WASHINGTON – Most of the nation’s law firms continue to make diversity programming a priority, but economic constraints have led to fewer full-time diversity professionals on staff, according to a new survey from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, Inc. (MCCA) and the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals (ALFDP).
Conducted earlier this spring, the 2011 Law Firm Diversity Professional Survey asked diversity representatives at 113 law firms across the country about their roles and their firms’ diversity programs. Eighty percent of responses came from large law firms, with greater than 200 lawyers, and the remaining 20% were from firms with 200 or fewer lawyers.
About 82% of surveyed firms report having a law firm diversity professional, up slightly from 79% in 2010. However, 67% of firms without diversity professionals said they do not intend to establish such a position.
There was a significant drop in the number of diversity professionals doing full-time diversity work – only 39% – down from 51% in 2010. Also, the number of firms whose diversity professional is a practicing lawyer with a billable requirement jumped from 17% in 2010 to 29% this year. In fact, no firm with fewer than 200 lawyers reported having a diversity professional spending 100% of time on diversity matters, with many spending less than 25% of their time on diversity matters.
Eighty percent of respondents said their firms’ diversity budgets (combining internal and external efforts) will remain the same or increase this year. Of those, about 20% expect their budgets to be higher, up from 14% in 2010.
Almost all (99%) respondents said their firms have diversity committees, and 96% of the committees include partners. More diversity professionals are serving as diversity committee chairs, 33% this year versus 27% in 2010.
“Despite the slow economic recovery, it is encouraging that the most law firms are still committed to promoting diversity,” said Veta T. Richardson, MCCA’s Executive Director. “The study shows that while law firms may not be able to devote quite as many resources to their diversity programs as in the past, it is still a priority for them.”
“It is gratifying to note an increase in the percentage of law firm’s employing a diversity professional, coupled with a 15% increase in the number of firms responding to this year’s survey,”said Maja D. Hazell, President of the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals and Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. “The widely varied nature of the areas of responsibility of diversity professionals, including the role of 95% of those surveyed in developing programs to create an inclusive environment and encourage retention of all lawyers, demonstrates their clear value add to the legal profession in achieving diversity goals.”
Other highlights of the 2011 Law Firm Diversity Professional Survey included:
Nearly three quarters (74%) of respondents said their firm’s diversity professional is female, and 60% report their firm’s diversity professional is a woman of color, up from 55% in 2010.
77% of diversity professionals hold a juris doctor degree.
Salaries for diversity professionals range from “less than $75,000” for those at the coordinator and non-lawyer managerial levels to “greater than $325,000” for more experienced diversity directors. The percentage who reported earning less than $175,000 fell to 42%, which was a 5% decrease from 2010, while the 34% who reported earning more than $225,000 was slightly lower than the percentage reporting this level of income in 2010.
Re sponsoring diversity events, almost three-fourths (74%) of respondents expect their numbers to remain the same this year.
Stellar Coaching, LLC, a national workplace consulting firm, administered the survey online for MCCA and ALFDP early in 2011. In addition to surveying ALFDP members, the Am-Law 200 firms were invited to participate. This is the fourth year for the survey, the first being conducted in 2008.