CA State Bar Surveys Shows Attorney Population Not as Diverse as It Would Like

Gavel with open book and scales on table
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Gavel with open book and scales on table

By Jeanine Grimes

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The State Bar of California has released the Diversity of California’s Legal Profession report, which surveys responses from active attorneys in California and highlights diversity, work environment, leadership, and working satisfaction, from a variety of employment sectors and demographic groups. 

The BAR concluded the legal profession is increasing toward diversity, but it does not quite reflect the goal of California.

Some of the results from the report include:

  • There are 39 percent of the attorneys in the state of California who identify as white, however, it “comprises 66 percent of California’s active attorney population.”
  • Hispanic/Latino attorneys are underrepresented since these results comprise “36 percent of the state’s population, but only six percent of Latino/Hispanic attorneys in California are actually licensed.”
  • Asian attorneys make up 14 percent of all attorneys, “while Asian people make up only 16 percent of the state population.”
  • Black people represent six percent of the state population but only three percent of attorneys.
  • Women of color make up the largest group of new attorneys, even though they continue to be underrepresented in all employment settings.
  • The majority of attorneys in California work in the private sectors.
  • Attorneys who identify as non-binary reported the lowest levels of satisfaction within their work environment.

In addition, the report reveals that the percentage of newly-admitted attorneys in underrepresented groups continues to increase.

The State Bar Executive Director, Leah Wilson, asserts, “The State Bar offers this report as both a resource and call to action…while new entrants to the profession increasingly reflect the rich diversity of our state, we still have a long way to go towards the goal of demographic parity.”

Wilson explained lawyers obtain different experiences in the legal profession. In particular, women of color face immense disparities when it comes to “career advancement and work satisfaction.” Nevertheless, the State Bar of California said it looks forward to working with the legal community to improve diversity, equity and inclusion.

In essence, the State Bar said it’s hoping “research included in the diversity report card will translate into results.” These findings were gathered from a diverse pool of practices across the legal employment sectors. 

The State Bar said its goal is for the “statewide attorney population to reflect the richly diverse demographics of California.” Some of the efforts included under the ultimate goal are:

  • Permanent funding for the Strategies and Stories program, which helps lawyers to increase bar pass rates;
  • Remove any ongoing biases from the questions on the BAR Exam and scoring; and
  • Development of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Seal Program that will recognize California legal employees that commit to implementing certain research-driven Calls to Action.

The State Bar of California released a Five-Year Strategic Plan that aims for:

  • Sharing best practices in efforts to support aspiring attorneys through diversity pipeline programs;
  • Providing remote and open-book formats, conducting an equity and cost-focused analysis of the impact of various options for the bar exam on pass rates; and
  • Identifying data-supported practices that help promote retention and advancement of a diverse and inclusive legal profession through toolkits and other resources.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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