Diversity has become an expanding focus in the legal field as firms recognize the importance and value of hiring and retaining associates of underrepresented communities. According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Law Placement (NALP), 45% of associates are women and 23% are minorities. However, there is still work to be done to increase diversity at the firm leadership level. A 2018 NALP survey found that only 19% of all equity partners are women, only 6.6% are racial/ethnic minorities, less than 3% are LGBTQ+, while less than 0.5% of partners self-reported having a disability. Although these numbers are higher than in previous years, many firms now recognize that the commitment to diversity must also extend to firm leadership teams with an emphasis on elevating and promoting partners and counsel.

Diversity in firm leadership can increase retention of underrepresented associates. Law firms have made admirable strides in the hiring of summer associate classes and entry level lawyers from traditionally underrepresented communities, but retention of these associates remains a key area for improvement. A diverse firm management team shows associates that they are valued at all levels of the firm hierarchy, and there are clear opportunities for them to progress. Additionally, having such a leadership team demonstrates to new associates that they have someone to whom they can relate, directly impacting satisfaction, productivity and retention. A leadership team that reflects the incoming associate classes demonstrates that firms truly value diversity and are committed to advancing underrepresented associates.

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