I plowed into the 2018 Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Survey expecting the same old, same old. And, of course, much of it is depressingly predictable, such as the dominance of (what else?) white men in the ranks of equity partners at law firms.

But—brace yourself—there was some encouraging news too! (Conducted in the spring of 2018, the Vault/MCCA survey analyzed the responses from 232 law firms.) First, the happy stuff:

  • Women now make up more than 46 percent of associates and over 20 percent of equity partners. (Although women’s representation remains higher at the non-equity level, breaking that 20 percent mark is a big deal.)
  • More women are getting promoted to partnership. In 2017, women represented 38 percent of lawyers elevated to partnerships—a two percentage point gain over 2016 and a big gain from the 30 percent reported for 2007.
  • More women than ever are getting recruited as lateral partners. In 2017, 28 percent of lateral partners hired were women, compared to 24 percent in 2016.
  • More women than ever are represented among the ranks of new equity partners. It was 29 percent in 2017—a figure that’s higher than any previous year.
  • Women have more leadership roles. (24 percent of management committee members are female, as are 24 percent of lawyers leading practice departments and 21 percent of U.S. office heads).
  • Lawyers of color are gaining at all levels, from associates to partners to leaders. They represent nearly 17 percent of law firm attorneys, (up 1 percent from last year), and 9 percent of partners. (In 2007, it was 6 percent.) And women of color make up the majority of new hires.

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