Press Release

Gender Diversity in Big Law Has Flatlined

New ALM Legal Intelligence Report Indicates that Current Programs and Initiatives are not Producing Sustainable Results

New York, NY—April 18, 2017—Women account for slightly more than 30 percent of the lawyers at firms in the Am Law 200, a figure which hasn’t changed over the past five years despite the widespread implementation of diversity programs across the profession.

Details behind the gender diversity flatline, along with other findings about gender diversity in the largest law firms, are presented in a new ALM Legal Intelligence study, “Where Do We Go From Here? Big Law’s Struggle with Recruiting and Retaining Female Talent.” The complete report is available at:

“Lawyers are at the forefront of the push for non-discrimination and equal opportunity under the law, but ironically, the legal profession is consistently ranked as one of the worst industries when it comes to hiring and retaining a diverse workforce. Despite efforts to change, Big Law still has a long way to go to achieve gender parity,” said Daniella Isaacson, Senior Analyst at ALM Legal Intelligence and author of the report. “If Big Law firms aren’t taking the time and effort to analyze gender diversity in their industry and their firms, they will remain behind the curve. The comprehensive data we have compiled can serve as a tool to help them understand the problem and develop solutions to create gender parity in their own practices.”

The study’s additional findings include:

  • Big Law has experienced a slow erosion in year-over-year retention of female lawyers. Even though women comprise 45 percent of incoming Big Law associates—and women account for 47 percent of law school graduating classes—they have made up, on average, only 17 percent of equity partners and 25 percent of non-equity partners over the past five years.
  • Women are well-represented in niche practice areas such as immigration, family law, healthcare, education, and labor and employment. However, Big Law’s most profitable practice areas, including litigation, bankruptcy, antitrust, and M&A, generally possess a low percentage of female attorneys.
  • Big Law struggles with hiring and retention even in states with strong pools of female law school talent.

The study also offers a checklist of best practices for Big Law firms to hire and retain a more diverse workforce based on five categories of recommendations:

  • Hiring
  • Training
  • Firm Practice
  • Family Matters
  • Metrics

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