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Older, whiter bar, working a little less

Although the demographic makeup of the State Bar continues to diversify, its membership is both whiter and older than it was just five years ago, according to a survey conducted in December and January.

The percentage of women and lesbian and gay lawyers is higher than it was in 2001; women make up nearly half the attorneys 35 and younger and also have made some gains in income and partnership.

Conducted by Hertz Research at the request of the bar’s board of governors, the survey found:

  • As it did between 1991 and 2001, the percentage of attorneys over 54 years of age continued to rise and now accounts for 35 percent of the total. Attorneys older than 45 make up 64 percent of the bar.
  • 84.4 percent of the bar identifies as white, compared to 83 percent five years ago and 91 percent in 1991. The number of African-Americans declined from 2.4 percent in 2001 to 1.7 percent today. Other minority representation also declined with the exception of Hispanics, who increased from 3.7 percent to 3.8 percent.
  • Lawyers seem to be working fewer hours — 7 percent say they work 60 hours or more, compared to 22 percent five years ago, while those working less than 40 hours a week went from 30 percent in 2001 to the current 42 percent.
  • The rich get rich and the poor get poorer. The percentage earning more than $300,000 from the practice of law went from 4 percent to 7 percent, while the percentage of those bringing home less than $50,000 went from 16 percent to 25 percent. Another quarter makes between $100,000 and $149,000, and 24 percent make between $50,000 and $100,000.
  • Slightly more than 5 percent identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, compared with 2.4 percent in 2001.

“I’m not sure how much the population has changed as opposed to how much society has changed and people are willing to be more open,” Hertz said of the numbers of gay and lesbian lawyers.

He also suggested the findings reflect an “economic environment that is not the same as it was five years ago.”

Some members of the board of governors seemed surprised that the number of minority lawyers has fallen in the last five years, despite efforts throughout higher education to attract students of color. However, the passage in 1996 of Proposition 209, the Civil Rights Initiative, banned the use of affirmative action in public law schools.

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