Diversity Efforts Continue to Grow in Large US Law Firms

NEWTOWN SQUARE, PA, April 24, 2008 — The Altman Weil Flash Survey on the Diversity Director Position in Large Law Firms has just been released.  It reports that 58% of participating law firms have a designated Diversity Manager or Director, up 8% from 2007, and 13% from fall 2005 when the first Diversity Flash Survey was conducted.  In addition, the survey found that 100% of participants report having a Diversity Committee in their firm, up from 96% in the prior year.

The survey canvassed large US law firms in the AmLaw 200 and includes responses from 80 participating firms collected in March and April 2008.

“This year, for the first time, more than half of law firms surveyed report having a Diversity Director,” notes Altman Weil Senior Consultant, Virginia Essandoh.  “This continuing investment in diversity is a positive sign, and is reflected in recent industry studies showing some increases in large firms’ diversity demographics.”

Diversity Manager Position
According to the survey, 79% of Diversity Managers are lawyers in their firms, compared to 67% in 2007 and 57% in 2005.  The number of Diversity Managers who hold the position full-time is down from 61% in 2007 to only 53% in 2008.

Forty-four percent of the lawyer-managers in the position are balancing their duties with an active law practice; and, of those, 65% have a billable hour requirement – some as high as 1500 - 2000 hours per year. 

“Diversity Directors consistently tell us that the position requires total focus in order to do it well,” says Ms. Essandoh.  “Putting practicing lawyers in this role almost certainly reduces the overall effectiveness of firms’ diversity efforts.”

Roles and Responsibilities
Diversity Managers serve in a variety of roles in their law firms.  All serve on their firms’ Diversity Committees, and additionally are involved in recruiting (71%), lawyer and staff hiring (67%), and professional development (62%).  Only 12% have input on lawyer compensation and 8% have a role in partner reviews.

The primary areas of responsibility for Diversity Managers are to develop, promote and implement diversity goals and strategies and to act as a liaison both internally and externally on all diversity-related issues.  Other key job responsibilities include promoting awareness of diversity issues within the firm, developing firm programs to foster inclusiveness and encourage retention, and working with the Recruiting Committee to identify and hire individuals with diverse backgrounds.

When asked about the geographic scope of their responsibility, 65% report overseeing diversity efforts in multiple US office locations; 29% are responsible for US and international diversity programs; and, 6% work with one office location only.

“As large law firms accelerate their foreign expansion, Diversity Directors will be at the forefront in developing global diversity programs,” notes Essandoh. 

Funding Diversity Efforts
The median annual total cash compensation for Diversity Managers in the survey was reported at $184,000, up 5.1% from 2007.  Diversity Managers who are lawyers take home a median $195,000, while non-lawyer professionals earn $162,500.  

The total budget allocation to support the position (including the Manager’s salary) was a median of $477,500.  Sixty-nine percent of Diversity Managers have staff support, with an average three staff positions reporting to them. 

About the Survey
Survey data was collected in March and April 2008 from AmLaw 200 law firms, with 41% participating (80 of 194 firms solicited).  Thirty-two percent of respondents were law firms with over 750 lawyers; 17% were firms in the 501-750 lawyer range; 36% were firms in the 251-500 lawyer range; and, 16% were firms with 101-250 lawyers.  The full report of the tabulated data appears on the Altman Weil website at www.altmanweil.com/DiversitySurvey2008.

About Altman Weil
Founded in 1970, Altman Weil, Inc. is dedicated exclusively to the legal profession.  It provides management consulting services to law firms, law departments and legal vendors worldwide.   The firm is independently owned by its professional consultants, who have backgrounds in law, industry, finance, marketing, administration and government.   More information on Altman Weil can be found at www.altmanweil.com.

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