The proportion of ethnic minority partners at the UK’s largest firms has remained broadly static over the last year, although there are still proportionately far fewer ethnic minority partners than there are trainees.
According to the Black Solicitors Network’s (BSN) Diversity League Table 2009, 3.53 per cent of partners come from an ethnic minority background, compared with 3.65 per cent in 2008.
This is in contrast to the figures for trainees. Ethnic minority trainees make up 13.58 per cent of total would-be lawyers. This is actually slightly less than in 2008, when the figure was 14.32 per cent, although it is up significantly from the 10.65 per cent in 2007.
The diversity table, which is based upon both ethnic minority and gender statistics, reveals that trade union specialist Thompsons Solicitors, which is outside the Top 100, is the most diverse firm.
Within the top 100, Wedlake Bell and Russell Jones & Walker are the most diverse firms and Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance are the most diverse top 10 City firms (at joint 16th place).
Michael Webster, editor of the Diversity League Table and a Black Solicitors Network Board member, commented: “The data tells the story; while there are many positives, the league table also highlights a decrease in the numbers of ethnic minority lawyers across many areas. So there’s still some way to go.”
Webster added: “Maybe we need to start looking more closely at the actual impact of some of the initiatives which attempt to attract more ethnic minority lawyers to the profession.
“It’s also important to look at what initiatives exist to assist in the retention of ethnic minority lawyers as it’s the percentages at the associate and partner levels within the leading firms that are decreasing.”
Among the strongest players in ethnicity terms were Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, which declared 13.64 per cent ethnic minority partners, while Weil Gotshal & Manges had more than 34 per cent ethnic minority trainees.
The trends in retention for ethnic minorities are broadly reflective of those for women, with female lawyers on average making up a majority of associates (55.31 per cent), but still a minority in the partnership (22.05 per cent).
Pannone is a notable exception, with nearly half of its partnership (43.75 per cent) made up of women.
A total of 49 firms took part in the survey, of which 15 are international firms.