Survey: Despite Progress in Recruitment of Diverse Attorneys, Attrition and Promotion at Law Firms Still Bleak

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 - 09:42

Vault/MCCA survey reports that the number of African American lawyers are declining within law firms and Asian American attorneys experience slower rates of promotion.

 

The Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) and Vault.com have released a detailed report highlighting the results of a national survey that shows some gains for minority and women attorneys in law firms but there remain stark and disappointing contrasts between diverse attorneys and their white counterparts. The annual Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Survey (mcca.vault.com) is the legal industry’s most comprehensive tool for measuring law firm diversity, collecting data on race, ethnicity, gender, GLBT identity, and disability status.  

 

“We applaud the diversity and inclusion progress and leadership of the stand-out law firms in the survey, but, looking at the numbers reported in 2015, it is clear that there is still much work to be done,” said Michelle Banks, Chair of MCCA’s Board of Directors. “Since the beginning of our partnership with Vault, we have seen positive change in the diversity of our nation’s top law firms, and proactive measures from firms to be more inclusive at the hiring stage,” said Aracely Muñoz Petrich, Vice President of Strategic Development for MCCA.  “Despite these measures, the attrition and promotion rates for many minority attorneys are disappointing and need to be addressed.”

 

“The declining numbers among African American attorneys and the slow rate at which lawyers of color are advancing to partnership are of particular concern,” added Vera Djordjevich, Director of Research & Consulting for Vault.

 

Some key findings from the 2015 Vault/MCCA survey:

  • The diversification of law firms continues at a slow pace, as minority lawyers now represent 15.0% of attorneys at surveyed firms, compared to 13.8% in 2007.
  • The hiring of African American attorneys and law students has declined, as their attrition has increased, resulting in law firms employing fewer black lawyers than they did eight years ago.
  • While the overall number of female lawyers has changed little over the last several years, women are gaining greater representation at the partnership and management levels, and their attrition rates are declining. In particular, the latest survey results provide encouraging signs of progress for women of color. However, despite these gains, less than 3% all law firm partners are minority women.
  • While law firm equity partners are still predominantly white and male, although newer ranks show greater diversity: one-third of all new equity partners in 2014 were either female or members of a minority racial/ethnic group.
  • Although Hispanic lawyers have made the most consistent advances, the number of Latino attorneys, relative to their overall U.S. population, remains far lower than that of other minority groups.

MCCA and Vault have conducted the Law Firm Diversity Survey since 2004 and currently collective quantitative and qualitative information regarding race and gender, as well as information about openly GLBT individuals and attorneys with disabilities. In 2009, Vault and MCCA launched the Law Firm Diversity Database (mcca.vault.com), an online tool making the information provided by law firms more widely available to the legal community.

 

Approximately 250 law firms participate in the survey each year, representing virtually all of the AmLaw 100 and the majority of the Vault Law 100 and a majority of the NLJ 250. The latest findings are based on responses to the 2015 survey, in which 247 law firms participated, providing demographic statistics as of December 31, 2014.

 

The full report highlighting some of the key findings over the last eight years of data collection is available on the MCCA and Vault websites.  Click here to download a copy.