2014 1L LCLD Scholar Amena Ross compares diversity in top legal positions at Fortune 500 companies and AmLaw 200 firms.

According to in-depth research done during my summer at MassMutual, I've found that the ranks of general counsel at Fortune 500 companies are experiencing a slight increase in the numbers of women and minorities in 2014, compared to similar totals for 2013. Please see the table below for details, and the attached document for full article and footnotes.

My analysis shows that a total of 106 Fortune 500 General Counsel, or twenty-one percent, are women, while 46 of their General Counsel, or ten percent, are diverse. While still lagging behind other professions, gender, and racial diversity of general counsel still exceeds that of equity partners at law firms.

Comparing to law firms (GCs to equity partners) via the most recent statistics from American Lawyer and others, the numbers for general counsel are approximately 25 percent higher with respect to gender diversity and 50 percent higher for people of color.

If law firms do not change their profile at the top, it is very possible that corporate clients—the purchasers of legal services—will soon look very different from the leadership of major law firms. This may cause general counsel and corporate America to look elsewhere for providers of legal services.

There also remains, of course, significant room for improvement at corporations. By including gender and racial diversity in the hiring pool whenever they choose chief legal officers, companies can continue to lead the legal industry towards increasing diversity.

One solution might be to go where the diverse candidates are, even if beyond the organization. By broadening the search from in-house attorneys at the company to in-house attorneys at other companies or in private practice, the pool of candidates can be increased to provide more opportunities for women and minorities to advance.

A note on methodology:
The data for this list was gathered through a multi-step process, which included accessing company websites, company profiles from Bloomberg and Reuters, SEC filings, and subscription company profiles through LexisAdvance. If the relevant information was not available through these channels, press releases and news articles were used. The diversity of the general counsel was mainly determined through biographies or news articles that referenced ethnic origin, or by photographic identification. If the diversity of the general counsel was unclear, they were not designated as diverse.

Amena E. Ross attends New York University School of Law, Class of 2016. A 1L LCLD Scholar, she worked this summer as a Summer Law Clerk at MassMutual Financial Group.