Earlier this month, The Legal Intelligencer affiliate The American Lawyer reported on a development that was as disheartening as it was expected. Citing its own yearly surveys of National Law Journal 250 firms, the legal profession’s flagship publication found that the percentage of lawyers from racial minority groups practicing at the nation’s largest firms decreased in 2009.

The decrease in percentage terms was relatively small — from 13.9 percent to 13.4 percent. But it was significant because it was the first such decrease in the 10-year history of the Am Law “Diversity Scorecard” survey, and because data from the survey combined with other factors suggest cause for more serious concern over the longer term.