ABA Profile of the Legal Profession: Diversity and Well-Being

ABA Profile of the Legal ProfessionTo read the 2021 report, click here.

While the number of lawyers nationally has grown faster than the U.S. population, this growth hasn’t been spread evenly across races and ethnicities, according to the American Bar Association’s 2020 Profile of the Legal Profession.

The ABA Profile of the Legal Profession is a compilation of the latest statistics in the legal profession. Last week, we explored the impact of legal deserts and law school debt on lawyers and the communities they serve. This week, we discuss diversity in the legal profession and attitudes toward efforts to address attorney well-being.

Diversity Lags Among Lawyers

Courtesy of ABA Profile of the Legal Profession 2020

As of Jan. 1, 2020, there were 1,328,692 active lawyers in the U.S., up roughly 10% in the past decade. However, primary drivers of growth continue to be white men and, to a lesser extent, white women. These groups remain overrepresented in the legal profession compared to their presence in the overall U.S. population, according to the ABA National Lawyer Population Survey. Currently, 86% of lawyers are non-Hispanic white people. In comparison, roughly 60% of U.S. residents are non-Hispanic white people.

While the percentage of female lawyers has increased slowly over the past decade (31% in 2010 vs. 37% in 2020), recent gains among people of color are minimal. Just 5% of all lawyers are Black, the same percentage as 10 years ago, while 13.4% of the U.S. population is Black. Comparably, 5% of all lawyers are Hispanic, up from 4% a decade earlier, although 18.5% of the U.S. population is Hispanic. Two percent of all lawyers are Asian, up only 0.4% from 10 years ago, while almost 6% of the U.S. population is Asian.

Native American lawyers are represented proportionately to their presence in the general population, according to the ABA Profile of the Legal Profession. Less than one-half of 1% of all lawyers (0.4%) are Native American, down slightly from 0.7% 10 years ago.

In 2019, LGBT lawyers represented 3% of all lawyers at firms that participated in a National Association for Law Placement report. This is up from 2.48% three years earlier. Growth is more significant among law firm associates. In 2020, 4.1% of associates are openly LGBT.

The number of lawyers who report having a disability remains small, at roughly one-half of 1% of all lawyers. However, this number is double what it was a decade ago.

When it comes to law firm leadership, women and lawyers of color have made slow gains. The number of female equity partners was about 21% in 2019, according to the National Association of Women Lawyers. That’s up from 15% in 2012. In 2009, 6% of law firm partners were people of color. In 2019, nearly 10% were.

Disproportionate Representation in the Judiciary

Racial diversity in the federal judiciary has decreased slightly since 2016, while gender diversity has seen marginal gains, according to the Federal Judicial Center. As of July 1, 2020, roughly 80% of sitting judges were white, which is similar to statistics in 2016. At the same time, the percentage of Black judges on the federal bench has dropped – from 10.8% in 2016 to 9.8% in 2020.

As of July 1, 2020, the U.S. Senate had confirmed 196 people to 200 federal judgeships during 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. Of those, 85% were white, 6% were Asian, 4% were Black, and 4% were Hispanic. The number of female federal judges has seen minimal gains over the last four years. Females made up roughly 26% of federal judges in 2016 and 28% in 2020.

White men continue to be heavily represented among justices of the 50 top state courts, according to a 2020 study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. More than one-half of all justices (55%) on these courts (usually called supreme courts) are white and male, even though 30% of the U.S. population is white and male. White women make up 29% of top state court justices, which is proportionate to their presence in the general population.

Men and women of color are disproportionately underrepresented on top state courts. Just 8% of justices on these courts are men of color and 7% are women of color, even though they make up 19% and 20% of the U.S. population, respectively.

Are Firms Supporting Well-Being?

While roughly one-quarter of attorneys struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues, most lawyers said their law firms support their mental health and family needs, according to the 2019 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report.

More than half (56%) of the 647 lawyers surveyed said that their workplace is supportive of their mental health needs. However, lawyers reported that law firms could offer more access to resources, like information on 12-step programs or other mental health assistance.

Attitudes toward work-life balance were a bit inconsistent. Almost three-fourths of lawyers (72%) said their firm’s support for working parents is good or very good. Two-thirds (66%) said their job allows them to spend adequate time with their family.

However, almost 50% of attorneys said they often work long hours (38%) or never stop working (9%). One-quarter said they don’t take adequate breaks and nearly one-third (32%) said they feel pressured to skip out on vacation time.

Read more from the ABA Profile of the Legal Profession on the ABA’s website.

