Minority Women Still Underrepresented in Law Firm Partnership Ranks — Change in Diversity of Law Firm Leadership Very Slow Overall
11-01-2007

Minority women constitute just 1.65% 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 3.74% of partners. These are the most startling findings of NALP’s recent analyses of the 2007-2008 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, 2.06%, 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 5.99%. This contrasts sharply with more than 15 cities where minority women make up fewer than 1% of partners.

During the 15 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. In 2007, minorities account for 5.40% of partners in the nation’s major firms, and women account for 18.34% of the partners in these firms. In 2006, the figures were 5.01% and 17.90%, 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 11% of lawyers at these law firms, women make up just under one-third of lawyers at these same firms, and minority women make up not quite 6% of lawyers at these firms.

According to NALP Executive Director James Leipold, "These findings are frustrating, but not surprising. We know that the rate of change has been very slow, despite many significant diversity initiatives throughout the industry. I think most lawyers at law firms wish these numbers looked better than they do."

The most recent findings from the NALP Directory of Legal Employers 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 45.06% of associates, minorities for 18.07% of associates, and minority women for 10.07% 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 more than doubled, from 10% to 23%. 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 45.58% of summer associates, minorities 24.19%, and minority women 13.25% of summer associates in 2007. With an increase from 23.05% in 2006 to 24.19% in 2007, minority representation in summer programs slightly exceeded their representation among law students for the third year in a row.

"This suggests to me," says Leipold, "that law firms are doing a very good job on the front end, recruiting women and minorities into their summer programs. But what these numbers confirm is what many other studies have shown, and that is that women and minorities leave their law firm jobs at a higher rate than their male and non-minority colleagues. The real challenge in making more rapid change is improving the retention of female and minority lawyers."

Analyses for the 47 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 and San Francisco show the highest representation of women, minorities, and minority women among both partners and associates. Minorities account for 10.77% and 9.15% of partners in these cities, respectively, and women account for 19.19% and 22.70% of partners, respectively. Just over 3% of partners are minority women. Firms in Atlanta, Seattle, and Washington, DC 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 21.09% of partners; minorities, many of whom are Hispanic, account for 21.74% of partners, and 5.99% of partners are minority women. In the San Jose area the figures are 19.22%, 12.50%, and 2.83%, 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 Sacramento — all of which report at least 20% women partners. Similarly, Austin, Ft. Lauderdale, and Orange County have relatively high percentages of minority partners.

Among all the cities listed, offices in Houston, 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, Hartford, New Orleans, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Seattle, where about half of associates are women. Minority women are most prevalent among associates in Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles and Orange County, Miami, New York City, the San Francisco and San Jose areas, San Diego, and Washington, DC.

In other cities, the picture is considerably different: Firms in about half the cities are below average on most or all measures and considerably so with respect to minorities. Cities in this category include Charlotte, Grand Rapids, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Raleigh/Durham, 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 area, 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 Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle, where one-third or more are minority. Representation of minority women among summer associates is highest in Miami, Orlando, San Francisco, and San Jose.

A similar analysis of five states or portions of states outside of the 47 cities also yields interesting findings. Representation of minorities and minority women among partners is highest in California and Texas, and considerably below average in Connecticut, Kentucky, and New York state outside of New York City. These latter areas are also well below average with respect to minority representation among associates. All of these areas except California are below average in terms of minority women associates. Conversely, California and Texas report the highest percentage of minority summer associates, and California the highest percentage of minority women summer associates.

The 2007-2008 NDLE includes attorney demographic information for about 135,000 partners, associates, and other lawyers in over 1,500 offices, and for more than 12,000 summer associates in over 1,100 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 47 cities and five additional states or portions of states. Table 2 presents analogous information for summer associates and for all lawyers. For purposes of these analyses, minority attorneys include those whose race or ethnicity is Black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, and those of multi-racial heritage, as reported by the law firms in the NDLE. The partner numbers include all partners because the NDLE does not ask law firms to report equity and non-equity partners separately.

