This seems to be a last hired, first fired scenario:
Deferred start dates for first-year associates at many firms may help explain what became of some of the missing minority attorneys. Because our survey asked for data as of Sept. 30, 2009, deferred first-years were not included in the firms’ head count. (Milbank, for instance, deferred its starting class, which included 33 minority associates, from fall 2009 to January 2010.) That’s important because entering classes tend to be more diverse than the firms they join. Once those associates start work — and some already have — their presence should increase their firms’ diversity statistics.
This optimistic scenario points to an inconvenient truth about large law firm diversity. “For a long time, the way that law firms beefed up their diversity numbers was really to have a lot of diverse associates in the first-and second-year classes,” says Gupta from the Chicago Committee on Minorities. If a firm didn’t hold on to its minority associates — and many didn’t — it was relatively easy, Gupta says, to hire more in the next recruiting season.
There is also the issue of the “stealth” layoff:
What will be the long-term impact of this year’s drop in minority lawyers? “My fear is that even though it is a half-percentage point [decline], it’s a half-percentage point that will not correct itself, and it will increase over the next two years,” says consultant Reeves. In addition to slower recruiting, Reeves says, “we also saw a lot of minorities quietly being ‘evaluated out’ in the last quarter.”
Full story at Law.com.