Large law firms increase hiring of diverse attorneys, new data shows

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Large law firms significantly increased their numbers of diverse attorneys between 2019 and 2021, according to new data from Firm Prospects, which provides analysis of trends in the lateral hiring market.

The data, which was published by Bloomberg Law, shows that lawyers of color comprised nearly 5% of all lateral hires made by the nation’s top 100 law firms last year. In comparison, diverse attorneys made up 3.14% of lateral hires by top firms in 2019.

Bloomberg Law also published the numbers that were used to calculate these percentages. According to Firm Prospects, the nation’s top 100 law firms made 21,948 lateral hires last year, and 1,088 were diverse attorneys. In 2019, those same law firms made 17,720 lateral hires, and only 557 were diverse attorneys.

Chantal Raymond, CEO and founder of Inclusive Legal Search, a recruitment company that places attorneys from underrepresented backgrounds, told Bloomberg Law that some law firm leaders are taking new approaches to hiring to meet the rising demand for attorneys.

“I’ve seen them consider candidates that I don’t think would have been considered if this were 2018 or 2019, especially diverse candidates, and I’ve seen those candidates get multiple offers,” Raymond told Bloomberg Law.

Kathryn Holt Richardson, the founder and principal of HR Legal Search, a boutique legal search company, also told Bloomberg Law that more large law firms are seeking lawyers who started at smaller firms and now have several years of experience. Others are recruiting lateral attorneys from government offices and agencies, academia and in-house corporate departments, which tend to have high numbers of diverse talent.

“The firms that are willing to do things differently than they were done pre-COVID are going to thrive in the war for talent, and the other ones have a slim chance of survival,” Richardson told Bloomberg Law.

Lateral hiring at law firms was up nearly 111% in 2021 following a 30% decline in 2020, according to survey results released by the National Association for Law Placement in March. The 110.9% increase was the largest year-over-year increase since the NALP began tracking that kind of data 23 years ago.

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