The 2007-2008 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 — 2007


PARTNERS ASSOCIATES # of Offices
Total # % Women % Minority % Minority Women Total # % Women % Minority % Minority Women
Total 61,297 18.34% 5.40% 1.65% 60,715 45.06% 18.07% 10.07% 1,562
By Size of Firm:
50 or fewer lawyers 2,501 17.11 4.48 1.48 1,810 42.71 13.81 7.85 155
51-100 lawyers 5,501 18.43 5.13 1.87 3,716 41.47 13.67 7.51 156
101-250 lawyers 15,754 18.10 4.16 1.28 10,780 44.39 14.72 8.02 300
251-500 lawyers 13,719 18.49 4.95 1.43 12,275 44.86 15.62 8.56 374
501-700 lawyers 7,159 19.19 5.96 1.84 9,009 45.35 19.94 11.03 178
701+ lawyers 16,663 18.23 6.92 2.06 23,125 46.14 21.25 12.04 399
Offices in:
Atlanta 1,767 19.58 6.28 2.09 1,755 46.67 16.87 10.88 43
Austin 479 22.13 8.35 2.51 398 37.19 15.33 7.04 21
Baltimore 550 18.55 3.82 0.73 343 46.36 11.95 6.12 11
Birmingham 366 18.31 2.46 1.09 182 36.81 5.49 2.75 8
Boston area 1,933 19.50 3.16 1.14 2,250 46.13 13.24 6.89 37
Charlotte 624 12.18 4.01 1.12 596 40.77 10.23 5.03 20
Chicago 4,422 19.31 5.16 1.72 3,685 45.18 16.20 9.31 63
Cincinnati 456 16.01 1.97 0.44 292 42.47 10.27 5.48 12
Cleveland 686 17.78 3.64 1.17 578 43.08 7.96 4.50 13
Columbus 565 16.64 4.42 0.53 406 44.83 11.58 5.91 13
Dallas 1,458 17.56 5.28 1.37 1,498 39.59 12.42 6.34 39
Denver 652 21.78 5.83 1.53 491 48.88 12.02 6.92 24
Detroit area 986 19.27 4.56 1.42 481 45.95 13.10 7.90 15
Ft. Lauderdale/W. Palm Beach 259 20.46 8.11 3.09 174 45.98 14.37 9.77 18
Grand Rapids 374 13.10 1.60 0.27 144 40.97 11.11 6.94 9
Hartford 331 17.82 3.32 1.21 277 48.74 8.30 6.14 15
Houston 1,404 17.17 5.91 1.50 1,324 43.28 20.47 11.56 40
Indianapolis 726 18.73 1.93 0.28 441 43.99 12.47 7.71 13
Kansas City area 786 14.63 2.04 0.51 452 42.70 9.07 5.53 13
Las Vegas 175 17.71 2.29 0.00 223 37.22 13.90 8.52 16
Los Angeles area 2,433 19.19 10.77 3.41 3,072 47.36 28.84 15.53 86
Miami 768 21.09 21.74 5.99 618 46.28 35.11 18.45 25
Milwaukee 746 18.77 2.68 0.94 443 47.18 9.03 4.74 9
Minneapolis/St. Paul 1,414 20.79 2.40 0.71 857 45.97 10.62 5.48 25
Nashville 377 17.51 1.86 0.53 271 42.80 8.86 6.64 9
New Orleans 389 21.08 4.37 0.77 204 55.88 15.69 9.80 10
New York City 7,339 15.79 5.68 1.61 13,551 45.47 21.95 12.43 143
Northern NJ/Newark area 1,160 16.90 3.53 1.29 1,349 44.48 11.79 7.12 28
Northern Virginia 439 14.35 6.15 2.05 394 40.86 15.48 8.88 22
Orange Co., CA 597 13.40 8.54 2.68 692 35.12 20.95 10.40 32
Orlando 252 15.08 5.95 0.79 174 46.55 14.94 9.20 9
Philadelphia 1,215 18.35 3.21 1.07 1,340 45.82 12.46 7.46 22
Phoenix 786 17.94 3.69 1.02 558 40.32 13.44 5.73 20
Pittsburgh 582 17.87 2.58 1.37 466 43.78 7.73 5.36 12
Portland, OR area 597 17.76 2.68 1.01 388 44.33 11.34 6.19 22
Raleigh/Durham 219 16.89 2.74 0.00 163 39.26 7.36 3.68 12
Richmond 486 13.79 3.09 0.82 370 43.51 8.38 5.14 10
Sacramento 163 24.54 6.75 2.45 155 50.97 14.84 7.10 10
Salt Lake City 171 8.77 1.75 0.58 166 22.29 7.23 3.01 10
San Diego 568 19.54 6.16 1.58 696 45.26 19.54 11.21 24
San Francisco 1,890 22.70 9.15 3.33 2,111 50.73 26.76 15.59 65
San Jose area 848 19.22 12.50 2.83 1,444 44.11 34.70 16.83 41
Seattle area 1,049 21.64 6.48 2.10 669 49.78 17.19 9.57 33
St. Louis 759 17.00 2.90 0.79 589 46.18 11.38 6.79 10
Tampa/St. Petersburg 478 18.41 4.60 1.05 289 42.56 15.57 9.69 17
Washington, DC 5,877 19.86 6.38 2.11 6,437 45.38 18.97 10.33 136
Wilmington 348 16.38 3.16 1.15 361 40.44 10.53 4.16 17
States:
Other areas in California 247 15.79 7.29 2.43 251 48.21 19.92 12.75 10
Other areas in Connecticut 289 18.34 1.04 0.35 219 53.88 9.59 5.94 15
Kentucky 539 19.48 2.04 0.74 330 42.73 9.70 4.55 7
Other areas in New York State 820 16.46 2.32 0.61 487 44.97 6.78 3.70 16
Other areas in Texas 313 15.97 5.75 1.60 202 39.11 19.31 8.42 14

