We hope that in the future those firms that decided not to participate in the survey will reconsider. Admittedly, their diversity numbers may not be stellar now, but ask any athlete or dieter: It’s easier to improve when you measure your performance.
LEADING THE PACK
Among the diversity winners, New York’s Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison tops the list for the second year in a row, confounding our prediction that a runner-up might grab the number one spot. Instead, Paul, Weiss pulled comfortably ahead of most of its nearest rivals, raising its percentage of minority attorneys from 23.0 percent to 25.3 percent. Only Palo Alto’s Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati remained close on Paul, Weiss’s heels, with 25.2 percent of its lawyers belonging to a minority group.
Here’s the most telling statistic: Among the 20 most diverse firms, which together made 160 new partners last year, exactly one black attorney was promoted to partner.
(We should point out that Miami’s Adorno & Yoss, which is 38 percent minority, easily outpaces all the firms on the Scorecard in terms of diversity. However, we do not include Adorno & Yoss in the Scorecard because some of its offices are affiliates rather than fully merged operations. In this, we are following the practice of our sibling publication The American Lawyer, which does not include the firm in its Am Law 200 survey alongside more financially integrated firms.)
Our new data on partner promotions and lateral hires allows us to take a closer look at what firms are doing to maintain and build their diversity. There’s room for some optimism in the results. There’s also plenty of room for improvement.
First, the encouraging part. The most diverse firms are obviously working hard at adding more color to their partnerships. Across the Scorecard as a whole, 11.0 percent of all newly promoted partners were lawyers of color. For the top 20 firms, however, 16.3 percent of new partners were minority lawyers. That makes sense; after all, if a firm has more minority associates to begin with, more are likely to end up as partners.
A nationwide snapshot of the most diverse firms, nationwide
Jenkens & Gilchrist 18.3%
Wilson Sonsini 15.1%
Akerman Senterfitt 13.7%
Munger, Tolles 13.5%
Irell & Manella 12.2%
Townsend and Townsend 12.2%
Milbank, Tweed 11.8%
Epstein Becker 10.8%
Kenyon & Kenyon 10.3%
O’Melveny & Myers 10.3%
Greenberg Traurig 58
Holland & Knight 54
DLA Piper 37
Morrison & Foerster 35
Sidley Austin 35
Akerman Senterfitt 34
Latham & Watkins 34
Kirkland & Ellis 33
Jones Day 31
For more snapshots, including demographic breakdowns, click here.
The top 20 firms are also hiring more minority lateral partners: 14.4 percent of their lateral hires were lawyers of color, versus 11.3 percent of lateral hires for all the Scorecard firms. Again, there’s probably an element of success breeding success here. Minority laterals are often more inclined to join a firm known to be diversity-friendly. But the magnitude of the difference in hiring rates also suggests that these firms are simply more aggressive in seeking out talented minority lawyers to bring on board. Whatever the reason, it seems that the most diverse firms have a significant edge when it comes to improving their diversity still further.
However, Asian-American and Hispanic lawyers are benefiting far more than black lawyers from this activity. At the top 20 firms, Asian-American lawyers made up almost two-thirds of new partners and almost half of lateral hires, while Hispanic attorneys accounted for nearly a third of new partners and almost a third of all lateral hires. What about African-American lawyers? Here’s the most telling statistic: Among the 20 most diverse firms, which together made 160 new partners last year, exactly one black attorney was promoted to partner. (African-American intellectual property litigator Rachel Adams became a partner at Howrey in January 2006.) Let’s hope that, in future years, some of the 350-odd black nonpartners currently employed at these 20 firms have a better shot at partnership.
In fact, even at the most diverse firms, minority partners are not being made at the rates one would expect from the makeup of the nonpartner pool. In other words, the ranks of new partners are noticeably whiter than the ranks of nonpartners. At the top 20 firms, a quarter of all nonpartners (mostly composed of associates, though including some other positions) are lawyers of color. Yet the percentage of minority attorneys among new partners is much lower � 16.3 percent.
Looking at all of the 209 firms in the Scorecard, the difference is even more dramatic. Last year, whites made up 82.8 percent of all nonpartners, but 89 percent of new partners, meaning that white associates still have a better chance of making partner than associates of color. Among minority lawyers, only Asian-American lawyers are being promoted to partner at rates that bear some relation to their presence in the U.S. population at large. Even then, the proportion of newly minted Asian-American partners is significantly smaller than the proportion of Asian-American nonpartners at large firms.
One possible explanation is that very few Asian-American nonpartners are senior enough to be considered for partnership. If that’s true, in the next few years we should see the percentage of Asian-Americans among new partners rise dramatically, as more Asian-Americans rise through the associate ranks. If that increase doesn’t happen, the question will be what is standing between Asian-American associates and partnership.
As for African-American and Hispanic lawyers, firms are slightly more likely to hire them as lateral partners than to promote them from within. While 3.4 percent of lateral partner hires were black and 2.8 percent were Hispanic, only 2.1 percent of new partners were African-American and 2.4 percent were Hispanic.
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