LGBT Representation Up in 2012

NALP Bulletin, January 2013

The overall percentage of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) lawyers reported in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE) in 2012 increased to 2.07% compared with 1.88% in 2011. Percentages for both partners and associates increased. Over half (56%) of offices reported at least one LGBT lawyer.

The numbers remain relatively small; however, even though the total number of lawyers included in the 2012 analysis is lower compared with 2011, the overall count of 2,105 LGBT lawyers is higher than it was in 2011. Moreover, the numbers have grown. In the 2002-2003 NDLE, the number of openly LGBT lawyers reported was just over 1,100 — less than 1% of the total lawyers represented. In 2010, those numbers stood at 2,137 and 1.88%; the 2,087 openly LGBT lawyers reported in the 2011 NDLE also account for 1.88% of the total lawyers represented. The 2,105 openly LGBT lawyers reported in the 2012-2013 NDLE accounted for 2.07% of the total.

The presence of LGBT lawyers continues to be highest among associates, at 2.69%, as shown in the accompanying table, and is up a bit from the figure of 2.43% reported in 2011. Openly LGBT associates are also better represented at large law firms, with firms of 701+ lawyers reporting 3.22% openly LGBT associates. Similarly, openly LGBT partners are best represented at the nation’s largest firms, with firms of 701+ lawyers reporting 1.93% openly LGBT partners, compared with 1.58% 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 1.37% in 2012) is notable. However, a decrease among partners at the largest firms, from 2.05% in 2011 to 1.93% in 2012 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% overall (and 5.8% in San Francisco specifically) compared with the 2.07% nationwide figure. In these same four cities, the percentage of openly LGBT summer associates is also higher, about 4.4% compared with 3.47% nationwide.

It is also the case that the percentage of offices reporting LGBT counts has remained at about 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 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, more than half reported at least one openly LGBT lawyer and 17% of offices reporting a summer 2012 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 at the largest firms.

Reporting of Openly LGBT Lawyers — NALP Directory of Legal Employers 2012

# Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
Partners 718 1.58% 55 1.37% 104 1.07%
Associates 1,169 2.69 38 1.68 100 1.75
Other lawyers 218 1.72 9 1.17 20 0.94
All lawyers 2,105 2.07 102 1.45 224 1.27
Summer associates 182 3.47 8 2.43 16 2.42
# Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
Partners 143 1.58% 99 1.58% 317 1.93%
Associates 155 2.21 168 2.63 708 3.22
Other lawyers 43 1.81 32 1.56 115 2.16
All lawyers 341 1.85 299 2.03 1,140 2.61
Summer associates 23 2.94 21 2.94 114 4.13

Note: Figures for openly LGBT lawyers are based on 1,042 offices/firms reporting counts, including zero, in all lawyer categories; figures for openly LGBT summer associates are based on 620 offices/firms with a summer program and reporting counts, including zero. Overall, LGBT counts, including zero, cover 101,512 lawyers and 5,249 summer associates.

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