People of color and women remain underrepresented at law firms

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — NALP recently released its annual Report on Diversity at U.S. Law Firms, available at www.nalp.org/reportondiversity. The report, based on information from the 2020-2021 NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE), shows that overall, women and people of color continued to make incremental progress in representation at major U.S. law firms in 2020 as compared with 2019.

The percentage of Black partners and Black associates exceeded 2% and 5%, respectively, for the first time in 2020; however, representation of Black lawyers in law firms still trails that of Asian and Latinx lawyers. The percentage of associates who are Black women in 2020 (3.04%) finally surpassed the 2009 figure of 2.93% for the first time, equating to an increase of just one-tenth of a percentage point over this 11-year period.

While progress is slow for representation of women and people of color, the number of LGBTQ lawyers in large law firms continues to rise steadily. The overall percentage of LGBTQ lawyers reported in 2020 increased by approximately one-third of a percentage point, rising to 3.31%. LGBTQ representation among summer associates continues to grow at a much faster pace, increasing by 0.8 percentage points, from 6.86% in 2019 to 7.68% in 2020.

Data for non-binary lawyers were collected within the NDLE for the first time in 2020. While reporting was still somewhat limited, overall counts are included in the Significant Findings section of the report.

Key Findings:

The percentage of Black or African American associates surpassed 5% for the first time since NALP began collecting data and the share of associates who are Black women (3.04%) finally exceeded the 2009 figure of 2.93%. Eleven years later, representation of Black or African American women at the associate level has increased by just one-tenth of a percentage point.

After experiencing more than two decades of continuous growth, the percentage of Asian associates plateaued in 2020 at 12.12%, just below the 2019 figure of 12.17%.

Despite modest growth in 2020, Black women and Latinx women each continued to represent less than 1% of all partners in U.S. law firms. The percentage of Black partners overall finally surpassed 2% for the first time since NALP began collecting data.

The percentage of summer associates who are people of color increased by 1.2 percentage points, growing from 35.26% in 2019 to 36.48% in 2020.

Women accounted for over half of all summer associates (53.62%) for the third year in a row.

The growth in the percentage of LGBTQ summer associates continued to outpace that of LGBTQ lawyers overall, climbing from 6.86% of all summer associates in 2019 to 7.68% in 2020.