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Law Firms Still Favor White Male Attorneys, New Book Claims
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Summary: BCG Attorney Search founder Harrison Barnes has released a landmark new book,  “Law Firm Diversity: How Race, Gender, Age, Social and Economic Divisions Impact the Hiring, Retention and Advancement of Big Law Attorneys.

Law firms have always been dominated by white men. While management and clients have advocated more diversity and inclusion, actual change has been a struggle. Minority and female attorney attrition rates are still high, and older attorneys without big books of business often see the ax. So while diversity is sought, the question of why law firms are not becoming less homogenous remain.


This week, Harrison Barnes, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of BCG Attorney Search, has released his research on the topic in his new book, Law Firm Diversity: How Race, Gender, Age, Social and Economic Divisions Impact the Hiring, Retention and Advancement of Big Law Attorneys. Barnes, who has placed thousands of attorneys in jobs across the country, has researched diversity in Big Law firms, and he has concluded that diversity is not happening because of the following:

  • Law firms favor male attorneys, which creates a sexist environment
  • Law firm clients are asking for more diverse attorneys, particularly African-American lawyers, but law firms are not placing a high priority on diverse hiring or promotions
  • White attorneys often view ethnic minority lawyers as affirmative action hires and take them less seriously
  • Minority attorneys are sometimes given less-challenging work than their white counterparts and are criticized sharply
  • Women and minority attorneys do not benefit from the informal networking that white male attorneys conduct with other white male attorneys
  • Support staff tends to be mostly minorities and women while the attorneys they serve are overwhelmingly white males, and this dynamic creates tension between the two groups

Barnes’ findings reveal a disconnect between the growing call for diversity from clients versus what is actually happening at law firms.

“Many law firms recognize the need for diversity, but they do not do enough to recruit diverse attorneys, or help them succeed after they are hired. I hope my book helps attorneys from diverse backgrounds find employment, and thrive, in big law firms,” Barnes said.

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Barnes’ research stems from his work with BCG Attorney Search, one of the nation’s leading legal recruitment agencies. He and his team have extensive knowledge of law firm culture and their hiring practices.

“I have been studying, writing about, working in, and working for law firms for most of my career,” Barnes said on his website. “As an observer, my interest in law firms has always been why certain people get hired and others do not. As the head of a legal recruiting firm, I work to give people an “edge” with law firms, and I do everything in my power to make sure they get hired. If a law firm says it’s interested in diversity, so am I. I want my candidates to have every advantage they possibly can.”

Barnes’s work is available for free to download on his website.

Source: Press release

What do you think of Harrison Barnes’ conclusions about law firm diversity? Let us know in the comments below.


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