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Law Firm Diversity Remains an Elusive Goal

The rarity of African-American partners in the Am Law 100 law firms is such that they can be counted on one hand and the crisis of diversity in the white, male dominated law business raises its ugly head yet again.  For lawyers like Grace Speights at Morgan Lewis & Bockius, a labor and litigation partner, it takes “a certain toughness” to make partner.  You also need sponsors, she says.

“All along the way,” she says, “I had people in power—all but one white and male—who said, ‘You are going to succeed. I think that’s key. If you’re going to be successful as an African-American lawyer, somebody has to be invested in you.”

Notwithstanding that the average firm in the Am Law top firm list has more than doubled its size, the diversity issue has remained steadfast and stuck in a deep rut.

American Lawyer report that in 2013, only 1.9 percent of partners—one in 54 at the 223 firms that submitted data for our Diversity Scorecard—were black, a percentage that hasn’t changed in five years. For black women partners, the numbers are even worse: They average just one in every 170 partners in our surveyed firms, half the number of black male partners, according to data collected by the National Association for Law Placement.

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