Diversity is not a strong suit of the legal profession, according to data from the National Association for Law Placement’s Report on Diversity . In fact, law is considered one of the nation’s least diverse occupations.
Of course, diversity doesn’t just mean people of color (POC). It can mean women, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities and more. All populations other than Caucasian Males are underrepresented in the legal profession across all job roles, from judges to lawyers to paralegals.
If you are new to the legal profession or looking into a legal studies education, or you have a vested interest in increasing diversity within your programs, your community or your organization, we hope you will find these resources helpful.
Women and Minorities at Law Firms
|Gender||Percentage of Employed in 2018|
Partners at Law Firms by Race/Ethnicity
|Race/Ethnicity||Percentage of Partners in 2018|
Source: National Association for Law Placement Report on Diversity – January 2019
Diversity in the Legal Profession Articles
A wealth of research is available to help make the case for more work surrounding increasing diverse populations within the legal profession. Here is a look at a variety of that research from colleges and universities as well as legal associations and organizations.
Piece from the American Bar Association from May 2018 breaking down the findings from the National Lawyer Population Survey and showing some progress the ABA has made toward adding diversity to the profession, including the “20×20” initiative, a plan to land 20 Asian American lawyers into general counsel ranks at Fortune 500 companies by the year 2020.
The new data September 18, 2018 from the ABA reveals that groups that are historically underrepresented in law school, those who identify as Asian, Black, Native Hawaiian, American Indian, Hispanic, and two or more races are those who typically don’t persist past the first year.
Thomson Reuters provides tips for small law departments on increasing their diversity and inclusion (D&I) through implementing some of the tactics they use but on a smaller scale.
CLS is a program designed to encourage more minorities to engage in the legal profession, however, there is a schism between CLS and minorities. This study, dating all the way back to 1987, is often cited as evidence that the law profession is still a long way from achieving diversity goals.
Article from the Washington Post in November 2017 showing that most of the work on diversity within the legal profession has benefited white women, but no other diverse group.
Even though the Latino population in the U.S. continues to grow, Hispanics are disproportionately represented in the legal field. This article from October of 2017 shows that Latinos are still not entering the legal profession.
This 2018 study out of the University of Maine takes a deeper look at minorities across all legal occupations. Although minorities are attending school at higher rates than ever, there is not much change in how many choose legal professions.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission takes a look at changes in employment of women and minorities, law firm organizational characteristics and partners and associates within law firms over a 27-year-period, from 1975 to 2002.
This 2013 article from Columbia University is aimed at raising awareness through creating an affirmative ethics rule that would sanction lawyers who engage in discriminatory employment practices.
A March 2019 deep dive from Law.com that looks at the ongoing diversity problem in law firms, what has been done and suggestions for the future.
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Legal Organizations for Minorities
Advocacy, support and change are all hallmarks of the organizations listed below. Some are national organizations while others focus on a particular state, region or underrepresented group.
The Minorities in Law Committee has a mission guide and facilitate the Minority Clerkship Program, working to increase diversity in the local legal profession.
This nonprofit organization is located in Denver, Colorado with a mission to advance diversity in the legal profession by providing awareness and training and concrete steps to inclusiveness.
The ALA has a Diversity Toolkit with a goal of increasing awareness and sensitivity to diversity within the legal community as a whole and the ALA.
Group of Canadian legal leaders across the entire country with resources and tips for inclusion that can be used by any legal entity no matter the location.
The MCCA provides a set of recommended practices for law firms to increase their diversity, with statistics, interviews and best practices for law firms to grow their diverse workforce.
Made up of more than 300 corporate chief legal officers and law firm managing partners, this association works to build an open and diverse legal profession through their programs and resources.
The Diversity and Inclusion initiatives from the EBA are intended to help the legal profession successfully serve the larger community and they design and develop best practices for the Southwestern Indiana legal community.
The Hispanic National Bar Association has programs, events, awards and initiatives to support Hispanics who work in the legal profession and deal with the unique challenges facing Hispanic populations in America.
NNABA is an organization of attorneys who are U.S. citizens and citizens of their respective Tribal nations, working to protect the governmental sovereignty of the more than 560 independent Tribal governments in the U.S.
The CCWC is a nonprofit organization made up of women of color who work for Fortune 1000 companies, Forbes 2000 companies, other nonprofits and other entities as legal counsel, assistant counsel and in other legal capacities.
This coalition of Latino students seeks to advance Latinos in the legal profession through networking, events and a conference hosted annually to provide students and attorneys the opportunity to discuss issues facing the Latino community.
The LMBA is a Washington state affiliate of the National Bar association (NBA), the oldest minority bar and is the largest organization for African American lawyers in the United States.
NAPABA is the national voice of the Asian and Pacific American legal community, working through advocacy and research, events, membership and a conference to increase and support those in this community in the field of law.
NAMWOLF is a nonprofit trade association of women and minority-owned law firms and other interested parties in the U.S. They serve members through Practice Area Committees, inclusion and diversity initiatives, events and more.
NAWL was organized to provide leadership, a voice, resources and more to help advance women in the legal profession through conferences, advocacy, initiatives and more.
NBA membership is open to law students, lawyers, judges, educators and paralegals looking for access to webinars, task force initiatives and networking events related to issues regarding diversity and inclusion.
Global LGBT+ leadership group and business network dedicated to the growth and support of members of the LGBT+ community as a combination of two other initiatives, Out on the Street and Out in Law.
The WID mission is to provide tools and strategies to assist legal employers with building a diverse and inclusive environment.
The Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc. is a virtual platform highlighting diverse populations and their work within the legal community.
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Top Ten Diversity Recommended Practices
Increasing diversity in programs, firms and corporations has to be a focused effort among all parties. These tips serve as a guide to anyone who works in admissions, hiring or works at a firm who has a desire to improve the diversity within their organization. These Top Ten Diversity Recommended Practices were adapted from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association Creating Pathways to Diversity Guidebook .
- Develop a strong business case to obtain buy-in from your firm, company or school. Often, the clients drive the demand, but examining all possible angles to present to senior leadership the need for diversity is key.
- Allow senior partners or leadership to take the lead. This will remove obstacles, increase buy-in, strengthen ownership and centralize efforts.
- Mandate diversity training from the top down to create understanding and a common language.
- Establish accountability with both rewards and holding staff accountable for diversity recruitment successes and failures and create incentives such as a time bank for those who work on these efforts.
- Develop effective mentoring programs that are accessible to all attorneys through group mentoring sessions and reciprocal mentoring sessions.
- Emphasize lateral hires through existing senior minority attorneys, making the firm more desirable to other minorities, assisting with recruiting and becoming more appealing to entry-level attorneys.
- Promote work-life balance as a creative way to retain women who are both mothers and attorneys and committed to success at both through things like flexible hours, on-site childcare. Partners can help all attorneys by serving as role models for quality of life as an attorney.
- Expand recruitment strategies by offering fellowships, scholarships, focusing on diversity hires, advertising and supporting with diversity organizations, expanding diversity training to recruitment officers on campuses and in firms and corporations.
- Make diversity-related activities billable which will show that investments in diversity is worthwhile and contributes to the bottom line and the advancement of its attorneys.
- Use equal treatment programs to ensure that minority attorneys get significant client visibility and relationships with senior management.
Source: Creating Pathways to Diversity® A Study of Law Department Best Practices, Minority Corporate Counsel Association, 2000 & 2005.
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