April 30, 2017 Articles

Law Firm Data Suggests Continuing Challenges for LGBT Lawyers

By J. Dalton Courson

Data from two recently published studies has revealed that individual attorneys are less likely to identify as LGBT than adults in the general public. This article discusses these findings and suggests a few reasons why diversity efforts have not yet yielded full inclusion of the LGBT community.

A Gallup poll published in January 2017 by Gary J. Gates of the Williams Institute at UCLA Law found that 4.1 percent of U.S. adults personally identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Gary J. Gates, In U.S., More Adults Identifying as LGBT, Gallup (Jan. 11, 2017). Among millennials, defined as those born between 1980 and 1998, 7.3 percent identified as LGBT.

Attorneys at law firms, however, are significantly less likely to identify as LGBT. Law firms responding to the National Association for Law Placement identified only 2.5 percent of their lawyers as LGBT. National Association for Law Placement, Inc., 2016 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms, at 7 (Jan. 2017). Progress continues to be made, as NALP found that the number of LGBT lawyers had increased by six percent from its 2015 annual report, and long-term, the number of self-identified LGBT lawyers has more than doubled since 2002. But counterbalancing this good news was a finding that LGBT lawyers in the U.S. are concentrated in only four major cities: New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Together, these cities accounted for 56 percent of the reported LGBT lawyers. Further, nationally only 1.9 percent of law firm partners identified as LGBT, compared to 3.2 percent for associates and 4.9 percent for summer associates. Id. at 16. Only 40 percent of law offices reported any LGBT attorneys at all. Id. at 7. Thus, a partner at a U.S. law firm is less than half as likely as a member of the public to identify as LGBT, and outside those four major cities, the numbers are even lower.

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