Survey Shows Slow, Steady Improvements in Law Firm Diversity




October 24, 2014

Media Contacts: Vera Djordjevich,, 646-792-6274

MCCA:  Vince Heald ( – 858-453-9600

Adrian Aguilera ( – 858-453-9600


Survey Shows Slow, Steady Improvements in Law Firm Diversity

Minorities and Women Make Gains, But Still Underrepresented

NEW YORK – Results of a national survey released jointly by Vault.comand the Minority Corporate Counsel Association(MCCA) show that minority and women attorneys are making slow but steady advancement in their law firm careers but are still far from achieving full parity. In addition, survey results indicated a greater representation of women and lawyers of color in law firm partnerships, including many equity partners and a growing percentage of LGBT attorneys.

The survey also indicated that the overall percentage of African-American lawyers has fallen, as have the numbers of black summer associates and lateral attorneys hired (although fewer black lawyers left their firms last year). The number of women in law firms remains fairly static. While the number of female minority lawyers hired and promoted increased since last year, so did their attrition numbers, as women of color continue to leave their firms at disproportionate rate. Despite slow gains for underrepresented groups, law firm partnerships remain overwhelmingly white and male.

The findings are from the annual “Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Survey” conducted in the spring of 2014 and the quantitative data were reported as of the end of the 2013 calendar year. Approximately 240 law firms participate in the survey each year, representing virtually all of the AmLaw 100 and a majority of the NLJ 250. The most recent survey includes data for 241 law firms.

The survey collected quantitative data on the numbers of attorneys who are minorities, women, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or individuals with disabilities, and qualitative information regarding firms' diversity plans and initiatives.

For the complete results of this year’s survey, visit the Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Database at Survey results for the past five years are also contained in the fully searchable database.

“This year’s Vault/MCCA survey provides evidence of some progress for attorneys of color at virtually all levels within law firms, from the recruitment of summer associates and hiring of laterals to the promotion of partners and accession to leadership roles,” said Vera Djordjevich, director of research & consulting.  “However,” she noted, “progress is slow, especially at the leadership level.”

Joseph K. West, president and CEO of MCCA, added, “Not all minority groups are faring equally well, the study found. While the number of Hispanic and Latino students among summer associates is increasing, for example, the percentage of African-Americans hired has declined. And the number of women attorneys in law firms has remained fairly static in recent years.”

Also, he said, diversification of law firm partnerships remains slow. Minorities and women now make up more than 40 percent of the law firm attorneys, but nearly 75 percent of partners are white men.

Highlights from the “Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Survey” help illustrate these findings:

·         The overall number of minority attorneys has rebounded since the recession, growing from 13.44% at the end of 2009 to 14.56% by the end of 2013. This increase reflects growing numbers of minority lawyers within most of the levels tracked in the survey. The progress is most notable within the partnership ranks.

·         Women make up close to 34 percent of the law firm attorney population. The number of female lawyers has held fairly steady at slightly more than one-third for the last several years, showing a small increase between 2012 and 2013, from 33.66% to 33.86%, but not substantially higher than the 33.10% reported for 2007.

·         More women are gradually making their way into leadership positions. In 2013, 34.49% of the partners promoted at participating law firms were women, compared to 33.06% in 2012 and 30.03% back in 2007.

·         Although the overall population of minority lawyers has grown in the last several years, the increase is more notable among men than women. In 2007, 6.80% of law firm attorneys were minority men; by 2013, that number increased to 7.40%. By contrast, over the same period of time, the percentage of female minority lawyers grew only from 7.01% to 7.16%.

·          In addition, women of color continue to leave their firms at a disproportionate rate. While minority women represent about 7 percent (7.16%) of all attorneys and 12 percent (11.99%) of associates, more than 10 percent (10.67%) of all attorneys who left their firms in 2013 were women of color, as were 14 percent (14.06%) of departing associates.

·         Notwithstanding that fewer black lawyers left their firms in 2013 than in the previous year (in 2013, 4.84% of all attorneys who left were African-American, compared to 5.05% in 2012), we have still seen a drop in the overall number of black lawyers, most visible at the associate level. African-Americans made up 5.11% of law firm associates in 2007; in 2013, the number had fallen to 4.28%. The overall representation of black attorneys in law firms has slowly declined since 2007, from 3.62% to 3.06%.

·         The number of African-American summer associates has also been falling fairly steadily over the last several years; where 7.27% of the 2007 class of summer associates were African-American, black students represented just 6.43% of the 2013 class. Similarly, at 4.40%, the percentage of black attorneys hired in 2013 (including laterals and starting associates) is well below the 5.61% reported for 2007.

·         Asian Americans now account for 6.51% of the law firm population, compared to 6.15% in 2007. Their numbers among summer associates have grown, from 12.88% in 2007 to 14.11% in 2013. Among all attorneys hired in 2013, 10.55% were of Asian descent and, among laterals specifically, the percentage of Asian attorneys climbed from 8.36% in 2012 to 9.14% in 2013. Asian American lawyers represent 2.63% of equity partners, a notable increase from the 1.90% reported in 2007.

·         Hispanic/Latino lawyers currently represent 3.21% of all law firm attorneys, slightly higher than the 3.16% reported for 2012. They have made more notable gains at the partnership level, representing 2.07% of equity partners, compared to 1.75% in 2007. Latino law students represented 5.46% of the 2L summer class in 2013, the same percentage as the previous year, which was the largest number reported since 2007.


About the Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Database

The Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Database ( is the legal industry’s primary tool for measuring law firm diversity. It includes law firm demographics, with breakdowns by race/ethnicity and gender, LGBT attorneys and individuals with disabilities, and qualitative information regarding firms’ diversity plans and initiatives. This free online tool (registration is required) allows the corporate counsel community, graduating law students and prospective employees to make side-by-side comparisons of diversity metrics, track firms’ progress over the last six years and evaluate their performance against industry-wide benchmarks.

About Vault

Vault.comis the source of employer and university rankings, ratings and insight for highly credentialed, in-demand candidates. Vault’s editorial mission is to provide the research required by candidates to evaluate professions, industries, educational pathways, and top companies. Vault ratings and rankings inform candidates’ analysis of companies and allow direct comparison between potential employers in such high value industries as law, banking, consulting and accounting. Vault’s customers include Fortune 1000 advertisers and recruiters, the country’s top universities and graduate schools—and 8 million consumers worldwide.


About MCCA

The Minority Corporate Counsel Association ( was founded in 1997 to advance the hiring, retention and promotion of diverse attorneys in legal departments and the law firms that serve them. MCCA accomplishes its mission through publishing, research and training, pipeline initiatives and networking. MCCA’s work has been recognized with awards from the National Minority Business Council, Inc., the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National LGBT Bar, and the Association of Corporate Counsel. MCCA is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

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