Summer partners at law firms were more diverse than ever in 2021, report says

  • New data from NALP shows proportion of summer color associates increased by 5%
  • But progress has been much slower among the associate and partner ranks.

(Reuters) – Law firms recruited a historically diverse cohort of summer partners in 2021, new data from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) shows, surpassing diversity gains among more senior lawyers .

The proportion of summer associates of color rose to 41% in 2021, from 36% in 2020. This represents the largest year-over-year increase since NALP began tracking this data in 1993, a. he declared.

Summer associates work in law firms after their first or second year of law school and are usually offered permanent associate jobs afterwards.

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Much of the 2021 summer associate’s diversity gains were among women. The proportion of women of color rose 3% to a quarter of all summer law students hired to work in the more than 500 law firms that provided figures to the NALP.

The report says the nationwide protests that followed the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020 – and the subsequent pledges by many law firms to tackle racism and improve their diversity – likely contributed to the increase in l hiring of minority summer associates.

“Without a doubt, this summer associate class has been the most diverse ever measured in every way,” NALP Executive Director Jim Leipold said in the report.

Women made up 55% of all summer associates in 2021, marking the fourth year in a row that they were in the majority, according to the data. The percentage of LGBTQ summer associates increased by almost a percentage point to 8.4% of last year’s summer associates.

But data shows further progress in 2021 on diversity within the ranks of associates and partners – an indication that the legal profession has a long way to go before the ranks of lawyers reflect the diversity of the national population.

Among firms that submitted data to the NALP, lawyers of color made up just under 28% of all partners in 2021 and just under 11% of law firm partners. The increased representation of Asian and Latino associates and partners has helped mask much slower growth among black associates and partners, according to NALP. Black lawyers made up 5% of partners in 2021 and 2% of partners.

“The challenge for the industry is to retain, train, develop and promote this pool of new talented and diverse lawyers so that in five years the ranks of partners reflect similar diversity and representation, and in 10 or 15 years we will be able to celebrate a partnership class that is equally diverse, ”said Leipold.

Read more:

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Does Big Law’s dependence on elite schools hamper diversity efforts?

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Karen sloan

Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools and legal affairs. Contact her at [email protected]

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