Data Suggest That Meaningful Diversity Remains An Elusive Goal For The Legal Profession

Sep 23, 2013, 13:00 ET from Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession

CHICAGO, Sept. 23, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The latest data show that diversity remains an elusive goal for the legal profession and that growth in the number of minority lawyers has not kept pace with increases of the past. Demographic data collected from a variety of sources as of August 2012 are presented in the second annual review of the state of diversity in the legal profession, issued by the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession. The Review provides an in-depth look into the current state of diversity and inclusion in the profession, including scholarly essays and examples of programs and policies that have proved effective. Findings point to the fact that the profession continues to lag behind other professions in providing opportunities for inclusion to members of minority groups.

Highlights from the 2012 demographic summary include:

  • Aggregate minority representation in the profession has increased from roughly 10 percent in 2000 to roughly 13 percent in 2010, according to U.S. Census data.
  • Minority representation among lawyers is significantly lower than minority representation in most other professional and managerial jobs. According to the Department of Labor, minorities represented 12.7 percent of lawyers in 2011, compared to 26.4 percent among accountants and auditors, 36.5 percent among software developers, 28 percent among physicians and surgeons, and 22 percent in the management and professional labor force as a whole.
  • African Americans are the best represented minority group among lawyers at 4.3 percent with Hispanics and Asian Americans each comprising 3.4 percent, according to 2010 Census data.
  • The pace of African American entry into the profession has slowed in recent years, however. In 2011-12, African Americans made up 7.1 percent of law students, compared to 7.5 percent in the mid-to-late 1990s. The number of Asian Americans law students also has dropped after decades of steady gains. Hispanic representation among law students has increased from 5.8 percent in 2000-01 to 7.5 percent in 2011-12.
  • Women's representation among lawyers increased from 28.7 percent in 2000 to 31.5 percent in 2010. Among law students, women's representation has declined from a high of 49 percent in the early 2000s to 46.7 percent in 2011-12.
  • Women represented 47.3 percent of law school graduates in 2011-12, down from 49.5 percent in 2003-04.
  • Women are better represented among lawyers than in some other professions, such as software development, architecture, and engineering. Women's representation among lawyers is lower than their representation among accountants, social scientists, and post-secondary teachers, however, and significantly lower than their representation in the professional and managerial workforce as whole.
  • Women also are underrepresented in top-level legal jobs, such as law firm partner (19.4 percent), federal appellate judge (26.8 percent), and law school dean (20.6 percent).
  • Minority women, in particular, are underrepresented in law firm partnerships, comprising only two percent of partners nationally in 2011. 

There are no national data on the employment of lawyers with disabilities or LGBT lawyers, beyond initial employment. Outside of law firms, the profession lacks even basic gender and ethnic breakdowns by employment category, not to mention more detailed breakdowns by title, seniority and region, or more inclusive efforts covering sexual orientation and disability status. The profession would benefit greatly from better data on the demographics of practicing lawyers.

The demographic summary was written by Review Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Chambliss, professor and director of the Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough Center on Professionalism at the University of South Carolina. Chambliss hopes that the review will stimulate further data collection and reporting throughout the profession, in an effort to better assess progress toward greater integration and inclusion. 

In addition to the demographic summary, the Review includes 23 essays by academics, lawyers, and other commentators, who focus on challenges that cut across the profession in its quest for greater diversity as well as some of the unique challenges that confront different minority groups.

The IILP is hosting seminars around the country throughout the fall featuring discussion of the data and including presentations by several of the authors with a focus on local solutions and programs that meet the needs of the community. Sessions are scheduled for Oct. 8 in Los Angeles; Oct. 22 in Houston, Oct. 23 in Dallas, Oct. 25 in Seattle; Nov. 13 in Washington, D.C., Nov. 19, in New York City, and Dec. 3 in Chicago.

About the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession
Through its programs, projects, research, and collaborations, the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession is dedicated to improving diversity and promoting inclusion in the legal profession.  IILP is a leader in supporting new approaches and inventing and testing methodologies that will lead to real change and eliminate bias in the legal field.  Through comprehensive outreach and original programming, IILP works closely with legal, judicial, professional, educational and governmental institutions to help the profession advance diversity as a core value. For more information, visit the IILP at or follow on Twitter at @theiilp, or on LinkedIn and Facebook. The chair of IILP is Marc S. Firestone, senior vice president and general counsel at Philip Morris International Inc.

Contact: Sandra Yamate or Deborah Weixl
Phone: 312/628-5885

SOURCE Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession