Career Mobility and Racial Diversity in Law Firms

Career Mobility and Racial Diversity in Law Firms

By
Christopher I. Rider, Adina Sterling, David Tan
Diversity in Practice: Race, Class, and Gender in Legal and Professional Careers. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, April
2016, Pages 357-382

Although the legal profession has become much more diverse in recent decades, observed attainment still varies with a lawyer’s race (Gorman and Kay, 2010; Payne-Pikus, Hagan, and Nelson, 2010). Black lawyers, in particular, experience higher attrition rates at nearly every career stage on the path to law firm partner. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) reports that blacks constituted approximately 25% of all attendees at Law School Forums (a pre-application event) but only 11% of all law school applicants between 2000 and 2009 (Law School Admission Council 2009). Although blacks constituted 7% of all admitted law school applicants in 2010 and 2011, they constituted a smaller percentage of law school graduates and an even smaller percentage of all practicing attorneys (EEOC report 2003). Black lawyers also face significantly lower odds of making partner in large corporate law firms than white males, even after accounting for the racial composition of associates (EEOC report, 2003: 31). For example, the National Association for Law Placement’s (NALP) Directory of Legal Employers (available at www.nalpdirectory.com) reports that in 2011 black lawyers represented approximately 4.3% of all law firm associates but only 2% of all law firm partners. Despite extensive efforts of law firms to address such issues (e.g., Kay and Gorman 2012), such racial disparities are a persisting reality for the legal profession.