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Mansfield Rule Firms Top Rivals in Adding Diverse Leadership (2)

April 15, 2021, 5:49 PM; Updated: April 19, 2021, 9:47 PM

A legal incubator says law firms that adopted its approach for hiring women and people of color four years ago have diversified their management committees at a faster rate than those that haven’t used the method.

The Mansfield Rule early adopters had people of color in 10.5 percent of partner ranks in 2019, compared with 9.1 percent at other firms, according to analysis released Thursday by the incubator, Diversity Lab.

The 41 firms that were early adopters of the rule are “increasing diversity in top leadership and are significantly outpacing similarly sized non-Mansfield Rule firms in doing so,” the Lab said in a statement.

The Mansfield Rule requires firms to consider applicant pools that are at least 30 percent women and people of color for senior associate positions and partnerships, leadership positions, and equity partner promotions.

Nearly 120 firms have adopted the rule since its creation at a 2016 Women in Law Hackathon hosted by the Belvedere, Calif.-based Diversity Lab, which aims to boost diversity and inclusion in firms.

Leaders have advocated for more diversity in Big Law for decades but have made little progress. The death of George Floyd and social movements surrounding it are increasing pressure on firms to adapt.

People of color accounted for 10.2% of all partners at major firms in 2020, and women comprised 25.1%, a National Association for Law Placement report found earlier this year.

“We’ve had decades of pledges and decades of people confirming that they want to do something different and better as it relates to diversifying their firm,” said Caren Ulrich Stacy, Diversity Lab’s founder and chief experimentation officer. “Unfortunately, those pledges often lack teeth. There’s very little transparency or accountability past signing the pledge.”

With the Mansfield Rule, Diversity Lab provides firms a measure of accountability, as well as “a community of like-minded firms who are equally committed” to diverse hiring practices, said Lisa Kirby, chief intelligence and knowledge sharing officer.

Mansfield firms increased the diversity of their partner nomination committees by 4 percent, according to Diversity Lab’s report. Diverse lawyers hired at Mansfield firms move into partnership ranks at a higher rate than they did before the rule was implemented, the report said.

The Mansfield Rule also boosted representation for women lawyers in leadership positions and partnership at early-adopting firms, according to the Lab.

“As a clear positive trend for the legal profession, broader data from 2007 to 2019 show that both Mansfield and non-Mansfield firms are making upward, steady progress with regard to women in leadership,” the report stated.

Since the Mansfield Rule was created, Diversity Lab has expanded the program to include LGBTQ+ lawyers and those with disabilities. The Lab does not yet have data to measure the impact on these groups, Stacy said, though firms have changed their job postings and messaging to be more inclusive.

(Updates headline on story published April 15 to clarify diversity group studied.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Allie Reed in Washington at areed@bloombergindustry.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com
John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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