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November 14, 2017 Articles

Law Firms Employ Fewer Black Lawyers than Other Minorities, Survey Reports

Minority law school enrollment recently topped 30 percent, but law firms are not making substantial progress in hiring and promoting minority lawyers.

By Debra Cassens Weiss

Minority law school enrollment recently topped 30 percent, but law firms are not making substantial progress in hiring and promoting minority lawyers, according to a Law360 survey.

Nearly 85 percent of lawyers at more than 300 firms surveyed are white, “a number that has not meaningfully budged over the past three years,” according to a summary of the findings. The Law360 story on the findings is here (sub. req.).

The survey found that only 15.3 percent of lawyers and 8.8 percent of partners identify as a lawyer of color. Among equity partners, 7.9 percent identified as minorities. At every level, minority representation grew by less than a percentage point over the previous year.

Black lawyers are the least represented at every level. Overall, only 3 percent identified as black, while 3.6 percent identified as Hispanic and 6.8 percent identified as Asian-American.

Though Asian-Americans have the largest representation at law firms, they are the least likely minority to be partners. Twenty percent of Asian-American lawyers are partners compared to 28 percent of black lawyers, 33 percent of Hispanic lawyers, and 48 percent of white lawyers.

In a separate story (sub. req.), Law 360 identified the best firms for minorities, based on their percentage of minority lawyers. Above the Law summarized the findings on the best law firms for minority equity partners.

Among law firms with more than 600 lawyers, the best for minority lawyers are Lewis Brisbois and White & Case (tied for first); Wilson Sonsini; Morrison & Foerster; and Paul Hastings.

For firms with 300 to 599 lawyers, the best are: Fenwick & West and Fragomen Del Rey (tied for first); Finnegan; Debevoise & Plimpton; Fish & Richardson; and Shearman & Sterling.

Among firms with 150 to 299 lawyers, the best are: Atkinson Andelson; Procopio Cory; Curtis Mallet-Prevost; Knobbe Martens; and Shutts & Bowen.

For firms with 20 to 149 lawyers, the best are: Bookoff McAndrews; Berry Appleman; Russ August; Linebarger; and Roig Lawyers.

Debra Cassens Weiss is a senior writer for the ABA Journal in Chicago, Illinois.

This article first appeared in the ABA Journal on August 23, 2017.

Copyright © 2017, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).

Debra Cassens Weiss – November 14, 2017