Diversity Lab programme sees 20 US law firms named 'inclusion champions'

Reed Smith and White & Case among those to score at least 70 out of 100 for their D&I efforts


Twenty US law firms including Reed Smith and White & Case have been named ‘inclusion champions’ by incubator Diversity Lab for their efforts to improve diversity and inclusion (D&I) at the leadership and practice group levels. 

In order to be recognised as an ‘inclusion champion’, firms participating in Diversity Lab’s 2021 Inclusion Blueprint were required to achieve a score of at least 70 out of 100 across four areas, namely current diversity representation based on average or above-average thresholds, year-over-year diversity representation progress, diversity representation tracking and meaningful inclusion practices and activities. 

Other firms to be named champions this year included Cooley, Eversheds Sutherland, Jenner & Block, Morgan Lewis, Steptoe & Johnson and WilmerHale.

Diversity Lab launched the Inclusion Blueprint in 2018 in collaboration with ChIPs, a non-profit that works to advance women in tech, law and policy, and has since run it annually. It is intended to provide firm management with a roadmap of inclusion practices to employ and track to ensure their underrepresented lawyers benefit from equal opportunities.

This year, the Inclusion Blueprint’s target thresholds were 30% women lawyers, 15% underrepresented racial and ethnic (URE) lawyers, 5% lawyers with disabilities and 5% LGBTQ+ lawyers. These targets weighed against an average of 22% women lawyers, 10% URE lawyers, 2% LGBTQ+ lawyers and 0.5% lawyers with disabilities. 

By measuring the participating law firms’ D&I efforts, the programme determined a number inclusion practices that correlate positively with higher diversity representation, the top six of which are:

  1. The firm specifically asks what each partner has done to contribute to diversity and inclusion at the firm and/or in their practice group during the annual compensation review process.
  2. Partner compensation is impacted by meaningful contributions, or lack thereof, to diversity and inclusion.
  3. Practice group leader compensation is impacted as a result of positive or negative diversity headcount or inclusion efforts within their group.
  4. The firm’s performance review and compensation criteria and procedures for associates are written and available to all lawyers.
  5. The firm’s performance review and compensation criteria and procedures for partners are written and available to all lawyers.
  6. The firm is Mansfield Rule Certified or in the process of attempting to become certified.

The Mansfield programme, another Diversity Lab initiative inspired by the NFL’s Rooney Rule, was designed to grow the racial and ethnic diversity of those firms’ management committees so that at least 30% of candidates are from underrepresented groups. All 118 firms participating in the latest round of the programme were awarded certification in September, a first since the programme began in 2017. 

Caren Ulrich Stacy, CEO of Diversity Lab, said: “Inclusion begets diversity. Research shows that, without inclusive and equitable talent practices and systems, underrepresented lawyers don’t have fair access to quality work, sponsorship from power-players, or business development credit.” 

She added: “The Inclusion Blueprint outlines exactly what firms must do at both the leadership and practice group levels to make this happen. And now, leveraging data, we know which of these inclusion practices are priorities for firms. We also have a group of leading firms named as 2021 inclusion champions who have employed many of these inclusion practices and more to learn from.” 


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