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Law Firm Diversity Lags

While a number of law schools are working to improve diversity, it seems private law practices are struggling to keep pace with inclusion.

Diversity and inclusion were a few of the core themes at this year’s National Association for Law Placement (NALP) Annual Education conference, Above The Law reports. Each year, law school career services officers and law firm recruiters meet at the conference to discuss current challenges in legal employment market and how they should be addressed.

Notably, only 23% of women are partners in private practice, according to an ABA study. In the legal profession as a whole, women only make up 36% of the industry.

Women and Minorities Still Lacking in Certain Fields

Women have made strides in the legal field. However, according to NALP Executive Director James Leipold’s presentation, there are still a few sectors within the legal industry where women lag behind men.

Take private practice, for example. 54.5% of male lawyers enter this field compared to 51.4% of female lawyers. Similarly, 16.8% of male lawyers work as internal counsel, with women making up 14.1%. By the same token, in lower-paying public interest sector, the percentage of female lawyers is nearly double that of their male counterparts: 9.1% vs. 4.7%.

In addition, private practice still lacks the diverse makeup. In particular, only 38.9% of black law school graduates of the class of 2016 received their first job in a private practice law firm.

Law Firms are Working to be More Inclusive

A number of law firms have pledged to expand on diversity initiatives in recent years.

Bloomberg Law reports that in 2017, a group of 30 law firms piloted a program that requires them to “consider women and minority attorneys for at least 30% of their candidate pools for leadership roles, equity partner promotions and outside hires.”

The program has seen some substantial results at participating firms.

Robins Kaplan, a law firm based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, reported that its firm has quadrupled the percentage of attorneys of color hired for lateral associate positions in just one year.

Additionally, a number of law firms have pooled together and invested more resources into diversity and inclusion.

“Ten years ago there were very few directors of diversity and inclusion, and a lot of the diversity initiatives at law firms were being run by minority partners who cared about diversity but weren’t getting paid to do it,” Asker Saeed, diversity director at New York-based law firm Fried Frank, tells Bloomberg Law.

Sources: Above The Law, ABA, Bloomberg Law, Bloomberg Law