The Racial Paradox of the Corporate Law Firm

69 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2006

See all articles by Richard H. Sander

Richard H. Sander

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law


Although nonwhites now account for nearly one-fifth of new attorneys, they still make up less than four percent of the partners at large law firms. Most commentators have blamed some combination of firm discrimination and minority disinterest for this disparity. In this Article, the author uses several new sources of data to explore this phenomenon, finding significant support for the following findings. Each of the major nonwhite groups (Asians, Hispanics and blacks) are as interested during law school in careers with large firms as are whites. Large law firms use very large hiring preferences for blacks, with the result that blacks are overrepresented among firm hires (relative to their numbers among law graduates) and tend to have much lower grades than their white counterparts. The large preferences are plausibly linked to a variety of counterproductive mechanisms that cumulatively produce very high black attrition from firms and consequently low partnership rates. Similar patterns, on a less intense scale, affect Hispanics entering large firms. While many questions are open, the author concludes that aggressive racial preferences at the law school and law firm level tend to undermine in some ways the careers of young attorneys and may, in the end, contribute to the continuing white dominance of large-firm partnerships.

Keywords: Law firm hiring preferences, corporate partnerships, racial preferences in law schools and law firms

Suggested Citation

Sander, Richard H., The Racial Paradox of the Corporate Law Firm. North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 84, pp. 1755-1822, 2006, UCLA School of Law, Law-Econ Research Paper No. 06-21, Available at SSRN:

Richard H. Sander (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

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