The legal profession is looking to increase diversity within the industry under the proposed Mansfield Rule. The Mansfield Rule, named after “the first American woman admitted into the legal profession in 1869” draws from the National Football League’s Rooney Rule which mandates that all coaching and executive openings must include a minority or female applicant when searching to fill the role. The new legal rule currently has the support of forty-four “major law firms and 55 corporate legal departments”
One of the leaders to help create the Mansfield Rule is Diversity Lab, which uses research and behavioral sciences to develop new ways to help increase diversity. According to Fortune Magazine, the new rule “will measure whether firms are actively considering diverse candidates for at least 30% of open leadership and governance roles. In other words, if you have a slate of 10 potential hires, three need to be people of color or women.” Diversity Lab believes that 30% is a proven number that usually helps transform industries such as Legal.
Caren Ulrich Stacy, the CEO of Diversity Lab explains that, although gender balance is basically equal for first year lawyers, “by the time they get to equity partnership, about nine or 10 years down the road, only about 16% are women.” Stacey says that ” It’s not so much a leaky pipeline, though we lose plenty of attorneys of color along the way, it’s that there is no pipeline.”
This same corporate cohort is working with Diversity Lab to adapt the Mansfield Rule, which is law firm specific, to traditional corporate structures. And just in time. “Since we announced this, I’ve gotten calls from financial services firms, manufacturing, healthcare and tech firms asking about it,” says Stacy. The plan is to study the results from the first year and share everything they learn. “We’ll see where it moves the needle and where it falls short,” she says. “And then iterate from there.”