areas.

In other cities, the picture is considerably different: Firms in almost half the cities are below average on all measures and considerably so with respect to minorities. Cities in this category include Birmingham, Charlotte, Grand Rapids, Richmond, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, and St. Louis. These findings reflect in part considerable contrasts in the population as a whole in these areas. For example, according to recent population estimates from the US Census Bureau, the population of Salt Lake County is only about 19% minority. In the Grand Rapids and Pittsburgh areas, the figures are about the same. In contrast, the population of Los Angeles is 68% minority. But minority representation within law firms does not always parallel minority representation within the overall population of an area. For example, in the Charlotte and Birmingham areas, almost half the population is minority, and in Richmond about 60% is minority, but this diversity is not reflected among lawyers in those cities.

Among summer associates, minorities have the highest representation in Detroit, Portland, San Francisco, and San Jose, where 30% or more are minority. Representation of minority women among summer associates is highest in Detroit, Portland, and San Francisco.

A similar analysis of six states or portions of states outside of the 44 cities also yields interesting findings. Representation of minorities and minority women among partners is highest in California, Florida, and Texas, and considerably below average in Kentucky, Nevada, and New York state outside of New York City. These latter three areas are also well below average with respect to minority representation among associates. All of these areas except Florida are below average in terms of minority women associates. Conversely, Kentucky and Texas report the highest percentage of minority summer associates, and Kentucky the highest percentage of minority women summer associates.

The 2006-2007 NDLE includes attorney demographic information for about 132,000 partners, associates, and other lawyers, and for more than 11,000 summer associates in over 1,500 offices nationwide. Table 1 presents the most recent findings on the representation of women and minorities among partners and associates at law firms. It provides nationwide figures, figures broken down by law firm size, and figures for 44 cities and six additional states. Table 2 presents analogous information for summer associates and for all lawyers.

The 2006-2007 NALP Directory of Legal Employers, which provides the individual firm listings on which these aggregate analyses are based, is available online at www.nalpdirectory.com.

Table 1. Women and Minorities at Law Firms — Partners and Associates — 2006

 

  PARTNERS ASSOCIATES # of Offices
Total # % Women % Minority % Minority Women Total # % Women % Minority % Minority Women
Total 60,394 17.90% 5.01% 1.48% 59,684 44.33% 16.72% 9.16% 1,523
By Size of Firm:
50 or fewer lawyers 2,472 16.63 5.62 1.58 1,745 41.66 12.61 6.76 155
51-100 lawyers 5,864 17.63 5.00 1.81 4,067 40.96 13.23 6.84 173
101-250 lawyers 16,397 17.68 3.62 1.04 11,908 43.98 12.97 6.89 316
