The law firm diversity survey 2017
In an age when both clients and society at large demand better diversity from the legal profession, we assess the firms that are doing the best to keep up.
THE most striking thing about BigLaw diversity is that even the firms who do it well could do better. Associates gave Debevoise the highest marks for diversity in our survey because “at the junior and mid levels you can see that there's a lot of progress,” yet, tellingly, “any higher and I think it's unbalanced.” Nevertheless, Debevoise attorneys sang the praises of numerous initiatives to make things better, not least an annual firm dinner where “everyone gets together and the firm talks about where it currently stands on diversity, and where our emphasis is going to be placed in the future.”
Acknowledging and doing something about the diversity problem is a characteristic shared by other firms who performed well in our survey. “You can't fault the firm for not trying,” was the verdict of juniors at second-placed Mintz Levin. They too pointed to a yearly diversity event (“people from all the offices gather for it”), plus initiatives like affinity groups and a diversity scholarship, as evidence that their firm is trying hard. Likewise at Cooley (3rd place), “they're making an effort but it's tough. The recruiting pool isn't particularly large and that's a big problem. It's certainly a high priority for the firm.”
Further down our rankings, Perkins Coie (10th) holds not one but two firmwide diversity retreats, one for women and one for minorities. During our calls, interviewees here were “really looking forward to the women's retreat. I've heard it's everyone's favorite as it focuses more on networking than training and has lots of interesting speakers.” Many firms these days, including Perkins, have a dedicated diversity officer, usually either a partner or full-time staff member. Many also partner with external organizations. Goodwin Procter (17th), for example, is one of many firms in this guide that has established ties with the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. All of the firms that scored highly for diversity plow significant resources and time into this issue.
We asked associates to rate their firm on its efforts to recruit diverse associates, the firm's inclusivity training, the mentoring from diverse role models, how diverse staffing is on teams, and efforts to retain diverse lawyers. The firms listed are those demonstrating excellent performance.