Committee Reports

Sealing the Leaks: Recommendations to Diversify and Strengthen the Pipeline to the Legal Profession




For the last decade, the New York City Bar Association (“City Bar”) has used benchmarking surveys to collect and analyze the recruitment, promotion, and attrition data from 88 law firms that have signed onto the City Bar’s Statement of Diversity Principles[1] (the “Signatory Firms”). While the findings continue to reflect slow ascension to leadership and elevated attrition rates for attorneys of color and women, more troubling is the failure of the pipeline into the profession to promote diversity[2], which directly impacts the pool of talent considered for law firm leadership.

The City Bar views the ‘Diversity Pipeline’ as integral to the goal of increasing the number of diverse and underrepresented groups who enter into and progress within the legal profession.  Underrepresented groups include racial minorities and women, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and attorneys with disabilities. There are distinct challenges that affect Black/African American and Latinx students compared to the experiences of other groups. The focus of this report is to address those distinct challenges. Moreover, while the “legal profession” encompasses many different types and venues of practice, including private practice and governmental practice, because much of the data used in this report is taken from the City Bar’s 2016 Diversity Benchmarking Report[3], the emphasis on the legal profession in this report relates to large law firms as represented by the Signatory Firms and not governmental offices or other firms where the data is not readily available.

In 2016, the Benchmarking Report survey included questions on Signatory Firms’ participation in and support of student-pipeline programs. Distinct from associate-pipeline programs, student-pipeline programs are run largely by nonprofit organizations with a mission to recruit and prepare students at the middle-school, high-school, and college levels for academic and professional success.  81% of Signatory Firms support pipeline efforts for high school students and law students, but this support drops to 60% at the undergraduate level[4] – a critical point in a student’s progression to the profession – where significant support is needed to facilitate exemplary LSAT performance and the acquisition of academic skills needed for success in law school.

We believe that the Signatory Firms fully appreciate the importance of pipeline success to the long-term success of a more inclusive legal profession, and fully appreciate that more work needs to be done to bring about real change.  To help continue and expand this dialogue, the Committee to Enhance Diversity in the Profession assembled the Legal Education and Pipeline Task Force, comprised of representatives from student-pipeline programs, Signatory Firms, corporations, and other pipeline experts. By drawing on 2016 Benchmarking Report data as well as the extensive expertise of Task Force members, the dedicated work of the Task Force yielded this report.

It bears mentioning that this report has a particular focus.  Given the greater challenges experienced by Black/African American and Latinx students who want to enter and thrive in the legal profession, as manifested in the Benchmarking data[5], this report calls for the further development of sustainable student pipeline initiatives targeting these groups.  In order to be successful, these initiatives must be supported by and in concert with a wide group of stakeholders, including the lawyers, law firms and bar associations that have already committed to creating a more diverse profession.  The pipeline represents one point of data in a complicated web of factors that coalesce to deprive students of equal educational and professional opportunities all along the educational life of a New York City student. These include the segregated and inequitable nature of New York City schools and programming, and the impact of bias faced by youth.

While this report focuses on the pipeline into and within law firms, the Task Force tries to indicate other areas where it believes the City Bar may be of assistance to those in other parts of the legal profession – and beyond the legal field – already tackling these issues in myriad ways and on other fronts.  At its heart, however, we hope this report serves as a call to action to lawyers who want to contribute to a much broader effort to support equal opportunity for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or other factors.  New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza asked “who’s being privileged with opportunity and who’s not?”[6]  As lawyers, we have a duty to think about and act upon this question and although our focus may naturally be the legal profession, we hope that our proposed recommendations will engender an even broader conversation.

Enhance Diversity in the Profession Committee

Hon. Rosalyn H. Richter, Co-Chair
Kathy Hirata Chin, Co-Chair

Pipeline & Legal Education Task Force[7]

Neysa Alsina, Former Counsel, New York City Bar Association
Venetta Amory, Director of Diversity, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP
Ricardo Anzaldua, Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary, Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation
Bryna Beckler-Knoll, Senior Manager-Attorney Recruiting & Diversity, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Jason Belk, Dean of Students, New York University School of Law
Mary Lu Bilek, Dean, City University of New York School of Law
B. Seth Bryant*, Managing Partner, Bryant Rabbino LLP
Benson Cohen, Partner, Sidley Austin LLP
Melique Jones, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Ari Joseph, Director of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, Brown Rudnick LLP
James O’Neal, Executive Director, Legal Outreach, Inc.
Sonji Patrick, Director of Education, LatinoJustice PRLDEF
Heather Reid, Diversity & Inclusion Manager, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
S. Andre Warner, Associate General Counsel, New York Life Insurance Company

