Diversity Budgets Holding Up At Law Firms
WASHINGTON - Â In the face of continuing economic pressures, most of the nationÂs law firms are continuing to make diversity programming a priority, according to a new survey from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, Inc. (MCCA) and the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals (ALFDP). The 2010 Law Firm Diversity Professional Survey found that about 85% of surveyed firms plan to maintain or increase their funding for diversity programs this year.
The survey asked diversity representatives at 98 law firms how the economy was impacting their diversity budgets. Eighty-four percent of responses came from large law firms, with greater than 200 lawyers, and the remaining 16% were from firms with 200 or fewer lawyers.
About 71% of the survey respondents said their diversity budgets (combining internal and external efforts) would remain about the same in 2010 as in 2009, but nearly 14% said their budgets would be higher. Of these firms, about 57% said their diversity budgets would be $150,000 or less (excluding staff salaries), but 42% said they would spend more than $150,000. In fact, almost 12% said their diversity budgets would exceed $400,000 in 2010.
ÂLaw firms have taken a hit during this recession and are cutting costs like everyone else,Â said Veta T. Richardson, MCCAÂs Executive Director. ÂThe fact that most of them are holding the line or increasing spending on diversity shows they understand the importance of diversity programs and are willing to fund them. This is a good sign for the future of the legal profession.Â
Only about 15% of the surveyÂs respondents reported that they will cut back on diversity spending during 2010, fewer than the 25% who planned cuts in 2009. And the percentage of firms that planned to spend more than $400,000 remained about the same at 11.5% (vs. 11% in 2009).
ÂMost of the surveyed firms had diversity professionals on staff, a major change from just a few years ago,Â said ALFDP President Sylvia James, Diversity Counsel from the law firm of Baker Botts. ÂConsidering that nearly one hundred practices participated in the survey, and that 84% were large, it is clear that the legal profession is making a solid, enduring commitment to diversity.Â
Other highlights of the 2010 Law Firm Diversity Professional Survey included:
79% of law firms have a diversity professional on staff.
73% of diversity professionals are female, and 55% are women of color.
42% of diversity professionals are non-practicing lawyers, but 75% hold a juris doctor degree.
51% of diversity professionals are dedicated full time to diversity initiatives.
Salaries for diversity professionals range from Âless than $75,000Â to Âmore than $325,000.Â However, there was a 10% jump from 2009 in the number who earn a base salary of more than $225,000.
The Flourishing Company, a national workplace consulting firm, administered the survey online for MCCA and ALFDP early in 2010. In addition to surveying ALFDP members, the Am-Law 200 firms were invited to participate. This is the third year for the survey, the first being conducted in 2008.
The entire 2010 Law Firm Diversity Professional Survey can be found on the MCCA website at http://bit.ly/atU9Xt.
The Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals acts as a catalyst for the advancement of diversity in the legal professional through collective knowledge, vision, expertise and advocacy in the area of firm diversity. Founded in 2006, ALFDPÂs membership includes many AmLaw 100 firms, the nationÂs hundred largest law firms ranked by revenue.
The Minority Corporate Counsel Association advocates for the expanded hiring, promotion, and retention of minority attorneys in corporate legal departments and the law firms that serve them. MCCA furthers its mission by publishing research on achieving diversity and best practices in the legal profession, honoring innovative diversity programs with its Employer of Choice and Thomas L. Sager awards, and assisting diverse law students through the Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program. MCCAÂs work has been recognized with awards from the National Minority Business Council, Inc., the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Gay and Lesbian Law Association, and the Association of Corporate Counsel.
Founded in 1997, MCCA is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and also has a Southeast regional office in Atlanta, Ga.