Minority Corporate Counsel Association Study Finds Diversity Still A Priority For Law Firms

Friday, July 1, 2011 - 01:00

Most of the nation's law firms continue to make diversity programming a priority, but economic constraints have led to fewer full-time diversity professionals on staff, according to a new survey from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, Inc. (MCCA) and the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals (ALFDP).

Conducted this spring, the 2011 Law Firm Diversity Professional Survey asked diversity representatives at 113 law firms across the country about their roles and their firms' diversity programs. Eighty percent of responses came from large law firms, with greater than 200 lawyers, and the remaining 20 percent were from firms with 200 or fewer lawyers.

There was a significant drop in the number of diversity professionals doing full-time diversity work - only 39 percent - down from 51 percent in 2010. Also, the number of firms whose diversity professional is a practicing lawyer with a billable requirement jumped from 17 percent in 2010 to 29 percent this year. In fact, no firm with fewer than 200 lawyers reported having a diversity professional spending 100 percent of time on diversity matters, with many spending less than 25 percent of their time on diversity matters.

Eighty percent of respondents said their firms' diversity budgets (combining internal and external efforts) will remain the same or increase this year. Of those, about 20 percent expect their budgets to be higher, up from 14 percent in 2010.

Almost all (99 percent) respondents said their firms have diversity committees, and 96 percent of the committees include partners. More diversity professionals are serving as diversity committee chairs, 33 percent this year versus 27 percent in 2010.

Other highlights of the survey included the following:

• Nearly three quarters (74 percent) of respondents said their firm's diversity professional is female, and 60 percent report their firm's diversity professional is a woman of color, up from 55 percent in 2010.

• 77 percent of diversity professionals hold a juris doctor degree.

• Salaries for diversity professionals range from "less than $75,000" for those at the coordinator and non-lawyer managerial levels to "greater than $325,000" for more experienced diversity directors. The percentage who reported earning less than $175,000 fell to 42 percent, which was a 5 percent decrease from 2010, while the 34 percent who reported earning more than $225,000 was slightly lower than the percentage reporting this level of income in 2010.

• Re-sponsoring diversity events: almost three-fourths (74 percent) of respondents expect their numbers to remain the same this year.