Most Firms Collect LGBT Lawyer Information — LGBT Representation Up Slightly

NALP Bulletin, December 2010

The overall percentage of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) lawyers reported in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE) in 2010 rose compared to 2009. Almost half (49%) of offices reported at least one LGBT lawyer.

Nonetheless, the numbers remain relatively small, and because the total number of lawyers included in this analysis is smaller compared with 2009, the overall count of 2,137 LGBT lawyers is lower than it was in 2009. 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. Last year, in the 2009-2010 NDLE, those numbers stood at 2,200 and 1.82%. The 2,137 openly LGBT lawyers reported in 2010-2011 NDLE account for 1.88% of the total lawyers represented.

The presence of LGBT lawyers continues to be highest among associates, at 2.35%, as shown in the accompanying table, and is up a bit from the figure of 2.29% reported in 2009. Openly LGBT associates are also better represented at large law firms, with firms of 701+ lawyers reporting 2.78% openly LGBT associates. Similarly, openly LGBT partners are best represented at the nation's largest firms, with firms of 701+ lawyers reporting 2.02% openly LGBT partners, compared with 1.47% among partners overall. However, an increase in openly LGBT partners in firms of 100 or fewer lawyers, from 0.63% in 2009 to 1.17% in 2010 is notable. Whether this represents a trend or simply an anomaly, is, of course, an unknown.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are wide geographic disparities in these numbers, and in fact about 60% of the reported openly LGBT lawyers are accounted for by just four cities: New York City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The percentage of openly LGBT lawyers in these cities is correspondingly higher — about 2.9% overall (and 4.8% in San Francisco specifically) compared with the 1.88% nationwide figure. In these same four cities, the percentage of openly LGBT summer associates is also higher, about 4.3% compared with 2.8% nationwide.

Although the percentage of LGBT lawyers has increased slightly, it is also the case that the percentage of offices reporting LGBT counts has remained at about 88% for the past three years, and is lower than the 92% in 2007. This change may in fact reflect more deliberate use of the "unknown" and "not collected" reporting options on the demographic grid. Since 2006, all portions of the grid have had to be filled with either a number, which can be zero, or either "NC" or "UNK" if the information was not collected or is unknown. However, the default entry is zero and must be actively changed to reflect "not collected" or "unknown." Thus, reported counts of zero do not unambiguously mean zero, and it may be the case that the prevalence of "unknown" or "not collected" represents better reporting rather than higher counts.

Nonetheless, it is clear that the percentage of LGBT lawyers is higher than ever before. NALP has been collecting demographic information on LGBT lawyers since 1996. During that time, the number of firms that give their LGBT lawyers an opportunity to self-identify has risen to almost 90%. This year, among the offices/firms reporting counts, almost half reported at least one openly LGBT lawyer and 13% of offices reporting a 2010 summer program and reporting demographics reported at least one openly LGBT summer associate.

Reporting of Openly LGBT Lawyers — NALP Directory of Legal Employers 2010

  ALL FIRMS FIRMS OF 100 OR FEWER LAWYERS FIRMS OF 101-250 LAWYERS FIRMS OF 251-500 LAWYERS FIRMS OF 501-700 LAWYERS FIRMS OF 701+ LAWYERS
OPENLY LGBT # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
Partners 752 1.47% 70 1.17% 122 0.99% 139 1.42% 61 1.18% 360 2.02%
Associates 1,182 2.35 52 1.42 132 1.63 182 2.10 135 2.50 681 2.78
All Lawyers 2,137 1.88 133 1.25 279 1.21 368 1.75 214 1.79 1,143 2.42
Summer Associates 122 2.83 3 0.75 16 2.05 23 3.04 15 3.33 65 3.36

Figures for openly LGBT lawyers are based on 1,230 offices/firms reporting counts, including zero, in all lawyer categories; figures for openly LGBT summer associates are based on 634 offices/firms reporting counts, including zero. Overall, LGBT counts, including zero, cover 113,843 lawyers and 4,317 summer associates.

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