US Law Firms Went Backwards on Diversity in 2009 – The American Lawyer – The American Lawyer newswire service –
Annual Scorecard Reveals Minority Lawyers Absorbed

Disproportionate Share of Layoffs

NEW YORK (March 1, 2010) – The American Lawyer’s annual Diversity Scorecard, out today, reveals that the percentage of minority attorneys at the country’s largest law firms dropped in 2009, the first such decrease in the ten years the survey has been conducted. Previously, the percentage had risen from less than 10 percent in 2000 to 13.9 percent in 2008. In 2009, for the first time, that proportion dipped, to 13.4 percent. And, while the big firms lost 6 percent of their attorneys overall between 2008 and 2009, the number of minority attorneys dropped by 9 percent. Also in this month’s issue, the magazine explores how global firms are carefully grooming mainland-born, Western-educated lawyers to lead their China practices and profiles SEC enforcement director Robert Khuzami’s efforts to lead an overhaul of this much-criticized group. For the complete Diversity Scorecard and other stories, visit

“The industry’s diversity discussions have been long on rhetoric and short on facts. Now the facts are plain,” said Aric Press, editor in chief of The American Lawyer. “The question, particularly for the 31 firms in the group that saw minority decreases of 20 percent or more, is what firms will do to reverse this trend.”

Wilson Sonsini again led the rankings with the highest percentage of minority attorneys (25.8 percent) and the highest percentage of minority partners (19.0 percent).

The data shows that, while minority lawyers as a whole lost ground, not all groups were affected equally. In proportional terms, African Americans lost the most (13 percent). Almost one in six African American nonpartners left the surveyed firms in the space of a year without being replaced. In raw numbers, Asian Americans dropped the most, by 9 percent (556 lawyers). The number of Hispanic lawyers also dropped by 9 percent (282 lawyers).

Diversity Scorecard results are based on survey responses from 202 Am Law 200 and NLJ 250 firms. Year-to-year comparisons are based on responses provided by the 191 of these firms that supplied data for both 2008 and 2009.

In “The New China Hands,” Asian correspondent Anthony Lin reports that with China’s economic rise, the next generation of attorneys has emerged to lead practices in their firms’ Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. Educated in the West, they are increasingly Chinese, and have been painstakingly groomed for their roles.

In “Second,” writer Ben Hallman explores whether Robert Khuzami’s high-profile approach to enforcement, in cases such as the Galleon insider-trading indictments, will be enough to prove that the SEC is back on the beat in the post-Madoff era. As he approaches his first anniversary on the job, Khuzami still faces skeptics in Congress, the investment community and the public, as well as morale problems within his own agency.

Follow The American Lawyer on Twitter at To subscribe or request back copies of The American Lawyer, please call (800) 755-2773 or (212) 545-5990 outside the U.S. A digital edition of the magazine can also be purchased online. The American Lawyer is published in print and online by ALM.

ALM, an integrated media company, is a leading provider of specialized business news and information, focused primarily on the legal and commercial real estate sectors. ALM’s market-leading brands include The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel,, Insight Conferences,, Law Journal Press, LegalTech, The National Law Journal and Real Estate Forum. Headquartered in New York City, ALM was formed in 1997. For more information, visit

Scroll to Top