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Asian Associate Numbers Up; Black Associate Numbers Drop

Vivia Chen

January 30, 2014

Group of Professionals-Article-201401301740The NALP report on women and minorities for 2013 is fresh off the press, and, as usual, it's fascinating, if a bit depressing.

The bottom line: Overall gains by women and minority lawyers were negligible, though minority representation among associates has been increasing for the last three years in a row. The positive news: Asian American associate numbers continue to rise (from 9.39 percent in 2012 to 10.48 percent in 2013), accounting for the lion's share of the increase in minority associates. The negative news: black associate numbers are sliding for the fourth year in a row (from 4.66 percent in 2009 to 4.10 percent in 2013).

 Here are some highlights from the NALP survey:

- Minorities make up 7.10 percent of partners (the survey covers almost 50,000 partners), with the following breakdown: 2.67 percent Asian Americans, 1.78 percent blacks; 1.99 percent Hispanics.

- Asian Americans have the highest representation of all minorities in all categories that NALP measures (partners, associates, counsel, staff attorneys, and other attorneys).

- Minorities make up 20.93 percent of associates (almost 46,000 associates total), with the following breakdown: 10.48 percent Asian Americans, 4.10 percent blacks, 3.88 percent Hispanics.

- Minorities make up 22 percent of staff lawyers. (This category had the highest minority representation; it is also the category where the representation of black lawyers is the highest.)

- Big firms usually have better diversity: Representation of blacks and Hispanics among partners generally rises with firm size, but Asian American partners are most prevalent at smaller and the largest firms.

Other stunning facts: One quarter of the offices in the NALP survey report no minority partners at all, and over half reported no minority female partners.

I'd like to say this is a glass half-full story, but I'm leaning toward the half-empty one. I think the declining numbers of black associates for the fourth year in a row is a pretty dire sign. The uptick in Asian American associates is encouraging; but the bigger question is whether those associate numbers will eventually translate into more Asian American partners.

We'll be mining the NALP survey for more interesting nuggets in the coming weeks. In the meantime, check out the charts in the NALP survey.

 E-mail me: vchen@alm.com     Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lawcareerist

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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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