It’s time for some real talk about how terrible our profession is at ensuring diversity.
Women account for a third of the profession, but only a fifth of law firm partners are female. Twenty percent of law school graduates are people of color, but less than seven percent of law firm partners are. If you give law firm partners a legal memo and tell them a white man wrote it, they will rank it uniformly higher than if they are told a black man wrote it. Women and people of color are also paid less, under-represented on governance committees, and work more hours than men, but somehow generate less billable hours in that time.
And scarce indeed are reports that a woman or person of color is the highest-paid individual in a law firm. Lawyers of color comprise 8% of all equity partners and firms, and LGBT lawyers clock in at a depressingly low 2%.
Things are slightly less grim for in-house counsel jobs, where women hold 23% of the positions, and academia, where women hold 37.5% of tenured positions.
Our profession’s diversity and inclusion problem isn’t fixing itself, which is why law firms need to embrace D&I from the top down, focus on inclusion and sponsorship (not just diversity and mentorship), using your inclusion values in all aspects of hiring, reviewing, and firing team members, broadening the pool of applicants in creative ways, and improving accountability for D&I at every level of your organization. You can (and should) learn more about law firm diversity & inclusion on Lawyerist right here.