Eighty one per cent of the UK's top law firms have no black partners, with just 3.7 per cent of partners coming from ethnic minorities, according to the Black Solicitors Network's (BSN) 2007 diversity league table.
However, this is an improvement on last year, when only 3 per cent of partners came from ethnic minorities.
Michael Webster, a BSN director and editor of the league table, pointed out that the figures improve slightly when moving down the scale of seniority, with 9.8 per cent of associates and 10.7 per cent of trainees coming from ethnic minorities.
Addleshaw Goddard, DLA Piper, Herbert Smith, Lovells and Macfarlanes all feature in the bottom half of a league table ranking 63 of the UK's top 100 firms in terms of diversity. Bottom overall is Holman Fenwick & Willan.
At the opposite end of the table Wedlake Bell tops the chart, followed by Bristows, Freeth Cartwright and Weightmans. However, six firms from outside the top 100 took part in the survey and, when they are added to the chart, Midlands-based Flint Bishop Solicitors comes out on top.
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton fared best in terms of ethnic minority partners, with Shearman & Sterling having the greatest proportion of ethnic minority associates and Bristows topping the table for trainees.
In terms of female employees, the study found that 22 per cent of partners are female compared with 54 per cent of associates. The proportion of female trainees within individual firms ranges from 33.3 per cent to 87.5 per cent.
Lewis Silkin has the highest proportion of female partners at 44 per cent, while Cripps Harries Hall has the most female associates and Flint Bishop the most female trainees.