Most Firms Collect LGBT Lawyer Information, LGBT Representation Steady

NALP Bulletin, December 2011

The overall percentage of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) lawyers reported in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE) in 2011 remained unchanged compared to 2010. A small increase in the percentage for associates was offset by a decrease at the partner level. Almost half (49%) of offices reported at least one LGBT lawyer.

The numbers remain relatively small, and because the total number of lawyers included in this analysis is somewhat smaller compared with 2010, the overall count of 2,087 LGBT lawyers is lower than it was in 2010. Nonetheless, 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. Last year in 2010, those numbers stood at 2,137 and 1.88%. The 2,087 openly LGBT lawyers reported in the 2011-2012 NDLE also account for 1.88% of the total lawyers represented.

The presence of LGBT lawyers continues to be highest among associates, at 2.43%, as shown in the accompanying table, and is up a bit from the figure of 2.35% reported in 2010. Openly LGBT associates are also better represented at large law firms, with firms of 701+ lawyers reporting 2.90% openly LGBT associates. Similarly, openly LGBT partners are best represented at the nation's largest firms, with firms of 701+ lawyers reporting 2.05% openly LGBT partners, compared with 1.44% among partners overall. An increase in openly LGBT partners in firms of 100 or fewer lawyers from 0.63% in 2009 to 1.17% in 2010 was notable last year. Although the current figure of 1.13% is a small decrease, the increase from 2009 has been largely sustained for two years.

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 - almost 3% overall (and 5% 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 3.4% compared with 2.75% nationwide.

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% 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 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. 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 summer 2011 program and reporting demographics reported at least one openly LGBT summer associate. And, based on the figures for summer associates, the numbers appear poised to increase, particularly at the largest firms.

Reporting of Openly LGBT Lawyers — NALP Directory of Legal Employers 2011

# Reported % of Total # reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
Partners 724 1.44% 67 1.13% 113 0.98% 119 1.21% 88 1.36% 337 2.05%
Associates 1,166 2.43 43 1.26 128 1.85 162 2.02 159 2.47 674 2.90
All lawyers 2,087 1.88 122 1.18 264 1.26 324 1.58 272 1.83 1,105 2.48
Summer associates 128 2.75 5 1.43 14 2.06 8 1.04 15 2.42 86 3.85

Note: Figures for openly LGBT lawyers are based on 1,207 offices/firms reporting counts, including zero, in all lawyer categories; figures for openly LGBT summer associates are based on 652 offices/firms reporting counts, including zero. Overall, LGBT counts, including zero, cover 111,095 lawyers and 4,654 summer associates.

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