“Colored by Race: The Evaluation of Candidates of Color By Law Firm Hiring Committees” — a research study conducted in 2005 — offered some empirical evidence that racial and ethnic bias (both conscious and unconscious) was indeed present in large law firm hiring processes, and it manifested itself in some predictable and some unexpected ways.
This 2015 Update of “Colored by Race” is the 10 year update of the 2005 study and is based on data gathered in 2015 from confidential telephone interviews with 63 partners representing 49 large law firms throughout the United States. All of the partners in this study were involved with the hiring process in their respective law firms for at least six months during their career as partners. In addition to the 63 partners, 18 diversity professionals/partners from large law firms were also interviewed. Of these 18 diversity professionals/partners, only 3 had been in the same or similar roles in 2005.
Our 2015 research findings reveal that racial bias does continue to color the ways in which:
Racial/ethnic minority law students’ achievements and aspirations are evaluated;
Minority candidates are penalized for the high attrition rate of minority practitioners from law firms;
Comments are being made about minority candidates behind closed doors in the evaluation process.