It's the start of Chinese New Year—the Year of the Dragon—but Asian Pacific Americans lawyers might not be in a mood to celebrate. According to The American Lawyer's 2011 midlevel minority associates survey APAs are not happy campers.
But let's start with a positive: APAs are not griping about their work. Amazingly, they like it! APAs reported the highest score of all groups (including whites, black/African Americans, and Hispanics) for "overall satisfaction with work" and "quality of assignments."
Moreover, APAs also seem valued by their firms. They have the highest billing rates ($450 per hour), eclipsing the average rates for whites ($424), blacks ($405), and Hispanics ($427).
Good work, high billing rates—what else could a lawyer ask for? Well, how about better dough? According to the survey, APAs had the lowest satisfaction score of all groups when it came to compensation. Here's how Brian Zabcik describes the money issue in Corporate Counsel magazine (where the Am Law diversity survey first appeared):
Black associates reported an average annual salary this year of $180,727, an increase of $3,197 from their average in our 2008 survey (the last one conducted before the recession hit that fall). From 2008 to 2011, Hispanic associates showed an increase in average salary of $7,085, whites essentially held steady, and Asians had to contend with a drop in average salary of $3,619. That decline may be why Asian associates reported the lowest satisfaction with compensation and benefits.
Despite that drop in earnings, APAs still took home the highest compensation of all the groups. APAs made $191,074 (both whites and Hispanics made about $6,000 less than APAs, while the gap for blacks was over $10,000).
It's a bit of a mystery why APAs' earnings dropped. What's apparent, though, is that they feel undervalued and less secure about their future at their firms. APAs ranked third in how they assessed their partnership chances—only 63.7 percent considered themselves on partnership track. This is in marked contrast to 76.3 of white associates and 68.4 percent of Hispanics. Black associates, however, persistently showed the lowest expectation—60 percent.
Then there's the issue of mentoring, which is considered critical for promotion to partnership. For whatever reason, APAs seem to be getting lost in the shuffle. Reports Zabcik:
Firms seem to be aware that they need to make an extra effort to retain their minority associates. Black and Hispanic associates were the most likely to say that they had mentors—86.5 percent and 83.1 percent, respectively, said that they did. Asians were the least likely, at 73.8 percent.
So APAs seem to be falling off the radar screen once again.
Is it time for APAs to make a lot more noise? How about setting off some firecrackers at the office to start the new year?
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