Researching Diversity Before an Interview: Tips and Tools for the Discerning Job-Seeker

Researching Diversity Before an Interview: Tips and Tools for the Discerning Job-Seeker

As many law students gear up for early-interview season, now is a good time to revisit the process of researching firms' diversity records. In an earlier post, we explored the importance of looking into a firm's record on diversity and inclusion (See Researching Diversity Before an Interview  ). Now, we will offer some helpful tips and tools for getting past the publicity photos and down to the facts.

Diversity by Numbers.

  • This one is simple. Go to the BBLP website (Building a Better Legal Profession.Org), find your firm and look at the demographics for associates and partners. Keep in mind that a steep drop off for any given group may indicate an environment where opportunities for advancement are not readily accessible to members of that group or of other groups. Consider what a 0% black male partnership rate says to you. 
  • While you are at it, you might want to look up billable hours reported.
  • You can also find similar number at Am Law's Diversity Scorecard 2010 . The Diversity Scorecard is helpful because it gives actual numbers as well as percentages. 50% minority partnership means something different when that is one out of two partners than when it is ten out of twenty. 

 A Closer Look at Retention and Attrition.

Vault and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) have teamed up to produce an in-depth searchable database (2011 Vault Law Firm Diversity Rankings) on law firm statistics. This is a fabulous tool because it is so thorough and easy to use. It allows you to see, for example, the last class of 2L summer associates, then see the number of summer associates who got offers, then see how many accepted, and you can get demographic information on any of those stages. You can also compare attrition rates by demographic for each associate class from 1st- year to 8th-year and Of Counsel, Non-equity Partners, and Equity Partners. Since those numbers can also be narrowed by demographic, you can see if the Non-Equity Partnership is a "mommy" track or a step to Equity. Finally, take a look at the composition of the law firm C-Suite: the management committee, the hiring committee, the associate review committee, the partnership review committee and the diversity committee; nothing is a better indicator of the distribution of power or the availability of diverse mentors with push.

Is Partner Compensation Tied to Diversity Performance?

You went to law school to learn how to ask the tough questions; here is a good place to start. At firms like Sidley Austin LLP, and Winsted LLP  partners must report to the Management Committee on diversity issues as part of their year-end bonus evaluations. One sign that this works is that Sidley Austin and Winsted were both among the firms that improved their diversity rankings in Am Law's Diversity Scorecard 2010, despite declining performance in the overall profession. At Sidley Austin, holding partners accountable helped them close the attrition gap between men and women.

Ask About Balanced Hours Programs.

If you don't know what Balanced Hours Programs are, don't fret; they are a relatively new idea in the legal world. Balanced Hours Programs combine elements of part-time or flex-time programs, but the best of them do away with the stigma attached to more traditional part-time work. The Project for Attorney Retention (PAR) list "Appoint a Balanced Hour Coordinator"  and "Make Balanced Hours Available to All Attorneys" as its top two best practices for attorney retention.

 If work-life balance is important to you, it would be worthwhile to take a look at the rest of the PAR website as well.

With a little bit of research, you can arm yourself with information-an interviewee's best friend.


Building a Better Legal Profession (BBLP) is an organization based at Stanford Law School.   BBLP is a national grassroots movement that seeks market-based workplace reforms in large private law firms. For more information, visit BBLP's Web site at