Tuesday, September 27, 2011
New York, NY (September 27, 2011). Vault.com, the source of employer rankings, ratings and insight for the legal industry, and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), the nation’s foremost authority on diversity issues in the legal profession, have released the results of this year’s Law Firm Diversity Survey in the Law Firm Diversity Database (http://mcca.vault.com). The fully-searchable online tool features comprehensive data on diversity performance for over 300 law firms nationwide. The Vault/MCCA data provides evidence that the legal profession is slowly recovering from the economic crisis and that progress for minority lawyers, which was halted — and, in some cases, reversed — in 2009, has moved forward again. However, partnership prospects remain dim for most minority attorneys, as well as female attorneys.
Signs of Post-Recession Recovery
Following a difficult year of recession-fueled cutbacks in the legal industry, entry-level and lateral recruiting experienced a welcome uptick in 2010, although hiring remained well below 2007 levels. Data also suggests that law firms are doing a better job of retaining lawyers. In contrast to 2009, when law firms lost 2,661 more attorneys than they hired, in 2010 more attorneys were hired (12,374) than left their firms (10,254).
While the 2L summer associate class of 2010 was substantially smaller than previous classes (only 53 percent the size of the 2009 class and less than half the size of the 2007 and 2008 classes), the full-time offer rate returned to pre-recession levels, with 88.78% of 2Ls receiving permanent offers in 2010 (compared to just 72.82% in 2009).
Minority Attorneys Regaining Ground
Last year, Vault/MCCA survey data suggested that minority lawyers had been disproportionately affected by the economic downturn, with minority recruitment falling and departures rising. In 2010, however, these attorneys regained some of the lost ground, as hiring and attrition returned to pre-recession rates and the proportion of minority equity partners grew. Overall, the percentage of minority attorneys in the law firm population, which had fallen to 13.44% in 2009, climbed back to 2007 levels (13.77%).
In addition, the percentage of minority equity partners increased from 6.06% in 2009 to 6.29% in 2010 — the highest rate since 2003, when the Vault/MCCA survey was launched. Furthermore, minority representation on executive/management committees continued to expand, from 5.42% in 2007 to 5.50% in 2009 and 5.76% in 2010.
With respect to recruitment, racial/ethnic minorities represented nearly 21 percent (20.98%) of all attorneys hired in 2010 — a notable increase over the 19.09% reported for 2009, though still below the levels for 2008 (21.77%) and 2007 (21.46%). Within the 2L summer associate class, minority representation returned to 2008 levels. Retention rates also improved in 2010: minority lawyers represented 18.98% of all attorneys who left their firms, compared to the 20.79% who left in 2009.
“We’re happy to see an upturn in minority recruitment and retention after the disturbing results from last year’s survey,” says Vera Djordjevich, Vault’s managing editor for research and consulting. “The most encouraging news may be the advances made by minority lawyers within the top tiers of law firm hierarchies. On the other hand, smaller summer class sizes means a narrower recruiting pipeline, while a relatively stagnant partnership leaves fewer opportunities for diverse attorneys to climb the partnership ladder. Given these conditions, it’s hard to see how the ranks of minority partners in BigLaw will increase dramatically without corresponding increases in the proportions of minority law students hired and senior associates promoted.”
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