Minorities in the Law

Midlevel Minority Associates at Big Law Firms Have More Debt, Lower Bonuses

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Midlevel associates at large law firms who are black and Hispanic appear to be at a financial disadvantage, according to a study by the Minority Law Journal.

When compared to their white and Asian counterparts, these minority associates have more debt and lower bonuses, the Minority Law Journal reports in an excerpt reprinted in the Am Law Daily.

At the same time, black associates in the study reported lower billable hours, even though they took less vacation than other groups. The study is based on data from a survey of third-, fourth- and fifth-year associates by American Lawyer.

Average bonuses were about $29,000 for midlevel African-American associates, $34,000 for Hispanics, $37,000 for whites, and $41,000 for Asian-Americans, the study found. It explained that firms outside of New York typically don’t pay lockstep bonuses, instead basing them on several factors that include billable hours.

More than 90 percent of Hispanic and African-American lawyers took out law school loans, compared to 80 percent of whites and about 75 percent of Asian-Americans, according to the findings. The two minority groups were also more likely to have school debt of more than $100,000.

The bonus differences are likely based not only on the lower billable hours, but also on geography and associate year, the story says. A higher proportion of the midlevel black and minority associates surveyed were third-years and were based in regions where bonuses are lower.

But billable hour differences were also significant. African-Americans reported annual billables that were at least 100 hours lower than other groups. Hispanics reported 25 to 30 fewer billable hours.

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