*Task Force Chair


The Benchmarking Report yields two overarching warning signs.  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.[8] Second, erosion in the associate pipeline is depleting the pool of talent to leadership in firms. According to the Report, “in 2016, 36.2% of first-year associates were minorities—however, this diversity is eroded as minority associates continue to turn over at higher rates than their White male colleagues. By the eighth year, only 20.5% of associates are minorities.”[9] Minorities made up 8.3% of equity partners in 2016.[10]

Figuratively, the ‘diversity pipeline’ has been likened to a series of pipes that conduct candidates through the stages of the educational system and into the legal profession. The pipeline has 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. As reflected in the Benchmarking Report, even for those students who make it to the profession, there appear to be embedded obstacles to success. When measured against recent U.S. census data, Black/African American and Latinx students in particular remain underrepresented in law schools and in the larger legal profession.

The American Bar Association data for law school enrollment by ethnicity[11] (the “ABA Ethnicity Data”) show that in 2018, White students represented 61.4% of law students as compared to 60.7% of the general population, and that Asian/ Pacific Islander students represented 6.1% of law students as compared to 6% of the general population. Yet Latinx students represented 12.5% of law students as compared to 18.1% of the general population, and Black/African American students represented 7.9% of law students as compared to 13.4% of the general population.[12]

Leakage in the pipeline is evident in the number of Black/African American and Latinx lawyers practicing at each rung of the profession, particularly in the large law firms.   According to the Benchmarking Report, not only do “[t]he voluntary attrition rates for women and minority attorneys continue to exceed those of white men” generally,[13] the data trends are particularly disturbing with respect to Black/African American and Latinx lawyers.  Starting at the associate level, “Of the 27.6% of minority associates, Asian/Pacific Islander attorneys make up 14.4%, Black/African American attorneys and Hispanic attorneys make up 5% each, and multi-racial attorneys make up 3.2%.[14]  The data fares no better when it comes to partnership.  Although gains were made in earlier periods, minorities in general remain underrepresented in Signatory Firm partnership ranks, with the lowest representation being Black/African American and Latinx lawyers.  According to the Benchmarking Report, in 2007, “minorities”[15] represented 6.0% of non-equity partners and 5.1% of equity partners, while in 2016, “minorities” represented 9.0% of non-equity partners and 8.3% of equity partners.[16] The Report further stated that, in 2016, “[a]mong all partners, male and female, Caucasian women make up 16.0%, Asian/Pacific Islanders make up 1.4%, and Black/African American and Latinx partners represent 0.6% and 0.4%, respectively.”[17] It is no surprise, therefore, that law firm leadership bodies remain “staggeringly homogenous” and overwhelmingly Caucasian according to the Benchmarking Report.[18]

The results of the Benchmarking Report are sobering. They reflect data reported by midsize and large law firms that have demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion and have ample resources to achieve their goals. This data does not include information from the thousands of other law firms and legal practices in and around New York City.[19] In addition to stated commitments to inclusion, Signatory Firms have been spurred by clients to do better in terms of diversity. There are numerous examples of general counsel, whether minority or not, who inform their outside law firms that diversity performance will be a factor in the business relationship with the law firm.[20]  These clients make one aspect of the “business case for diversity” clear to their outside counsel. The question then is: based on the Benchmarking Report, why have large law firms failed to make meaningful progress on diversity and inclusion, notwithstanding their resources and motivation (or reason to be motivated) to do so?

Diversity data for the roughly 6,400 other law firms (non-Signatory Firms) in New York City is not readily available. Although some of these firms are minority-owned–and therefore presumably more amenable to hiring and promoting diverse lawyers–there are few such firms and they tend to be small. According to a report in the New York Law Journal, in 2016, there were only 268 lawyers in the 25 largest minority-owned law firms in New York State.[21]

The ABA data, the Benchmarking Report and the New York Law Journal report show that serious efforts to diversify the legal profession continue to be necessary.  While the commitment to diversity of law schools, influential corporate legal departments, and the largest legal employers has ostensibly continued or even become more prominent, the efforts appear to be frustrated by challenges that, among other widely known effects, undercut the presence of Black/African American and Latinx students in law schools and in the larger legal profession. The data indicates that from law schools to law firms, Black/African American and Latinx lawyers in particular are seriously underrepresented, and that minorities in general are leaving law firms at far higher rates than their white male counterparts. The legal profession must reassess how it views and addresses the challenge of the diversity pipeline.


