The good folks over at Building A Better Legal Profession — a national grassroots movement that we’ve written about before, which seeks market-based workplace reforms in large private law firms — have updated their online directory and rankings of law firms with new information for 2011. The updated rankings shed light on which top law firms are excelling in such areas as diversity and pro bono work, and which ones still have some work to do.

Let’s look at some highlights from the new data, on such subjects as diversity, partnership, and associate attrition….

These observations come from Stanford law and sociology professor Michele Dauber, a member of BBLP’s national board of directors. Professor Dauber writes (note that the hyperlinks go to each firm’s report card on the BBLP website):

Rogues’ Gallery:

Manhattan’s least diverse office: Pryor Cashman — no black or hispanic partners, and no hispanic associates and no openly gay lawyers.

In defense of Pryor Cashman, it’s not a huge firm. But the absence of African-American and Latino partners is duly noted.

Boston still reigns as the worst market for diverse lawyers. Half of Boston biglaw firms have ZERO black or hispanic partners. 20% have no black associates and 30% have no hispanic associates. Apparently the fact that Massachusetts has a Black lawyer as governor and that the President of the United States and the First Lady are both Black lawyers has made no impression on the all-white country club of the Boston legal establishment.

Interesting info. Perhaps John H. Ray III should take note, for purposes of his possible lawsuit against Ropes & Gray?

In Los Angeles (the most diverse market for lawyers) New York, Quinn Emmanuel (Kathleen Sullivan’s firm) has ZERO black or hispanic partners. You almost have to try to do that bad.

CORRECTION (2:05 PM): From Professor Dauber: “Actually Quinn’s LA office has one black partner — it’s the NY office that has no black or hispanic partners. My bad. But I’ll stand by the ‘have to try to do that bad’ comment, since one is nothing to write home about.”

Finally, an interesting finding that seems to be emerging from our data is that there is a large gap between asian associates and asian partners — the largest gap of any minority group. This is consistent with what the “Paper Tigers” article in this week’s New York magazine asserted about exclusion of asians from leadership roles and the Bamboo ceiling. An example is Clifford Chance in New York, with 26.8% asian associates but only 2% asian partners.

Lots of Asian associates, but not as many Asian partners? One is reminded of Professor Tim Wu’s observation that white people “give off the impression that they’re only going to do the really important work” (read: partner work), while Asians “migrate toward the most brutal part of the labor” (read: associate work).

The BBLP website also collects information about attorney attrition. From Professor Dauber:

Paul Weiss lost 12% of whites and ~30% minority associates.
Bryan Cave lost 11% whites and 40% minority associates.
Dechert lost NO whites and 36% of its minority associates.

See: http://betterlegalprofession.org/Attrition/NewYork/Minority

Women also were shed at rates higher than men, with Wachtell, Kirkland, Gibson Dunn, Cleary Gottlieb and Bryan Cave all having rates of female attrition at least double that for males. Bryan Cave lost 4% of men and 30% of women. Wow.

See: http://betterlegalprofession.org/Attrition/NewYork/Gender

One can, of course, argue about the significance of these findings, as well as the reasons for the phenomena being observed. And we encourage such discussion, in the comments.

But no matter what conclusions you draw from the information, it’s helpful to have the data collected and analyzed, in user-friendly form, all in one place. Thanks to BBLP for their excellent website, a useful resource for law students and lateral candidates considering different places to work.

building a better legal profession [official website]


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