Each year, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) releases statistics on minority representation in the legal profession. The 2016 numbers have gone up, slightly. Minority attorneys still haven’t made a significant dent in the overall composition of lawyers in American law firms.
According to the 2016 report, from 2015-2016, the number of non-white lawyers in associate and partner roles increased for Black, Hispanic, Asian, and female attorneys. Most of these minority groups have also finally risen above the pre-recession stats, when diverse attorney representation was at its highest.
However, while thes associates make up 22.72% of the profession, minority partners only comprise 8.05% of U.S. law firms. As you can see, there is still room for improvement.
Asians are the largest minority group in the legal profession, with consistent increases in the number of associates and partners. Today, Asian associates comprise 11.25% of the legal profession, up about 2% since 2009. Asian partner rates are now at 3.13% compared to the 2.2% in 2009. Yet, in spite of this, Asians also have the highest attrition rates among all racial groups.
Hispanic lawyers are also making strides. Hispanic associates today comprise 4.42% of all associates, compared to the 3.89% back in 2009. Partners of this ethnicity represent 2.31%. Up .66% since 2009.
Women partners and black partners have seen slight increases as well. In 2009, women partners made up 19.21% of the legal profession. Today, women partners increased to 22.13%. Black partners have increased, too. In 2009, they minority group composed 1.71% of lawyers in the partner role – today, the representation has risen to 1.81%.
Interestingly enough though, females and Black associates haven’t made similar strides. Both minority groups haven’t surpassed their pre-recession rates. Today, women comprise 45% of the profession, when in 2009, their representation 45.66% in 2009. Likewise, in 2009, black associates comprised 4.66% of the profession. Today, the minority group makes up 4.11% of associates in the United States.
The 2016 NALP Diversity Report sheds light on a major problem in the profession. Today’s lawyers don’t resemble the public they serve. Accessing the legal profession still remains a concern for these minority groups. However, there is some light at the end of a very long tunnel.
More and more legal professionals and organizations are doing their part to ensure minority representation continues to increase. Take for example, the Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program. As pipeline and mentoring programs continue to pop up for students looking to enter the profession, let’s hope that the profession continues to become more diverse and inclusive.