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WER June 2020 Feature 1
Volume LXX, Issue IV

Published June 11, 2020

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The Mansfield Rule

By: Stephanie Sarantopoulos and Emily McNee

Stephanie D. Sarantopoulos represents and counsels employers in Minnesota, and nationally, in all aspects of employment law, including discrimination, harassment, whistleblowing, torts and regularly counsels clients regarding state and federal compliance matters.  Stephanie partners with employers to strategically devise strategies for managing the spectrum of workforce issues, including recruiting, interviewing, hiring, performance management, terminations, accommodations, leave of absence, investigations, staff and management training and other workplace actions.

Emily A. McNee is a strategic advisor and litigator who routinely works with employers on a broad range of employment law issues arising under federal, state, and local law. She has specific experience with matters involving medical leaves and disability accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and similar state leave laws. Emily serves as a member of Littler’s Diversity & Inclusion Council.

   Stephanie Sarantopoulos

Emily McNee

Achieving diversity in the legal profession continues to be a top priority for law firms and corporate legal departments alike, with an increasing emphasis placed on diversity and inclusion efforts over the past two decades.  Legal communities across the nation have implemented varied programs and approaches and set their own diversity goals, seeking ways to improve these efforts with regard to their female and diverse attorneys.  Over the years, we have seen the call for unconscious bias training, as well as the revisiting of mentorship and sponsorship programs.  One such effort making recent strides, named the Mansfield Rule, specifically measures whether law firms—and now legal departments—have affirmatively considered women and minority lawyers for leadership positions, with the goal to increase the representation of diverse lawyers in law firm leadership by broadening the pool of candidates considered for these plum opportunities.

The Mansfield Rule was devised at the 2016 Women in Law Hackathon hosted by Diversity Lab in collaboration with Bloomberg Law and Stanford Law School.  Named after Arabella Mansfield, the first female attorney to obtain a law license in the United States (1846—1911), the Mansfield Rule was modeled after the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coach or general manager positions.  In keeping with the Rooney Rule’s diversity mission, the Mansfield Rule measures whether law firms have affirmatively considered women and minority lawyers as candidates for leadership positions and requires that at least 30 percent of a law firm’s candidate pool for shareholder promotions, senior level hiring, and significant leadership roles in law firms includes women lawyers. In this way, the Mansfield Rule attempts to improve retention and elevation of diverse attorneys, in a time when attrition among diverse attorneys continues to grow. Statistics indicate that law firms face challenges retaining diverse attorneys at law firms but raise the question of what law firms can do about those challenges.  Participating in the Mansfield Rule certification process is one way for law firms to take steps to retain and elevate diverse attorneys.  The Mansfield Rule is currently in its third certification round, with over 100 firms participating on an annual basis.

Expanding its firm-based focus, in April 2019, the Mansfield Rule gave way to a new program geared toward assisting corporate legal departments to have a specific approach to promote increased diversity for the legal department’s top roles and for its outside counsel representation.  Known as the Mansfield Rule Legal Department Edition (MRLD), this offshoot analyzes candidates whom legal departments consider for open positions with the goal of ensuring at least 50 percent of the candidate pool is comprised of women, attorneys of color, LGBTQ+ attorneys, or attorneys with disabilities.

The goal of the MRLD is to increase the representation of diverse lawyers in leadership by broadening the pool of women, LGBTQ+ lawyers, lawyers with disabilities, and/or racial/ethnic minority lawyers who are considered for legal department job openings, high visibility opportunities and promotions, and outside counsel representation.  For legal departments to be Mansfield certified, they are asked to consider at least 50 percent of historically underrepresented lawyers for 70 percent or more of the leadership roles and activities identified below:

  • External hiring and/or promotions for top role(s) (e.g., General Counsel, Chief Legal Officer)
  • External hiring, internal transitions, and/or promotions for senior-tier management (e.g., Reporting to GC—AGC, Deputy GC, Head of Compliance, Legal Operations Chief)
  • External hiring, internal transitions, and/or promotions for mid-tier management (e.g., Reporting to senior-tier management)
  • External hiring, internal transitions, and/or promotions for other lawyer positions
  • Hiring for interns or temporary lawyer positions (e.g., law clerks, summer 1Ls, secondments)
  • Discretionary high visibility opportunities (i.e., not tied to a particular role or position) that provide skills building and exposure to internal and external business leaders
  • Written and transparent job responsibilities for senior and mid-tier management roles
  • Written and transparent processes for advancement opportunities and promotions within the legal department
  • Engaging outside counsel for new matters (i.e., lead and/or primary team members)
  • Changing or expanding outside counsel representation (i.e., lead and/or primary team members)

As the MRLD makes clear, the focus on the program is both inward and outward and comes along as many in-house legal departments are looking to increase their own diversity, while pressing their outside counsel to do so.  Law firms have long recognized that diversity is good for business, leads to better decision-making, and creates credibility, thereby benefitting its legal teams and its clients.  With the MRLD, law firm clients are increasing expectations over and above insisting upon diverse teams to pitch for and handle their business.

There is no doubt that diversity will continue to be a top priority in the legal profession and that there is universal agreement that such diversity will make organizations, legal and otherwise, more successful.  The commitment to finding a solution is clear.  Only by addressing the systemic problems that prevent women and minorities from reaching success by achieving leadership roles in sufficient volume, however, will we make sufficient progress in increasing diversity representation at the top of the legal ladders.  As we have seen, no one system or program will be the solution.  Rather, it will take persistent and creative efforts until their culmination drives the change sought.  The Mansfield Rule’s emphasis on tracking and documentation is a simple and effective technique to drive such change.  Before participating in the Mansfield Rule Certification, studies showed that only 12 percent of law firms were tracking their candidate pools for leadership positions and 25 percent were tracking their candidate pools for lateral shareholder or partner hiring.  Now, 100 percent of participating law firms are tracking their metrics in these categories.  Having such goals and metrics by which law firms or legal departments can measure their efforts is one way for them to be accountable to those goals.  It helps both law firms and legal departments hold themselves responsible for measuring progress and ensures an informed dialogue regarding hiring trends is possible, while keeping the focus on diversifying leadership.  Only by continually raising the bar will legal community leadership be poised to guarantee its voice is as inclusive and impactful as possible.



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