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NALP Cites Recession as Likely Factor in ‘Historic’ Decline in Law Firm Diversity

According to the National Law Journal, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) released its latest diversity statistics yesterday, which showed the percentage of both minority attorneys and women attorneys declined slightly at firms during 2010.

NALP’s findings concur with findings by both the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) and National Law Journal affiliate The American Lawyer. All three surveys found small pockets of improvement, either at individual firms or among subsets of the attorney population. However, the big picture revealed that diversity suffered. In the 17 years that NALP has collected demographic data, it was the first to show that diversity had actually declined.

The latest NALP figures show that minorities accounted for 12.4% of firm attorneys, down from 12.59% in 2009. Women represented 32.69% of firm attorneys, down from 32.97% in 2009.

Minority associates dropped slightly to 19.53% in 2010 from 19.67% 2009. On a more positive note, the percentage of minority partners rose a bit from 6.05% in 2009 to 6.16% this year.

NALP cited layoffs and a slowdown in associate hiring as the most likely culprits for the trend. Additionally, a drop in the overall number of associates at firms was another likely factor, as associates are a significantly more diverse group than partners.



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NALP Executive Director James Leipold was quoted as saying in the law.com article that: “The NALP data did not reveal the reasons that the overall representation of women and minorities among law firm attorneys went down in 2010, but it is likely that the recession, and the many lawyer layoffs that accompanied it, can be identified as at least one significant reason for this historic decrease.”

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