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A report issued Thursday by a task force of the New York County Lawyers’ Association recommends retention and promotion as crucial to improving minority participation in the public and private law sectors. “This report advocates numerous concrete initiatives not recommended in prior studies,” said County Lawyers’ President Craig A. Landy. “For example, while many prior reports focused on increasing the number of minority lawyers in large firms — an important goal — NYCLA’s report outlines specific strategies aimed at increasing diversity in all sectors.” The Task Force to Increase Diversity in the Legal Profession completed an extensive analysis of minority representation in both the public and private sectors. It is chaired by Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Juanita Bing Newton of the New York Supreme Court and includes representatives from all areas of the legal profession. The report, which is available online at www.nycla.org, outlined barriers to achieving diversity, discussed steps now being taken to improve the situation, and set forth recommendations for improving minority recruitment, retention, mentoring and other areas of career development. “The legal profession must demonstrate its commitment to diversity by ensuring that individuals are not denied employment or career advancement opportunities because of their sex, race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, age or disability,” the report stated. The statistical analysis completed by the task force drew on data compiled by the American Bar Association, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, and federal and state courts. Citing data released in 2000 by the ABA’s commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, the task force reported that while blacks and Hispanics make up 14.3 percent of all accountants, 9.7 percent of all college and university teachers, and 12.5 percent of all professionals generally, they made up only 7.5 percent of all attorneys. The task force also relied on a 1997 report issued by the 2nd Circuit Judicial Council, which found that in 1996 the number of Article III judges in the 2nd Circuit totaled 105, with 95 judges being categorized as white. Of the 10 minority judges, seven were black. In terms of gender, 75 percent of the 64 active judges in the 2nd Circuit in 1996 were male. While the 2nd Circuit report indicated that the number of attorneys practicing in the circuit reflected the country’s racial and ethnic statistics, women made up only 27.3 percent of the circuit attorneys, while their national population totaled 52 percent. Of the female attorneys practicing in the 2nd Circuit in 1996, 88 percent were white. The number of minority judges in New York State courts rose from 9 percent to 11.35 percent from 1991 to 1997, according to a report by the New York State Judicial Commission on Minorities, which is cited by the task force. The same report indicated that minorities comprised 17.5 percent of the total number of associates hired at the largest law firms from 1991 to 1996, and more than 20 percent of the assistant district attorneys hired in New York City. The proportion of minority partners at law firms throughout the state remained at 2.9 percent during that period, however. MINORITY RETENTION The lack of minority representation in the partnership ranks is indicative of what the task force has identified as a major problem: the need for minority retention to become as important a goal as minority hiring. “Minority law firm partners are leaving firms at increasing rates and going to corporate law departments, government and partnerships at minority-owned firms … ,” the report said. “Inadequate supervision, feedback and mentoring, as well as onerous time demands, increase attrition of all associates — and may have a particular impact on minority associates.” Other issues and problems identified by the task force include the lack of promotion opportunities for minority attorneys, and the lack of sufficient mentoring programs, training and support groups. The task force recommended that law firms switch their focus on diversity to the percentage of minority attorneys retained by firms, as opposed to those newly hired. “Law firms should undertake formal diversity benchmarking exercises, including maintaining accurate records relating to the retention and promotion of minority attorneys within their firms,” the report said. “In addition, firms should establish an annual budget for diversity activities and ensure that funding is available to support the firm’s diversity initiatives for several consecutive years.” The report also recommended that firms provide meaningful client access to minority lawyers in order to assist their rise to partnership and develop mentoring programs specifically designed for minority associates.

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