Committee Reports

2016 Diversity Benchmarking Report

For more than a decade, the City Bar benchmarking research has illustrated enhanced diversity efforts in firms as well as overall incremental gains for women and minority attorneys. However, it has also recorded elevated attrition rates of both women and minorities, and a significant subset of law firms still without any minority and women attorneys in firm or department leadership roles.

With regard to overall representation and hiring, the 2016 benchmarking data remains relatively consistent with the results reported in 2015. We further examined the status of women and minority attorneys in the 71 firms that participated in both the 2015 and 2016 benchmarking surveys and performed statistical comparisons on representation, leadership, and hiring. The data did reflect changes in leadership metrics in 2016, including a significant increase of women and minority representation on management committees, as well as notable increases in LGBT attorney selfreporting. Despite these advances, racial/ethnic diversity at the partner level, erosion in the associate pipeline, and voluntary attrition remain challenges.

Highlights of the research include:

• Women and minority attorneys made gains in leadership bodies, with the percentage of women serving on management committees increasing to 23.6% from 20.3% in 2015 and the percentage of minorities serving on management committees increasing to 9.4% from 7.1% in 2015. The percentage of law firms with three or more women attorneys on the management committee increased from 24% in 2014 to 41% in 2016, and the percentage of law firms with three or more minority attorneys on the management committee more than doubled from 7% in 2014 to 18% in 2016.

• Still, nearly half of signatory firms have no racial/ethnic minorities on their management committees and more than one-third have no minority practice group heads.

• In 2016, white men represented 77% of all equity partners at signatory firms. Minority and women partners continue to be concentrated at the income partner level, rather than at the equity level. Moreover, the turnover rate for income partners in 2016 was 6.6%, almost double the 3.4% turnover rate of equity partners.

• Overall representation of minority attorneys increased slightly to 20.6% in 2016 from 18.8% in 2015.

• Erosion in the associate pipeline directly affects future leadership. 45% of associates are women compared to 19% of partners and 28% of associates are racial/ethnic minorities compared to 9% of partners. By contrast, 43% of associates are white men compared to 76% of partners. Female attorneys represent 46% of junior level associates, but decline to 44% of midlevel women associates, and 42% of senior level women associates. Representation at the junior level increased, but minority representation has leveled off or declined for mid- and senior level associates: in 2016, 36% of first-year associates were minorities—dropping to 26% of mid-level associates, and 22% of senior level associates. By the eighth year, only 20.5% of associates were minorities.

• Voluntary attrition is down overall in law firms, but continues to disproportionately impact minority and women attorneys. 15.6% of minorities and 14.3% of women left signatory firms in 2016—150% and 135% above the 10.6% rate for white men respectively. Even at the equity partner level, differences in voluntary attrition persist – with rates of 9.8% for women and 9.3% for minorities compared to 3.7% for white men.

• LGBT attorney representation has more than doubled since the City Bar began collecting data in 2004, from 1.6% to 4.1%, and representation of self-identified LGBT partners has doubled from 1.4% in 2004 to 2.8% in 2016.

• Four percent of all attorneys used flexible work arrangements in 2016 – 9% of women attorneys and 1% of men attorneys. Flexible work arrangements are used most frequently by Special Counsel attorneys, and 13% thereof are racial/ethnic minorities.

• Signatory firms’ leadership continue to reflect increasing commitment to diversity and inclusion efforts, with 44% of firms reporting that a management committee member serves as chair of the diversity committee, an increase of seventeen percentage points from 27% in 2015.

• Signatory firms are implementing “better practices,” with a majority of firms providing attorney development opportunities with an enhanced focus on client relationships, and building more inclusive firm cultures