The American legal profession has a long history of underrepresentation of women and people of color, and it has never really mirrored the country’s diversity. When it comes to underrepresentation in the legal industry, private law firms rank high. Although there has been some effort to address this issue within the legal community, including law schools and companies, the overall pace of change has been quite gradual.
The tide has turned, nevertheless, in recent times. The most diverse incoming classes at law schools and legal companies have been recorded for the last two years in a row.
The National Association for Law Placement (NALS) started collecting statistics on law firms in 1991 and recently announced that, for the first time, women constitute the majority of associates in U.S. law firms.
In the United States of America, 50.31 percent of law associates were women in 2023. Additionally, they made more progress at the partnership level, although they still only account for 27.76% of all partners, a 1.1% rise from last year.
For the first time since 2017, the proportion of associates of color decreased to 42.27 percent, according to NALP statistics, even though diversity increased across numerous categories.
Furthermore, the proportion of colleagues of color likewise had the greatest annual growth in 2023, increasing by 1.8 percentage points from the prior year, reaching 30.15 percent.
While women of color continue to make up fewer than 5% of all partners, Black and Latina women now make up at least 1% of all law firm partners, marking a first since NALP began collecting statistics on firms. This data was derived from the NALP’s Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE).
There were 79 non-binary attorneys and 27 non-binary summer associates reported by legal firms in 2023, up from 42 in 2222 and 17 in 2022.
While this is encouraging, Gray stressed that a lot more ground still has to be covered.