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Nearly 58% of law firms have a designated diversity manager or director, up from 50% last year, according to a new survey. The survey was done by Altman Weil, a Newtown Square, Pa.-based legal consultant. The survey canvassed U.S. firms in the AmLaw 200 and includes responses from 80 participants collected in March and April. “This year, for the first time, more than half of law firms surveyed report having a Diversity Director,” Altman Weil Senior Consultant Virginia Essandoh said in a news release. “This continuing investment in diversity is a positive sign, and is reflected in recent industry studies showing some increases in large firms’ diversity demographics.” Nearly 80% of the diversity managers are lawyers, compared to 67% in 2007. But the number of people holding the position full-time decreased to 53%, from 61% in 2007. Forty-four percent of the lawyer-managers also had an active law practice. Of those, 65% had a billable hour requirement. The median annual compensation was reported at $184,000, up 5% from the previous year. Diversity managers who are lawyers made a median salary of $195,000, compared to $162,500 for the non-lawyers. The total budget allocation to fund the position and supporting staff was $477,500. All diversity managers served on their firms’ Diversity Committees. Seventy-one percent were also involved in recruiting, 67% were involved in lawyer and staff hiring and 62% were involved in professional development. Only 12% had input on lawyer compensation and 8% had input in partner reviews. Lorraine Power Tharp, who co-chairs New York State Bar Association’s Committee on diversity and leadership development, said law firms have acknowledged the importance of having a staff that reflects the changing demographics. “I think clients demand it and rightly so,” said Power Tharp, a partner in Albany, New York’s Whiteman Osterman & Hanna. “You’re not going to inspire confidence if it’s only the old white male establishment.” In addition to law firms, bar associations can also appoint people in charge of diversity, she said. For example, many of the NYSBA’s 23 sections now have diversity coordinators, as do some committees, she said.

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