Member Groups

Diversity Matters
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Diversity Leadership Council

June 2011, vol. 5, no. 1

ISBA—Who we are and how we are doing in 2011

As another Bar year draws to a close, it seems an appropriate time for some reflection on who we are and how we are doing as an organization on the diversity front. Many advances have been made by the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) in the past several years to promote the interests of minorities, women, and special needs attorneys within the Bar and the profession. Those efforts include the creation of the Diversity Leadership Council and the Diversity Fellows Institute. How well those efforts are turning into measurable results in achieving diversity in membership is sometimes hard to measure and understand clearly.

During a recent Diversity Matters editors’ conference, my co-editors Lynn and Annemarie came up with the thought that looking at census data maintained by the ISBA may be one way to answer the questions of “who are we?” and “how are we doing?” Obviously, being an all female, Caucasian, working group we faced our own set of challenges around addressing the concern of what diversity truly means. In the spirit of team work and collaboration, I took on the task of finding out some answers. With the generous assistance of ISBA Staff Member, Alexa Giacomini, I was able to pull together the following data to help answer those questions.1

The following data was available for the categories of: Age, Gender, Years in Practice & Judicial District Concentration for Attorneys Licensed in Illinois (Judicial report based upon attorneys registered in early 2010. Other data is current as of August 2010).


Female 25%

Male 67%

Unknown 8%

Years in Practice

Fewer than 5 years 14%

Between 5 & 10 years 16%

Between 10 & 20 years 21%

Between 20 & 30 years 18%

30 years or more 31%


21-29 years old 7%

30-49 years old 34%

50-74 years old 41%

75 years old or older 6%

Unknown 12%

Judicial District

1st (Cook) 47%

2nd 17%

3rd 6%

4th 7%

5th 6%

Non Resident 17%

The following data are for the categories of: Practice Setting Type & Size Information for Attorneys Licensed in Illinois who are also ISBA Members.

Practice Setting - Type

Solo 25%

Associate 21%

Partner 23%

Managing Partner 5%

In-House Counsel 6%

Government 4%

Judge 2%

Lobbyist 1%

Unemployed 3%

Other 7%

No Status Marked 3%

Practice Setting - Size

Solo 25%

2-5 25%

6-10 9%

11-20 7%

21-50 7%

51-150 5%

Over 150 8%

The ISBA member profile differs somewhat to that of the lawyer population at large in Illinois, when similar data for similar categories maintained by the ARDC is considered. The ARDC portrait of the average attorney licensed in Illinois is as follows: Male, between the age of 30 and 49, admitted between 10 to 20 years, practicing in Cook County. While the portrait of the average ISBA member is: Male, between the age of 50 and 74, admitted 30-plus years and practicing in Cook County.

Much can be gleaned from a review of these numbers and a comparison of this census data with the data available on the number of minorities and women graduating from law school and entering the profession. Also, much can be gleaned from a comparison to more general census data collected as a result of the 2010 General Census. The one number which seemed somewhat hopeful is that the reported unemployment number among ISBA Members (3%) is significantly lower than the 9-10% unemployment number which is currently being reported in the media.

The American Bar Association, through its Goal III Annual Report Card from its Commission on Women in the Profession and its Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, is currently tracking and reporting on the integration of women and minorities attorneys into its association’s daily life. It is the hope that by providing the above data from within the ISBA we can further open up the dialogue around issues of improving diversity of the organization’s membership, committee and governing structures. One step, which might be borrowed by the ISBA from the ABA’s work, is the tracking of ethnic and racial data both for the membership at large and for the ISBA Assembly and its Committees. ■


1. The author is one of the 25% women, 25% solo practitioners, and 41% between the age of 50 and 74 members of the ISBA. She can be reached at or (312) 726-8766.

2. ISBA does not currently keep census data tracking race or ethnicity of its membership.