251-500 lawyers 14,006 18.45 4.75 1.34 12,476 44.67 15.78 8.67 372
501-700 lawyers 6,115 18.00 5.54 1.59 8,001 44.43 19.61 10.82 131
701+ lawyers 15,540 17.90 6.40 1.91 21,487 45.13 19.25 10.71 376
Offices in:
Atlanta 1,754 17.62 5.82 1.60 1,782 45.12 16.22 9.71 43
Austin 462 22.51 7.36 1.95 363 37.19 15.70 8.26 21
Baltimore 554 19.31 3.43 0.72 357 45.66 12.32 7.00 11
Birmingham 604 17.38 2.32 0.99 349 34.67 4.30 1.72 11
Boston area 1,979 18.80 2.93 0.86 2,241 46.63 11.83 6.38 36
Charlotte 579 11.40 3.80 0.69 525 37.90 7.81 3.05 19
Chicago 4,277 19.08 4.56 1.29 3,546 44.25 15.12 8.46 60
Cincinnati 567 16.93 2.12 0.35 418 42.82 6.94 4.31 12
Cleveland 706 17.42 3.12 1.27 639 42.10 8.14 4.54 14
Columbus 589 16.81 4.92 0.85 455 43.74 12.31 5.93 14
Dallas 1,665 17.12 5.11 1.32 1,680 40.42 11.67 6.73 41
Denver 745 23.36 5.23 1.34 549 48.82 12.39 6.74 26
Detroit area 1,052 19.11 4.47 1.43 514 43.58 10.89 6.81 16
Ft. Lauderdale/
W. Palm Beach
305 20.66 3.61 1.64 205 48.78 14.15 7.80 14
Grand Rapids 347 10.37 2.02 0.29 132 40.91 8.33 4.55 8
Hartford 448 16.96 2.01 0.67 390 49.23 7.44 4.36 15
Houston 1,426 16.90 5.40 1.26 1,335 42.55 15.88 8.16 39
Indianapolis 703 17.50 1.85 0.28 466 42.06 11.37 6.01 11
Kansas City area 773 13.97 1.94 0.52 524 39.69 8.78 4.77 12
Los Angeles area 2,810 19.15 9.29 3.13 3,408 45.13 25.62 13.56 90
Miami 697 21.38 20.09 6.03 574 44.25 36.41 19.34 22
Milwaukee 739 17.86 2.30 0.68 409 44.50 7.82 4.40 9
Minneapolis/
St. Paul
1,363 19.96 2.13 0.88 807 43.62 10.29 5.20 23
Nashville 386 17.10 2.07 0.26 268 44.03 10.45 7.46 9
New Orleans 365 21.92 4.38 0.82 196 49.49 14.80 9.69 9
New York City 7,277 15.67 5.13 1.39 13,549 44.56 20.46 11.38 144
Northern NJ/
Newark area
1,073 15.94 2.98 1.03 1,307 43.92 12.70 7.42 27
Northern Virginia 438 13.93 5.71 1.37 410 39.76 14.88 8.78 23
Orange Co., CA 502 12.55 7.97 2.59 604 38.08 20.03 10.26 29
Philadelphia 1,312 18.52 2.67 1.07 1,456 45.74 10.16 5.77 21
Phoenix 719 17.25 3.62 0.83 520 40.77 12.69 5.58 17
Pittsburgh 673 16.20 1.49 0.30 528 43.18 8.71 5.87 12
Portland, OR area 598 17.89 2.34 1.00 365 42.47 10.41 5.21 20
Raleigh/Durham 237 19.83 1.69 0.00 174 43.10 6.90 4.02 13
Richmond 463 12.31 3.24 0.86 362 45.58 7.18 3.87 8
Salt Lake City 207 7.25 0.97 0.00 168 23.81 7.74 4.17 10
San Diego 540 18.52 6.48 1.30 646 45.51 15.94 9.29 22
San Francisco 1,794 22.19 8.36 2.84 1,997 51.03 24.64 15.07 58
San Jose area 846 18.44 11.94 2.60 1,385 43.54 33.36 15.96 43
Seattle area 1,067 19.87 6.00 1.59 667 50.07 16.34 8.10 34
St. Louis 787 17.03 2.67 0.64 631 42.31 9.83 5.55 11
Tampa/
St. Petersburg
414 16.18 4.83 1.21 260 40.77 14.62 8.08 14
Washington, DC 5,776 19.25 6.15 2.18 6,230 45.47 17.96 9.63 137
Wilmington 304 14.47 2.30 0.99 322 37.27 10.56 3.11 12
States:
Other areas in California 423 19.86 7.09 2.36 377 46.68 14.59 7.43 22
Other areas in Florida 584 17.98 7.88 1.71 358 45.81 17.60 10.89 18
Kentucky 530 17.92 1.70 0.57 317 43.85 10.73 5.05 7
Nevada 194 18.56 3.09 1.55 212 37.26 10.38 6.13 16
Other areas in New York State 886 15.01 1.81 0.45 542 42.80 7.93 4.24 16
Other areas in Texas 292 17.12 6.51 1.71 200 39.50 21.00 7.50 14