From January 2016 to July 2017, the Task Force held a series of meetings where participants analyzed the Benchmarking Report and discussed the pipeline generally and the various educational and professional stages of the pipeline, i.e., elementary and middle school, high school, college and post-secondary school and law school and life in the profession. In these meetings, Task Force members and professionals from pipeline programs, law schools and law firms assessed the particular challenges faced by Black/African American and Latinx candidates.  During the meetings, the Task Force discussed a select number of successful pipeline programs and how such programs operated to understand the characteristics that drove their success. Given the role of the EDITP Committee “to provide thought leadership and support for the signatories of the City Bar Statement of Diversity Principles”, the Task Force approached the pipeline challenge with an intent to (i) identify the fundamental challenges to progress on the problem, and (ii) determine the most effective ways to use the platform of the City Bar to address it.

With those goals, this report sets forth:

  1. The findings of the Task Force on the challenges to solving the pipeline issue that confront students, legal pipeline focused organizations and the legal profession generally.
  2. Recommendations for consideration by the City Bar, lawyers and law firms.
  3. An appendix of New York City focused legal pipeline programs.**


Practical Challenges for Youth/Students

The Task Force believes that many challenges exist for Black/African American and Latinx 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.  Each is discussed in turn.

Skill development

Educational deficits at early stages of the pipeline act as a major breaking point for Black/African American and Latinx students.  The Task Force pointed to these educational deficits as a prime reason for the low number of Black/African American and Latinx students who develop the skills necessary to progress through high school and into post-secondary education.  Helping Black/African American and Latinx students to develop skill sets and to gain access to competitive high schools, colleges and graduate schools is a critical need.  During Task Force meetings, professionals involved in pipeline programs that serve students lamented that even when students have enthusiasm for the law, they too often lack the skills required to successfully progress through the educational system and into the legal profession. Clearly, that deficiency is a systemic problem – the inability to broadly and consistently deliver quality education to underserved communities. The Task Force heard many stories where high performers in weaker school settings were disappointed after moving to the next level of education and finding that they were not as prepared as they believed they were.

These educational deficits are borne out by the numbers.  Although graduation rates in New York City schools are on the rise,[22] the state testing data still underscores a wide achievement gap when it comes to Black/African American and Latinx students.[23]

A cursory review of current news articles demonstrates the ongoing and vigorous debate about how best to close the achievement gap, desegregate New York City Schools, and provide equal educational opportunities to all New York City Students.[24] It is reported that the New York City Schools Chancellor, Richard Carranza, is deeply invested in this issue and is pursuing possible solutions such as creating new admissions standards for certain schools, expanding gifted programs, fostering “feeder” schools, etc.[25] Although the Task Force believes that all possible solutions should be on the table, we focus here on pipeline and other educational programs that require long-term engagement and emphasize skills development because we believe such programs can play a significant role in mitigating the deficiencies in the public-school system. Such programs can provide an alternative environment where students can be assessed by professionals who understand the challenges and who are dedicated to trying to maximize the student’s potential.  While the challenge of skills development is most acute for younger students, the issue is also significant for Black/African American and Latinx students in college, law school and as junior lawyers. Task Force members discussed programs focused on college and post-baccalaureate students that offered internships and mentor programs, as well as legal reasoning and LSAT preparation. These offerings can be highly important to building hard skills but also in developing soft skills such as professional etiquette and decorum and unwritten rules of the workplace. Task Force members emphasized the crucial need for stronger connectivity between these programs, including non-legal, focused skills-building programs, at the various stages of the educational process.

Exposure to the law and other professions

Stakeholders concerned about the pipeline issue must work to expose students on a widespread and periodic basis to the law and other professions. There are strong “pipeline programs” that are not focused specifically on the law, but that are tremendously effective conduits of the legal pipeline. This is especially so for programs that serve students at the elementary or junior high school level where exposure to a broad range of skills-building or professional opportunities is highly beneficial and where there are not as many law-focused pipeline programs.  For elementary and junior high school students, exposure to the law might occur through “career day” programs where the legal system and various legal practices are described to students, or mock trial programs or mentorship programs. For high school or college students, exposure might include internships or specialized programs on legal reasoning or writing or SAT or LSAT preparation.  While these types of programs exist, as best the Task Force could discern, there is presently no unified effort or unifying entity that manages a comprehensive approach to them. The Task Force believes that embracing the challenge of exposure and the need for increased collaboration among stakeholders is of paramount importance.

