Legal Profession

An Empirical Analysis of Diversity in the Legal Profession

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



lawyer demographics, lawyer retention rates


The purpose of this Study is to empirically examine the diversity of the legal profession. The primary distinctive features of this empirical analysis are that it evaluates diversity in the legal profession by (a) carefully comparing it against other prestigious professions that have significant barriers to entry, and (b) focusing on young individuals who recently began their careers. These distinctions are made to isolate anomalies that are more likely caused by forces specific to the legal profession rather than general social forces that limit the eligibility of historically disadvantaged groups to pursue prestigious employment opportunities. Further, by narrowing our focus to attorneys who recently began their careers, we get a clearer picture of the current state of diversity. In contrast to prior studies, we find that, although woefully underrepresented as a whole in the legal profession, the representation of young African Americans and Hispanic Americans in the legal profession is comparable to the representation of these groups in other prestigious professions. This finding suggests that the underrepresentation of African Americans and Hispanic Americans in the legal profession may be caused primarily by social forces external to the legal profession, and that, in addition to continuing its current diversity efforts, the legal profession should put a concentrated emphasis on initiatives that assist these underrepresented groups to become eligible to pursue all types of prestigious employment opportunities that have significant barriers to entry. Further, we find that Asian Americans, in contrast to other minorities, are very poorly represented in the legal profession as compared to other prestigious professions. Finally, there is some evidence suggesting that women were relatively well represented in the legal profession when compared to other prestigious professions until recently, when they appear to have become slightly underrepresented. This recent drop may be caused by the failure of the legal profession to provide just and inclusive workplaces, leading to greater dissatisfaction and higher attrition rates among female associates