Although Most Firms Collect GLBT Lawyer Information, Overall Numbers Remain Low

NALP Bulletin, December 2009

The number of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) lawyers reported in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE) rose again in 2009, as it has every year since NALP began analyzing this information in 2003. About 47% of offices reported at least one GLBT lawyer.

Overall, however, the numbers remain relatively small, and in some cases larger numbers do not translate into higher percentages. Nor have the counts increased in every lawyer and firm size category. In the 2002-2003 NDLE, the number of openly GLBT lawyers reported was just over 1,100, less than 1% of the total lawyers represented. Last year, in the 2008-2009 NDLE, those numbers stood at 2,050 and 1.71%. In the 2009-2010 NDLE, the number of openly GLBT lawyers now stands at 2,200 and 1.82% of the total lawyers represented.

The presence of GLBT lawyers continues to be highest among associates, at 2.29%, as shown in the accompanying table, and is up a bit from the figure of 2.19% reported in 2008. Openly GLBT lawyers are also better represented at large law firms — with firms of 701+ lawyers reporting 2.78% openly GLBT associates. Similarly, openly GLBT partners are best represented at the nation’s largest firms, with firms of 701+ lawyers reporting 1.82% openly GLBT partners, compared with about one-third that, 0.63%, at firms of 100 or fewer lawyers, and just 1.36% among partners overall.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are wide geographic disparities in these numbers, and in fact about 61% of the reported openly GLBT lawyers are accounted for by just four cities: New York City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The percentage of openly GBLT lawyers in these cities is correspondingly higher — about 2.9% overall (and 5% in San Francisco specifically) compared with the 1.8% nationwide figure. In these same four cities, the percentage of openly GLBT summer associates is also higher, about 3.4% compared with 2.2% nationwide.

Although the overall number of GLBT lawyers has increased, it is also the case that the percentage of offices reporting GLBT counts remained at about 88%, very similar to 2008, and lower than the 92% figure for 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 in with a number, which can be zero, or either NC or UNK if the information was not collected or 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 overall number of GLBT lawyers is higher than ever before. NALP has been collecting demographic information on GLBT lawyers since 1996. In the years that have followed, the number of firms that give their GLBT lawyers an opportunity to self-identify has continued to rise. This year, among the offices/firms reporting counts, about 47% reported at least one openly GLBT lawyer and 11% reported at least one openly GLBT summer associate.

Reporting of Openly GLBT Lawyers — NALP Directory of Legal Employers 2009

  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
# Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total # Reported % of Total
Partners 723 1.36% 42 0.63% 136 1.05% 126 1.30% 57 1.11% 342 1.82%
Associates 1,280 2.29 63 1.44 137 1.54 167 1.91 136 2.28 777 2.78
All lawyers 2,200 1.82 116 0.96 289 1.19 329 1.60 219 1.73 1,227 2.39
Summer associates 172 2.21 5 0.81 15 1.20 17 1.40 23 2.63 112 2.92

Note: Figures for openly GLBT lawyers are based on 1,321 offices/firms reporting counts, including zero, in all lawyer categories; figures for openly GLBT summer associates are based on 870 offices/firms reporting counts, including zero. Overall, GLBT counts, including zero, cover 121,061 lawyers and 7,787 summer associates.

National Association for Law Placement, Inc.® (NALP®), 1220 19th Street NW, Suite 401, Washington, DC 20036-2405, (202) 835-1001 info@nalp.org, © Copyright 2019 NALP

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