In the experience of Task Force members, student-pipeline programs tend to engage with a limited coterie of highly motivated or well-connected Black/African American and Latinx students.  Exposure is not far-reaching or systematic. It is likely that, from an exposure perspective, most working-class Black/African American and Latinx students who might be interested in participating in pipeline programs “leak” through the “pipes” simply because they never encounter someone who informs them of these opportunities at critical junctures of their education. Students must rely on their schools or adults in their lives to facilitate this exposure. Surprisingly, even with respect to older, college-aged Black/African American and Latinx students involved in pre-law studies, exposure is an issue. Task Force members heard anecdotal evidence of instances where individuals in those populations felt excluded from pre-law organizations and discouraged by pre-law college advisory resources.

Finding programs – connectivity

For Black/African American and Latinx students who might be interested in pursuing academic development generally or a career in the law, finding programs and then transitioning to and from programs at the various educational stages – an effort that the Task Force describes as “connectivity” – is another significant challenge. The above discussion on exposure underscores the need for a more systemic approach to conducting outreach to underserved students. It is equally important to make information about pipeline programs as readily available as possible so that motivated students can find them, whether through communications with teachers, parents and advisers, an internet search or via social media. Given these realities, the Task Force finds that aiding students by guiding them to strong, skills-building programs, regardless of their connection with the law, is a high-ranking objective.

Economic and other life challenges

The Task Force identified other challenges that may affect the most vulnerable Black/African American and Latinx students: chiefly poverty[26] and homelessness[27]; others may have significant family or financial responsibilities. These students may not have the luxury of seeking “exploratory” developmental opportunities such as pipeline programs or unpaid internships. The challenge of successful student-pipeline programs is not only developing relationships with candidates who have the potential to become lawyers, but also maintaining their attention and connectivity in the face of overwhelming life challenges.

Practical Challenges for Pipeline Programs

Student-pipeline programs range from projects that provide mentorship or guidance, to organizations and institutions that offer a full academic program or substantive skills development curricula for extended periods, to internship programs, to one-day courses that provide exposure to the law or other professions, skills development, or networking opportunities. Drawing on the expertise and experience of its members, the Task Force identified organizations that either focus on the law or on programs without a specific theme but that facilitate introducing disadvantaged youth to educational and professional opportunities. The Task Force found that a significant challenge for pipeline programs is fostering connectivity between programs and across educational levels to ensure that students don’t get lost along the way. A related hurdle is obtaining resources to accomplish that mission and to add capacity to reach more students.

Fostering connectivity

The Task Force believes that the lack of coordination between pipeline programs undercuts the effectiveness of the overall pipeline effort. During Task Force meetings, it became clear that, largely as a result of a lack of resources, programs did not have staff focused on regular outreach efforts. In addition, it became apparent that programs were not systematically linked with each other in a manner that might lead to natural transitions of students from one program to the next.  Further, the lack of coordination has meant that only the strongest programs have tracked student progress, while most programs do not, which results in a paucity of data regarding the outcomes of students who participate in these programs.

The coordination problem is exacerbated by the subtle distinction that exists between law-focused pipeline programs and programs that are not focused on the law. The distinction seems to result in a failure to maximize the opportunities to work with the larger cohort of organizations focused on youth development as opposed to youth development for careers in the law. As a matter of theme, law-focused pipeline organizations aim to conduct students through the system and into the legal profession by offering a range of “legal” experiences, including mock-trial competitions, internships in law firms, lawyer mentor relationships, etc.  As skills development seems to be the most crucial challenge confronting Black/African American and Latinx students, the Task Force questioned whether programs that offer just internships or mock trial experiences by themselves support skills development. To be clear, some of the programs that offer internships or mock trial experience also offer significant skills building curricula on top of those other experiences, which is a best practice. However, the legal profession should not lose sight of the many non-law focused programs that heavily invest in skills development of students, but that may not offer legal experiences. Because of the skills-building strengths of these programs, they may be more effective partners in combating the legal-pipeline dilemma than are law-focused programs that offer activities of limited duration such as week-long internships or abbreviated mock-trial contests.

