What IS the State of Diversity in Law Firms?

February is Black History Month. It’s a good time to look at Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in our own spheres, to take stock of how we are doing today. The common knowledge is that diversity is moving slowly at most law firms. But is there any data, particularly any granular data, over time?

Enter the NALP “2021 Diversity in U.S. Law Firms” report by the National Association for Law Placement, Inc. (NALP). I highly recommend this report for its detailed, annual data on diversity in U.S. law firms. The report is a free PDF download.

Source: NALP 2021 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms

As you can see from the graph above, the growth in Black Partners has been modest. The percentage of Black Partners is 2021 is 2.22%, up from 1.7% in 2009. The NALP Diversity report shows data both for “People of Color” as well as for Black, Asian, and Latinx people. The granular view is essential as the growth of Black partners lags the growth of “People of Color.” The reality of these figures speaks for itself.

Source: NALP 2021 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms

While the overall growth in diversity of Associates is improving, the growth for Black Associates is slow. From 4.66% in 2009 to 5.22% in 2021, with an apparent dip from 2011 to 2016, the percentage of Black Associates is on the slow rise again.

Below is the table from the NALP table with the detail on demographics in U.S. law firms.

Source: NALP 2021 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms

I have barely scratched the surface of the rich data which the NALP report provides on diversity in U.S. law firms, including women, LGBTQ lawyers, and veterans by state and by size of law firm. My objective was to crystalize for myself what the current state of diversity for Black lawyers in U.S. law firms is today and the trend lines.

You can find the report here: National Association for Law Placement “2021 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms.”

-Maureen

Don’t Miss: Thomson Reuters 2022 Report on the State of the Legal Market

It was this time last year when began to learn how profitable law firms had been in the first year of the pandemic. That profitability cast a completely different light on the historical law firm pressure to work long hours in the office.

Therefore, I looked forward to this year’s Thomson Reuters report. There are many terrific charts in the report. Below I’ll highlight three charts, mainly to encourage you to read the entire report. You can find the report here.

Profit Per Equity Partner Growth

This could be called “The Money Chart” in the legal market, growth in Profit Per Equity Partner (PPEP). Growth in 2021 was quite healthy, even compared to the robust growth in 2020. Mid-sized firms lead with 22.4% rolling 12-month growth.

Lawyer Turnover Analysis

The strong demand in legal services lead to the high turnover rate, especially amongst associates. The associate turnover rate for all firms reached 23.2% across all firms. For Am Law 100 firms the turnover rate hit 23.7%. See the report for a chart which breaks this out by firm size.

Associate Compensation Growth

For Big Law firms “facing the retention crisis,” there was nowhere to go but up. Associate compensation rose by over 15% in the Am Law 100.

There is so much more in this report, including:

  • Lawyer head count growth
  • Hours worked per lawyer
  • Expense growth and overhead detail (recruiting, staff compensation, KM, and technology lead)
  • Demand growth by practice

The report navigates “managing the way back” and lists specific, actionable recommendations. A new, essential approach for law firms: “flexibility.”

I encourage you to download the “Thomson Reuters Institute and Georgetown University Law Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession: 2022 State of the Legal Market Report.

In case you are wondering, I am not associated with either entity. I like data and thought that many of you would find this data interesting, too.

-Maureen

Good Read: “Virtual law firm FisherBroyles gets real”

By Jenna Greene in Reuters

Link to article

FisherBroyles is a 283 attorneys law firm whose attorneys and staff are “distributed” or remote, a model which is increasingly attractive to attorneys. In their model, attorneys take home 80% of what they bill. In traditional law firms, the take home is often closer to 33%. In 2021, FisherBroyles top-paid attorney took home $6,742,540.

Managing partner, Michael Pierson, says that their hourly rates are often two-thirds what a traditional law firm would charge as there is no real estate cost.

It’s definitely working for the firm. In 2021, FisherBroyers revenue was up 30% to $136 versus $105 million in 2020.

Read more at the link, including about two of FisherBroyles major engagements in 2021.

-Maureen