Press Releases

City Bar to Focus on Pipeline to Diversify the Legal Profession

Releases Task Force Report

As multi-year tracking shows slow ascension to leadership and elevated attrition rates for attorneys of color and women, and convinced that it’s necessary to reach future lawyers at younger ages in order to racially diversify the legal profession, the New York City Bar Association has announced a commitment to improving the student pipeline. 

In a report released today called “Sealing the Leaks: Recommendations to Diversify and Strengthen the Pipeline to the Legal Profession,” the City Bar outlines the shortcomings of current diversity efforts and a number of steps it will take and recommend to others in the legal profession to “seal leaks” in the pipeline, including partnering with schools, government agencies and non-profits; implementing systems to track pipeline program successes; facilitating opportunities for lawyers to volunteer in schools; modifying the City Bar’s Statement of Diversity Principles to include a commitment to supporting pipeline initiatives; advocating for the diversity and inclusion CLE credit category to encompass pipeline-related courses, trainings and activities; and encouraging legal employers to credit an attorney’s pipeline-related activities similar to how pro bono hours are credited.

“While we continue to do what we can to diversify the legal profession today, as a bar association it falls to us to take the long view as well,” said City Bar President Roger Juan Maldonado. “The evidence indicates we need to reach kids early to ensure they acquire the skills and opportunities to put them on track to have the opportunity to become successful professionals.”

The report is authored by the City Bar’s Legal Education and Pipeline Task Force, chaired by B. Seth Bryant, which includes representatives from student-pipeline programs, signatory firms, corporations and other pipeline experts. The report identifies “two overarching warning signs” based on data from the City Bar’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion’s 2016 Benchmarking Report, which collects and analyzes the recruitment, promotion, and attrition data from the law firms that have signed on to the City Bar’s Statement of Diversity Principles. First, “after decades of slow but seemingly steady advances in diversifying the profession, progress for Black/African American and Latinx lawyers, in particular, has appeared to stagnate or, based on recent trends, regress. Second, erosion in the associate pipeline is depleting the pool of talent to leadership in firms.”

The Task Force found “serious breaches at the pre-professional level that disproportionately affect Black/African American and Latinx students who might otherwise be candidates for the legal profession” and that numerous challenges exist for these students “in developing the right skills to pursue opportunities in the law, becoming exposed to opportunities, and in finding programs to support their interest in the profession.”

These educational deficits begin at an early stage, the Task Force found, and in a related effort, the City Bar is urging elimination of Competitive Admissions to Elementary and Middle Schools in New York City, because, among other things, “measures of young children’s ability and behavior through competitive admission screening and testing are unreliable and racially biased.”

The City Bar’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion, along with the City Bar’s eight Diversity Cluster Committees, already runs comprehensive pipeline initiatives to help high school, college and law students prepare for a legal career through programs that provide academic support and preparation for law school, career exploration, networking and mentoring, and substantive and professional skill development. The core pipeline programs include the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program for high school students, the Launching Your Career Series and LSAT Prep Conference for college students and recent graduates, and the Diversity Fellowship Program for first-year law students.

“The City Bar has seen how successful pipeline programs impact students of color,” said Deborah Martin Owens, Executive Director of the City Bar’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “Those who enter our programs come with the greatest enthusiasm and potential one can ask for but just need some guidance and mentorship to flourish in school or in their first job. We are determined to strengthen the pipeline so none of this potential is lost.”

With a seed grant from the New York Community Trust, the City Bar is launching a research project to assess the New York City area pipeline program landscape and build partnerships with key pipeline organizations. And to help manage the pipeline efforts moving forward, the City Bar has hired a Diversity Pipeline Initiatives Coordinator, a new position at the Association.  

The report can be read here:

About the Association
The mission of the New York City Bar Association, which was founded in 1870 and has 24,000 members, is to equip and mobilize the legal profession to practice with excellence, promote reform of the law, and uphold the rule of law and access to justice in support of a fair society and the public interest in our community, our nation, and throughout the world.