TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 NALP Report On Diversity In U.S. Law Firms

NALPNALP, 2016 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms:

Women and Black/African-Americans made small gains in representation at major U.S. law firms in 2016 compared with 2015, according to the latest law firm demographic findings from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). However, representation of both these groups remains below 2009 levels. NALP’s recent analyses of the 2016-2017 NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE) — the annual compendium of legal employer data published by NALP — shows that although women and minorities continue to make small gains in their representation among law firm partners in 2016, the overall percentage of women associates has decreased more often than not since 2009, and the percentage of Black/African-American associates has declined every year since 2009, except for the small increase in 2016.

NALP Executive Director James Leipold commented on the new findings noting, “These national benchmark data are helpful in highlighting the overall progress, or lack thereof, in achieving greater diversity among the lawyers working in U.S. law firms, but the national figures mask many significant differences by law firm size and geography. In many ways these stories tell a narrative of difference, with the largest law firms having achieved much greater diversity than smaller law firms. And while it is encouraging to see small gains in most areas this year, the incredibly slow pace of change continues to be discouraging.”

Leipold continued, “Minority women and Black/African-American men and women continue to be the least well represented in law firms, at every level, and law firms must double down to make more dramatic headway among these groups most of all. And, while the relatively high levels of diversity among the summer associate classes is always encouraging, the fact that representation falls off so dramatically for associates, and then again for partners, underscores that retention and promotion remain the primary challenges that law firms face with respect to diversity.”

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