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The Most Diverse Law Firms Are...

Rebekah Mintzer

August 12, 2013

Diversity Tree - Cienpies Design via Shutterstock

Vault.com recently unveiled its Law Firm Diversity Rankings for 2014, and the Florida-based firm Carlton Fields has come out on top in every category: minorities, women, LGBT employees, and individuals with disabilities. Carlton Fields also took home the title of best overall diversity for the fifth year running in the rankings. 

Vault gathers the information to calculate the firms' diversity scores from on an annual survey of nearly 17,000 law firm associates. The survey asks associates to rate their firm based on its diversity initiatives and its efforts to recruit a diverse group of employees. Vault then calculates numeric scores in each category, including best overall diversity. 

Carlton Fields associates told Vault they were impressed with the firm's diversity efforts. "The very real commitment to diversity attracted me to the firm," one associate said in the survey.

"The firm is very interested in diversity and helps to make accomodations via alternative work schedules for women or men who need it for various reasons, including child care," another noted.

Other diversity standouts were Ropes & Gray, which reached the top 5 in all categories, and Littler Mendelson, which hit number two on best minority and disability diversity and ranked among the top ten in all categories. 

Vera Djordjevich, director of research and consulting for Vault says that there were no major surprises in Vault's diversity scores. "Most of the firms that do well do well fairly consistently in this area," she explains.

Djordjevich notes that one of the commonalities among the firms that earn strong ratings each year is that upper level management does a solid job of sending the message that diversity is important to the life of the firm.

"That's a cultural aspect that can trickle down to associates--they can sense that," she says.

The rankings released by Vault look a bit different from those in ALM's Diversity Scorecard for 2013. Number one on the Diversity Scorecard was Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, while Carlton Fields ranked number 28 out of 228 firms. Likewise, ALM's 2013 National Law Journal Female Scorecard ranked Fragomen Del Rey, Bernsen, and Loewy first; Carlton Fields was number 35 out of 281 firms.

The discrepency between the results can probably be attributed to the methodology used in the rankings. The Vault survey rates effort to create a more diverse workplace through the eyes of associates, while the ALM surveys are based on firms' reported head counts of minority lawyers and women. It remains to be seen whether the diversity-friendly policies of firms atop the Vault lists, like Carlton Fields, will ultimately boost their standing on ALM's lists, too. 

Here are Vault's top ten firms ranked for overall diversity. (See the rest of the lists here.)

1. Carlton Fields

2. Ropes & Gray

3. Littler Mendelson

4. Debevoise & Plimpton/ Jenner & Block (tie)

5. Schiff Hardin

6. Shook, Hardy & Bacon

7. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

8. Alston & Bird

9. Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz

10. Paul Hastings


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I guess it is good to be diverse. Are any of these a law firm in Ottawa? I have a friend looking for some help.

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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