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Law Firms Being Recognized for Diversity and Inclusion

By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. | Last updated on

This post was updated on January 10, 2022.

The legal industry has long sought to move the needle on diversity and inclusion. However, progress is slow. That is why it is good to recognize law firms that are having success. Several organizations have released lists of firms prioritizing getting attorneys of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and attorneys with disabilities into firm leadership positions.

The Mansfield Rule 5.0

In October 2022, Diversity Lab announced that 165 large law firms had achieved Mansfield Rule certification. Under the Mansfield Rule, firms pledge to have a diverse candidate pool for firm leadership positions and equity partnerships. To achieve Mansfield Rule 5.0 certification, at least 30% of candidates for leadership or governance roles must be women, attorneys of color, LGBTQ+, or attorneys who have disabilities.

As of 2022, over 270 firms have adopted the Mansfield Rule. Of those, the majority said that their firms reported more diversity in pitch meetings, management and executive committees, and equity partnerships.

According to Diversity Lab, the culture of collective knowledge sharing inherent in the Mansfield Rule has supported firms in establishing and maintaining new talent practices, and the discipline associated with the 30% consideration metric has produced and will sustain continued progress in diversity and inclusion. Firms that are looking to improve their own diversity and inclusion programs might consider adopting the Mansfield Rule.

Vault's Rankings for Diversity and Inclusion

Vault ranks law firms on a variety of measures. 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 McDermott Will & Emory, a Chicago-based firm with a diversified practice. The firm’s Diversity Fellowship Program enables select first-year law students to participate in a summer associate program and has retention and promotion initiatives aimed at helping all racially and ethnically diverse lawyers succeed.

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 Urging Law Firm Diversity As Well

Corporations are also prioritizing a more inclusive legal industry. Microsoft, for example, pledged in 2020 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 corporations' diversity programs.  According to a 2022 survey by the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession, of 133 corporate respondents, 70.68% are tracking the diversity of their outside counsel. Almost 20% track this information for all outside counsel. Over 50% track only information for outside counsel whose billings reach a certain amount or to which the corporation gives a significant amount of legal work.

There has been progress because of these efforts. Significant financial incentives – and consequences for failing to meet diversity targets – provide a great deal of motivation for law firms to prioritize diversity and inclusion.

Real Steps

The legal profession is still one of the least diverse. 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.

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