SKILL DEVELOPMENT PRACTICES AND RACIAL-ETHNIC DIVERSITY IN ELITE PROFESSIONAL FIRMSResearch Paper
In elite professional firms, minorities are actively recruited but struggle to move upward. We argue that initiatives aimed at general skill development can have unintended consequences for firm diversity. Specifically, we contend that approaches that win partner support through motivational significance and interpretive clarity will provide a more effective avenue to skill development for minorities, who have less access than whites to informal developmental opportunities. We also argue that a longer “partnership track,” which imposes a time limit on skill development, will benefit minority professionals. Using data on 600 offices of large U.S. law firms in 1996 and 2005, we investigate the effects of five developmental initiatives and partnership track length on the representation of African-Americans, Latinxs, and Asian-Americans among partners. Observed effects are consistent with expectations, but patterns vary across racial-ethnic groups.
race, ethnicity, lawyers, law firms, professional service firms, employment practices, diversity
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University of Virginia
December 31, 2020