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Decline In Law Firm Diversity Blamed On A Few 'Bad Actors'

Publication Date: 
November 08, 2010
The National Law Journal
Karen Sloan

A study by Stanford's Building a Better Legal Profession student group is the focus of the following National Law Journal story. Here is the article:

The ranks of women and minority attorneys at U.S. law firms declined last year, according to a number of recent surveys, but the numbers don't tell the full story.

Data compiled by Building a Better Legal Profession — a student group based at Stanford Law School that advocates for lawyer diversity — indicate that most law firms protected their women and minority associates during the past year. Much of the national decline can be attributed to about a quarter of firms that lost minorities in much higher percentages than they did whites, the organization said.

"It's true that minorities did poorly industry-wide, but it looks to me like there are some bad actors in every market that dragged things down," said Stanford law professor Michele Dauber. "There are many, many firms that clearly worked to protect their minority associates. The amount of variation between firms surprised me."


Dauber said the group checked its data numerous times. The numbers were based entirely on numbers reported to NALP by the firms.

Overall, attrition rates among minorities and women in California were lower than for many locations on East Coast and in the South.

The organization is presenting its findings in a searchable online database, which Dauber said would be useful for law students researching firm jobs and for clients looking for firms committed to diversity.

Information reflecting "attrition by gender and minority status has always been something people who are interested in diversity wanted to get," Dauber said. "Now, students want to know who got fired and where. That gave us a real incentive to figure it out."