Lawyer Demographics: Where's the Diversity?

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on December 12, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Law firms and law schools often tout their "diversity," so you'd think that lawyer demographics would reflect that, right?

Wrong. Turns out the legal industry, as a whole, isn't as diverse as many would like to think. Law is still an old boys' club and make no mistake, that's an old white boys' club. At least, that's what the latest numbers from the American Bar Association seem to indicate.

The report was compiled based on numbers from the ABA's Lawyer Statistical Report and the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. But keen observers may have spotted a few issues with the data.

Before we dive into the numbers, keep in mind that the much of the ABA's "latest" statistical information on lawyers is from 2005.

Yes, that's right. It appears that data for the last seven years wasn't available for some reason, so who knows whether the ABA report truly reflects current demographic trends.

Back in 2005, men made up 70 percent of American attorneys. The median age for attorneys was 49, and almost a third of those attorneys were between 45 and 54, according to the report.

But the ABA report also contained some more recent data. So at least we know one thing about attorneys these days: Most of them are white.

Numbers from 2010 show that 88.1 percent of attorneys are white. That's down 0.7 percent from 2000 when 88.8 percent of attorneys were white. So much for racial diversity.

There is some hope for diversifying the profession, however, based on statistics about law school students. During the 2011-12 academic year, for example, 53 percent of law students were male and 47 percent were female.

As for minority enrollment, last year 24.5 percent of law students were minorities. That's quite a bit better than the 2010 statistics for attorneys as a whole, and more accurately reflects the nation's current demographics. (Whites comprise about 72 percent of the U.S. population, according to the 2010 Census.)

From the numbers it doesn't appear that law is the inclusive career path all those law-school brochures want us to think it is. But hopefully the law school numbers will make a positive impact on the industry over the next few years.

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