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.
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.
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.
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.”