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A case for diversity: Local law firms say attracting, keeping minorities a challenge

January 26, 2014

The face of metro Detroit's private law community is overwhelmingly white despite being one of the nation's most ethnically diverse regions. A December study by the National Association for Law Placement places metro Detroit law firms well below the national average in diversity, but local lawyers say it's a struggle to find and retain minority attorneys. Of the eight metro Detroit firms and 1,110 lawyers in the December study, only 7.1 percent were a minority, compared to the national average of 13.4 percent. Metro Detroit falls behind many cities with similar demographics in the category of employing minority lawyers, such as Washington, D.C., at 14.5 percent; Houston at 14.6 percent; Atlanta at 11.8 percent and Baltimore at 7.3 percent. Wayne State University Law School's fall 2013 law doctorate class was 16.7 percent minorities, down from 17.7 percent in fall 2012. Minorities represented 28.3 percent of the law student population at Thomas M. Cooley Law School and 21 percent at Michigan State University, according to the site. The graduating class of 2014 at the University of Michigan Law School contains 24 percent minority students, up from 21 percent in 2013. The minority makeup for the 2015 graduating class is 27 percent. At the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, the minority population was 14.6 percent in October 2013, down from 18.2 percent in 2012.