Issue 5, January 2004



1. Mentoring Across Differences: A Guide to
Cross-Gender and Cross-Race Mentoring

2. Other Diversity-Related Studies:

  • NALP Foundation: Keeping the Keepers II
  • EEOC: Diversity in Law Firms
  • Department of Justice: Analysis of Diversity in the Attorney Workforce

Dear Colleague:

Happy New Year to one and all! I hope the year is off to a great start for you and that it brings health, happiness and prosperity your way.

The theme of this issue of Management Solutions is diversity, and we feature four studies that deal with women and minority lawyers in the profession.

First, I am excited to announce an important new resource: Mentoring Across Differences: A Guide to Cross-Gender and Cross-Race Mentoring. This guidebook contains findings and recommendations based on a study that I conducted with Dr. Rita Boags for the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA). The study is receiving national attention and was recently mentioned in the New York Times at

Three other studies also address diversity in the legal profession, directly or indirectly:

  • A NALP Foundation study that describes associate attrition rates and patterns, including attrition among women and minority lawyers,
  • A study of diversity in law firms conducted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that shows that women and minority lawyers face greater difficulties than white men in becoming partners, and
  • A comprehensive study of lawyer diversity in the Department of Justice that found the DOJ's lawyers are more diverse than the U.S. legal workforce, but that minorities are significantly underrepresented in management ranks.

Lastly, January is National Mentoring Month. This is a good time to become a mentor for a young lawyer or law student, or to participate in a community-based mentoring program for children and adolescents. Becoming a mentor is a great way for you to have a positive influence on someone's life. Reach out to a promising young lawyer in your firm. Contact your local law schools and bar associations to find law students or lawyers interested in having a mentor. To be a mentor for a child or teenager, visit to find mentoring opportunities in your community.

Mentoring Across Differences: A Guide to Cross-Gender and Cross-Race Mentoring

Studies of the legal profession consistently show that one of the significant barriers to the advancement of women and minority lawyers is the inability of these lawyers to find mentors. Our study looked at women and minority lawyers in law firms and corporate law departments who had successful mentoring relationships. We wanted to learn how these lawyers found, formed, and sustained meaningful mentoring relationships across gender and race. The study results have significant implications for law firm diversity efforts and for individual lawyers of both genders and all races.

Here are a few of our key findings:

  • Women and minority lawyers who understood the value of mentoring and actively sought mentors were able to find mentors to meet various needs and goals throughout their careers.
  • While lawyers preferred informal mentoring, 90% of participants who were matched in formal mentoring programs were satisfied with their mentoring experience.
  • Mentors viewed their time and energy as expensive assets and the mentoring process as an investment of those assets. They invested in lawyers who they believed would produce a high return, i.e., those whom they saw as "winners" or "keepers."
  • Many women and minority lawyers were not aware of what potential mentors expected from them. This lack of knowledge may be one of the key reasons why women and minority lawyers do not experience mentoring to the same degree as white men.
  • Mentoring programs and diversity initiatives helped create an environment that fostered cross-gender and cross-race mentoring. However, participants felt that firms did not provide adequate guidelines, training, or coordination of these programs and initiatives.

In addition to discussing the study's findings and their implications, Mentoring Across Differences presents practical recommendations for lawyers who wish to have mentors; for mentors of women and minority lawyers; and for legal employers who wish to promote mentoring in their organizations.

The Minority Corporate Counsel Association, which sponsored the study as part of its Creating Pathways to Diversity® series, has not only published our report, it has also made the report available in PDF format on-line. You can request a copy of Mentoring Across Differences from MCCA at (202) 371-5908 or via email.

PDF files require Acrobat Reader to view and print. Reader can be downloaded free from Adobe.

Other Diversity-Related Studies

Three recent studies address the continuing high attrition and low promotion rates of women and minority lawyers in private and government practice.

a. Keeping the Keepers II: Mobility & Management of Associates, The NALP Foundation (Washington, DC, 2003), This report is a follow-up to the NALP Foundation's seminal 1997 study of associate attrition, Keeping the Keepers. This new study examined associate hiring and departure patterns for the period 1998-2003. It found that the overall attrition rate for entry-level associates remains high: 53.4% within the first five years of employment. The departure rates for minority lawyers were significantly higher: 68% of minority men and 64.4% of minority women left within four and half years. The report presents many findings that law firms should consider in formulating professional development programs, retention initiatives, and diversity programs.

b. Diversity in Law Firms, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2003), The EEOC conducted a study to examine the changes in employment status of women and minority lawyers in mid-size and large law firms since 1975. The study determined that the most pressing issue today for women and minority lawyers in these firms is promotion to partnership. Using statistical analysis, the EEOC determined that, although the presence of women and minorities in law firms has increased dramatically since 1975, the odds of a woman or minority lawyer becoming a partner remain significantly lower than for their white male counterparts. The EEOC report is technical and dense, but has some useful data for those involved in law firm diversity efforts.

c. Analysis of Diversity in the Attorney Workforce in the Department of Justice, Final Report, June 14, 2002. In 2002, consulting firm KPMG conducted a study of diversity practices at the Department of Justice. The DOJ inexplicably refused to release KPMG's report until forced to do so under the Freedom of Information Act, but it is now available online. The report shows that DOJ lawyers are more diverse by race, ethnicity and gender than the overall legal workforce. But as in law firms, the representation of women and minority lawyers declines sharply at the higher levels, with women and minorities underrepresented in senior management ranks. Women and minority lawyers are also reported to be more dissatisfied, and the attrition rate among minority lawyers was almost 50% higher than among white lawyers. Although the report deals with lawyers in a government practice setting, the findings, discussion, and recommendations are for the most part relevant to law firms and legal departments as well.

©2004 Ida Abbott Consulting

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