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Support for Diversity Grows, but Attrition Remains a Challenge for New York City Law Firms – New York City Bar Association Releases 2014 Diversity Benchmarking Report


Eric Friedman
(212) 382-6754

Kathryn Inman
(212) 382-6656

Support for Diversity Grows, but Attrition Remains a Challenge for New York City Law Firms – New York City Bar Association Releases 2014 Diversity Benchmarking Report

New York, October 1, 2015 – Despite growing support for diversity and inclusion goals and some noteworthy progress over the past year, New York City law firms continue to experience high rates of attrition among minority and women attorneys, concludes the New York City Bar Association’s 2014 Diversity Benchmarking Report. In the 2014 data, 23.6% of minority attorneys and 21.3% of women left signatory firms, compared to 14.7% of white men.

In the Report released today, the City Bar notes gains and losses for signatory firms. While signatory firms continue to commit financial resources, staff resources, and greater accountability for firm partners towards diversity and inclusion efforts, elevated turnover rates of women and minority attorneys continue to erode progress. The 2014 survey found that minority attorney representation declined at all levels; and, though percentage of women partners peaked in 2014, women are simultaneously declining among the associate ranks.

At the leadership level, however, signatory firms saw signs of success, with women partner representation reaching the highest level since the City Bar began tracking diversity data. The data also reflected an increase in representation of women and minorities serving on management committees as well as increases in both women and minority practice group heads.

“While many firms have displayed an increased investment in diversity efforts, attrition remains a problem,” said New York City Bar Association President Debra L. Raskin. “The City Bar is working with our signatory firms to innovate strategies that increase accountability and encourage greater representation of lawyers of color, LGBT attorneys, attorneys with disabilities and women attorneys throughout the profession.”

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

  • Signatory firms continue to provide core elements to support their diversity efforts: more than 90% of firms reported the presence of a diversity council, a diversity budget, and the existence of affinity groups; and more than 50% reported that management committee members serve on the diversity committee, with 30% serving as Chair. 96% of firms reported that diversity budgets remained steady or increased in the last year, and nearly 80% of firms anticipate an increase in diversity budgets for 2015.
  • The 2014 data reflected notable gains for women in leadership roles, with the number of women partners peaking at 19.4%, and the percentage of women serving on the firms’ management committees rising from 13.5% in 2007 to 18.3% in 2014. The number of firms lacking any female representation on management committees declined from 25% in 2013 to 15% in 2014, and the number of firms reporting more than three women practice group leaders increased from 51% in 2013 to 60% in 2014.
  • The 2014 benchmarking data reflected a drop in female new partner promotions from 33.2% in 2013 to 29.2% in 2014.
  • Representation of minority attorneys fell across the board: minority associates declined from 26.9% in 2013 to 26.2%; special counsel attorneys from 12.0% in 2013 to 10.9%; and partners from 8.4% in 2013 to 8.2%.
  • Minority and women partners continue to be disproportionately represented in income partnerships, rather than equity partnerships. The turnover rate for income partners more than doubled that of equity partners, 8.3% compared to 4.0% in the 2014 results.
  • Minority attorney management committee members increased from 5.2% in 2013 to 6.4% in 2014, and practice group heads from 5.8% to 6.1%.
  • To date, 118 New York City firms have signed the City Bar’s Statement of Diversity Principles, committing to working toward several goals focused on enhancing the diversity of the legal profession from the pipeline to firm leadership. The data collected from signatory firms enables the legal community to track its progress in upholding the benchmarks set forth in the Statement of Principles, and also helps the City Bar identify key issues to address in their programs and reports.

The 2014 Benchmarking Report is available at:

 About the Association

The New York City Bar Association, since its founding in 1870, has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the legal profession, promoting reform of the law and access to justice, and providing service to the profession and the public. The Association, through its 24,000 members, 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.