Retaining Color

70 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2013 Last revised: 9 Apr 2014

Date Written: August 14, 2013


It is no secret that large law firms are struggling in their efforts to retain attorneys of color. This is despite two decades of aggressive tracking of demographic rates, mandates from clients to improve demographic diversity, and the implementation of a variety of diversity efforts within large law firms. In part, law firm retention efforts are stymied by the reality that elite large law firms require some level of attrition to function properly under the predominant business model. This reality, however, does not explain why firms have more difficulty retaining attorneys of color — in particular black and Hispanic attorneys — than white, male attorneys.

And yet, there may be a relatively simple and low-cost set of incentives that law firm management and the legal profession can put in place to encourage black and Hispanic attorneys to remain at large law firms at higher rates. This Article draws on traditional theories of “the firm” and modern-day understandings of discrimination and applies them to the retention problem in large law firms. It argues that by incentivizing equity partners, overwhelmingly white males, in large firms to instill greater “loyalty” in black and Hispanic attorneys, firms can improve a portion of their retention problem. As equity partners invest more time mentoring black and Hispanic attorneys, they will develop a sense of loyalty to the firm that will decrease the speed and frequency that attorneys of color “exit” the firm. Firms can then begin Retaining Color.

Keywords: Law firm, Diversity, Discrimination

JEL Classification: K39

Suggested Citation

Root Martinez, Veronica, Retaining Color (August 14, 2013). 47 University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform 575-643; Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 1441. Available at SSRN:

Veronica Root Martinez (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0780
United States

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