When it comes to diversity and inclusion in the legal world, few initiatives have been as successful, and as widely embraced, as the Mansfield Rule. In the five years since its inception, it has gained astonishing momentum among law firms (as well as other companies). And as results start to come in, it’s becoming clear that the Mansfield Rule is working—and not even all that slowly.
In our previous post on the Mansfield Rule, we reviewed its origins and goals.. In this post, we’re going to show, instead of tell, the results by providing a broad overview of the preliminary data coming out of early Mansfield-adopter law firms and breaking down what it means. Spoiler alert: It’s good news.
Data is in from early Mansfield adopters
Diversity Lab—a think tank whose goal is to drive progress in DE&I through data-driven methods—introduced the Mansfield Rule certification program in 2017 after a “hackathon” aimed at improving gender balance in law firm leadership. At that time, there were 30+ “early adopter” firms that signed on to implement the first iteration of Mansfield, aka Mansfield 1.0.
The first Mansfield iteration required firms to measure and confirm that they consider candidate pools that are at least 30% diverse—including women and underrepresented racial and ethnic lawyers as a starting point—when hiring senior associates and partners, promoting into the equity partnersh, and selecting leaders for management roles. (Since that time, subsequent iterations have broadened the requirements, making certification more onerous to obtain.)
The most recent analysis, conducted in 2021, looked at firms that completed two full Mansfield certification cycles, from 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. The number of participating firms has increased dramatically since these first two cycles; from 41 participating firms in 2017, there are over 270 participating firms in 2022. This is incredibly exciting, if we extrapolate what the numbers will look like based on the data we currently have!
The proof of success is in the pudding, so to speak
Rather than reinvent the wheel, we’ll summarize some of the highlights straight from Diversity Lab:
- For underrepresented racial and ethnic lawyers, Mansfield 1.0 firms diversified their management committees at more than 30 times the rate of non-Mansfield firms from 2017-2019. While diversity percentages at non-Mansfield firms remained essentially flat (increasing only from 8.6% to 8.7%), Mansfield-certified firms increased from 8.2% to 12.6%.
- The racial and ethnic diversity of non-Mansfield firms’ partner nomination committees has actually declined since 2017, while Mansfield 1.0 firms have increased almost 4%.
- Racially diverse lawyers at early-adopter Mansfield firms are making partner at a statistically higher percentage than they were pre-Mansfield. Additionally, Mansfield 1.0 firms reached a 10.5% racially diverse partnership, while non-Mansfield firms were at 9.1%; this is significant because large law firms have increased racial diversity at the partnership level, on average, at a rate of only 0.2% per year over the past decade.
- Women lawyers at early-adopter Mansfield firms are progressing into leadership—as part of management committees, partner review committees, and the partnership as a whole—at a statistically higher percentage than they were pre-Mansfield.
This data is impressive. Keeping in mind that this reflects the original handful of law firms, imagine where we’ll be in a few years!
All signs point to even more progress
In addition to formal analyses of year-over-year data collected from early adopters, firms are eager to share ongoing results. In an open letter from Mansfield firm leaders after the 2020-2021 certification cycle, firms highlighted preliminary data from midway through the 3.0 certification cycle:
- 94% of participating firms reported that their candidate pool for pitch teams was more diverse following the adoption of the Mansfield Rule;
- 79% of firms reported that their lateral partner hiring pool was more diverse, and 76% said their equity partner promotions pool was more diverse;
- 92% of firms reported an increase in formal diversity discussions regarding succession planning for leadership and governance roles, and 85% increased formal discussions for lateral partner hiring; and
- 57% of participating firms elected or appointed a higher percentage of diverse lawyers into Office Managing Partner roles.
The “secret” to Mansfield’s success is no secret—it’s hard work
They say there are no shortcuts in life, and that’s certainly true for Mansfield firms; the certification process is a demanding year-long process, and each Mansfield Rule iteration has demanded just a little bit more.
The “secret” to success is the accountability that the certification process requires from participating firms. Mansfield is not a token, lip-service public pledge. Participating firms must track, collect, and submit detailed demographic data, and Diversity Lab actively checks in during the year.
In order to meet the tracking requirements, most firms have created and assembled entirely new teams consisting of partners and staff to oversee the certification process across the firm. What this means, in practice, is that Mansfield Certification has become an ongoing, dynamic, and active process permeating the management of law firms. All signs suggest that firms are proud to report these strenuous efforts. In fact, as part of participating firms’ collective data sharing, their open letter reports these efforts as an outcome:
“Prior to participating in the Mansfield Rule, only 12% of firms tracked their candidates for leadership roles and 25% tracked their candidates for lateral partner hiring; now, 100% are tracking these candidate pools.”
Participating firms have issued their own call to action
Perhaps the most promising indicator of ongoing Mansfield success is the fact that participating firms are encouraging each other to keep going, regardless of how hard the work might be. In their own words:
“Knowing from legal industry data that past recessions have had a disproportionate impact on diverse lawyers, we are focused on ensuring history doesn’t repeat itself. In addition to the 95% of our firms that participated in the 3.0 version and have renewed for 4.0, we welcome 24 new law firms that have thoughtfully joined this collaborative effort in one of the most uncertain and difficult times in recent memory.”
And that’s not all. Not content to just laud their own success, participating firms have issued their own call to action to firms yet to sign on to Mansfield:
“We invite legal departments and other law firms to engage in this collaborative initiative with us… This is truly a collaborative effort, and one that is helping to make our profession—and our firms—more inclusive and diverse.”
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While one initiative on its own may not fix the legal profession’s struggle with diversity… don’t tell Mansfield firms that, because they’re determined to prove us wrong.
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