Vault/MCCA Survey 2015

MCCA and Vault began the collection of law firm diversity data in 2004, initially soliciting quantitative and qualitative information with respect to minority men, minority women and white women. Over the next few years, the survey questionnaire was expanded to incorporate more detailed demographic breakdowns by race and gender, as well as information about openly GLBT individuals and attorneys with disabilities. In 2009, Vault and MCCA launched the Law Firm Diversity Database (, an online tool to make the information provided by law firms more widely available to the legal community.

The annual survey collects data based on the previous calendar year. Approximately 250 law firms participate in the survey each year, representing virtually all of the AmLaw 100 and a majority of the NLJ 250. The following findings are based on law firm responses to the annual survey distributed in the spring of 2015, to which 247 law firms responded, providing demographic statistics as of December 31, 2014.

This report highlights some of the key findings from the latest survey results as well as trends observed over the last eight years of data collection.

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Summary of Overall Findings

Law Firm Demographic Data, 2014 2LSummer Associates Associates Equity Partners Non-equity Partners Of Counsel All Lawyers
White/Caucasian 70.74% 76.78% 92.26% 89.21% 88.22% 84.62%
African-American/Black 6.77% 4.19% 1.74% 2.82% 2.67% 3.05%
Asian 12.90% 10.95% 2.87% 3.42% 4.60% 6.69%
Hispanic/Latino 6.05% 4.53% 2.26% 3.07% 2.77% 3.41%
Multiracial 2.97% 2.74% 0.49% 0.66% 1.10% 1.57%
Alaska Native/American Indian 0.22% 0.24% 0.15% 0.18% 0.20% 0.20%
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 0.05% 0.11% 0.02% 0.06% 0.04% 0.06%
Openly GLBT 3.60% 2.74% 1.65% 1.55% 1.66% 2.12%
Individuals with Disabilities 0.16% 0.23% 0.29% 0.21% 0.33% 0.26%

All Minorities 28.97% 22.75% 7.53% 10.21% 11.39% 14.99%

Women of Color 16.54% 12.32% 2.27% 4.35% 6.17% 7.40%
All Women 46.55% 45.04% 18.79% 28.74% 39.32% 33.98%
  • The diversification of law firms continues at a slow pace, as the representation of minority lawyers among the associate classes, partnership and leadership of law firms gradually grows.
  • Alongside the increased recruitment of minority attorneys, however, lawyers of color continue to leave their firms at a disproportionate rate.
  • Moreover, advances among individual minority groups remain uneven, as the number of black lawyers declines and Asian American attorneys experience slower rates of promotion.
  • Although the overall number of female lawyers has changed little over the last several years, women are gaining greater representation at the partnership and management levels, and their attrition rates are declining. In particular, the latest survey results provide some encouraging signs of progress for women of color.  However, despite these gains Latina and Asian American female partners are less than 1% of all law firm partners.
  • While law firm equity partners are still predominantly white and male, the newer ranks show greater diversity: one-third of all new equity partners in 2014 were either female or members of a minority racial/ethnic group.

Overall Demographics

Alaska Native/ American Indian* Asian-American Hispanic/Latino Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander* White/Caucasian

*Less than 1%

  • Non-white attorneys currently represent 15% of the law firm population. Their numbers, which grew from 14.56% in 2013 to 14.99% in 2014, have maintained a gradual incline since the recessionary low of 13.44% reported in 2009. In 2007, the first year for which detailed statistics were collected, 13.81% of attorneys were minorities. This growth reflects an increasing number of minority lawyers among all levels tracked in the survey and among both genders.
  • The numbers reported for women of color specifically bring some encouraging news. While their progress has been much slower, female minority lawyers are now approaching parity with minority men— in terms of their representation in the overall law firm population. Of the 101,360 attorneys at 247 law firms survey-wide, 7,499 are minority women and 7,697 are minority men.
  • In 2007, 6.80% of law firm attorneys were minority men; by 2014, that number increased to 7.59%, reflecting a 0.8 percentage point increase. Over the same period of time, the proportion of female minority lawyers grew 0.4 percentage points, from 7.01% to 7.40%.
  • Close to 23% of associates (22.75%) belong to a racial/ethnic minority group, up from 22.13% in 2013 and two percentage points above the 20.78% reported back in 2007. These numbers include more women than men. Minority women represent 12.32% of associates, an increase over the previous year (11.99%).
  • In 2014, minority lawyers represented 8.22% of all partners, compared to 7.85% in 2013 and 6.30% in 2007.
  • However, despite the fact that the number of female minority associates exceeds the number of male associates (5,483 to 4,642), minority men continue to outnumber minority women at the partnership level by almost two to one. In 2014, law firm partners included 2,397 minority men (5.42%) and 1,239 minority women (2.80%). The ratio of men to women is even starker when race is not factored in; overall, male partners outnumber female partners by more than 3 to 1.
  • A higher proportion of minority partners are salaried than hold equity in their firms. Attorneys of color represent 10.21% of non-equity partners, compared to 7.53% of equity partners. Among women of color specifically, the contrast between equity and non-equity status is even greater: just 2.27% of equity partners are minority women, compared to 4.35% of non-equity partners. That said, this year’s results include the highest percentage of minority equity partners since Vault and MCCA began collecting this data. Of 32,925 equity partners survey-wide, 2,479 are attorneys of color.
  • The percentage of minority lawyers of both genders among of counsel has also increased, from 9.66% in 2007 to 10.65% in 2013 to 11.39% in 2014.

