Diversity Among Elite American Law Firms: a Signal of Quality and Prestige

39 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2005

Date Written: February 24, 2007


This Article* considers the diversity-performance nexus among elite American law firms. I present several existing theories that might explain this nexus. I argue that these theories do not entirely explain certain institutional and behavioral realities among these law firms with respect to workplace diversity. The Article thus supplements the existing theories with a deliberately parsimonious theory that seems more consistent with several of the observed institutional and behavioral regularities among elite U.S. law firms. In particular, I argue that diversity functions as a signal for elite law firms. Adhering to diversity signals unobservable law firm attributes to various third parties, including prospective associates, and is thus a partial solution to asymmetric information. In this limited way, at least, diversity is "good for business". Ultimately, however, the theoretical model that I present is deficient in that it treats diversity as an exogenous norm. A deeper inquiry into the motives of elite law firms' diversity commitment is therefore in order.

(*Note: This Article lays the preliminary theoretical foundation for the larger project, which will include an empirical analysis of the relationship between diversity and performance/quality/prestige among elite U.S. law firms. The next stage will include a refinement of the theoretical framework and an empirical analysis using data from the Law Firms Working Group)

Keywords: Diversity, discrimination, law firms, social norms, neoclassical theory of employment discrimination

JEL Classification: H32, J41, J71, K00, L20, M14, M51, A13

Suggested Citation

Beny, Laura Nyantung, Diversity Among Elite American Law Firms: a Signal of Quality and Prestige (February 24, 2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=777504 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.777504

Laura Nyantung Beny (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

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