Legal Profession

Title

Few and Far Between: The Reality of Latina Lawyers

Document Type

Issue/Research Brief/Blog

Publication Date

9-2009

Keywords

diversity in the legal profession, law school diversity, implicit bias, legal education pipeline, Hispanic and Latino students, intersectionality, gender inequality, role model effect, mentoring

Abstract

The historic appointment of Justice Sonia Sotomayor as the third woman and first Latina to serve on the nation’s highest court—and her story of overcoming tremendous obstacles—have resonated with many Latinas. But Latinas—who make up 7% of the total U.S. population and are part of the largest and fastest-growing ethnic and racial group in the United States—represent only 1.3% of the nation’s lawyers, the lowest representation of any racial or ethnic group as compared to their overall presence in the nation. Despite the focus on the underrepresentation of women and people of color in the legal profession, few studies have examined the experiences and issues unique to Latina attorneys, and none on a broad scale.

In response, the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), a national bar association committed to addressing the issues affecting Latinas/os in the legal profession, commissioned this National Study of the Status of Latinas in the Legal Profession, to understand the barriers and issues Latinas face as a result of their status as ethnically and racially diverse females, and how this intersection affects their experiences and career advancement. The overarching goal of this Study is to inform legal and business institutions about the unique issues and barriers Latina lawyers face in their legal careers, and how these may negatively affect their presence and advancement in the profession. Armed with this information, these institutions can develop strategies and take the necessary steps not only to remove the barriers that threaten their entry; but also to promote their presence and advancement in the legal profession.

This landmark Study is the first of its kind to provide both qualitative and quantitative data on the experiences and status of Latinas in the legal profession, on a national level and across all major legal sectors (including law firms, corporate counsel, government, the judiciary, and legal academia). The Study provides both a demographic and professional profile of more than 600 Latina attorneys and explores their experiences and how they have navigated their legal careers. This research is intended to help academic, legal, and business institutions better understand the issues and barriers that limit Latinas’ advancement within the legal profession and to develop strategies aimed at changing the status quo.

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