To improve connectivity between pipeline programs that drive Black/African American and Latinx students into and through the legal profession, the starting point should be ensuring that the legal profession and the pipeline programs themselves identify those organizations that have demonstrated success in helping students and young professionals to advance. Given the need to cast a wide net and the importance of skills building at the earlier stages of educational development, the Task Force strongly favored programs that build skills—critical thinking, writing, reading comprehension—whether they have a legal theme or not. At later stages the focus should be on identifying the strongest law-focused programs.

Connectivity needs to be measured. A major challenge for many pipeline programs is tracking the progress of students—as measured by their progress through the pipeline, for example, to higher educational levels, other pipeline programs, professional affiliations, etc.—which requires resources that most pipeline programs don’t have. In order to seek financial and other support, pipeline programs should be able to provide benefactors with data on the success of the organization’s activities. Without tracking, pipeline programs are unable to demonstrate their results through objective criteria.  Therefore, supporters or potential donors to programs that are unable to provide tracking data must make decisions on whether to provide gifts based on other factors such as the personal force of organization leaders, anecdotal information about performance or the general reputation of the organization. This type of information would be much more effective at demonstrating the impact of pipeline initiatives if coupled with data showing that a high percentage of program participants enter the legal profession or otherwise outperform their peers in terms of educational or professional attainment.


For student-pipeline programs, having adequate resources to maintain their operations and to grow them is a significant challenge. The most successful programs have limited capacity for student participation and few resources for outreach. Given the importance of skills development, resources become even more significant as the most impactful programs have prolonged engagement with their students, which require a significant investment for professionals and other staff, a venue to host meetings, and general operations. In terms of outreach, resources are important for ensuring that programs are finding the population of students who are the most motivated and most likely to benefit. Through our discussions, the Task Force found that pipeline programs have limited time for contact with schools and students, and constrained bandwidth for follow up efforts.

In Task Force meetings, it became clear that existing programs operating at substantially full capacity cannot meet the demand from motivated and qualified students.   More must be done to increase the program capacity and reach of successful programs.  As discussed below, the Task Force recommends that the City Bar expand its partnerships with outside organizations, such as the Department of Education, private foundations, SUNY/CUNY and other stakeholders in order to explore ways to support pipeline programs that offer and promote long-term engagement with school-age students.

Ultimately, the Task Force believes that, given the gravity of the pipeline problem and the resources wielded by the legal profession, this burden should be shared. While pipeline programs themselves must advocate for their own existence, it is unrealistic for pipeline program leaders to carry the weight of this message alone.  The pipeline issue must be championed by powerful advocates who can use resources, influence and moral persuasion to influence the legal profession to address the pipeline issue in a manner that is direct and purposeful.

Practical Challenges for the Profession

The Task Force has identified several challenges faced by the profession in alleviating the pipeline problem. Lawyers need to “walk the walk” and do more, attacking the problem in ways that are laser-focused on success. The profession must use its influence in collaboration with other stakeholders to mitigate the societal problem of an educational system that simply fails to prepare many of its students for meaningful participation in today’s society.

Lawyers heal thyselves

The legal profession in the United States has generally recognized that, as a result of race and gender discrimination, it has been largely homogenous for hundreds of years and that it needs to diversify and be more inclusive. Influential organizations like the American Bar Association, the City Bar and numerous others—including many Fortune 500 legal departments and the Signatory Firms—have embraced diversity and inclusion initiatives as part of the solution. As described above, significant progress on diversity and inclusion matters starkly contrasts with alarming recent trends when comparing diverse subgroups. As demonstrated in the Benchmarking Report, measurable progress has been achieved in Signatory Firms with respect to white women and, to a lesser extent, Asian/Pacific Islander men and women.  Such progress has, generally, not been achieved with regard to Black/African American and Latinx attorneys.

Given the resources that the legal profession wields and the prominent and near universal calls for greater diversity in the profession, the lack of progress for Black/African American and Latinx attorneys presents a critical challenge demanding immediate attention. Given the stagnation reflected in the Benchmarking Report, the Task Force believes that the legal profession must go beyond the standard “menu” of diversity and inclusion activities and take responsibility for helping to solve the pipeline problem both within their own organizations and by supporting strong external initiatives.

