Legal Profession


Diversity in the Legal Profession: Moving from Rhetoric to Reality

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



lawyer demographics


The law is shaped by cultural shifts, and the lawyer is well positioned to play the role of architect. Yet, the legal profession is the least diverse and inclusive profession of all. Despite numerous attempts to create diversity and inclusion within the profession, the legal profession remains today much as it was at its inception. Although sanctions against lawyers who engage in discrimination in employment practices are suggested by diversity groups, those attempts would be costly and duplicative. The author discusses a cross-section of available rules that are less costly, more manageable alternatives. The Article proposes that the goal of diversity and inclusion within the profession cannot be forced, but must be realized through consistent measures aimed at creating accountability, educational awareness, and building supporting connections at each level of the professional hierarchy. Section I introduces the topic. Section II briefly examines the development of the legal profession in the United States along with its long history of exclusion of groups that remain underrepresented in the profession today. It then examines some recent diversity initiatives and explores the reasons why these initiatives have largely failed to achieve the goal of increasing diversity. Section III evaluates the need for additional regulation to achieve diversity and examines alternatives to regulation that have had some success in promoting an understanding of the values of diversity within the profession. The conclusion in Section IV offers recommendations for action to promote diversity.