Minority Mix Expanding in Legal Profession : Lawyers: Change is clearly noticeable among attorneys in practice five years or less, a State Bar survey shows.


Although white men still dominate California's legal profession, growing numbers of women and minority lawyers are substantially changing its makeup, the State Bar reported Friday.

A far-ranging demographic survey, believed the first of its kind of the profession, found that while white males now make up 93% of the attorneys who have been in practice 20 years or more, they make up only 49% of the Bar's younger members--those in practice less than five years.

While white women account for just 4% of lawyers in practice 20 years or more, they make up 39% of those practicing less than five years.

Similarly, minority lawyers make up 3% of those in the profession at least 20 years, but 12% of lawyers practicing fewer than five years.

"The profession for decades, if not from the beginning, has been white male-dominated," Bar President Charles S. Vogel said Friday as the group opened its annual meeting. "But now, the times, they are a-changing."

The survey also provided statistical support for television's widespread portrayal of lawyers as hard-working and well-paid.

Fifteen percent of the state's attorneys said they work 60 or more hours a week and another 33% said they work 50 to 59 hours weekly.

While 45% earn less than $75,000 annually, 29% collect between $75,000 and $125,000--and 25% earn more than $125,000 a year, the Bar reported.

The survey, conducted for the Bar by SRI International of Menlo Park, Calif., provided a wealth of data about a 128,000-member profession that has grown more than 50% in the last decade. There is one lawyer for every 234 Californians.

Survey questionnaires were mailed to a random sampling of 14,300 active Bar members. An unusually large number--73%--responded.

Although Vogel welcomed the growing diversity of the profession, he expressed concern that the increase of minorities was not as rapid as that of white females.

It is possible, Vogel said, that the trend reflects the continued existence of social or economic barriers to entering the profession--or that minorities are simply choosing other careers.

The survey also revealed racial and sexual disparities in income. For example, of those with 10 to 19 years as a lawyer, 27% of the white men earned less than $75,000, compared to 40% of the women and 42% of the minorities. By contrast, 41% of the white men earned $125,000 or more, compared to 23% of the women and 19% of the minorities.

Other highlights of the 93-page report:

* Overall, the state's legal profession is 74% male, 26% female, 91% white and 9% minority. Three percent identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual and 6% said they were physically disabled.

* About three-fourths of the state's lawyers are concentrated in large metropolitan areas, with nearly 45% working in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Twenty percent work in the same ZIP code in downtown Los Angeles.

* Men and women attorneys showed different family characteristics. For example, women attorneys were almost twice as likely as men to be single or divorced. Of the male lawyers, 68% had children, compared to 45% of the women.

* More than two-thirds of the lawyers donate some kind of free legal service, totaling an estimated 5.7 million hours annually.

California Lawyers: A Snapshot

More than 14,000 active members of the State Bar of California were sent questionnaires recently, to which about three-quarters responded. Here is a look at some of the responses: WORKWEEK

California lawyers work an average of 44.4 hours per week, according to the survey: 50-59 hours: 33% 60 or more hours: 15% INCOME*

State Bar members estimated their annual earnings as follows: Less than $50,000: 19% $50,000 to $74,999: 26% $75,000 to $124,999: 29% $125,000 to $199,999: 13% $200,000 or more: 12% *Does not equal 100% because of rounding

SOURCE: State Bar of California

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