Female Associates in Law Firms Continue to Decline

According to a recent NALP (The Association for Legal Career Professionals) press release, even though women made small gains in law firm partnership ranks,  the percentage of female associates in law firms has fallen slightly for the third year in a row.

Women made up 45.05 percent of associates in an “incremental but steady slide from 45.66 percent in 2009,” according to the release.

Women account for 19.91 percent of law firm partners, compared to 19.54 percent last year. Overall, women represent 32.67 percent of lawyers in law firms in 2012, compared with 32.61 percent in 2011 and 32.69 percent in 2010. The high water mark, reached in 2009, was 32.97 percent.

Minority women continue to be the most dramatically underrepresented group at the partnership level, a pattern that holds across all firm sizes and most jurisdictions. Minority women make up just over 2% of the partners in the nation’s major law firms. At just 2.16% of partners in 2012, this group continues to be particularly underrepresented in the partnership ranks, despite a small increase from 2.04% in 2011. The representation of minority women partners is somewhat higher, 2.62%, at the largest firms of more than 700 lawyers. Minority men, meanwhile, account for just 4.55% of partners this year, almost unchanged from 4.52% in 2011. At the associate level, minorities account for 20.32% of associates, up from 19.90% in 2011, and minority women account for 11.08% of associates, a small increase from 10.96% in 2011, and only a bit higher than the 11.02% figure reached in 2009.

James Leipold, the NALP executive director, calls the lower numbers for women associates “a significant and troubling trend” in the press release.


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