The Creation & Evolution of the Model Diversity Survey
The American Bar Association has four goals to achieve its mission. Goal III seeks to eliminate bias and enhance diversity in the legal profession. Under Goal III, diversity is considered race/ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ+ status and disability status.
One of the many questions asked when considering how we advance diversity, equity and inclusion is “why should we seek to provide equal opportunities to qualified individuals regardless of background besides it being ‘the right thing to do?’” The most understood reasons are that it leads to better talent, better understanding of customers, better decision-making, better innovation and creativity, and better engaged and productive teams.
Diverse individuals’ representation in the U.S. population is not commensurate with their representation in the legal profession. For example, consider the following:
➢ Women are slightly over half of the population but are only 35% of attorneys.
➢ Blacks and Latinos are just over a third of the population but are only approximately 10% of attorneys.
In-house counsel senior leadership has shown a greater increase in diversity than law firms (which lag behind with essentially no increase at the senior leadership level).
➢ The percentage of women general counsel of the Fortune 500 has increased continuously since 2014 to 25% in 2016.
➢ The percentage of racially diverse (black, Latino, and Asian) general counsel of the Fortune 500 is approximately 10%.
➢ The percentage of women in equity partnership ranks has increased less than a percentage point to 17.8% between 2014 and 2015.
➢ The percentage of racial minorities in equity partnership ranks remained at 5.6% between 2014 to 2015.
The lack of diversity within law firms does not appear to be a pipeline issue:
➢ Women constituting half of law school graduates.
➢ People of color constituting a quarter of law school graduates.
➢ Women and people of color make up 45% and 22% of law firm associates, respectively.