Recently 170 GCs pledged a call to action in an open letter to law firms: “Improve Diversity or Lose Our Business”. This message and ultimatum are much needed in an industry with 19% women equity partners, 16.1% diverse attorneys and 3.2% LGBT attorneys. This, however, is not the first time we’ve seen this approach. In 2004 there was the “A Call to Action: Diversity in the Legal Profession”, which was written by Sara Lee’s General Counsel Roderick Palmore. Soon after, 60 GCs had signed on in support. In 2016, the ABA issued their own “call to action”. In July of that same year, the ABA’s House of Delegates passed Resolution 113, which called on clients to direct a greater percentage of the legal services they purchase to diverse attorneys. There are many more examples beyond these three. This begs the question, how effective are these public calls for change?

Looking at the data in Legal Compass on diverse attorneys at NLJ 250 and Am Law 200 firms, we clearly see two things:

  1. The diversity problem in the legal industry has existed for a long time
  2. Not much has changed

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