The impact of COVID-19 on women lawyers and lawyers of color is explored in “Pandemic Nation: Understanding Its Impact on Lawyers from Underrepresented Communities,” a white paper released yesterday from the Association of Corporate Counsel Foundation (ACCF), the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals (ALFDP) and Thomson Reuters Institute.

The white paper examines results of a survey – of more than 400 attorneys in law firms and in-house legal departments worldwide – on whether steps taken to decrease barriers to making the legal industry more diverse are having a positive impact on lawyers’ careers. Key findings of the survey include:

  • The top three barriers to career progression during COVID-19 include lack of in-person contact, a heavy workload, and caregiver responsibilities. Of the attorneys surveyed, lawyers of color felt all three more acutely.
  • Actions by legal employers to address structural barriers are falling short, with only 20% of law firms reporting they are implementing solutions – such as formal sponsorship programs and increased representation on key committees – to address these barriers.
  • 70% of women said the pandemic had a negative impact on their well-being, compared to 54% of men.

Findings also underscored the challenges underrepresented communities in the legal industry face around career development and progression during the pandemic. Both lawyers of color and women lawyers – compared to male lawyers and non-ethnic minorities – were more likely to find career development and progression especially challenging during the pandemic. Also, 43% of those identifying as part of an underrepresented race or ethnicity found development and progression in the legal industry more difficult, compared to 24% of white lawyers.

In addition, seismic events beyond the pandemic also negatively affected lawyers of color. Events including the worldwide protests against racial injustice following the tragic killing of George Floyd as well as the increased incidents of violence against members of Asian communities were cited as having a negative impact on lawyers of color.

Download the white paper for more insights on efforts to make the legal profession more diverse, inclusive and equitable.