Sobering News on the State of Black Attorneys in New York City Law Firms

MBBA Members and Supporters:

Today, the New York City Bar Association released its 2015 Law Firm Diversity Benchmarking Report.  The report, which we hope you will read in its entirety, reflects a high level of associate turnover and a low number of Black/African American attorneys advancing to leadership positions in New York City law firms.  According to the report, of the responding law firms, Black/African-American lawyers make up only 4% of associates and 2% of partners.  Moreover, only 0.7% of all partners at NYC Bar signatory law firms are Black/African- American women. Clearly, there is much work to be done. 

While many of these statistics are not surprising, having the quantitative metrics to measure progress is a powerful tool moving forward.  It is imperative that law firms lead from the front when it comes to diversity. The 2015 Law Firm Benchmarking Report diagnoses a serious problem in our industry, but also recommends “better practices” that firms can adopt to improve the recruitment, retention and promotion of black attorneys in our law firms.  

The MBBA supports each of the better practices recommended by the New York City Bar Association.  We too, recommend that law firms invest in the development of their minority associates by providing them with skill training opportunities and by working with them to develop professional/business development plans for the future.  Law firms should also consider hiring a Chief Diversity Officer and incorporating diversity and inclusion training into their professional training programs.  Each of these better practices will help mitigate the damaging effects of bias, and are resources the MBBA has worked to provide for our membership. 

As a bar association, we will continue to encourage professional development and invest resources toward building a strong pipeline of black lawyers in all sectors of the law. To our members, we hope that you will assess ways to support our many initiatives, as well as join any MBBA sections and committees that interest you. To law firm leaders and Diversity and Inclusion staff, we hope that you will reach out to the MBBA so we can support your diversity efforts.  There is much that we can achieve by working together. I welcome your feedback and recommendations.

In Service, 

Paula T. Edgar
MBBA President (2016 - 2018) 

We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to the New York City Bar Association for the production of this report.  More coverage on the NYC Bar’s 2015 Law Firm Diversity Benchmarking report can be found below:

New York Times

New York Law Journal