LGBT Representation Up Again in 2013

NALP Bulletin, January 2014

The overall percentage of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) lawyers reported in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE) in 2013 increased to 2.19% compared with 2.07% in 2012. Percentages for both partners and associates increased. About half of offices reported at least one LGBT lawyer.

The numbers remain relatively small, and, even though the percentage increased, because the total number of lawyers included in the 2013 analysis is lower compared with 2012, the overall count of 2,085 LGBT lawyers is a bit smaller than it was in 2012. Nonetheless, over a longer span of time, the numbers have grown. 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. In 2011, those numbers stood at 2,087 and 1.88%; the 2,105 openly LGBT lawyers reported in the 2012 NDLE accounted for 2.07% of the total lawyers represented. The 2,085 openly LGBT lawyers reported in the 2013-2014 NDLE accounted for 2.19% of the total.

The presence of LGBT lawyers continues to be highest among associates, at 2.83%, as shown in the accompanying table, and is up a bit from the figure of 2.69% reported in 2012. Openly LGBT associates are also better represented at large law firms — with firms of 701+ lawyers reporting 3.24% openly LGBT associates. Similarly, openly LGBT partners are best represented at the largest firms in the U.S. — with firms of 701+ lawyers reporting 2.01% openly LGBT partners, compared with 1.65% among partners overall. An increase in openly LGBT partners in firms of 100 or fewer lawyers from 0.63% in 2009 to over 1% since then (1.13% in 2011, and 1.49% in 2013) is notable. However, fluctuating figures for partners at the largest firms, from 2.05% in 2011, to 1.93% in 2012, and to 2.01% in 2013 is also noted.

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 — just over 3.3% overall (and 5.9% in San Francisco specifically) compared with the 2.19% nationwide figure. In these same four cities, the percentage of openly LGBT summer associates is also higher — about 5% compared with 3.76% nationwide.

It is also the case that the percentage of offices reporting LGBT counts has remained at 87-88% in recent years, and is lower than the 92% that reported this information in 2007. This change may reflect more deliberate use of the “unknown” and “not collected” reporting options in the directory’s demographic grid. Since 2006, employers have been required to fill out all portions of the grid with a number, which can be zero, or with 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 simply be the case that the prevalence of “unknown” or “not collected” is better reported rather than actually higher.

Nonetheless, it is clear that the percentage of LGBT lawyers in the two most recent years is higher than ever before, and is about double that of ten years ago. 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, about half reported at least one openly LGBT lawyer and 18% of offices reporting a summer 2013 program and reporting demographics reported at least one openly LGBT summer associate. And, based on the figures for summer associates, the numbers appear likely to continue to increase, particularly for associates at the largest firms.

Reporting of Openly LGBT Lawyers — NALP Directory of Legal Employers 2013

# Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
Partners 695 1.65% 50 1.49% 101 1.19
Associates 1,146 2.83 36 1.86 112 2.23
Other lawyers 244 1.97 17 2.60 23 1.29
All lawyers 2,085 2.19 103 1.73 236 1.54
Summer associates 202 3.76 * * 17 2.71
# Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
Partners 133 1.60% 102 1.56% 309 2.01%
Associates 155 2.42 172 2.67 671 3.24
Other lawyers 37 1.64 50 2.15 117 2.18
All lawyers 325 1.91 324 2.11 1,097 2.65
Summer associates 29 3.29 31 3.93 122 4.40

Note: Figures for openly LGBT lawyers are based on 949 offices/firms reporting counts, including zero, in all lawyer categories; figures for openly LGBT summer associates are based on 581 offices/firms with a summer program and reporting counts, including zero. Overall, LGBT counts, including zero, cover 95,004 lawyers and 5,369 summer associates.

* Fewer than 5 reported.

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