Diversity Lab certifies first cohort of midsize firms in NFL-style diversity programme

Some 26 US firms were certified for their efforts to boost underrepresented groups in senior roles

US firms including Brooks Kushman, Hausfeld and Wilkinson Barker Knauer are among 26 organisations to be certified under Diversity Lab’s inaugural Midsize Mansfield Rule Certification programme to improve the diversity of senior employees.

The 26 successful firms have completed an 18-month pilot with Diversity Lab to put in place measures to ensure that candidates for hiring opportunities, leadership roles, client pitches and partner promotions are made up of at least 30% women, underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, LGBTQ+ individuals and lawyers with disabilities. The Mansfield Rule was inspired by the NFL’s Rooney Rule, where teams must interview at least one diverse candidate for head coach vacancies.

Some 16 of the 26 firms achieved Diversity Lab’s certification ‘plus’ standard, which means they have already achieved 30% diverse representation in current leadership roles, client pitches and staffing on key matters.

Kate Johnston Ryan, chief administration officer at Diversity Lab, said: “Despite launching the midsize iteration of the Mansfield Rule in the midst of a global pandemic, these firms were not deterred from taking on challenging systems changes to increase diversity in their firms and the profession.”


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The midsize category applies to firms with around 25 to 150 lawyers. Other firms in the initial cohort include The Cook Group, Drew Eckl & Farnham, Ivins Phillips & Barker, Marshall Gerstein & Borun and Severson & Werson.

Jeffrey Sharp, managing partner at Marshall Gerstein, said: “One of our firm’s greatest strengths is its ability to harness the diverse backgrounds, identities and perspectives of our team members to provide the best service for our clients. We are proud to be a Certified Plus firm in the inaugural year of the Midsize Mansfield Rule and to be part of a community of law firms sharing the goal of ensuring inclusive, equitable work environments in the legal profession.”

There are currently 140 midsize firms taking part in the programme, with the second two cohorts launching in September 2021 and March this year. Partners from underrepresented groups at successfully certified firms will be invited to the Mansfield Rule Client Forums in 2023 to network with in-house legal departments. Previous client forums have included legal teams from Bloomberg, Google, McDonalds, Pfizer and Walgreen.

Last November, Diversity Lab also launched an initiative to help 200 women lawyers return to the profession by 2025 in an effort to reverse the number of women who have left the workforce over the last few years.


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