For a more in-depth look at diversity, equity, and inclusion in Utah’s law firms, check out our 2021 report, “Looking In & Leading Out: Key Findings on Diversity from the UCLI 2020 Certification Program Survey,” produced by the SJ Quinney College of Law Justice Lab in collaboration with UCLI.
Diversity in Utah Law:
Gender and racial demographics in Utah's legal community
Law is one of the least diverse professions in the country. Utah’s legal community is no exception. The US Census, Utah’s State Bar Survey, and ABA National Lawyer Population Survey compiles data that examines attorney demographics, specifically as it relates to race and gender. Additional data from both of Utah’s law schools, BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School and the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law, carries this analysis further into our state’s legal education. This data emphasizes the progress to be made to connect the diversity of Utah’s population to that of its legal community.
The first major limitation of this report is that the collected data only captures gender and racial diversity (1). This limits the scope of the report to two aspects of identity, instead of accounting for other major identifying factors like sexual orientation, disability status, first-generation and low-income status, religious affiliation, and immigration status. Data collection for these other categories is inherently difficult, so this is a common limitation on diversity studies in law. As a result, this report speaks only to gender and race. A few more notes: 1)“gender” is defined in each of these surveys as being exclusively male or female; we recognize that there exists a greater spectrum of gender identities, but they are not available in this data; 2) some respondents chose not to disclose their gender identity, which results in the data values not adding up to a full 100%; 3) these numbers do not take into account those individuals with intersecting identities–– i.e. women who are also people of color. While we do not have data on these individuals, it is important to keep their identities in mind as well.
The information included in this analysis must also be qualified by frequency of data collection. The US Census collects statistical data every ten years, limiting their information to that gathered in 2020 in contrast with that gathered a decade prior. Finally, the data collected by the Utah State Bar and American Bar Association is on a voluntary basis, meaning that the results may not be fully representative of all practicing attorneys. Because of this, survey results vary.
Summary of data
With these limitations in mind, we can move on to analyze the data we have on gender and racial diversity. In terms of gender diversity, women represent 49.6% of Utah’s general population; in Utah’s legal community, however, they represent only 29%–– almost half of their standing in the general population (fig. 1). This representational difference is made more pronounced when compared with the 37% of the U.S. legal profession who are women (fig. 2). In other words, while the U.S. legal community climbs closer to gender representational equality, Utah tracks almost 10 percentage points behind.
In terms of racial diversity, there are 55.6% more white people in Utah’s general population than there are people of color (2) (POC); in contrast, there are between 81% and 85% more white lawyers in Utah than POC lawyers while the US average is 72% more white lawyers than POC in the legal community (3) (fig. 3). Again, representation between the general population and the legal community is at least halved–– if not more. This representational difference is also made more pronounced when compared with the 14% of the U.S. legal profession who are POC (fig. 4). That there is at least a 5% difference between lawyers of color in Utah and in the United States as a whole emphasizes Utah’s representational standing as needing some extra care.
Figure 1: gender in Utah’s general population, law school student body, and legal community
In Utah, women make up 49.6% of the general population, 47.5% of the law school population, and 29% of the legal profession population. Note the proximity of the law school population to the general population, and the distance between the law school population and professional population.
Figure 2: gender diversity in Utah legal field vs. U.S. legal field
Utah’s gender representation in the legal field falls behind that of the U.S. legal field. Nationally, 37% of lawyers are women, while in Utah, 29% are women (fig. 2). Put another way, if the national average reflected that of Utah, the more than 500,000 current female U.S. attorneys would be cut down to fewer than 400,000.
Figure 3: racial diversity in Utah’s general population, law school student body, and legal community
In Utah, people of color represent 22.2% of the general population, 14.5% of the law school population, and between 5 and 9% of the legal profession population. Again, as with gender diversity, there is a distinct shift in distribution of diversity when we move from a law school setting to actually practicing law in Utah.
Figure 4: racial diversity in Utah legal field vs. U.S. legal field
While Utah is less racially diverse than the U.S. population overall (22.2% as compared with 39.9%), its legal community is actually more representative of its POC than is the U.S. legal community (9% as compared with 14%). In Utah, there is a difference of 13.2 percentage points between POC in the general population and POC in the legal community; in the U.S. at large, however, there is a difference of 25.9 percentage points between POC in the general population and POC in the legal community (fig 4).
- Law schools in Utah have a more diverse student body than the state’s practicing legal community
- There are more than twice as many men as women in the Utah legal community
- Utah’s legal community is more representative of its POC population than is the U.S. legal community, but there are still significant differences
- Two out of every ten Utahns are POC, but fewer than one out of every ten Utah Lawyers are POC
- Five out of every ten Utahns are women, but fewer than three out of every ten Utah Lawyers are women
As Utah’s legal community moves forward, these numbers can help inform our focus on reaching gender and racial equality–– for ourselves, for our clients, and for our community. We must continue carefully examining why a gap exists in gender and racial diversity between law school and practicing law. If we can understand and respond to the concerns of these future lawyers have, and make more widespread, concerted efforts to recruit and retain their talent, we will move closer to professional equity and, most importantly, will experience a better administration of justice in our state overall.
To better understand diversity in Utah’s legal system, more data needs to be gathered that takes into account sexual orientation, disability status, first-generation and low-income status, religious affiliation, and immigration status, to name a few. As we do this, compassionately asking the difficult, uncomfortable questions, we will be able to better understand the progress to be pursued to reach diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging within Utah’s legal community. In the meantime, it is important for law firms and the Utah community to intentionally promote a legal community that is more representative of its larger population.
(1) See “Looking in and Leading out” for further discussion of diversity in Utah’s legal profession with regard to gender, race, disability, and sexual orientation.
(2) Due to available data across multiple sources, when referring to people of color, we mean it to include Black, American Indian, Native Alaskan, Asian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic or Latino people as well as those who identify with two or more races. We recognize that this does not fully encapsulate the full diversity of all people of color and encourage future data-gathering efforts to allow space for individuals to specify their race and ethnicity.
(3) Data gathered from BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School and University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law found that 5% of Utah’s practicing legal community were people of color while 5% of those surveyed chose not to specify their race. Utah’s State Bar Survey found that 9% of Utah lawyers were people of color and 1% chose not to specify their race.