Source: The 2007-2008 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 East Palo Alto, Redwood Shores/ Redwood City, San Jose, and Sunnyvale. The Northern New Jersey/Newark area includes offices in Newark, Livingston, Saddle Brook, Roseland, West Orange, Florham Park, Hackensack, Morristown, Parsippany, Short Hills, Westfield, Bridgewater, Somerset, and Woodbridge. Northern Virginia includes offices in Falls Church, McLean/Tyson's Corner, Reston, Vienna, and Alexandria. State figures exclude cities reported separately.

 

Table 2. Women and Minorities at Law Firms —
Total Lawyers and Summer Associates — 2007


TOTAL LAWYERS SUMMER ASSOCIATES
Total # % Women % Minority % Minority Women # of Offices Total # % Women % Minorities % Minority Women
Total 135,170 31.98% 11.43% 5.70% 1,562 12,396 45.58% 24.19% 13.25%
By Size of Firm:
50 or fewer lawyers 4,704 27.81 8.25 4.04 155 305 40.66 13.11 8.20
51-100 lawyers 10,089 27.41 8.38 3.98 156 614 43.16 18.57 8.63
101-250 lawyers 29,412 29.03 8.12 3.81 300 1,893 44.59 19.65 10.46
251-500 lawyers 29,287 31.52 9.81 4.75 374 2,417 46.59 22.92 13.32
501-700 lawyers 18,109 34.38 13.72 7.00 178 1,951 45.41 26.24 14.20
701+ lawyers 43,569 34.80 14.85 7.66 399 5,216 46.11 26.96 14.70
Offices in:
Atlanta 3,866 33.39 11.38 6.41 43 433 50.12 21.94 13.63
Austin 974 30.49 11.40 4.72 21 99 42.42 19.19 7.07
Baltimore 995 30.25 6.83 2.61 11 62 50.00 22.58 16.13
Birmingham 598 25.25 3.18 1.51 8 76 39.47 10.53 7.89
Boston area 4,575 34.49 8.46 4.15 37 460 46.30 22.61 11.52
Charlotte 1,358 26.88 6.85 2.87 20 148 45.95 18.24 6.76
Chicago 8,663 31.26 9.93 4.96 63 803 44.21 24.03 14.82
Cincinnati 834 27.34 5.16 2.52 12 51 43.14 17.65 5.88
Cleveland 1,417 30.84 5.58 2.68 13 122 47.54 12.30 5.74
Columbus 1,104 28.44 7.16 2.72 13 74 41.89 28.38 16.22
Dallas 3,254 29.26 9.00 3.96 39 413 44.31 22.03 11.62
Denver 1,290 34.03 7.91 3.64 24 64 46.88 20.31 15.63
Detroit area 1,656 28.56 7.07 3.26 15 62 43.55 27.42 17.74
Ft. Lauderdale/W. Palm Beach 481 31.60 10.19 5.61 18 16 37.50 18.75 12.50
Grand Rapids 610 20.00 3.77 1.80 9 40 52.50 25.00 15.00
Hartford 681 32.45 4.99 3.08 15 40 57.50 27.50 17.50
Houston 3,040 30.76 12.43 6.02 40 510 40.98 23.14 12.75
Indianapolis 1,358 29.82 5.89 2.80 13 91 46.15 7.69 4.40
Kansas City area 1,510 28.54 4.50 2.45 13 83 53.01 16.87 10.84
Las Vegas 428 28.04 8.41 4.67 16 28 46.43 14.29 10.71
Los Angeles area 5,975 34.93 20.28 9.91 86 633 48.03 32.23 18.33
Miami 1,475 31.73 27.25 11.12 25 90 47.78 34.44 21.11
