24 August 2017

Diversity stalls at top US law firms

Law firms have made no appreciable progress towards diversifying their ranks in recent times.

Santhosh Kumar

Top American law firms have slowed down their push for diversity as new research reveals that minority lawyer representation grew by less than a percentage point this year. Despite minority law school enrolment rates topping 30 per cent last year, only 15.3 per cent of lawyers and 8.8 per cent of partners at surveyed law firms identified as lawyers of colour. When it comes to equity partners, 7.9 per cent identify as minorities, up only slightly from 7.6 per cent the year before. The research also revealed the most diverse firms. Lewis Brisbois and White & Case share top spot for diversity whilst Wilson Sonsini comes third.

Law schools

Those numbers have long failed to match the diversity of law school students. Over the past two decades, minorities have made up at least 20 percent of law school graduates. The proportion of minorities attending law schools now hovers around 30 percent, according to data compiled by the American Bar Association. In 2016, 44 percent of students entering Harvard Law School and 42 percent of those entering Yale Law School were minorities.


The Law 360 2017 Diversity Snapshot also revealed that black lawyers are the least represented at every echelon, especially at the highest ranks. Of all equity partners surveyed, 1.7 per cent identified as black. For every black equity partner, there are more than 52 white equity partners.Hispanics make up the second smallest minority group in private practice, but they are the largest minority group among law students. Asian-Americans make up the largest minority in US law firms, but they are the least likely of any of their peers to become partners. Just over 20 per cent of Asian-American lawyers were partners, versus 28 per cent of blacks and 33 per cent of Hispanics.

Survey data

The survey data was collected from more than 300 firms, including 87 per cent of the top 100 and 80 per cent of the top 200 largest US-based firms, as ranked by the Law360 400. 

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