Chicken or the Egg: Why Can’t We Retain Our Female and Minority Lawyers?

I went to a conference recently and sat at a table with a group of male partners, and the topic of our conversation turned to this question.  They lamented the loss of diverse talent in their firms, and they simply could not understand why.  Their firms have internal networks for female and/or minority lawyers. They host diversity workshops. Some of them even have an in-house diversity and inclusion specialist.  They told me they personally assign female and minority lawyers in their offices to their cases and actively mentor and sponsor them when they can. They sounded genuine. They sounded like they are doing everything right.  And yet, female and minority lawyers are still leaving their law firms in bigger numbers than their male and white counterparts. 

What is the problem? Why won’t they stay?  Is it the law firm, firm culture, or the individual lawyer?  I don’t believe there are definitive answers to this question.  But I think it’s helpful to have a conversation with those who have left and those that have stayed and find out what drove them to that path.  Every story is going to be different.   For the next few months I’ll offer some possibilities to ponder and tell other people’s stories along the way.  I'll start off with mine...for my next post. I will tell you why I, as a female minority lawyer practicing for 12 years, have often contemplated leaving but never left.  I started my career at a small firm, moved on to two different mid-size firms, and am now settling into BigLaw.  Every opportunity that came my way gave me a chance to reflect on whether I wanted to stay in law firm life. Every time I chose to stay.  For me it all comes down to perspective.



Look forward to hearing more if your story.  If you haven’t already, check out After the JD, http://www.americanbarfoundation.org/research/project/118.

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