Announcing Vault's 2016 Law Firm Diversity Rankings

by Nicole Weber | July 21, 2015

  • My Vault

Vault has released its Law Firm Diversity Rankings for 2016, and Carlton Fields Jorden Burt tops the list once again after briefly ceding the Best Law Firm for Diversity accolade to Ropes & Gray last year. In fact, Carlton Fields Jorden Burt has claimed the No. 1 spot in all of the diversity ranking categories except for one—Diversity for Military Veterans—in which Paul Hastings is the winner.

The rankings are based on the results of Vault’s annual survey, administered earlier this year to more than 17,000 law firm associates. Participants were asked to rate their employers on a variety diversity initiatives including recruitment, retention, promotion and mentoring efforts with respect to minority, women, LGBT individuals, individuals with disabilities and military veterans. A formula that averages the scores in all five categories is used to determine the Best Law Firms for Overall Diversity.

There is no question that law firms are prioritizing diversity initiatives more than ever. Associates value the steps taken by management to foster an inclusive environment in which employees of all backgrounds are supported. While the industry as a whole still has progress to make, it’s encouraging to see how many firms are truly devoted—and not just paying lip service—to these efforts. In fact, the 2016 score for the No. 1 firm for Best Overall Diversity increased by more than a third of a point. Carlton Fields Jorden Burt's overall score was 9.156, compared with Ropes & Gray's winning score of 8.81 last year. 

The 25 Best Law Firms for Overall Diversity were those most highly rated by their own associates for their overall commitment to hiring, retaining and promoting diverse attorneys:

  1. Carlton Fields Jorden Burt
  2. Paul Hastings
  3. Ropes & Gray
  4. Debevoise & Plimpton
  5. Littler Mendelson
  6. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner
  7. Shook, Hardy & Bacon
  8. Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz
  9. Schiff Hardin
  10. O’Melveny & Myers
  11. Quarles & Brady
  12. Perkins Coie
  13. WilmerHale
  14. Haynes and Boone
  15. BuckleySandler
  16. Reed Smith
  17. Alston & Bird
  18. Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
  19. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
  20. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
  21. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson
  22. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
  23. Weil, Gotshal & Manges
  24. Gibbons
  25. Sidley Austin

Carlton Fields Jorden Burt bounced back in every category to rank No. 1 in Diversity for Women, Diversity for Minorities, Diversity for Individuals with Disabilities, and LGBT Diversity—in addition to taking back its title of Best Firm for Overall Diversity. “The firm does an excellent job maintaining and enhancing diversity,” one associate told Vault. “We are constantly challenging our policies and programs to figure out how we can improve. The maternity program is excellent, and demonstrates that the firm values family.” Another associate remarked that “the firm is extremely committed to diversity with respect to all groups and it shows in the efforts made to recruit, retain and promote growth.”

In the Overall Diversity category, Paul Hastings climbed two spots to become No. 2 and Ropes & Gray is No. 3. Meanwhile, Littler Mendelson dropped three spots to No. 5, and Debevoise & Plimpton climbed two spots to become the No. 4 firm for Best Overall Diversity. Additions to this category that either didn’t rank last year or have joined for the first time are O’Melveny & Myers; Quarles & Brady; WilmerHale; BuckleySandler; Fried Frank; Weil Gotshal; and Sidley Austin.

Many Firms Demonstrate Unwavering Commitment to Diversity

Here is a closer look at some firms that stood out in this year’s Diversity Rankings:

O’Melveny & Myers: Not only did this 700-attorney firm make big 11-spot jumps in both the LGBT (No. 8) and Individuals with Disabilities categories (No. 6) this year—it also joins every other category, landing at No. 10 for Best Overall Diversity. “The firm keeps an open mind in hiring, and engages in a number of programs designed to encourage diverse individuals to seek out employment at the firm,” said one associate, who also said that O’Melveny “does a great job funding organizations designed to promote minority advancement in the law, and hosts a series of programs designed to eliminate any implicit bias that may exist.” Another pointed out, “Of the nine new partners the firm ‘promoted’ on January 1st, four were women. Diversity is something we are told to look for in recruiting. Our parental leave policy is extremely generous, and there are numerous flexible and reduced hours opportunities for people coming off of parental leave.”

Quarles & Brady: Another addition to the Best Overall category is Quarles & Brady (No. 11), where associates appreciate “a strong emphasis on firm-wide diversity in all areas.” This continuously expanding firm with Midwestern roots is “one of the few firms that has a female firm-wide managing partner and a minority office managing partner,” which may explain, in part, why it joins the Diversity for Women ranking at No. 6 and the Diversity for Minorities ranking at No. 9. Quarles also appears in every other diversity category this year, after a brief absence from the 2015 diversity rankings. Associates give their firm high ratings because, as one associate put it: “Our firm not only has a commitment to diversity but actually delivers.”

Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz: Historically recognized by Vault as a Best Law Firm for Diversity, Baker Donelson is continuing its great work and moving even further up the rankings. It climbed in nearly every category, including LGBT Diversity (up eight spots to No. 17) and Diversity for Military Veterans (up four spots to No. 7). “We have a new parental leave program, gender-neutral, that allows four months of leave for the primary caregiver and allows that leave to be taken intermittently so that the attorney may take his or her time to transition out and in of work when having a child or adopting,” boasted one associate. Another told Vault: “I believe the firm does a great job training and informing all firm employees about the firm’s commitment to diversity. In fact, the firm conducted implicit bias training to all firm employees (staff and attorneys). This is something that many firms are not doing.” 

Debevoise & Plimpton: In addition to becoming one of the Top 5 firms in the Overall Diversity category, this year Debevoise climbed an impressive seven spots in the Diversity for Minorities category to land at No. 3. It is also in the Top 5 in Diversity for Women (No. 5), LGBT Diversity (No. 4) and Diversity for Individuals with Disabilities (No. 5). Associates touted the firm’s “great diversity manager who is very engaged with the associates,” “a diversity lunch hosted each month,” and “affinity groups within the firm [that] meet regularly over lunch.” One attorney noted that “partners heading [affinity] groups have given tremendously helpful guidance to associates for career development. It is great to have another mentor who I can go to with questions.” Another commented: “Speaking from an LGBT perspective, I would say the firm really couldn’t be any better. There is a warm and welcoming LGBT group within the firm, but it almost feels superfluous since the non-LGBT people here are equally supportive and welcoming.” 

View all Vault Law Firm Diversity Rankings for 2016.

Read More: 
Which Law Firm Has the Happiest Associates?
Vault’s Top 100 Law Firms for 2016
Vault’s Top Law Firms by Practice Area and Region
What Every Law Student Should Know about OCI 

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Filed Under: Law

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