Legal Profession

Title

Perceiving Discrimination: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation in the Legal Workplace

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date

11-2019

Keywords

diversity in the legal profession, race, gender, sexual orientation, employment discrimination, implicit bias

Abstract

Using quantitative and qualitative data from a large national sample of lawyers, we examine self-reports of perceived discrimination in the legal workplace. Across three waves of surveys, we find that persons of color, white women, and LGBTQ attorneys are far more likely to perceive they have been a target of discrimination than white men. These differences hold in multivariate models that control for social background, status in the profession and the work organization, and characteristics of the work organization. Qualitative comments describing these experiences reveal that lawyers of different races, genders, and sexual orientations are exposed to distinctive types of bias, that supervisors and clients are the most frequent sources of discriminatory treatment, and the often-overt character of perceived discrimination. These self-reports suggest that bias in the legal workplace is widespread and rooted in the same hierarchies of race, gender, and sexual orientation that pervade society.

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