Push for broader engagement on diversity and inclusion

Based on the foregoing, it is clear that the legal community needs to make a greater investment of time and resources in student-pipeline programs. As already discussed, these programs can impact societal challenges by 1) exposing more Black/African American and Latinx candidates to the law, 2) helping them to build skills that can enhance their success in life and/or the law, 3) providing mentorship and other networking opportunities, and 4) helping usher candidates through the various stages of the pipeline. The legal profession must become unified in its support for effective programs and more urgent about this problem if meaningful progress is to be made. As one commentator expressed well,

“Success requires a move away from the plethora of one-day, one-week, one-month, or even one-year programs, however shining they may be. It requires a move away from undocumented programs, however good they may feel. Achieving diversity requires: (1) an abiding commitment to educational opportunity; (2) an acknowledgement of the education reality and the issues the achievement gap poses to any diversity effort seeking real results; (3) a dedication to a limited palette of research-based, strong pipeline programs with attention to documented results; and, finally, (4) a commitment to programs that are sustained over time, connected to each other along the pipeline, systematic and systemic.”[28]

As part of this effort, lawyers should also commit to supporting and partnering with existing programs aimed at addressing the larger societal issues that contribute to decreased educational opportunities for minority youth in New York City, a deficit that begins well before a student may be considering whether to become a lawyer or other professional.  These include programs run by the Department of Education, the City University of New York and foundations with an educational focus.

The Task Force also discussed the phenomenon that lawyers in law firms, corporations, or governmental entities that engage deeply on pipeline issues tend to be the ubiquitous diversity proponents of their organizations. This seems to reflect that diversity and inclusion efforts are taken very seriously by some “diversity champions” within organizations who actively work to further the issue, while the larger community of lawyers are either sympathetic, but not meaningfully engaged, or apathetic.

Much of the diversity and inclusion progress achieved in the legal profession has resulted from the efforts of diversity advocates who have pushed and pulled for the last 25 years.  This cadre of professionals have gone above and beyond their regular responsibilities and advocated within their organizations and the larger community to bring attention to and celebrate diversity and inclusion. However, the recent trends suggest that this personal energy is not enough.  The Task Force believes that it is critical to go beyond the cohort of motivated allies and to engage lawyers who are sympathetic to pipeline issues but who may not be regular participants in the efforts. In addition, it is important to try to involve lawyers who may not yet have become conscious of the seriousness of the issue.

The challenge is how to recruit those who are either sympathetic but unengaged or apathetic in order to develop a bigger cohort of committed and engaged diversity and inclusion advocates. Those who are sympathetic might confront competing personal or professional responsibilities that make it unrealistic to commit to new non-essential activities. Those lawyers may be good candidates for one-time events or financial contributions to pipeline programs. Employers might also reward efforts on pipeline programs, especially those law firms who use data regarding their diversity and inclusion commitment in their marketing materials or in response to client diversity-and-inclusion inquiries.  Like pro bono services, law firms may count such efforts as part of any internal targets required or encouraged for their attorneys. Similarly, corporate law departments may support such activity and reward lawyers who perform in an exemplary manner. With respect to large corporations, diversity and inclusion offices are often housed within the human resources or general procurement functions.  These offices are often more developed than the efforts organized within the in-house legal departments.  Therefore, highlighting diversity and inclusion “wins” by in-house legal departments could help the in-house legal department shine within the larger organization.

Lawyers who are apathetic to diversity and inclusion matters may become sympathetic with consciousness-raising activities like unconscious bias seminars or other events intended to focus on fairness and equity. It should be a goal of Signatory Firms, as organizations committed to diversity and inclusion, to push those values within their professional ranks.

Focus on success

Another challenge that the Task Force identified for the legal profession in attacking the pipeline problem is adopting a focus on success, which the Task Force members agreed means supporting programs that emphasize skills development through long-term, skills-building curricula. Strategies to shift the focus to these sorts of pre-professional programs must be developed and employed in the same manner that lawyers use when attacking other important work:  thoughtfully, systematically, comprehensively and indefatigably. With respect to organizations like the City Bar or law firms, this may mean working with partner organizations to develop criteria to assess the success of pipeline programs. With respect to individual lawyers, this may mean devoting more time or resources to the issue in a manner comparable to other personal commitments. This may take the form of pledges or challenges, whether payable in time and attention and/or money, which are focused on pipeline-supporting efforts.

Related to the question of effectiveness, Task Force members discussed the need to work with stakeholders and strategically mobilize resources for the various levels of the pipeline. Making broad outreach efforts and supporting programs tailored to the earlier stages of the education system is certainly helpful and perhaps individual lawyers can be mobilized to lend support to existing efforts.  But, lawyers may naturally gravitate towards later-stage pipeline programs that have demonstrated success or that are likely to lead to successful outcomes in a law-related profession. As a corollary, it would seem logical that efforts at the postsecondary stages of development (college, law school and bar admission) may be better coordinated through national efforts and organizations, with local organizations and institutions offering targeted programs and support for diverse talent studying in their localities. When diverse candidates complete law school and turn their attention toward launching a career, local organizations are perhaps best equipped to mentor and guide professionals toward success in the locality of employment. The City Bar and the Signatory Firms can partner with local organizations and associations to implement in New York City a gold standard of the types of efforts that are effective.

