Law Firms

The 2021 class of summer associates was 'most diverse ever measured in every way,' new NALP report says

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The percentage of summer associates of color in major U.S. law firms increased by nearly 5 percentage points in 2021, increasing to 41.34%, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Association for Law Placement.

The gain is the largest in the 29 years that the NALP has tracked the information, according to a press release from the NALP and the report, titled 2021 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms.

Representation of women and LGBTQ people also increased in the summer associate ranks.

The percentage of summer associates who are women increased by 1.4 percentage points to 55.06%. It’s the fourth year in a row that women have accounted for more than half of summer associates.

The percentage of LGBTQ summer associates increased by nearly a percentage point, reaching 8.41% in 2021.

“Without doubt, this summer associate class was the most diverse ever measured in every way, and it holds the promise of a law firm world that is truly more diverse, equitable and inclusive,” said James Leipold, executive director of the NALP, in the report.

“The challenge for the industry is to retain, train, develop and promote this talented and diverse pool of new lawyers, so that five years from now, the associate ranks as a whole reflect similar diversity and representation, and 10 or 15 years from now, we can celebrate a partnership class that is similarly diverse.”

The report also included statistics on diversity among law firm partners and associates. Findings include:

• The percentage of associates of color has increased from 19.53% in 2010 to 27.60% in 2021. Much of the increase is due to increased representation of Asian associates.

• The percentage of female associates was 48.21% in 2021, the highest percentage in the 29 years that the NALP has been reporting data.

• People of color accounted for 10.75% of all partners in 2021, up from 10.23% in 2020. Most of the increase is due to an increase in the number of Asian and Latino partners.

• The percentage of female partners was 25.92% in 2021, up from 25.05% in 2020.

• The percentage of female equity partners was 22% in 2021, while the percentage of equity partners who were people of color was 9%. The percentages in 2020 were 21.3% and 8.1%, respectively.

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