Despite law firms' efforts to promote diversity, results of a new survey of women and minorities at New York firms "paint a picture of stagnation," according to the New York City Bar's sixth Diversity Benchmarking Report. The study, which reported data for 2011, is based on the responses of 74 law firms that were signatories to a city bar statement of diversity principles.
"While new hires across levels are more diverse than attorneys at signatory firms, elevated turnover for women and minorities continues to erode the gains," the report said, noting there are higher turnover rates at every level for women lawyers compared to men and higher turnover for minority attorneys compared with whites. "Elevated turnover rates contribute to the creation of a 'leaky faucet' of talent for diverse attorneys."
Women continue to improve their representation at the partner level, reaching a new high of 18.3 percent in the 2011 results, while simultaneously declining among associate ranks. The study found that firms with more women on their management committees are generally more diverse firm-wide.
Minority attorney representation at the firms rose slightly in 2011, to 17.2 percent from 16.6 percent in 2010, but failed to reach the 2009 high of 18.1 percent, the report said. In particular, the percent of Hispanic and Asian attorneys increased in 2011 after declining from 2010. Meanwhile, the representation of black attorneys declined last year.
"The numbers presented in this report demonstrate a slow rate of change and indicate that many firms may need to reassess how they go about creating a workforce that better reflects our society," Carey Dunne, the city bar's president and a partner at Davis, Polk & Wardwell, said in a statement.