Impact the larger issue of education and preparedness

As discussed at the outset, the legal profession’s challenge to increase diversity and inclusion in the profession is undercut by the societal challenge of poor-performing schools.  The profession could do much to highlight this issue and to attempt to engage with local school systems in a partner-like manner that recognizes that there is a shared interest in having students receive instruction that prepares them to be lawyers, engineers, doctors, or scientists, etc.  While not a primary focus of the Task Force, members agreed that local organizations like the City Bar can do much to lead lawyers to make a significant impact on this issue. These efforts can influence national organizations like the ABA and local organizations across the country.  For example, City Bar leadership can explore partnerships with the Department of Education, private foundations, local city and state colleges and law schools, with the goal of identifying ways that lawyers can contribute time and resources to these efforts.

Pipeline Efforts within Law Firms

While the Task Force focused on underrepresented youth, it believes that law firms must continue to improve the representation of minority lawyers from their junior ranks to the highest levels. Simply educating youth about the law and recruiting lawyers of color into firms is not enough. As noted in the Benchmarking Report, the rates of attrition for minority lawyers at firms are significantly higher than those for their White male colleagues. While some may not define efforts to retain lawyers within their firms as “pipeline” work, the Task Force believes that all “leaks” in the “pipeline” toward equity partnership are worth addressing.

Diversity work at many law firms today is often comprised of educating partners and associates on the value of having a diverse workforce, running sensitivity and implicit bias trainings, and celebrating the unique cultures that comprise our common workspaces through heritage month events and panels discussing the importance of diversity. While such efforts are laudatory, they fail to fully address the serious challenges of achieving higher retention rates of minority lawyers or increasing the number of minority partners at firms.

The pipeline challenge affects law firms, in-house departments and other legal services environments. The legal profession has embraced efforts to address it, however, more strategic commitments are necessary to plug the leaks for associates and income partners to retain and advance lawyers from diverse backgrounds. Firms should approach associate-pipeline work internally through strategic solutions that are tailored to the needs of their minority populations. Such efforts should include more focused attempts at exposing minority lawyers to business development opportunities, providing them with leadership and “soft” skills development training, ensuring that they receive formal and informal mentoring opportunities, and training associates and partners on how to communicate effectively and establish sponsor/protégé relationships across differences.


Based on the foregoing, the Task Force makes the following recommendations for the City Bar’s consideration as well as the consideration of the various City Bar standing committees that are engaged in diversity and inclusion efforts:

  1. Undertake to augment the City Bar’s pipeline work and program offerings, including by partnering with outside stakeholders and funders to (a) implement a system to track pipeline program successes, and (b) facilitate volunteer opportunities for City Bar members who want to give time or resources to support pipeline and related programs in New York City.
  2. Modify the City Bar Statement of Diversity Principles to explicitly include a commitment to supporting pipeline initiatives, to be signed by all Signatory Firms and measured through the annual benchmarking survey and the City Bar’s Diversity & Inclusion Office.
  3. Engage in a broad effort to develop connections and collaborate with outside stakeholders, nonprofits, schools, government agencies and private foundations already focused on addressing educational deficits in New York City schools.
  4. Convene the City Bar’s most influential members from corporate law departments and law firms, as well as individuals from academia and diversity-related organizations, including educational and pipeline organizations, to serve on the Enhance Diversity in the Profession Committee and be tasked with continuing to generate and incubate innovative ideas on how to address the pipeline challenges in education and the legal profession.
  5. Encourage diversity and inclusion pipeline efforts through, for example, trainings, workshops, programs and outreach that are focused on pre-secondary youth and that may be eligible for CLE credit.  Moreover, as a way to encourage participation by a wider group of lawyers, the City Bar should advocate for granting diversity and inclusion CLE credit to pipeline-related courses, programs and activities that are aimed at supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives in the legal profession.  In addition, the City Bar should advocate for legal employers and law firms to credit an attorney’s pipeline-related activities in the same way that pro bono hours are credited.
  6. As a longer-term undertaking, strive to serve as a centralized “connectivity” catalyst that could be a vehicle for coordination and strategy around pipeline efforts.

