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Some Questions on Race and the Legal Profession

February 28, 2007

I don’t like to complain much.  So I am not blogging to whine.  But diversity issues interest me personally, and I want to leave you with some food for thought.  So…. Here it goes.


According to a report issued about a year and a half ago by an American Bar Association commission, minority attorneys continue to face serious obstacles to success in the legal profession, from initial job opportunities to career advancement, and they remain grossly underrepresented in top-level private sector jobs.  And of course, as we all know, the issues remain the same.  Minorities still have miles to go in the legal profession.

Miles to Go: Progress of Minorities in the Legal Profession reported these findings:

  • Although African-Americans are the best-represented group among minority lawyers nationwide (3.9 percent of attorneys and 8.8 percent of judges), their pace of entry into the profession is still very slow and the number of black law students has fallen to a 12-year low.
  • Progress for minority women lawyers has been particularly slow, and despite their growing numbers (about 45% of all minority lawyers), they are almost completely excluded from top private sector jobs and have a higher law firm attrition rate than any other group.
  • Minorities in law firms do not have the same access to clients and business networks as their white colleagues, and among partners, they tend to be clustered at the bottom of a firm’s financial and status pecking order.
  • The 10 percent minority representation among lawyers lags well behind that of most other professions, including physicians (24.6 percent), physical scientists (30.1 percent), computer scientists (23.1 percent), economists (20.3 percent), accountants (20.8 percent) and postsecondary teachers (24.6 percent).

Now, these findings were published about a year and a half ago, but my understanding is that these numbers haven’t really changed much because as we all know, minority progress in the profession remains frustratingly slow. 

My questions:

Why is it this way?   

What can we, as young attorneys in the Philadelphia community, do about it?

Oh, hey, by the way, do you have biases that might be hidden even to yourselves? Feel free to take the following test from Harvard University to see what tendencies you might have when it comes to judging people by the color of their skin.  You’d be surprised!

Have fun!  And feel free to share your results and/or thoughts about this test on this blog.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. art kyriazis permalink
    March 13, 2007 2:30 pm


    philly is stultifyingly prejudiced.

    if he were alive today, jr hammond would be more comfortable giving his “cotton is king” and “mud sill” speech of 1858 in Philadelphia than he would in South Carolina. The South has moved past racism to a new economic heterogeneity which is attracting business like crazy, including all of our old banking and financial business which is now in places like Charlotte NC and Richmond, VA. Philly, the home of the Union League, which was once dedicated in the 1870s to civil rights for the African-American, became racist over the years and the Union League eventually barred blacks, jews and women from its membership rolls.

    how sad, how ironic and how stupid that philadelphia, the very place where longwood, garrett and other abolitionists ran the underground railroad and championed freedom; where Pennsylvania was the first state in the union to abolish slavery; became the very worst place in the north for african-americans by the 1950s.

    the bigotry and shallowness of the upper classes of this area are astonishing. it’s worse with the middle class.

    the freedom and diversity of the west coast silicon valley and SF economies are simply unimaginable in philly so long as the mindset is so closed.

    what we really need is an infusion of new people to philadelphia and an exodus of native philadelphians out of the city. this could only happen if it became too expensive for the natives to live here.

    –art kyriazis, molecular biologist

  2. girlygirl34 permalink
    March 13, 2007 9:39 pm

    Interesting…. Not sure how to respond to this…. The statistics I posted, however, are not just for Philadelphia. According to the report by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, nearly a half-century after the civil-rights movement began, the legal industry in the U.S. is still suffering from a dearth of minority attorneys. The report also found that fewer than 10% of the nation’s 1 million attorneys are minorities and that minority partners make up barely 3.7% of all partners at U.S. law firms. In addition, the report stated that minority representation in the legal field lags behind other influential professions. For example, according to the U.S. Census Bureau figures, African-Americans and Hispanics make up 9.2% of attorneys, compared with 14.9% of accountants, 10.2% of professors and 10.2% of physicians. Seems like it’s not an issue just for Philadelphia but for the whole nation.

  3. February 7, 2010 1:00 am

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  5. February 7, 2010 7:39 pm

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  7. October 25, 2010 9:56 am

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