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The good news first: Last year the percentage of minority attorneys at the nation’s largest firms finally broke into the double digits — 10.1 percent, up from 9.7 percent in 2000. The not-so-good news: As in every past year, most of that growth took place among associates. The number of minority partners not only increased at a much smaller rate, but they continued to make up a much smaller proportion of the law firm population. These are some of the key results from the latest Diversity Scorecard, our annual survey of minority hiring at the nation’s leading firms. Data was collected by our colleagues at The National Law Journalas part of its census of the 250 biggest firms in the country. Statistics were reported by the firms themselves, which submitted numbers as of Sept. 30, 2001. Last year 206 firms provided their minority statistics — eight fewer than the previous year, but eight more than in 1998. (In the past, the NLJonly asked for minority data every other year.) The increase in minority associates was striking, rising from 13.2 percent in 2000 to 14 percent last year. That growth has been constant for over a decade: Attorneys of color made up 10 percent of associates in 1996 and 5.4 percent in 1989. While Asian Americans continued to make up the biggest and fastest-growing portion of minority associates last year, the percentage of black, Hispanic and Native American associates also moved up, though at smaller rates. But the lopsided ratio between associates and partners of color became even more uneven, as the proportion of minority partners increased just a 10th of a point, to 3.9 percent. Our historical data, though incomplete, suggests that the percentage of partners of color has increased by a full percentage point every five to seven years: In 1989, minorities composed 1.9 percent of all partners; in 1996, 3 percent. Again, Asian Americans accounted for most of last year’s rise in minority partners; blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans made even smaller gains than they did in the associate ranks. Blacks continued to outnumber Asians in the partnership population, but that probably won’t last. Just as Asians surpassed blacks in the associate ranks in the mid-’90s, they will likely take the lead among minority partners before the end of the decade. While last year’s composite statistics showed only small changes from 2000, the numbers for individual firms registered bigger shifts. Last year we noted that because the typical firm has few minority attorneys, a slight change in actual numbers could produce a sharp change in the minority percentage. But since last year was the first time we published this survey, we didn’t realize just how substantially the percentages — and the rankings that are based on them — could shift. Now we know. Pennie & Edmonds gained two minority attorneys, for example, while Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle lost two. However, because both firms are relatively small, the ripples were big. Pennie & Edmonds jumped four places, to No. 3, while Curtis, Mallet-Prevost dropped five spots, to No. 8. Steel Hector & Davis — once again, the most diverse large firm in the country — was just about the only firm on the entire chart to repeat its previous ranking. Everyone else moved up or down, sometimes dramatically so. On our list of the top 25 firms, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson and Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich moved the most, up 10 places each; Cooley Godward dropped 13 spots. Five firms left the top 25 entirely, with Irell & Manella falling the hardest, from 16 to 50. Of the five new firms that moved into the top 25, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe traveled the farthest, from 33 to 14. Such sharp changes in rank were the exception — most firms registered smaller shifts and stayed in the same general neighborhood as last year. Still, everyone moved, and that’s why we don’t list firms on our main chart in order of rank, but alphabetically instead. This approach takes some of the weight away from a firm’s specific ranking, which we feel should be viewed as a rough measurement of its degree of diversity — not as an indication of whether it’s a good or bad firm. A thorough analysis of a firm’s diversity requires a look not just at its minority percentage or rank, but at the whole picture. At some firms, minority attorneys may compose a small percentage, but their absolute numbers may be sufficient to provide a sense of critical mass. No firm has a truly substantial number of minority partners, but some have more than others. And it’s also worth looking at the ethnic composition of a firm’s attorneys of color. Asian Americans are the dominant group among minority lawyers at 96 firms; blacks at 84; and Hispanics at 16. However, Asians are more numerous at the firms where they predominate than blacks or Latinos are at their firms. It’s also helpful to look at how a firm’s minority percentage has changed over time. We’ve added a new feature to our main chart that tracks each firm’s three-year performance. For example, if a firm went from 10 percent minority in 1998 to 15 percent last year, then its change was 5 percent. (This statistic tracks a smaller universe of 161 firms. We weren’t able to calculate the change for firms that didn’t report minority data three years ago; that didn’t qualify as one of the 250 largest firms in 1998; or that have merged since then.) The biggest gainer was a firm that hasn’t always been mentioned in discussions about diversity: Cravath, Swaine & Moore. The biggest decrease was registered by another New York powerhouse, White & Case. But it’s not entirely accurate to call Cravath a winner and White & Case a loser. A closer look at the minority numbers for each firm reveals a more complicated picture. While Cravath has achieved a high minority percentage, coming in at No. 17 among all firms, almost all of its diversity is in the associate ranks — the firm reported only one minority partner. White & Case, by contrast, has 17 partners of color, along with 178 minority associates, more than at all but two other firms. But the presence of lawyers of color at White & Case is diluted by the firm’s huge size. Other firms also aren’t the winners or losers that they might appear to be on first glance. Morrison & Foerster dropped in rank from two to four, because its proportion of minority attorneys declined by 1.9 percent. But the firm still had more minority associates than any other firm in the country except for the far larger Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and more minority partners than any other firm in the top 10 besides Steel Hector. While Morrison fell, its neighbor across the bay, Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May in Oakland, rose from 18th to 10th place. However, while Crosby Heafey added 10 associates of color, it lost two minority partners. Interpreting the statistics on minority lawyers has always been a case of deciding whether the glass is half full or half empty — or more accurately, whether the glass is a little bit full or a lot empty. Most people agree that the number of minority attorneys at firms isn’t as high it should be, and probably won’t be for years to come. Focus on the fact that the numbers are so small, and you’ll get depressed. Focus on the fact that at most firms the numbers have slowly but steadily increased for three decades, and you’ll have grounds for some optimism. Related charts: Diversity Scorecard 2001 Minority Attorney Numbers: Firm Highs and Lows Research assistance by Shannon Holman and Michael Ravnitzky.

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