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by Vault Law Editors | July 31, 2012


On Friday, July 27, Vault hosted its Annual Diversity Awards in Washington, DC. At the awards, Vault recognized the top law firms for diversity, and for the fourth year in a row, Florida-based Carlton Fields was ranked No. 1 for Overall Diversity by associates at the firm.

As with all Vault rankings, the diversity rankings reflect the insider opinions and perceptions of associates. This year, nearly 17,000 law firm associates from across the country responded to Vault’s survey, and were asked to rate their own firm’s efforts in hiring, promotion and mentoring of diverse associates. Associates rated their firm’s commitment to diversity with respect to women, minorities, and LGBT individuals, respectively. Vault then determines the top law firms for overall diversity by averaging each firm’s score in all three rankings.

Carlton Fields was ranked No. 1 not only for Overall Diversity, but also for Diversity for Women and Diversity for Minorities. The firm ranked No. 2 for Diversity for LGBT. One associate at the firm said, “Carlton Fields has a well-earned reputation for inclusion. There is always room to improve, but compared to the industry at large, we are standard bearers—not just in terms of voicing the right policies, but in terms of actually hiring, welcoming, nurturing and promoting diverse, well-qualified individuals at all levels of firm life.” Some of the firm’s diversity initiatives include a scholarship program which provides select 1Ls with a paid summer associate position and academic scholarship, as well as a Gay and Lesbian Equality Network that has partnered with Equality Florida Institute to create an estate planning handbook for gay and lesbian families in the state.

Ropes & Gray was ranked No. 2 in Overall Diversity, as well as No. 2 for Diversity for Minorities, No. 3 for Diversity for LGBT and No. 5 for Diversity for Women. A Ropes associate said, “As a member of the LGBT community, I find the firm to be extremely supportive both in its continually increasing commitment to its current and future employees  and to the LGBT community at large through its sponsorship of and participation in LGBT bar associations, advocacy groups and related pro bono representations.” Another associate commented that the “current first-year associate class is the most diverse yet.” Our survey respondents were also impressed with the firm’s women’s initiatives, which include “women’s circles”— firm-hosted social events for small groups of associates and partners.

The No. 3 firm for Overall Diversity this year was labor and employment firm Littler Mendelson. One associate at the firm said, “Littler has always been a leader on diversity issues, which was a major factor in my decision to lateral here specifically.” Another noted that “a significant number of the firm’s rainmakers and members of management are female.”

Some of the other top ranking firms for diversity this year were:

  • Debevoise & Plimpton (No. 2, Diversity for Women; No. 4, Overall Diversity; No. 7, Diversity for Minorities; No. 9, Diversity for LGBT)
  • Jenner & Block (No. 1, Diversity for LGBT; No. 5, Overall Diversity; No. 9, Diversity for Women; No. 12, Diversity for Minorities)
  • Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz (No. 4, Diversity for Women; No. 6, Diversity for Minorities; No. 9, Overall Diversity; No. 24, Diversity for LGBT)
  • Shook, Hardy & Bacon (No. 3, Diversity for Minorities; No. 6, Diversity for Women; No. 6, Overall Diversity; No. 15, Diversity for LGBT)
  • Foley Hoag (No. 4, Diversity for LGBT; No. 10, Overall Diversity; No. 11, Diversity for Women)

Full list of this year's Top Firms for Diversity

Congratulations to the top firms in each category!

--Rachel Marx, Law Editor