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Contact: Eric Friedman
(212) 382-6754
Kathryn Inman
(212) 382-6656

New York City Law Firms Face Continued Challenge on Diversity

New York City Bar Releases 2010 Diversity Benchmarking Report

New York, NY, January 21, 2011 – Despite modest gains over the past several years in lawyer diversity, New York City law firms continue to face multiple challenges in this area, concludes a new report from the New York City Bar Association.

The 2010 Diversity Benchmarking Report, based on data from nearly 90 New York City law firms, highlights some longer term progress but also underscores recent setbacks and new challenges in advancing the goal of diversity.

The Report’s findings include:

  • Since 2004, when the City Bar began collecting benchmark data, the number of women partners increased only 1.9% while minority partners rose 1.6%.
  • Over the past year, minority attorneys as a percentage of the total declined overall as well as at every key level up to partner, while women attorneys marked declines among partners and overall.
  • Minority associates and partners have had consistently higher attrition rates than white attorneys, since the City Bar began collecting voluntary turnover data in 2005.
  • Women represent 45% of associates, dropping to one in three special counsel attorneys, less than one in five partners, and one in 20 managing partners at signatory firms. The pyramid is even steeper for minority attorneys, accounting for nearly one in four associates yet only one in 10 special counsel attorneys and slightly more than one in 20 partners. The proportional decline through the hierarchy is most stark for women of color and Asian attorneys.

However, some positive developments are also noted:

  • Incoming partner classes continue to be more diverse than the partnerships they enter.
  • The diversity profile of practice group heads improved between 2009 and 2010 from 4.5% to 5.7% of minorities and 14.0% to 15.4% of women.
  • Over multiple years the diversity profile of management committee members has reflected the diversity of the underlying partnerships at signatory firms.
  • The usage of flexible work schedules has increased from 5% in 2004 to over 7% in the most recent results. While women continue to employ flexible work practices to a far greater extent than their male colleagues, the use of flexibility has increased at every level since the New York City Bar began tracking diversity statistics.

“While we’re pleased that a diversity mindset and some key best practices have taken hold in the legal profession, we are concerned about the slow pace of change. Firms need to analyze their specific efforts to determine what is working and what is not,” said New York City Bar President Samuel W. Seymour. “The City Bar is determined to help New York’s law firms achieve their diversity goals.”

In 2003, the City Bar adopted a Statement of Diversity Principles and subsequently began tracking diversity benchmark data for signatory law firms as a means to measure and accelerate the change process. The 2010 report emphasizes the need to focus on the retention and development, rather than the recruitment, of diverse attorneys and to identify the root causes, rather than the symptoms, for the continued under representation of diverse attorneys across levels. Recommendations include better integration of existing diversity efforts, attention to improved implementation of diversity activities, and continued work to promote firm-wide buy-in, in order to advance diversity progress at signatory firms and law firms citywide.

The 2010 Diversity Benchmarking Report is available at: http://bit.ly/hCJrvS

The report’s appendices are here: http://bit.ly/ePqKaM

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About the Association

The New York City Bar Association (www.nycbar.org), since its founding in 1870, has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the profession, promoting reform of the law and providing service to the profession and the public. The Association continues to work for political, legal and social reform, while implementing innovative means to help the disadvantaged. Protecting the public’s welfare remains one of the Association’s highest priorities.