For the first time, women make up majority of law firm associates, new NALP report says

  • Print.

Silhouettes of five women

“Real change is slow, hard and imperceptible, but it does happen,” said Nikia L. Gray, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement. Image from Shutterstock.

Women have a slight majority in the ranks of associates at U.S. law firms, the National Association for Law Placement says in its latest diversity report.

Women made up 50.31% of associates in 2023, the first time that they were a majority in the 30-plus years that the NALP has been tracking firm diversity data, according to a Jan. 9 press release and the 2023 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms released Jan. 9.

Another positive is the percentage of associates of color, which increased 1.8 percentage points in 2023 to 30.15%. That is the largest year-over-year increase for this group measured by the NALP. It is also a big jump since 2010, when the percentage of associates of color was 19.53%.

The percentage of female associates of color among all associates was 17.5% in 2023, up from about 11% from 2009 to 2012.

The NALP began tracking firm diversity data in 1991, when women accounted for a little more than 38% of firm associates.

“It took another 32 years for women to achieve equal, and just slightly greater, representation among associates,” said Nikia L. Gray, executive director of the NALP, in the press release. “Real change is slow, hard and imperceptible, but it does happen.”

Women, however, remain underrepresented among firm partners, despite a 1.1 percentage point increase in their numbers in 2023. They now make up 27.76% of all partners. The numbers are even lower for women equity partners in multitier firms, where only 23.7% of equity partners are women.

The share of partners of color was 12.01%, while the share of female partners of color was less than 5%.

The NALP report says underrepresentation of women and people of color at the partnership level is “a pattern that holds true across all firm sizes and most jurisdictions.”

The report is based on information from the 2023 NALP Directory of Legal Employers, which includes race, ethnicity and gender information for nearly 108,000 partners, associates and other lawyers in 812 U.S. law offices.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.