Mansfield Rule 6.0 Pushes for Increased Diversity in the Legal Profession

Meeting Discussion Talking Sharing Ideas Concept

The Diversity Lab, an incubator of ideas aimed at boosting diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, recently released the next iteration of its Mansfield Rule, an initiative launched in 2017 to diversify recruitment and promotion practices in law.

The Mansfield Rule 6.0 asks law firms to consider at least 30% of underrepresented talent from four groups—including women lawyers, underrepresented racial and ethnic lawyers, LGBTQ lawyers, and lawyers with disabilities—for leadership roles and activities that lead to leadership. Firms are also asked to consider 30% underrepresented talent for C-suite roles.

In addition, the Rule asks that legal departments consider 50% underrepresented talent for top internal roles and outside counsel.

Previous iterations of the Mansfield Rule, in contrast, didn’t specifically include equity partnership and counted the four groups in aggregate rather than separately.

Organizations that comply with the Rule become “Mansfield Certified,” demonstrating their commitment to enhancing diversity among leadership and increasing transparency of their DEI practices.

flowchart of mansfield rule updates
Source: Diversity Lab

Highlighting differences among diverse groups

Sandra Yamate, CEO of the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession, an organization focused on creating a more diverse and inclusive legal profession, said the Mansfield Rule 6.0 highlights important differences among diverse groups that contribute to their sense of belonging.

“Part of that is recognizing, understanding, and addressing the fact that while the barriers and obstacles confronting diverse lawyers may superficially look the same, and may even have similar impacts and outcomes, they are not the same,” Yamate said. “For each of the different dimensions or strands of diversity, those barriers and obstacles are often rooted in different biases, stigmas, and prejudices; affected by different histories, cultures, societal values, and cultural norms; and have different kinds and levels of resources that can be brought to bear to try to redress them.”

By disaggregating the four traditionally underrepresented groups, firms may be able to better identify and address discrepancies in support of each group, and may be able to measure diversity among lawyers with disabilities and LGBTQ lawyers, which has historically been challenging for law firms, she said.

Why 30%?

The Mansfield Rule was launched in 2017 to assess whether law firms consider diverse candidates for hiring and promotions.

The Rule is grounded in the 30-50% goal, which, according to the Diversity Lab, research has shown achieves the critical mass needed to disrupt biases.

Twenty-one new firms will participate in the Mansfield Rule 6.0 certification process and nearly every Mansfield Rule 5.0 firm will maintain its certification, bringing the program’s total participation to more than 270-plus U.S. and Canadian law firms, 15-plus UK law firms, and 75-plus legal departments, according to a Diversity Lab press release.

In 2021, Diversity Lab released data on “early adopters” of the Mansfield Rule from 2017 through 2019 that confirmed that law firms piloting the Mansfield Rule have diversified their management committees by more than 30 times the rate of non-Mansfield firms. Mansfield firms also had notably larger increases in partner nomination committees and equity partnerships. 100% of Mansfield firms now track diversity, compared to just 12% when beginning the program.

“The Mansfield Rule has been impactful, particularly with law firms that need baselines and guidelines to give shape and structure to their diversity goals. But we should note that there have been a few firms that exceeded Mansfield Rule criteria before there was a Mansfield Rule,” Yamate said.

What is beyond Mansfield 6.0?

In the future, Yamate is looking forward to more iterations of the Mansfield Rule, perhaps with further disaggregation of the four traditionally underrepresented groups.

“It would be exciting to see gender diversity goals disaggregated to address the low numbers of intersectional women, especially women of color. Likewise, setting disaggregated goals for the various dimensions of racial/ethnic diversity, LGBTQ diversity, and disability diversity would be helpful,” Yamate said. “But clearly, Diversity Lab is leading in the right direction.”

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