Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ethnic diversity improves at law firms but not gender parity

That's according to a November 3, 2011 NALP study titled Law Firm Diversity Wobbles: Minority Numbers Bounce Back While Women Associates Extend Two-Year Decline. From the introduction:

The latest NALP findings on law firm demographics reveal that law firms have made up some but not all of the lost ground after diversity figures fell in 2010. While the representation of minorities increased, more than making up for the decrease from 2009 to 2010, the overall representation of women declined slightly further in 2011 compared with 2010.
In 2011, the percentage of both women and minority partners in law firms included in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers was up by a small amount compared with 2010. Among associates, however, representation of women declined slightly for the second year in a row and for only the second time since NALP started compiling this information in the 1990’s. The net effect was that, for lawyers as a whole, representation of women overall decreased by a tiny amount and the representation of minority women remained about flat. For minorities as a whole, representation was up slightly. Minorities now make up 12.70% of lawyers reported in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers, compared with 12.40% in 2010. Just under one-third of lawyers at these same firms are women— 32.61% in 2011 compared with 32.69% in 2010, both of these most recent years lower than the 32.97% mark reached in 2009. Minority women now account for just over 6% of lawyers at these firms — 6.23% in 2011, comparable to the 6.20% figure for 2010, and lower than the 6.33%  figure for 2009.
During most of the 19 years that NALP has been compiling this information, law firms had made steady, if somewhat slow progress in increasing the presence of women and minorities in both the partner and associate ranks. In 2011, that slow upward trend continued for partners, with minorities accounting for 6.56% of partners in the nation’s major firms, and women accounting for 19.54% of the partners in these firms. In 2010, the figures were 6.16% and 19.43%, respectively. Nonetheless, 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. Among associates, the percentage of women had increased from 38.99% in 1993 to 45.66% in 2009, before falling back to 45.41% in 2010 and to 45.35% in 2011. Over the same period, minority percentages have increased from 8.36% to 19.90%, more than recovering from a slight decline to 19.53% in 2010.
Minority women continue to be the most dramatically underrepresented group at the partnership level, a pattern that holds across all firm sizes and most jurisdictions. Minority women make up just over 2% of the partners in the nation’s major law firms. At just 2.04% of partners in 2011, this group continues to be particularly underrepresented in the partnership ranks, despite a small increase from 1.95% in 2010. The representation of minority women partners is only a bit higher, 2.47%, at the largest firms of more than 700 lawyers. Minority men, meanwhile, account for just 4.52% of partners this year, up from 4.21% in 2010. At the associate level, minorities account for 19.90% of associates, up from 19.53% in 2010, and minority women account for 10.96% of associates, a tiny increase from 10.90 in 2010, and still below the 11.02% figure reached in 2009.
These are the most significant findings of NALP’s recent analyses of the 2011-2012 NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE), the annual compendium of legal employer data published by NALP.

Hat tip to the National Law Journal.


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