Good news, bad news in NALP's diversity report

When it comes to diversity in U.S. legal firms, progress is inching forward for a number of groups, except for African-Americans. That's according to the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) which recently released its 2018 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law FirmsThe report s based on the recent analyses of the 2018-2019 NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE) — the annual compendium of legal employer data published by NALP.

The report shows that while women, minorities, and LGBT lawyers made gains in overall representation at major U.S. law firms in 2018 compared with 2017, representation of African-Americans among associates remains at below pre-recession numbers. Also noteworthy is that the presence of women among associates has finally returned to its pre-recession level. These are among the significant findings of the report.

Yet, arguably, the poor showing when it comes to African-Americans is disconcerting, considering the nation's racial climate of late. Many believe social justice causes would gain better traction if more blacks held more leadership positions in the legal field.  

Additional significant finding of the report:

- An increase of about seven-tenths of a percentage point in the representation of minorities among partners is noted as the largest increase over the entire span of NALP's compilation of these figuress.

- Minority women continue to be the most dramatically underrepresented group at the partnership level.

- The number and percentage of LGBT lawyers reached new heights and the percentage of LGBT summer associates at firms of more than 700 hundred lawyers reached a new high of 6.42%.

- The reporting of lawyers with disabilities (of any race or gender) remains scant.

- Despite small increases in the past three years, the representation of Black/African-American associates remains shy of its pre-recession level, and representation of Black/African-American partners has barely changed since 2009.

NALP Executive Director James Leipold commenting on these new findings noted, "The story of NALP's 2018 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms is a good news/bad news story. On the good news side, representation of women associates has finally rebounded and surpassed pre-recession highs for the first time, the jump in the representation of minorities among partners is the largest since NALP began tracking this data, and the number and percentage of LGBT lawyers reached all-time highs with the percentage of LGBT summer associates at firms of more than 700 hundred lawyers reaching 6.42%.

"On the bad news side, representation of Black/African-American associates remains below its pre-recession level, the representation of Black/African-American partners has barely budged since the recession, and minority women continue to be the most underrepresented group at the partnership level, with Black/African-American women least well represented of all."

Leipold continued, "There are also good news/bad news stories to be told when we parse the data by geography. Miami, for instance, stands alone with its law firms reporting a higher percentage of minority partners, a higher percentage of minority women partners, a higher percentage of minority associates, a higher percentage of minority women associates, and a higher percentage of minority and minority women summer associates than law firms in any other city.

"On the other hand, Boston law firms report minority partner and associate numbers well below the national mean, and well below other cities of its size and importance in the legal market, and report that just 0.9% of the partners in that city are Black/African-American, and only 0.26 of the partners are Black/African-American women. Worse, firms in Phoenix report no Black/African-American partners. So, while progress towards greater diversity and inclusion among lawyers in U.S. law firms continues to be made, and underlying population demographics play a role, much, much work remains to be done."

You can read the full 2018 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms at www.nalp.org/reportondiversity.

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