Milwaukee 1,242 29.15 4.91 2.25 9 117 42.74 20.51 5.13
Minneapolis/St. Paul 2,483 30.69 5.32 2.50 25 173 49.13 21.97 10.40
Nashville 699 29.76 4.58 2.86 9 88 51.14 23.86 13.64
New Orleans 645 33.49 8.53 3.57 10 60 45.00 5.00 1.67
New York City 23,119 35.08 15.84 8.44 143 2,879 44.46 25.81 13.20
Northern NJ/Newark area 2,827 30.70 7.64 4.10 28 132 46.97 22.73 12.12
Northern Virginia 900 27.67 10.33 5.11 22 58 41.38 10.34 5.17
Orange Co., CA 1,373 26.29 15.22 7.14 32 141 35.46 25.53 7.80
Orlando 472 29.45 9.75 4.45 9 32 43.75 37.50 21.88
Philadelphia 2,941 33.19 7.75 4.25 22 175 51.43 21.14 14.86
Phoenix 1,436 27.79 7.94 2.92 20 113 47.79 18.58 8.85
Pittsburgh 1,161 29.37 4.48 2.93 12 71 42.25 23.94 16.90
Portland, OR area 1,068 28.18 5.71 2.90 22 75 44.00 36.00 18.67
Raleigh/Durham 480 32.29 6.88 3.96 12 35 60.00 11.43 8.57
Richmond 942 27.81 5.10 2.65 10 65 40.00 10.77 6.15
Sacramento 360 37.50 9.72 4.17 10 14 35.71 14.29 0.00
Salt Lake City 351 15.95 5.41 1.71 10 26 34.62 15.38 11.54
San Diego 1,369 33.82 13.59 6.65 24 106 40.57 31.13 15.09
San Francisco 4,380 37.60 17.58 9.32 65 411 54.26 34.79 22.87
San Jose area 2,464 35.39 26.30 11.61 41 322 39.75 40.06 21.12
Seattle area 1,872 32.69 10.10 4.81 33 120 48.33 32.50 17.50
St. Louis 1,485 29.76 6.26 3.37 10 74 50.00 13.51 6.76
Tampa/St. Petersburg 805 27.58 9.07 4.22 17 39 46.15 10.26 5.13
Washington, DC 14,113 33.61 13.03 6.55 136 1,409 46.34 26.19 14.27
Wilmington 765 28.37 6.54 2.61 17 78 46.15 14.10 10.26
States:
Other areas in California 540 32.04 12.59 7.04 10 40 52.50 22.50 17.50
Other areas in Connecticut 552 34.96 5.80 2.72 15 39 48.72 10.26 7.69
Kentucky 1,035 28.21 4.64 1.84 7 55 45.45 14.55 9.09
Other areas in New York State 1,485 26.60 3.70 1.68 16 63 47.62 12.70 6.35
Other areas in Texas 576 25.87 10.42 3.99 14 48 35.42 12.50 2.08

Source: The 2007-2008 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 East Palo Alto, Redwood Shores/Redwood City, San Jose, and Sunnyvale. The Northern New Jersey/Newark area includes offices in Newark, Livingston, Saddle Brook, Roseland, West Orange, Florham Park, Hackensack, Morristown, Parsippany, Short Hills, Westfield, Bridgewater, Somerset, and Woodbridge. Northern Virginia includes offices in Falls Church, McLean/Tyson's Corner, Reston, Vienna, and Alexandria. State figures exclude cities reported separately.

Note: The number of offices reporting one or more summer associates, including demographic information, was 1,171.

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