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Would Your Firm Pass Facebook's Diversity Test?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on April 04, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The law is one of the whitest professions around, but if you want to be 'friended' by Facebook (legally speaking), you may have to improve your diversity game.

The social media giant is only hiring outside law firms where women and ethnic minorities make up at least a third of the team. The move is just one way big corporate clients are trying to reshape the firms they work with, whether through demanding a less homogenous workforce or urging firms to adopt new technologies.

Facebook's Diversity Mandate

Under Facebook's new policy, which went into effect this past weekend, not only must firms ensure diversity on their teams, but they must "actively identify and create clear and measurable leadership opportunities for women and minorities." The new policy, however, requires only the teams working on Facebook's legal matters to meet a diversity threshold; it does not apply to the firm as a whole.

"We think firms are ready," Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch tells the New York Times. "Our articulation gives not just permission but a mandate."

Facebook, of course, has been accused of lacking diversity itself. The company is 52 percent white, 38 percent Asian, but only 6 percent Hispanic or black, according to the company's public diversity statistics. Women make up only 33 percent of the company's workforce, and just 17 percent of its technical employees.

In 2015, Facebook announced that it was adopting the "Rooney Rule" in an effort to improve its hiring practices. Under the Rooney Rule, named after Pittsburg Steelers owner Dan Rooney, at least one minority candidate must be interviewed for top positions. That rule doesn't seem to have transformed Facebook's leadership (71 percent white, 73 percent male), but the company has been educating its workforce on unconscious bias and says that its hiring trends demonstrate improvement.

Everyone's Got a Mandate

Facebook isn't the only one calling for a more representative legal team. HP announced similar diversity requirements in February, as Bloomberg's Big Law Business reminds us, while Walmart has been tracking diversity stats in outside counsel and Microsoft has been pushing its outside counsel to develop more inclusive teams.

Diversity isn't the only thing companies are demanding, either. Major corporate clients have started insisting that firms tighten their belts by employing more efficient technologies, while others have instituted stricter data security standards that their legal counsel must adhere to.

Of course, if you're a solo practitioner or small firm, you may not be working with Facebook in the near future, diversity mandate or not. But that doesn't mean you can't benefit from a more diverse workforce. Research shows that diverse teams perform significantly better than their homogenous counterparts.

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