May 2019


**Please see PDF linked at the top of this page for the full Appendix



[1] Statement of Diversity Principles, New York City Bar Association (All websites cited in this report were last visited on May 16, 2019.)

[2] “Pipeline” refers generally to the educational path taken by students who are interested in attending law school, as well as the path from associate to partner at law firms.  A successful associate-pipeline program may include: (1) a meaningful mentorship program in which members of firm management are participants; (2) opportunities for diverse attorneys to participate in professional development “partner incubator” programs such as Associate Leadership Institute (; and (3) a strong retention initiative program that focuses on ensuring attorneys of color and women have the opportunities and tools needed to achieve success.  A successful student pipeline program provides diverse students with academic support and preparation for law school, career exploration opportunities and exposure to the profession, professional and substantive skill development, and networking/mentoring opportunities.

[3] NYC Bar 2016 Diversity Benchmarking Report, New York City Bar Association (the “Benchmarking Report”)  As discussed below, the Benchmarking Report relies on data supplied by Signatory Firms.  Although the focus of the report is, therefore, law firms, of course a successful legal career can take many different forms and involve many different employers and organizations.

[4] Id. at 16.

[5] See Point II, infra at 3-5.

[6] Christina Viega, New York City schools Chancellor Richard Carranza on segregation, national politics, and being Mexican-American, Chalkbeat, June 22, 2018,

[7] The Task Force thanks Eli Cohen of the New York City Bar Association for his invaluable assistance in reviewing and editing this report. The Task Force also thanks Arlene Mordjikian for designing the report’s cover artwork.

[8] This report covers those groups tracked for purposes of the Benchmarking Report and does not cover Native Americans.

[9] Benchmarking Report at 11.

[10] Id. at 9.

[11] American Bar Association, 2018 JD/Non-JD Enrollment Data, 2018

[12] United States Census Bureau, QuickFacts, July 1, 2018,

[13] Benchmarking Report at 14.

[14] Id. at 10.

[15] Defined to represent Black/African American, Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander, and multi-racial attorneys.

[16] Benchmarking Report at 9.

[17] Id. at 7.  And, of all women partners reported, 86.0% are Caucasian, 7.5% are Asian/Pacific Islanders, 3.3% are Black/African American, and 2.2% are Hispanic.

[18] Id. at 7.

[19] Martindale-Hubbell provides that there are roughly 10,000 law firms and 105,000 listed attorneys in NYC,

[20]  “On January 27, more than 170 general counsel and corporate legal executives signed an open letter (to big law firms expressing their disappointment that ‘many law firms continue to promote partner classes that in no way reflect the demographic composition of entering associate classes.’ The letter states that the signatory companies will prioritize legal spend only on firms that commit to diversity and inclusion.”  Amanda G. Ciccatelli, Letter Signed By 170 Corporate Counsel Urges Law Firms to Get Diverse Fast, IP Watchdog Institute, February 5, 2019,

[21]  The 25 firms self-reported their minority-owned status and were not required to verify any of the information that they provided, New York Law Journal, Largest Minority and Women Owned Firms, July 11, 2016,

[22] NYC Department of Education, Graduation Results – City

[23] New York State Education Department, Measuring Student Progress in Grades 3-8: English Language Arts and Mathematics (Slides 10, 20 and 21), August 22, 2017,

[24] Ray Domanico, Closing the Racial Achievement Gap in NYC Schools Integration Is Not Enough, Manhattan Institute, October 24, 2018,; Post Editorial Board, There’s one proven way to close the racial achievement gap — and de Blasio hates it, NY Post, January 31, 2018,

See also the New York City Bar Association’s May 1, 2019 letter to Chancellor Carranza and members of the School Diversity Advisory Group calling for an end to competitive admissions to public elementary- and middle-school programs and schools as, among other things, racially biased and pedagogically unsound,

[25] Ben Chapman, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza sees big changes for new school year, NY Daily News, September 4, 2018,

[26] New York State Community Action Association, New York State Annual Poverty Report: 2019 Executive Summary and NY State Profile, March 2019,

[27] National Alliance to End Homelessness, Racial Disparities in Homelessness in the United States, June 6, 2018,

[28] The Educational Pipeline to Law School—Too Broken and Too Narrow to Provide Diversity, University of New Hampshire School of Law, Pierce Law Review, 2009, Volume 8, Number 3, Article 5, Author: Sarah E. Redfield, at p. 378.