Leadership Roles

Law Firm Leadership Roles Executive Management Committee Partner Review Committee Associate Review Committee Hiring Committee Diversity Committee
African-American/Black 2.34% 1.90% 3.05% 4.69% 11.75%
Asian 1.76% 2.22% 4.37% 6.83% 13.15%
Hispanic/Latino 2.30% 2.54% 2.49% 3.69% 8.56%
Multiracial 0.38% 0.37% 0.70% 1.33% 2.04%
Alaska Native/American Indian 0.23% 0.16% 0.14% 0.15% 0.47%
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 0.04% 0.00% 0.00% 0.04% 0.21%
Openly GLBT 1.23% 1.11% 1.88% 2.87% 7.27%
Individuals with Disabilities 0.15% 0.16% 0.14% 0.15% 0.34%
  • Minority lawyers are also making steady gains at the management level, although the overall numbers, especially for women, remain low. Representation of attorneys of color on law firm executive or management committees increased from 6.45% in 2013 to 7.05% in 2014. Eight years earlier, in 2007, just 5.42% of attorneys serving on these committees were minority lawyers.
  • Firms reported that 53 of the 2,609 attorneys (2.03%) serving on executive/management committees as of the end of 2014 were women of color, compared to 131 minority men and 465 white women.
  • The survey data shows advances on other firmwide committees as well. For example, the percentage of minority attorneys serving on partner review committees increased in the last year from 7.01% to 7.19%, and the number serving on associate review committees also grew, from 10.14% to 10.76%.
  • These positions, as with other management-level roles, are more likely to be held by men than women. Minority women represent 2.01% of lawyers serving on partner review committees and 4.03% of those on associate review committees.
  • An increasing number of attorneys of color now head law firm offices and run practice groups than in past years. As of the end of 2014, 8.42% of U.S. office heads and 6.35% of practice group leaders were minorities, compared to 6.05% and 5.09%, respectively, in 2008. One area in which minority representation has fallen over the years is the diversity committee. In 2007, lawyers of color represented more than 40% (41.61%) of attorneys serving on diversity committees; by the end of 2014, that number had dropped to 36.18%, reflecting declining numbers among both genders. Meanwhile, the number of white lawyers on these committees has grown. Eight years ago, white men represented 31.45% and white women represented 25.52% of diversity committee members; as of 2014, those numbers had increased to 32.84% and 28.74%, respectively.

Promotion to Partnership

Ratio of Partners to Associates*
African-American Asian-American Hispanic/Latino White/Caucasian
African-American Ratio graph Asian-American ratio graph Hispanic/Latino American ratio graph White/Caucasian American ratio graph
1 African-American partner for every 2.09 associates 1 Asian-American partner for every 3.65 associates 1 Hispanic/Latino American partner for every 1.84 associates 1 White/Caucasian American partner for every 1.18 associate

*All (Male & Female)

  • Despite other gains made in leadership roles, law firms reported fewer promotions among attorneys of color in 2014 than in the previous year; at 12.87%, the percentage of minority lawyers who were promoted to partner is virtually the same as the 12.86% reported eight years earlier for 2007.
  • Promotions among minority women outnumbered those among minority men. Of the 1,849 lawyers who were made partner in 2014, 238 were attorneys of color, including 120 women and 118 men. In fact, the percentage of male minority partners promoted is the lowest in the last eight years. Meanwhile, the percentage of women of color promoted to partner has grown.
  • If current trends continue, the gender imbalance reflected among attorneys of color in the partnership ranks may shift—less because minority women are advancing faster than because minority men seem to be falling behind.
  • In 2014, for example, 6.49% of lawyers promoted to partnership were minority women, compared to 6.38% for minority men. The figure for women is essentially unchanged from 2013 (6.50%), which exceeded the 5.66% reported in 2007 by 0.8 percentage points. By contrast, the figure for minority men reflects a 0.8 percentage point decline from the 7.20% reported for 2007. 

Attorney Attrition

Attorney Attrition as a Percentage of their Overall Law Firm Population
  African-American Hispanic/Latino Asian-American White/Caucasian
All 16% 13% 13% 9%
Men 15% 12% 13% 8%
Women 17% 14% 13% 11%
  • Attorneys of color represent 15% of lawyers employed by law firms.  Of the 10,083 lawyers who left their firms in 2014, almost 21% (20.81%) were attorneys of color. That figure, which reflects a 0.9 percentage point increase over the prior year, is also the largest to date—even higher than the recessionary peak of 2009 when 20.79% of departing attorneys were minorities. The survey data shows a more marked increase in departures among men than among women.
  • The exodus was especially marked among junior associates; nearly 30% (29.93%) of first- and second-years who left their firms in 2014 were members of racial or ethnic minority groups—a figure greater than that reported for any of the prior seven years, including 2009.
  • Although the percentage of departures among midlevel associates (third- through fifth-years) dropped by 1.2 percentage points in 2014, from 28.20% to 27.00%, it still remains higher than every previous year.
  • Law firms reported slightly lower attrition numbers for women of color in this year’s survey, although the figures continue to exceed those recorded for every other year except 2009. In 2014, 10.63% of all attorneys who left their firms were women of color, compared to 10.67% in 2013, 11.00% in 2009 and 9.90% in 2007.
  • Departures of minority women among midlevel associates dropped more than a percentage point, to 14.14%, the lowest rate since 2008. But attrition among more junior associates increased. Women of color represented 15.42% of 1st- and 2nd-years who left their firms in 2014, the highest figure reported since 2009, when 15.84% of departing junior associates were minority women.
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