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Eric Friedman
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Kathryn Inman
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Despite Some Advances, Diversity Remains a Challenge for New York City Law Firms - New York City Bar Association Releases 2011 Diversity Benchmarking Report

New York, November 14, 2012 – Despite some gains over the past year, New York City law firms continue to face challenges in the area of diversity, concludes the New York City Bar Association’s sixth Diversity Benchmarking Report.

The 2011 diversity results paint a picture of stagnation for women and minority attorneys. At the micro level there are improvements to be celebrated, interspersed with signs of slippage. Minority attorneys have reclaimed some ground lost during the recession and women continue to improve their representation at the partner level, yet are simultaneously declining among the associate ranks. While new hires across levels are more diverse than attorneys at signatory firms, elevated turnover for women and minorities continues to erode the gains. We are encouraged to find that firms with a critical mass of women on their management committees, defined as three or more, reported better results for women attorneys at every level.

The report’s findings, compiled from 74 surveys of New York City law firms that signed the City Bar’s Statement of Diversity Principles, included:

•    Despite efforts to retain the diversity of senior associates among new partner promotes, women attorneys declined from 44.4% to 33.0%, and minority attorneys from 18.7% to 16.8%, of senior associates elected to firm partnerships in 2011.

•    While there are more women and minority partners in firms with a two-tier partnership structure, there are fewer minority equity partners than those firms with a single tier. In 2011, while women accounted for 16.9% of equity partners, they represented 24.5% of non-equity partners. Respective results for minority partners were 6.1% and 8.5%.

•    After dropping from 3.6% of attorneys in 2009 to 3.1% in 2010, Hispanic attorneys rebounded slightly to 3.3% as of the end of 2011, while Asian attorneys remained at 12.8% of associates after declining from the 2009 to 2010 results. Conversely, Black attorneys declined overall and at the associate, special counsel and partner levels in the most recent reporting.

•    Usage of reduced-hour flexibility peaked in 2010 at 4.7% of all attorneys, 10.8% of women and 1.4% of men, declining to 4.2% overall in the latest reporting. Over 10% of signatory firms do not have any attorneys working part-time while 40% of firms report no men working on a reduced-hour schedule. The gender skew for part-time work is greatest at the associate level.

However, some positive findings were also noted:

•    More women on the management committee were associated with greater diversity by gender at nearly every level. For example, firms with no women management committee members reported 30% women new partner promotes compared with 42% at firms with three or more women among this leadership group.

•    Minority associates gained some of the ground lost from 2009 to 2010. Across all minority attorneys, representation rose from 16.6% to 17.2% in 2011 after declining from the high of 18.1% in March of 2009.

•    The percentage of women partners continued to grow, rising to a high of 18.3% since the City Bar began tracking diversity data. In addition, women attorneys registered gains among firm leadership, rising from 17.1% to 17.7% of management committee members and 15.4% to 17.3% of practice group heads.

•    The representation of openly gay attorneys continues to increase among signatory firms rising to its height at 3.6% in the 2011 results.

“While we are pleased that an emphasis on diversity has become increasingly prevalent in New York City law firms, the numbers presented in this report demonstrate a slow rate of change and indicate that many firms may need to reassess how they go about creating a workforce that better reflects our society,” said New York City Bar President Carey R. Dunne.

In 2003, more than 100 New York City firms signed the City Bar’s Statement of Diversity Principles, committing to work toward several goals focused on improving the diversity of the pipeline from the entry level all the way through to firm leadership.

The 2011 Diversity Benchmarking Report is available at: bit.ly/W7yV9i

The report’s appendices are here: bit.ly/T1p72i

 

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.