The sad truth is that even in today’s enlightened world, the legal field remains one of the least diversified of all professions.
How can that be, since it is the cornerstone for all justice and equality? One would hope that the field would be making every effort to include minorities since the deficit has been noticed.
Do you know that in the ABA’s National Lawyer Population Survey, 4% of active attorneys identified as Black or African American in 2007 and 4% identified as Hispanic or Latino?
While the number did rise slightly by 2017, it was only 5% each.
However, collected data (done by the U.S. Census Bureau) shows that as of 2016, Black or African American individuals make up 13.3% of the total U.S. population and Hispanic or Latino individuals made up 17.8% of the total U.S. population.
We also saw was that the percentage of active attorneys identifying as Asian remained steady at 2%, and those who identified as Native American remained around 1%.
In the American Bar Association’s National Lawyer Population Survey, women made up only 30% of the legal profession in 2007. However, in 2017, it did rise slightly to 35%. Yes, this is growth, but still, we should see more. Especially considering that, in terms of private practice, where women make up roughly 48% of summer associates and 45% of associates, they make up only 20% of partners and just 18% of equity partners.
What we see here is extremely disconcerting, and means that somewhere, somehow, something has to change.
The best way that this can be practically implemented is for law firms to start taking the initiative and begin focusing on hiring with diversity in mind, as well as giving partner options to all qualified members of the firm.
This means that the focus has to shift from preconceived ideas and notions, and there has to be an understanding that if minorities are going to get an equal opportunity, it starts at the point of hire.
Diversity is more than a checklist; it starts at the top and trickles down. It means establishing an awareness of the issue, such as bias, in the workplace (intentional or otherwise) and implementing a policy to dissolve it.
Once this mindset is established, it will be easier for law firms to make a positive impact, and to take a step in the right direction of equality, and inclusiveness for all.