Big L.A. Law Firms Score Low on Diversity Survey

Henry Weinstein, Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2007

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The 17 Los Angeles-area firms in the report have three or fewer African American partners; all but one have three or fewer Latino partners, and half have three or fewer Asian American partners, placing the percentage of partners in those ethnic groups at less than 5%. In contrast, 2005 census data show that African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans constitute 9.7%, 46.8% and 13.1% of the population in Los Angeles County.

Although more than half the county’s residents are women, no firm has nearly that percentage of female partners; the firm with the highest female representation among partners has 27.7%. Moreover, at every firm surveyed, women are significantly less represented as partners than as associates. For example, fully 60% of the associates at one firm are women, but only 14.6% of its partners.

The highest percentage of African American partners at a firm in Los Angeles is 4.6%, while the top percentage of Latino partners is 8.2%. The highest percentage of Asian American partners is 11.1%, and the top percentage of partners who are openly lesbian, gay or bisexual is 7.4%.

Three firms have no African American partners, one has no Latino partners, one has no Asian American partners, and three firms have no publicly declared lesbian or gay partners.

The study was released by Law Students Building a Better Legal Profession at a news conference in Washington, D.C., and online.

The group took self-reported figures provided by the firms to the National Assn. of Law Placement and aggregated them. Detailed information on firms in Los Angeles, Northern California and New York can be found on the group’s website, http://refirmation.wordpress.com

The report includes figures for the percentage of lawyers at the firms who do pro bono work and the average number of billable hours for associates at the firms. Those figures vary widely.

Similar percentages were found in other large metropolitan areas. Women make up less than 25% of the partners at all 74 firms surveyed in New York with 100 or more lawyers, while 27 of those firms have no Latino partner, 25 have no African American partner, and 21 have no Asian American partner.

Of 46 firms surveyed in Washington, 17 have no Latino partner, seven have no African American partner, and 13 have no Asian American partner. The picture is somewhat better in the San Francisco Bay Area. Still, only 7 of 31 firms have 25% or more female partners, with the highest figure 32.7%.

Andrew Bruck, co-president of the law student group, emphasized that all the information came from figures that the firms provided. The study deals only with law firms that employ 100 or more attorneys in each market.

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