The State Bar’s “First Annual Report Card on the Diversity of California’s Legal Profession,” published last summer, provides baseline data on the diversity and workplace satisfaction of California’s attorney population across multiple demographic groups and employment sectors. The report brings into stark reality that despite significant growth in the proportion of attorneys who are women and people of color over the past 30 years, California’s attorney population remains far from reflective of the state’s diversity.
“The State Bar has committed to concrete objectives to help the profession move toward greater diversity and inclusion, and developing this annual Report Card is among them,” said Donna S. Hershkowitz, interim executive director of the State Bar. “By creating a snapshot in time based on the most inclusive data available, we provide a tool for accountability for ourselves and a stimulus for others to take action. We know that the lagging growth of diversity in the legal profession limits progress to eradicate inequities in the justice system. By working to diversify the profession, we do our part to address those inequities and help to shape the California we wish to see.”
Among the Report Card’s key findings:
• White attorneys account for nearly 70 percent of California’s active licensed attorney population, while people of color constitute 60 percent of the state’s population.
• Latinos are particularly underrepresented in California’s legal profession, accounting for a mere 7 percent of active attorneys.
• In the last three decades, the proportion of new attorneys who are Asian or multiracial has more than tripled, and the proportion of new Latino attorneys has doubled, but the proportion of new attorneys who are Black has remained stagnant.
• Nearly three-quarters of California attorneys work in the private sector. Increasing the diversity of this sector alone will have a transformative impact on the profession.
• The government and nonprofit sectors, which together make up only 17 percent of the profession, are the most diverse, but women and people of color remain underrepresented at leadership levels in these sectors.
• Women, people of color, LGBTQIA+, and people with disabilities consistently report lower levels of satisfaction with workplace experiences, such as salary and opportunities for advancement and career development, than their white male counterparts.
The Report Card draws upon 2019 data from the State Bar’s groundbreaking online Attorney Census. Launched in January 2019, this ongoing voluntary annual survey captures key demographic information as well as information on employment, workplace environment, and issues key to recruitment, advancement, and retention. The Report Card’s analyses were based on responses by approximately 95,000 active attorneys.
The Report Card includes calls to action for employers and attorneys, with prompts and recommendations derived from a review of best practices in inclusion and diversity that the State Bar has engaged in over the course of the development of the Attorney Census and this Report Card. Similar recommendations were raised in a recent national study by the American Bar Association, Left Out and Left Behind: The Hurdles, Hassles, and Heartaches of Achieving Long-Term Legal Careers for Women of Color.
Two years ago, the State Bar commenced a tradition of annual diversity summits to bring leaders in key legal sectors together to discuss how to improve inclusion and diversity in the legal profession. Later this year, the State Bar plans two sector-specific summits—focusing on the private and nonprofit sectors. Early last year, the Board of Trustees committed to concrete objectives to advance diversity and inclusion within the legal profession.