30 Law Firms Implementing “Rooney Rule” to Improve Diversity
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A presentation at the 2016 Women in Law Hackathon. Photo courtesy of Diversity Lab.

Summary: Law firms are taking a page from the NFL rule book to help fix their diversity problem.

The lack of diversity in law firms has been studied for quite some time. The problem had gotten so bad that last year the New York Bar Association had called for initiatives to address the situation, and they released a scathing report that showed women make up 19.7 percent of the survey-takers’ partners and that minority leadership was at 7.1 percent in 2015.


Now, it appears that law firms are looking to the National Football League of all places to fix their diversity concerns. The NFL applies a practice known as the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview and consider a minority candidate when hiring top coaching positions. So far, thirty law firms have come together to implement their own Rooney Rule, known as the “Mansfield Rule.”

The pilot project is sponsored by Diversity Lab and named after Arabella Mansfield, the first woman admitted to the legal practice in the United States.

Caren Ulrich Stacy, CEO of Diversity Lab, lauded that the Mansfield Rule will be put into action.

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“The Rooney Rule was revolutionary. We now benefit from standing on the shoulders of giants with the Mansfield Rule,” said Caren Ulrich Stacy, CEO of Diversity Lab. “Leveraging lessons learned from the NFL and recent research that shows it is important to interview more than one diverse candidate, we are incredibly well positioned to diversify the top ranks of the legal profession.”

According to their website, Diversity Lab “creates and experiments with innovative ways to close the gender gap and boost diversity in law firms, legal departments, and banks by leveraging data, behavioral science, and design thinking.” The idea for the Mansfield Rule emerged from the 2016 Women in Law Hackathon hosted by Diversity Lab in collaboration with Bloomberg Law and Stanford Law School.

The thirty firms that have agreed to participate in the Mansfield Rule include Dentons and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer. These firms have agreed to consider women and attorneys of color when hiring for leadership roles, equity partner promotions and filling lateral positions. If firms prove that at least 30% of their hiring candidate pools are women or minorities, then they will receive a Mansfield certification and be able to attend a client forum with over 45 legal departments from corporate heavy hitters such as 3M, American Express, Walmart, and CBS.

Ivan Fong, Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs & General Counsel at 3M said that diversity was important to the company and that 3M was committed to recognizing firms that participated in the Mansfield Rule.

“We believe diversity and inclusion help make us a more innovative and competitive company, and the same is true for our suppliers and outside counsel. The Mansfield Rule Client Forum is an innovative way for us to recognize law firms that are trying something new to further boost diversity in their top ranks,” Fong said.

Roger Meltzer, DLA Piper Global Co-Chairman and Co-Chairman of the Americas, said that DLA Piper is participating because the firm is committed to diversity.

“Our adoption of the Mansfield Rule ensures that we’re following through on our commitment to diversity and thinking broadly whenever new leadership positions come available at all levels across the firm,” Meltzer said. “We’re glad to pilot this initiative, which will benefit not only our firm but the legal industry as a whole.”

Alan Hoffman, the managing partner and chairman of Blank Rome, told Wall Street Journal that the firm was excited to participate in the pilot because “we’re not retaining women in the practice at the same rate as men.”

In 2012, Blank Rome began an initiative to get more women into leadership roles at the firm, and as of today, its 16 practices are now more diverse, with almost half of the leadership roles filled by women.

Source: Diversity Lab press release and Wall Street Journal

What do you think of the Mansfield Rule? Let us know in the comments below.



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