Report Finds 'Stagnation' in Diversity at New York City Law Firms

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Diversity remains a challenge for New York City law firms, according to a 2011 Diversity Benchmarking Report released on Wednesday.

The report (PDF) by the New York City Bar Association says its survey results “paint a picture of stagnation for women and minority attorneys. At the micro-level there are improvements to be celebrated, most small, interspersed with signs of slippage.”

The bar compiled the information from a survey of 74 New York City law firms that signed its statement of diversity principles. The report and a post at the bar’s 44th Street Blog note these results:

• Diversity of new hire classes has been declining in recent years since peaks in 2006, when women made up 47.3 percent of the class, and 2008, when minorities comprised 28.4 percent of the class. In 2011, only 43.1 percent of the new hire class consisted of women and 25.6 percent consisted of minorities.

• Women and minority lawyers have higher attrition rates than their respective male and white colleagues, contributing to a “leaky faucet” of talent.

• The percentage of minority lawyers increased from 16.6 percent in 2010 to 17.2 in 2011. Still, they have not regained all of the lost ground; in March 2008 the percentage of minority lawyers was 18.1 percent. Similarly, the percentage of minority associates rose to 24 percent in 2011, compared to 23.5 percent in 2010 and 25 percent in 2009. At the partnership level, the percentage of minorities in 2011 was 6.6 percent, the same percentage as in 2009.

• Women lawyers lost a little ground at the associate level, making up 44.5 percent of all associates, compared to 45.1 percent in 2010 and 45.2 percent in 2009. But they gained at other levels. The percentage of women partners rose to a high of 18.3 percent, compared to 17.5 percent in 2010 and 17.8 percent in 2009. Women gained in other leadership roles too, rising from 17.1 percent to 17.7 percent of management committee members and from 15.4 percent to 17.3 percent of practice group heads.

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