Career Development » Difficult and Lonely Road to Partner for Black Lawyers

Difficult and Lonely Road to Partner for Black Lawyers

Young lawyers or law students standing together; isolated on white

August 19, 2015

Unconscious bias and cultural differences pose disproportionate challenges to black lawyers looking to reach partner. Just 5.6 percent of lawyers holding top leadership positions in law firms are anything other than white, according to the National Association for Law Placement, and just two percent of law firm partners are black. The numbers are even lower when narrowed to black women. “Black attorneys are not always getting the support in the same way as their colleagues,” Raqiyyah R. Pippins, a lawyer on the partnership track at Kelley Drye, told the New York Times. “If there’s a pattern, it is that a minority associate gets good reviews, but deficiencies are brought up when the conversation turns to partnership.” In 2014, Nextions published research showing that law firm partners were more likely to give a written legal memo a higher grade when they thought it had been written by a white individual. When they believed it to be written by a black lawyer, they gave the same memo a lower evaluation and predicted less potential for the associate who wrote it. But, the Times writes, companies are putting pressure on outside law firms to show that they have a more diverse environment.

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