September 30 2010
Latest Law Firm Diversity Survey Results
New York, NY (September 29, 2010). Vault.com, the source of employer rankings, ratings and insight in the law 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 an updated edition of 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 data reveals how the economic crisis has affected law firm hiring, promotion and retention as a whole, and particularly highlights its impact on attorneys of color. At the same time, a slow, but steady progress for women as law firm partners and leaders can be observed.
“The Law Firm Diversity Database serves as a scorecard for the legal profession,” said Veta T. Richardson, MCCA’s Executive Director. “It presents a comprehensive picture of the diversity commitment and programs at each participating law firm. By putting their data where everyone can see it, participating firms clearly demonstrate their commitment to providing opportunity for all attorneys.”
Recession’s Impact on Minorities
Law firm hiring declined across the board in 2009. According to the Vault/MCCA survey data, the 2L summer associate class dropped by some 20 percent, and lateral recruiting fell by more than 40 percent. While everyone felt the impact of the recession, the survey data suggests that minorities were disproportionately affected. In addition, the representation of minority lawyers among the upper echelons of law firms continues to fall far short of their representation among the attorney population as a whole.
· For the first time in the survey’s seven-year history, the results showed virtually no increase in the percentage of minority equity partners. Minority representation among equity partners as of the end of 2009 remained nearly stagnant at 6.06%, a barely perceptible change from the 6.05% reported in the previous year. (The percentage of minority non-equity partners increased from 8.54% in 2008 to 9.05% in 2009.)
Minority attorneys made some gains in leadership roles. For example, the percentage of minority lawyers serving on executive/management committees increased from 5.43% in 2008 to 5.50% in 2009.
Minority recruitment was down at all levels: of all attorneys hired in 2009, less than 20 percent (19.09%) were minorities, a notable drop from 2008 (21.77%) and 2007 (21.46%).
The 2009 2L summer class had the lowest percentage of minority students of the last three years: 25.19% (compared to 25.66% in 2008 and 25.91% in 2007).
“It remains to be seen whether these numbers reflect a recessionary anomaly or the start of a trend,” says Vera Djordjevich, Vault’s senior law editor. “Nonetheless, given the slow rate at which law firms have been diversifying their ranks and the likelihood that recruiting will not return to pre-recession levels any time soon, there’s a danger that even a one-time drop in minority recruitment could have a long-term impact on overall law firm populations.”
Meanwhile, the percentages of minority associates who left their firms (especially at junior and midlevel) has continued to climb since 2007; this is especially striking with respect to minority women. For example, of third-year associates who left their firms in 2009, 16.64% were minority women (compared to 13.98% in 2008 and 14.36% in 2007). Overall, minority men and women represented 20.79% of attorneys who left their firms in 2009 — even though minority lawyers represent just 13.44% of the overall attorney population at these firms.
Women Make Gains
One area in which the survey data shows improvement is among female attorneys ascending to partnership and other leadership roles. Women’s representation at both equity and non-equity partner levels grew last year. Women made up 16.84% of all equity partners in 2009, compared to 16.43% in 2008 and 16.06% in 2007. Among non-equity partners, women’s representation grew from 26.39% in 2008 to 27.25% in 2009. Women’s representation on executive/management committees has also increased steadily over the last few years, from 14.78% in 2007 to 15.31% in 2008 to 16.13% in 2009. Similar gains were made by female attorneys serving as heads of office and sitting on hiring committees, partner and associate review committees.
“The study is encouraging for women lawyers,” added Richardson. “Despite the recession, they continue to advance in leadership roles in their firms. However, the data is more troubling for minority attorneys. The recession has hit them harder, especially law students, and the decline in their ranks may linger for years.”
About the Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Database
With widespread support from the general counsel and law firm communities, the Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Database has become the primary tool for measuring law firm diversity. The database was initially developed in 2004 in cooperation with Accenture, Bank of America, Microsoft, PPG Industries, Sara Lee and Wal-Mart, to support the Call to Action, a corporate counsel initiative devoted to increasing diversity at U.S. law firms, and is compiled from responses to an annual diversity survey. This year, 263 law firms, including the majority of the Am Law 200, took part, offering a rare look at law firm demographics, with breakdowns by race/ethnicity and gender, GLBT attorneys and individuals with disabilities, as well as qualitative information regarding firms’ diversity plans and initiatives.
This year’s Law Firm Diversity Database offers more robust search features than in previous years, including a new filter that allows users to limit their search to firms of a certain size or based in a specific geographic location; a search option that allows users to get aggregate numbers for all racial/ethnic minority categories at once; and a “browse by firm” tab that allows users to go straight to an individual firm’s complete set of survey responses in PDF format.
Through this free online tool (registration is required), the corporate counsel community, graduating law students and prospective employees can make side-by-side comparisons of diversity metrics, track firms’ progress over the last three years and evaluate their performance against industry-wide benchmarks. With access also to law firms’ complete, self-reported survey responses, the database presents a comprehensive picture of the diversity commitment and programs at participating firms. The next edition of the Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Database, which will include statistics for 2010, is expected to be released during the second quarter of 2011.