Source: The 2006-2007 NALP Directory of Legal Employers. For law firms that repeated firm-wide demographic information for each office listing, demographic information was retained for just one office to avoid double counting. Some city information includes one or more offices in adjacent suburbs. Orange County includes offices in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Newport Beach. The San Jose area includes offices in Cupertino, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and E. Palo Alto, Redwood Shores/Redwood City, San Jose, and Sunnyvale. The Northern New Jersey/Newark area includes offices in Newark, Livingston, Rochelle Park, Roseland, West Orange, Florham Park, Hackensack, Morristown, Parsippany, Short Hills, Westfield, Bridgewater, Somerset, and Woodbridge. Northern Virginia includes offices in Falls Church, McLean, Reston, Vienna, and Alexandria. State figures exclude cities reported separately.

Table 2. Women and Minorities at Law Firms — Total Lawyers and Summer Associates — 2006 

 

  TOTAL LAWYERS SUMMER ASSOCIATES # of Offices
Total # % Women % Minority % Minority Women Total # % Women % Minority % Minority Women
Total 132,413 31.32% 10.58% 5.18% 11,660 46.67% 23.05% 12.40% 1,523
By Size of Firm:
50 or fewer lawyers 4,602 27.23 8.37 3.67 300 44.33 17.33 8.00 155
51-100 lawyers 10,899 26.79 8.14 3.74 681 44.79 17.91 8.52 173
101-250 lawyers 31,271 28.95 7.29 3.33 1,938 45.61 19.66 10.94 316
251-500 lawyers 29,634 31.16 9.69 4.64 2,436 48.15 23.19 12.93 372
501-700 lawyers 15,648 33.75 13.54 6.91 1,722 46.11 25.61 13.94 131
701+ lawyers 40,359 34.02 13.55 6.88 4,583 46.98 24.59 13.03 376
Offices in:
Atlanta 3,831 32.39 11.02 5.77 417 51.32 22.06 13.91 43
Austin 919 30.25 10.77 4.68 96 44.79 29.17 14.58 21
Baltimore 993 29.91 6.95 3.12 48 41.67 22.92 10.42 11
Birmingham 1,024 24.12 2.93 1.17 56 44.64 7.14 5.36 11
Boston area 4,542 34.04 7.62 3.81 434 47.70 19.35 10.83 36
Charlotte 1,194 24.54 5.28 1.68 132 45.45 17.42 9.85 19
Chicago 8,329 30.87 9.11 4.42 767 47.33 17.21 10.56 60
Cincinnati 1,071 28.94 4.30 2.24 70 45.71 22.86 14.29 12
Cleveland 1,504 30.39 5.12 2.59 90 48.89 16.67 11.11 14
Columbus 1,172 28.58 7.76 2.82 81 45.68 23.46 9.88 14
Dallas 3,665 28.92 8.21 3.87 470 42.13 16.38 8.51 41
Denver 1,434 34.31 7.95 3.56 83 50.60 22.89 12.05 26
Detroit area 1,794 27.42 6.19 2.90 73 52.05 30.14 19.18 16
Ft. Lauderdale/W. Palm Beach 557 30.52 8.44 3.77 15 40.00 6.67 6.67 14
Grand Rapids 550 18.73 3.27 1.27 33 48.48 21.21 15.15 8
Hartford 969 31.06 4.23 2.06 43 58.14 16.28 13.95 15
Houston 3,093 30.07 10.99 4.88 450 40.67 25.33 11.56 39
Indianapolis 1,365 28.86 5.57 2.34 90 58.89 21.11 8.89 11
Kansas City area 1,577 27.90 4.69 2.28 92 50.00 27.17 11.96 12
Los Angeles area 6,785 33.63 17.51 8.50 657 47.95 26.94 15.22 90
Miami 1,341 31.25 26.85 11.63 81 39.51 27.16 11.11 22
Milwaukee 1,209 27.05 4.05 1.90 100 44.00 17.00 7.00 9
Minneapolis/St. Paul 2,352 29.51 5.14 2.51 172 54.07 17.44 11.63 23
Nashville 691 29.38 5.64 3.33 69 49.28 7.25 2.90 9
New Orleans 611 32.57 7.53 3.60 46 58.70 10.87 6.52 9
New York City 22,971 34.34 14.79 7.71 2,704 46.01 28.03 15.05 144
Northern NJ/Newark area 2,665 30.73 8.03 4.20 110 44.55 20.91 10.91 27
Northern Virginia 918 26.58 9.59 4.58 74 44.59 13.51 6.76 23
Orange Co., CA 1,179 27.23 14.50 6.87 125 40.80 26.40 11.20 29
Philadelphia 3,091 33.48 6.50 3.46 197 48.73 25.38 14.21 21
Phoenix 1,332 27.85 7.58 2.93 98 32.65 16.33 4.08 17
Pittsburgh 1,318 27.62 4.25 2.50 60 51.67 18.33 15.00 12
Portland, OR area 1,048 26.81 5.53 2.67 63 42.86 33.33 22.22 20
Raleigh/Durham 495 35.15 7.07 4.04 33 48.48 15.15 6.06 13
Richmond 902 28.60 4.77 2.11 65 52.31 10.77 7.69 8
Salt Lake City 396 14.90 4.55 1.77 25 32.00 4.00 4.00 10
San Diego 1,323 34.39 12.24 5.97 113 47.79 16.81 8.85 22
San Francisco 4,143 37.41 16.27 8.86 404 50.00 34.41 17.08 58
San Jose area 2,398 34.70 24.98 10.93 313 42.81 30.35 14.38 43
Seattle area 1,867 32.24 9.69 4.12 137 50.36 26.28 13.87 34
St. Louis 1,590 28.30 5.60 2.83 76 44.74 22.37 9.21 11
Tampa/St. Petersburg 716 26.40 8.52 3.77 38 50.00 7.89 5.26 14
Washington, DC 13,631 33.06 11.99 5.96 1,349 48.26 22.76 12.45 137
Wilmington 668 25.60 6.14 1.95 72 41.67 16.67 12.50 12
States:
Other areas in California 900 33.11 9.78 4.44 41 51.22 19.51 9.76 22
Other areas in Florida 1,076 29.46 11.15 4.93 55 49.09 16.36 9.09 18
Kentucky 994 27.26 4.83 2.11 54 57.41 24.07 16.67 7
Nevada 429 28.67 6.76 3.96 26 34.62 15.38 7.69 16
Other areas in New York State 1,609 25.05 3.73 1.74 46 50.00 19.57 10.87 16
Other areas in Texas 551 27.22 11.62 3.99 60 41.67 26.67 8.33 14

Source: The 2006-2007 NALP Directory of Legal Employers. For law firms that repeated firm-wide demographic information for each office listing, demographic information was retained for just one office to avoid double counting. Summer associates are not included in the total lawyer counts. Some city information includes one or more offices in adjacent suburbs. Orange County includes offices in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Newport Beach. The San Jose area includes offices in Cupertino, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and E. Palo Alto, Redwood Shores/ Redwood City, San Jose, and Sunnyvale. The Northern New Jersey/Newark area includes offices in Newark, Livingston, Rochelle Park, Roseland, West Orange, Florham Park, Hackensack, Morristown, Parsippany, Short Hills, Westfield, Bridgewater, Somerset, and Woodbridge. Northern Virginia includes offices in Falls Church, McLean, Reston, Vienna, and Alexandria. State figures exclude cities reported separately.

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