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ABA Lawyer Profile Shows Few Women, Minority Gains Over Decade

July 29, 2021, 4:02 AM

Women and minorities made only minimal gains in joining law firm ranks over the past decade, American Bar Association data released Thursday shows.

The percentage of women lawyers increased to 37% in 2021 from 33% in 2011, according to the ABA’s 2021 Profile of the Legal Profession.

Black and Native American representation in the legal industry decreased slightly in the last 10 years, while Hispanic and Asian lawyers gained less than a percentage point each. Multiracial people made up 2% of all lawyers, and Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders comprised 0.3%.

The report compiles survey data collected by the ABA and information from state bar associations, federal agencies, and lawyer interest groups. In addition to demographic data, the report includes a chapter on how Covid-19 and remote work affected lawyers.

“The pandemic has changed the way lawyers work—perhaps permanently,” the report said. “But the pandemic did not affect everyone equally.”

Senior lawyers, or lawyers over the age of 62, fared the best during the pandemic. Around three-quarters said they were ‘somewhat comfortable’ or ‘extremely comfortable’ adopting new technologies for remote work, and they were less likely to be stressed about work compared to lawyers 61 or younger.

The discrepancy might be explained by work and family circumstances, the report said.

“Older lawyers were more likely to be solo practitioners (30% of older lawyers versus 17% of younger lawyers) and they were much less likely to live with children (13% of older lawyers versus 55% of younger lawyers),” according to the report.

Women were also more likely than men to be disrupted by family and home obligations during the pandemic, the report said, and 14% of women said they took on more childcare during the pandemic compared to 5% of men.

The data shows significant changes in the geographic spread of lawyers.

While over a quarter of the country’s 1.3 million active lawyers live in California or New York, Utah and its up-and-coming legal market saw the highest rate of growth. Since 2011, the population of lawyers in Utah has grown 31% to nearly 9,000.

Additional findings from the profile show:

  • Miami has the highest percentage of law firm partners of color at 32%.
  • Pittsburgh has the lowest percentage at 3%.
  • In 2020, 4.7% of law firm associates and 2.2% of partners identified as LGBTQ.
  • Just under one percent of lawyers reported having a disability last year, up from 0.2% in 2010.
  • In 2020, nearly one-third of law school students were students of color, up from 25% in 2011.
  • Last year, men and women passed the bar exam at nearly the same rate. 84% of men passed the exam on their first try, and 83.4% of women did.
  • 73% of lawyers said they missed seeing coworkers in the office.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ruiqi Chen in Washington, D.C. at rchen@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com;
John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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