The Mecklenburg County Bar - Who Are We?
by Hon. Carla N. Archie
The Mecklenburg County Bar has gathered voluntary demographic information on our Bar members for more than five years. Based on the information we have gathered, here is a snap shot of who we are as the Mecklenburg County Bar. You may be surprised.
First, as of January 2015, we are 5001 members strong. We are growing by approximately 200 members per year, though during the year we have many members coming and going. In the first quarter of 2014-15, more than 400 members joined the Mecklenburg County Bar, and about the same number left us. Although some of this change in membership is due to some of our members passing away or becoming inactive, the majority of this change is simply due to attorneys moving in and out of the county. This change in membership numbers suggests a fluid and transient membership. Attorneys move into the area and out of the area.
Our Bar is 63 percent male and 37 percent female. And, we suspect that the younger our attorneys, the higher the percentage of females. Today, more females are attending law school than males.
We have a fairly good sense of the age make-up of our Bar, but only 59 percent of our Bar members have shared their age with us. Based on the statistics we have, fewer than four percent of our Bar members are 60 years and older; about 15 percent of our members are 50 to 59 years old; 36 percent are 40 to 49 years of age; 34 percent are ages 30 to 39 years old and about 16 percent are younger than 30 years. The low number of baby boomers is a surprise, and is inconsistent with most of the national statistics about Bar demographics. We don’t know if fewer baby boomers have provided this information to the MCB or if the MCB has a smaller number of members in this age category.
Regarding race, we have information from only 41 percent of our members. Based on respondents, 85 percent of our Bar is Caucasian, 10 percent African American and five percent classify themselves as “Other.” Over the years, we have discussed the racial demographics of MCB membership with the leaders of the John S. Leary Association of Black Attorneys, the local African American voluntary bar association. And, although we can’t say for sure, we are in agreement that the figures we have are likely representative of the racial make-up of the entire MCB.
MCB members are required to provide the Bar with a mailing address, so we have a 100 percent response rate from which we have identified firm size. Large firms are defined as those with more than 20 lawyers. Not surprisingly, a high percentage of our members – 28 percent – belong to large firms. The number of MCB members in small firms (two to five lawyers) is 14 percent and medium firms (more than five but fewer than 20) is nine percent. We have approximately 475 solo firms (one attorney) which is approximately 10 percent of our membership. Seven percent of Bar members work in a corporate environment, six percent in the public sector and about one percent in education. So, based on those reporting, membership in large firms is slightly higher than the combined membership in small and solo firms, 24 percent. Interestingly, 26 percent of reporting members appear unaffiliated with a firm. The meaning of this is not clear. We do not know whether these are individuals who have simply decided to use a home address, are unemployed, or are some combination of the two. Although MCB members are required to provide an address, that address does not have to be a work address.
We want to know who we are as a Bar so we can serve our members better. If you have not told us about yourself, we encourage you to do so. We have several ways in which you can do that. You can complete an evaluation at an event and include your name and details in the demographic section. You can complete your membership profile online by visiting www.MeckBar.org and click on “Log-In” under the Members section. Or, you can respond to the e-mail requests you will receive over the next few months.
I urge you to let us know who you are so we will know who we are as a Bar. We are only as strong as our membership.
I look forward to seeing you at a future Bar event!