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The legal industry has long sought to move the needle on diversity and inclusion. However, progress has been slow. That is why it is good to recognize law firms that are having success. Several organizations have recently released lists of firms prioritizing getting attorneys of color, LGBTQ individuals, and attorneys with disabilities into firm leadership positions.
Earlier this month, Diversity Lab announced the firms that had achieved Mansfield Rule certification. Under the Mansfield Rule, firms pledge to have a diverse candidate pool for firm leadership positions and equity partnerships. At least 30% of candidates must be diverse.
One-hundred firms have adopted the "Mansfield 3.0" rule. Of those that have adopted it, the majority said that their firms reported more diversity in pitch meetings, management and executive committees, and equity partnerships.
Lisa Kirby of Diversity Labs issued a statement that "the shattering examples of racial injustice we've witnessed this summer" have reaffirmed many of the firms' commitment to diversity and inclusion. Firms that are looking to improve their own diversity and inclusion programs might consider adopting the Mansfield Rule.
Vault ranked law firms on a variety of measures throughout September. Several of those are for diversity and inclusion. These lists are compiled from associate surveys, and categories include racial and ethnic diversity, attorneys with disabilities, diversity for women, and diversity for LGBTQ individuals.
At the top of the list on all four was O'Melveny & Myers LLP, a California-based litigation firm. One way the firm prioritizes diversity and inclusion is through the William T. Coleman, Jr. Diversity Fellowship. This fellowship is available to law students who have completed their first year and have "a proven track record of activities that promote diversity and inclusion." It provides a $10,000 award to summer associates to help pay for tuition.
Fellowship programs are another way of promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. Fostering diversity early creates dividends and is a great way to develop diverse talent.
Corporations are also prioritizing a more inclusive legal industry. Microsoft, for example, recently pledged to boost financial incentives for firms that have Black and Latino partners. Law firms that meet Microsoft's diversity targets can receive a bonus of 3% of annual fees.
This is an increasingly common part of many large corporation's diversity programs. Significant financial incentives – and consequences for failing to meet diversity targets – provides a great deal of motivation for law firms to prioritize diversity and inclusion.
With the difficulty law firms have had with improving diversity, it is good to see some programs are meeting with success. Congratulations to those firms that were recognized.