The largest law firms are slightly more diverse than they were last year, with minority attorneys and minority partners making gains. That’s what we found when we crunched the numbers for 223 firms that gave us that information for our 2014 Diversity Scorecard.
Our scorecard tallies the number of African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic and multiracial/other attorneys in various law firm jobs. The rank we award each firm is based on the number we get when we add the percentage of minority lawyers in the firm’s U.S. offices to the percentage of U.S.–based minority partners. The bigger the number, the better the firm’s rank. Here are highlights from this year’s scorecard:
Overall numbers improve. Minorities accounted for 14.1 percent of all attorneys in firms that reported their data to us, compared to 13.9 percent last year. Among partners, 7.6 percent were minorities, better than the 7.3 percent last year. A big gap still exists between the percentage of minority partners and that of minorities who aren’t partners, at 19.5 percent. (That figure was 19.2 percent last year.) Lastly, minority lateral hires, at 10.8 percent, and minority promoted partners, at 13.6 percent, are up somewhat over last year.
We have a new winner. The top-scoring firm for diversity this year is White & Case, an international firm with 1,895 lawyers. (It was No. 2 last year.) There, minorities—almost all of them Asian-American and Hispanic—account for 27.5 percent of attorneys and 21.8 percent of partners. Black attorneys account for 1.8 percent of all firm attorneys; black partners, 1.2 percent. The least diverse firm of those that reported their numbers is Wyatt Tarrant & Combs, a Southeast firm of 202 attorneys, in which 3 percent of attorneys and 1.7 percent of partners are minorities.
Black representation continues to slide. This is the only minority group to lose ground over the past five years, accounting now for 1.9 percent of partners and 3.9 percent of nonpartner attorneys, for an overall black attorney total of 3 percent. Total black attorney and nonpartner totals have slid every year for the past five; black partner totals have remained flat.
Asian-American lawyers are the biggest minority. Their numbers grow slowly and steadily, and they now account for 6.3 percent of firm attorneys. But the big gap between the percentage of Asian-American partners (2.7 percent) and all other Asian-American lawyers (9.3 percent) suggests that the bar to partnership is high.
the number of Hispanics grows. This group forms the second-biggest minority group after Asian-Americans among the firms that gave us data, for the first year surpassing the percentages of black lawyers in all categories (total attorneys, partners and nonpartners). They now account for 2.3 percent of partners and 4 percent of nonpartner attorneys, for an overall total of 3.2 percent Hispanic/Latino attorneys. Those numbers represent increases in those measures for most years over the past five years.
Am Law 100 firms perform better than others. Percentages of African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic attorneys are slightly better than totals for all firms.