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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Today’s Lawyers and Law Students - More Women, Minorities

Today’s Lawyers and Law Students: More Women, Minorities


While it is clear that some racial and gender boundaries and issues remain in the United States of America, those issues and boundaries seem to be reduced, and the issues are shifting.  This is easily observable in our country in general, as well as in the legal field.  Law firms are increasingly made up of women and minorities, although white males remain the most populous group.


 According to statistics published recently by the American Bar Association, women made up approximately 39% of law firm associates in 1993, but make up over 43% today. This is an increase of approximately 11%. Women, however, are still making their way to the ranks of partners. In 2011, approximately 19.5% of law firm partners were women, compared to approximately 12.25% in 1993. The female partnership numbers are both encouraging and discouraging; the growth since 1993 is an improvement of almost 60%, but obviously the pure math shows that there should be many more female partners. Interestingly, 46.7% of law school students are female at this time.


 Minorities made up approximately 8.36% of law firm associates in 1993, but make up over 19.9% today.  This is an increase of approximately 138%. Minorities, however, are still making their way to the ranks of partners. In 2011, approximately 6.56% of law firm partners were minorities, compared to approximately 2.55% in 1993. The minority partnership numbers are both encouraging and discouraging; the growth since 1993 is an improvement of almost 157%, but obviously the math dictates there should be a larger percentage of minority partners. Notably, 24.5% of law school students are minority at this time.


 Obviously, given the trends shown above, the ratio of white male attorneys within law firms has been reduced over time.  White males made up approximately 52.65% of law firm associates in 1993, but make up 36.75% today. This is a reduction of approximately 33%. In 2011, approximately 73.9% of law firm partners were white males, compared to approximately 85.18% in 1993. The reduction since 1993 is almost 13.25%.  53.3% of today’s law school students are males.  


 Of course, the demographics above must be considered in the context of the overall makeup of our country. The population of the United States, as estimated by the US Census Bureau in 2011, is approximately 312,000,000 people.  Women represent approximately 50.8% of the United States population; in other words, in 2011, there were approximately 5,000,000 more women than men in America. In 2011, minorities made up approximately 36.6% of the population of the United States.


 It’s pretty clear that the makeup of law firms will continue to approach the same ratio of demographics of our country overall.  Of course, that progress is not linear and exact timelines are not predictable. The only thing we know for certain is that law firms now do not look the same as they did in 1993 and certainly won’t look the same in another 20 years.