Despite progress over the last 15 years, minorities remain woefully underrepresented in U.S. law firms at every level, and while experts say the problem is bigger than BigLaw, they warn that a failure to act now will have dire consequences in the long run for any law firm's financial future.

White lawyers make up nearly eight in 10 attorneys and nine out of 10 partners at the 289 firms surveyed in the 2015 Law360 Minority Report, which offers a clear portrait of the struggles racial minorities face in trying to break into the upper echelons of the country's top law firms.

"This may sound harsh, but I think there are very few strategic thinkers among the leadership of law firms, in the sense that it always seems to come down to this year's results and profits per partner," said Ballard Spahr LLP partner and former DuPont Co. general counsel Thomas Sager. "The case for business diversity is a compelling one for the likes of DuPont and others but law firms are not, for the most part, seeing this as a business imperative."

"Like no other profession, we interact with the world at large: judges, regulators, politicians and ordinary citizens through the jury process," Sager said. "There's a very compelling case for law firms and the legal departments they serve to become increasingly diverse to advance their interests before those constituencies."

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