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Diversity In The Tax Bar — Reflections On Lessons Learned And The Path Forward

By Stephen A. Josey, Sanessa S. Griffiths, Alyssa Pratt, and Lena Qiu
Tax Notes
Volume 180, September 4, 2023

Stephen Josey, Sanessa Griffiths, Alyssa Pratt, and Lena Qiu are tax practitioners who attended and reported on 9 panels conducted by the Tax System Working Group of the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance. The panels were a “multipart discussion series on diversity in the tax bar,” and confronted topics such as “why the tax bar is so heavily concentrated with non-diverse attorneys; what can be done to broaden the appeal of tax law to young, diverse attorneys; and how the tax bar can attract and retain a diverse workforce.” At the 10th and final panel, the reporters participated in a roundtable discussion titled “Diversity in the Tax Bar: What Have We Learned and Where Do We Go From Here” where trends and takeaways from the other panels were discussed.

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“In recent years, the tax bar has been facing a reckoning over diversity in the industry. Since its inception, the tax bar has had a reputation for being dominated by an overwhelmingly white, heterosexual, male workforce. Indeed, in a 2022 American Bar Association report surveying the gender, sexual orientation, ethnic, and racial composition of its various practice groups,1 the ABA Section of Taxation ranked near the bottom regarding sexual orientation, gender, ethnic, and racial diversity…The practice of tax law is often categorized unfairly. The prevailing view by many young attorneys and professionals is that the tax bar is singularly focused on assisting wealthy individuals and businesses avoid or minimize their tax burdens, thereby straining scarce government resources. This perception adds fuel to the notion that the tax bar is not focused on the needs of all communities but instead is centered on helping a largely white and primarily wealthy subset of the population accumulate more wealth. Regardless of whether this reputation is fair, it is one that the tax bar must grapple with if it is to succeed in attracting and retaining a diverse workforce. Because of this reputation, diverse attorneys find fewer incentives in choosing a career in tax law versus another area of law, particularly when the stakeholders and people in power do not look like them or share their experiences and when the perceived goals of the profession do not align with their core values and ethos.”

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Reprinted with permission from the original publisher, Tax Analysts.