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26 thoughts on “ABA Profile of the Legal Profession: Diversity and Well-Being

  1. Diversity and well being are sorely needed in the legal profession. I was admitted to the NYS Bar in the 2nd Dept. in 2000. I am black and female, with children. I’ve unfortunately never had a legal job that allowed me to be a single parent without constant harrassment and threats. Recently, I became disabled due to a very bad foot and ankle injury, and subsequent surgery, leaving me unable to work from home. I was fired during COVID from a City Govt. legal department because I cannot work from home due to the medically documented chronic arthritic condition that the treating doctor desribed and labeled a disability. As a result, I am having difficulty finding employment because I cannot work from home. So, in addition to being an older (54) black female attorney, a single mother, and now a disabled employee who cannot work from home, I am on the verge of being unemployable. Colleagues tell me to lie about my disability as I wasn’t born with it and recently developed it in the last 5 years but my ethics will not permit mr to do that, and as a result I appear to be screwed. This is my life now as a black female torts litigator with 20 years of experience and demonstrated trial advocacy, and now I can’t get a job. Is this right? (I obtained a decision in my favor from the NYS Division of Human Rights but the Company refused to return my job so I just collect my back pay. That’s it). Real people are hurting and racism, sexism, and discrimination based on these categories need to be seriously addressed. I don’t believe it’s happening just to me. Thank you.

    1. Here’s the answer to your question, Andy. Being black is relevant and has everything to do with disproportionate outcomes at almost every level in our society, particularly if you identify as black and a woman.

      Black women in the United States experience unacceptably poor maternal health outcomes, including disproportionately high rates of death related to pregnancy or childbirth. Both societal and health system factors contribute to high rates of poor health outcomes and maternal mortality for Black women, who are more likely to experience barriers to obtaining quality care and often face racial Black women are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women.

      Due to racism, sexism and other systemic barriers that have contributed to income inequality, Black women are typically paid just 63 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Median wages for Black women in the United States are $36,227 per year, which is $21,698 less than the median wages for white, non-Hispanic men. These lost wages mean Black women and their families have less money to support themselves and their families, and may have to choose between essential resources like housing, child care, food and health care.

      These trade-offs are evident in Black women’s health outcomes and use of medical care. Compared to white women, Black women are more likely to be uninsured, face greater financial barriers to care when they need it and are less likely to access prenatal care. Indeed, Black women experience higher rates of many preventable diseases and chronic health conditions including diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. When, or if, Black women choose to become pregnant, these health conditions influence both maternal and infant health outcomes.

      To improve Black women’s maternal health, we need a multi-faceted approach that addresses Black women’s health across the lifespan, improves access to quality care, addresses social determinants of health and provides greater economic security.
      Too many Black women are dying in pregnancy and childbirth. Black women in the United States are more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than women in any other race group.

      Black women are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women.
      Black women are more likely to experience preventable maternal death compared with white women.
      Black women’s heightened risk of pregnancy-related death spans income and education levels.
      Black women experience more maternal health complications than white women. Black women are more likely to experience complications throughout the course of their pregnancies than white women.

      Black women are three times more likely to have fibroids (benign tumors that grow in the uterus and can cause postpartum hemorrhaging) than white women, and the fibroids occur at younger ages and grow more quickly for Black women.
      Black women display signs of preeclampsia earlier in pregnancy than white women. This condition, which involves high blood pressure during pregnancy, can lead to severe complications including death if improperly treated.
      Black women experience physical “weathering,” meaning their bodies age faster than white women’s due to exposure to chronic stress linked to socioeconomic disadvantage and discrimination over the life course, thus making pregnancy riskier at an earlier age.
      Black-serving hospitals provide lower quality maternity care. Seventy-five percent of Black women give birth at hospitals that serve predominantly Black populations.

      Black-serving hospitals have higher rates of maternal complications than other hospitals. They also perform worse on 12 of 15 birth outcomes, including elective deliveries, non-elective cesarean births and maternal mortality.
      Many Black women have a difficult time accessing the reproductive health care that meets their needs. Access to reproductive health care, which helps women plan their families, improves health outcomes for women and children.

      Black women experience higher rates of unintended pregnancies than all other racial groups, in part because of disparities in access to quality contraceptive care and counseling.
      Many Black women lack access to quality contraceptive care and counseling. For example, in a recent analysis of California women enrolled in Medicaid, Black women were less likely than white or Latina women to receive postpartum contraception, and when they did receive it, they were less likely to receive a highly effective method.
      Black women’s access to abortion is limited, and they may be more likely to experience the ill effects of abortion restrictions — such as delayed care, increased costs or lack of access to care.
      Policymakers, health care professionals and communities can improve Black women’s maternal health.
      Expand and maintain access to health coverage.

      Only 87 percent of Black women of reproductive age have health insurance, and many more experience gaps in coverage during their lives. To improve Black women’s health outcomes, policies should focus on expanding and maintaining access to care and coverage.

      Women need health coverage throughout their lifespan including access to preventive health care, such as birth control, to maintain their health and to choose when and whether to become a parent. For women who choose to become a parent or expand their families, good prenatal and maternity care are critically important for healthy pregnancies and healthy children. Pregnant women who lack insurance coverage often delay or forgo prenatal care in the first trimester, and inadequate prenatal care is associated with higher rates of maternal mortality.

      Black women are more likely to live in the South, where women generally experience poorer health outcomes and where many states have chosen not to expand Medicaid coverage, which leaves many Black women in the “coverage gap.” Women fall into the coverage gap because they earn too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid, but not enough to purchase insurance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace; as a result, they lack access to health coverage. Expanding Medicaid coverage would improve maternal outcomes for Black women by providing better access to care and reducing financial instability.

      Source: https://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/health/reports/black-womens-maternal-health.html

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