We Must Improve Diversity in the Legal Profession
Earlier this summer, we attended the 2017 1L Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Scholars Summit in Philadelphia. LCLD is an organization of more than 265 corporate chief legal officers and law firm managing partners dedicated to creating a diverse legal profession.
We attended the summit on behalf of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, where, as summer associates in the firm’s Cincinnati office, we gained valuable experience firsthand. Our days included assisting in the preparation of briefs, pleadings and other legal documents; attending depositions; participating in closings; and attending conferences with clients and other attorneys.
Though we are new to the legal profession, we believe strengthening opportunities for diversity will significantly help our industry, and our experience at the LCLD Scholars Summit reinforced this notion.
Unfortunately, diversity is an area in need of improvement across the legal community. Earlier this year, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) published its 2016 Report on Diversity based on data collected for its 2016-2017 Directory of Legal Employers. The percentage of women associate attorneys decreased more often than not since 2009, and the percentage of African-American associate attorneys declined every year since 2009 except for a small increase in 2016. Representation of African-Americans among partners stands at 1.81 percent today, and the percentage of openly LGBT attorneys stands at 2.48 percent, according to the report.
The legal profession can do better. We appreciate the efforts of Dinsmore and other firms that recognize this problem and take steps to address it. Indeed, eight of the 15 summer associates in Dinsmore’s Cincinnati office were from traditionally underrepresented groups. We hope that more law firms nationwide will follow suit.
As clients continue to globalize, it is important that the legal industry reflects global diversity. The LCLD Scholars Summit recognizes this imperative, and provided an avenue for aspiring attorneys like us to develop a strong network and obtain early career guidance. The Summit was a career-changing experience that brought together bright, intelligent, and hardworking law students of diverse backgrounds. This exposure allowed us to see and encounter others who have broken through barriers and continue to set the bar for excellence very high. We heard from former LCLD fellows who became judges, general counsel at Fortune 100 companies and partners at major firms, among other high profile positions. The summit presented opportunities for professional and social engagement to foster long lasting relationships between scholars around the nation.
Further, the summit provided attendees with the tools to be successful while serving as diversity and inclusion advocates within the field of law. We left the summit more prepared to be successful summer associates, future attorneys and leaders. Moreover, we cherish the practical skills taught throughout the summit, especially those needed to identify and maneuver through implicit bias and generational differences. We are pleased to bring these skills not only back to Dinsmore, but to the Cincinnati community as a whole.