Denver Bar Association
May 2007
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Diversity Survey Planned for Denver Bar

by Kathleen B. Nalty

Diversity is one of the most challenging and compelling issues facing the legal profession today. Despite concerted efforts by legal employers, especially those in the private sector, the rate of employment of diverse attorneys in law firms has remained relatively low. Only 5 percent of all law partners at larger nationwide law firms are minorities. At 5.23 percent, the rate for minority partners in larger Denver law firms basically tracks the national average. The national average for minority
associates is nearly 17 percent, but Denver’s average is only 12.39 percent.

In response to these alarming statistics, groups locally and nationally have formed to address the issue of stagnant employment rates of minority attorneys in private law firms.

Last fall, Beto Juárez, University of Denver Sturm College of Law dean, and David Getches, dean at the University of Colorado Law School, formed a Deans’ Diversity Council to bring together the leaders of the Denver legal community to actively address issues of diversity in the legal profession.

Corporate legal counsel across the country in 2004 formed an initiative to encourage higher rates of diversity. The "Call to Action," signed by more than 100 Fortune 500 corporations (http://www.clocalltoaction.org), requires law firms to increase their efforts to recruit and retain diverse attorneys or risk losing the signatory corporations as clients.

As a result of the "Call to Action," the demand for diverse law students and lawyers in the private sector has risen.

At the same time, however, the number of law school applications among minorities is declining and the attrition rate among minority attorneys at private law firms is rapidly accelerating. According to research conducted by the National Association for Law Placement, minority attorneys leave law firms at a much higher rate than non-minority attorneys and the problem is especially acute for female attorneys of color — 81 percent of minority female associates leave their law firms within five years of being hired.

In response to these pressing issues, Dean Juárez and Dean Getches decided to bring to the table those who could best address them: managing partners of the Pledge to Diversity law firms (http://www.cptd.org), general counsel from some of Colorado’s largest corporations, members of the federal and state judiciary, leading government sector attorneys, Bar leaders and others committed to diversity in the legal profession.

As their first major initiative, the Deans’ Diversity Council, in partnership with the Colorado Pledge to Diversity Legal Group and the Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee of the CBA and DBA, is conducting a major diversity survey of practicing attorneys in the Denver-metro area. Approximately 1,400 attorneys will be randomly selected to participate in the survey.

DBA President Paul Chan is passionate about the topic of diversity. "I think it is important for the bar association and the legal community to reach out to lawyers of all backgrounds and experience. We all should be committed to excellence, diversity and opening doors for lawyers. Our clients demand it, the community demands it and good business sense demands it. This initiative is a big step in the right direction."

The data and information collected from the survey are critical to the Council’s work in addressing issues that may act as barriers to diversity in the legal profession. Leaders throughout the legal community will be publicizing and encouraging the participation of those who are randomly selected to ensure a high response rate.

The results of the survey will be disseminated throughout the legal community, beginning with the diversity conference in Denver this fall. The Rocky Mountain Diversity Legal Summit, which will feature national speakers and draw participants regionally and nationally, is planned for Sept. 20 at INVESCO Field at Mile High. This diversity conference was initiated and organized by the Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee. For more information about the conference, go to http://www.cobar.org/group/index.cfm?EntityID=CMIP. More than 30 volunteers from the Denver legal community are planning this major conference, which will be advertised nationally. D


Kathleen B. Nalty is a Career Consultant with the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. You can reach her at knalty@law.du.edu.


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