CCDI Study shows law firm senior leadership still largely white and male

Interesting study by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion.

In general, I find a three-year time series too short to show much change given the nature of promotion and equivalent processes (a minimum of five years is better, ten is more reliable).

However, it is nevertheless informative in terms of its breakdown by seniority  and a good initiative:

Despite much talk over the last decade around boosting diversity and inclusion in law firms, women and racialized lawyers continue to be under-represented in the Canadian legal profession with Caucasian men continuing to far outnumber those two groups in senior leadership roles, according to a study from the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion.

Level Chan says a lack of women and racialized lawyers at the top of law firms is a matter of retention and advancement. He says there continues to be “over-representation” at the associate and entry-level areas of the firms but they don’t tend to stay.

In fact, the study shows Caucasian men who responded to the survey have the greatest odds of being an equity partner, and they are seven times more likely than racialized women to be an equity partner.

The study, “Diversity by the Numbers: The Legal Profession,” conducted by the CCDI in partnership with the Canadian Bar Association, shows the representation of minority groups in the legal profession has not changed substantially over the last three years that the CCDI has been collecting data. In 2014 and 2015, 73.99 per cent and 76.88 per cent of senior leader respondents were men. In 2016, 75.34 per cent of senior leader respondents to the survey were men and 90.78 per cent of senior leaders were Caucasian.

In 2014 and 2015, 89.28 per cent and 88.91 per cent of senior leader respondents were Caucasian respondents, respectively. Another statistic of note is that 81.9 per cent of senior leaders are equity partners.

“Results from 2014, 2015 and 2016 do not show a shift towards a more diverse and inclusive workforce, particularly in partner and leadership roles,” the report states.

The study, sponsored by Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, Dentons Canada LLP, McCarthy Tétrault LLP and Miller Thomson LLP, shows women and racialized respondents are under-represented in equity partner and senior leader roles and over-represented as associates and articling or summer students.

Authors of the report say factors contributing to the perpetuation of these numbers include “inflexible working conditions, rigid firm culture, high client expectations and overall economics of the profession.”

While some might point to a tough economy since 2008, Deanna Matzanke, director, measurement and analytics at the CCDI, says the economy is a “significant red herring” and what the report shows is “a compelling validation” that the current law firm model makes it difficult for women and minorities to rise to equity partner positions.

“ . . . the process of billable hours, the emphasis placed on client relationships, and the hierarchal ‘Old Boys Club’ network in law firms do not support or foster a diverse and inclusive environment.”

The report goes on to say that women find themselves in a difficult position when faced with trying to balance family needs with law firm demands. Also, “ . . . lawyers from minority groups do not have the same social and cultural capital to network and find mentors who relate to them, because the pool is very small.”

That means many leave the law firm culture for more flexible and accommodating environments elsewhere, such as in-house roles or solo practice.

Matzanke, a lawyer herself, says the results of the study are disappointing and show that diversity and inclusion are not being successfully implemented in the legal profession, despite the fact the pool of potential lawyers in law school has increased in diversity and at the associate level at law firms shows fairly high diversity.

The majority of racialized respondents in the legal profession are Asian, while all other groups show very small representation.

A total of 11 firms from nine provinces and one territory participated in the 2016 survey. Firms were invited to participate directly by CCDI via the Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network, and the Canadian Bar Association sent a letter to all members.

“There’s nothing surprising here really,” says Level Chan, a partner with Stewart McKelvey LLP in Halifax and the CBA’s representative on the CCDI’s advisory committee.

“As to why we’re not moving the needle much, I think it’s a matter of retention and advancement, and as you see particularly with women, there continues to be over-representation at the associate and entry level areas of the firms, but we’re not keeping them. I think that in turn is translating to having fewer people available for senior roles and as equity partners. That is the ongoing issue we’ve had in the legal profession.”

Source: Study shows law firm senior leadership still largely white and male

Link to the study:Diversity by the Numbers: The Legal Profession


About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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