Minorities Remain Scarce Among General Counsel

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 03, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Minorities are definitely in the minority of general counsel, according to a new report.

The Minority Counsel Corporation Association says barely 11 percent of general counsel are minorities. That is slightly better than the statistics for minority partners in law firms, but worse than the percentage of minority attorneys altogether.

The statistics show that things are getting better at the lower levels of the law, but not at the top. So what else is new?

"Not Changing at the Top"

Jean Lee, president and chief executive of the association, said law firms talk a lot about diversity. White women have "benefited greatly from all of the diversity initiatives," she said, but not so much for attorneys of color.

"All these conversations and efforts are focused on diversity, but it's just not changing at the top," Lee told the Washington Post.

According to reports, general counsel at Fortune 500 firms are nearly 70 percent white men. About 22 percent are white women, 5 percent women of color and 7 percent men of color.

The numbers show a clear preference in corporate culture for white men and women, against a backdrop of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans. Those minorities make up a third of the legal profession in America.

Times Are Changing

A decade ago, the numbers were worse. Since then, the percentage of minorities who are general counsel has increased by 50 percent. However, Lee said, progress has slowed.

Following up on recent initiatives by the American Bar Association and outside law firms, the corporate counsel group plans to fight the trend by mentoring more minorities. Two years ago, the MCCA saw better percentages.

But since then, according to reports, minority general counsel numbers have stagnated.

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