Trending Now: Law Firm Diversity Rankings – What Do the Numbers Mean?

Law Firm Diversity Rankings – What Do the Numbers Mean?

For a variety of reasons, workplace diversity is increasingly important in the American workplace. Workplace diversity is important to corporations because they benefit in many ways from having employees with differing backgrounds and perspectives – diversity brings value and increases the bottom line. Yet, even though workplace diversity is important across all industries, the legal profession struggles with increasing diversity in its own ranks.  According to the United States Department of Labor, statistics show that the law remains among the least racially diverse profession in the nation.  Indeed, ABA statistics suggest that eighty-eight percent of lawyers are white.  In comparison, other professions have increased internal diversity – statistics show that 81 percent of architects and engineers are white; 78 percent of accountants are white; and 72 percent of physicians and surgeons are white. Yet, even though the legal profession is not as diverse as it could be, and even within a law firm structure, a diverse work culture helps bring about differing perspectives.  If the legal profession is not very diverse, how are those statistics reflected in the nation’s largest law firms?  And, how, if, at all, do law firm diversity statistics differ from the legal profession overall?

Recently, Vault unveiled its Law Firm Diversity Rankings for 2016.  The Law Firm Diversity Rankings are based on statistics and outcomes from the annual Vault survey.  With these statistics, there is data to address that very issue – these statistics look at diversity in the nation’s largest law firms. This year, there were over 17,000 responses attorneys who rated law firms on a variety of processes revolving around diversity, such as recruiting, mentoring, retaining, and promoting individuals who are women, minorities, military veterans,  the LGBT community, and disabled persons. Then, Vault weighs in with a formula, which averages the scores found for the five categories to announce the listing of the Best Law Firms for Overall Diversity.  So, in comparison to the profession, what do law firm diversity statistics reveal?  What do the numbers mean?

Just like most corporate workplaces across the nation, law firms also are calling for more of an emphasis on diversity initiatives.  And with this emphasis, associates do appreciate the firm management’s efforts to create and maintain an inclusive environment.  Indeed, all lawyers and all employees from any background should feel comfortable and supported in a law firm work environment.  Although the legal industry still has more to do to increase diversity, the most diverse law firms are found below – the official list of the 25 Best Law Firms for Overall Diversity:

  1. Carlton Fields Jorden Burt
  2. Paul Hastings
  3. Ropes & Gray
  4. Debevoise & Plimpton
  5. Littler Mendelson
  6. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner
  7. Shook, Hardy & Bacon
  8. Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz
  9. Schiff Hardin
  10. O’Melveny & Myers
  11. Quarles & Brady
  12. Perkins Coie
  13. WilmerHale
  14. Haynes and Boone
  15. BuckleySandler
  16. Reed Smith
  17. Alston & Bird
  18. Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
  19. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
  20. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
  21. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson
  22. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
  23. Weil, Gotshal & Manges
  24. Gibbons
  25. Sidley Austin

With this list, although the large law firms, like the legal profession overall, have some challenges in increasing workplace diversity, a great number of firms recognize and indeed emphasize the value of diversity. As with the greater corporate community that large law firms service, law firms raised the level of their commitment, and are investing more time and effort to increase diversity in their ranks. Fortunately, their commitment is working.



Weber, Nicole. “Announcing Vault’s 2016 Law Firm Diversity Rankings.” Vault Blogs. Vault, 21 July 2015. Web. 28 Sept. 2015.


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