Giving Thanks for Arabella Mansfield
Arabella Mansfield would be thankful. As we approach 2020, diversity objectives put in place by law firms certified by the Mansfield Rule have shown that, by tracking the pool of attorneys for lateral hire, client pitches and leadership roles within one’s law firm, goals can be achieved. Through following the Mansfield guidelines of a 30% pool of diverse candidates, more women, more attorneys of color, more disabled attorneys, and more LBGTQ+ attorneys are finding success. In this week of Thanksgiving, let’s all assist in helping diverse attorneys to experience the legal profession at the top of their license.
In my role as a legal recruiter, there isn’t anything more important than helping lawyers find the right law firm or company so they can do the work they love while achieving their professional and personal goals. This is particularly gratifying for me when working with attorneys from historically underrepresented backgrounds who have faced unique challenges and hurdles in their careers and I am able to bring an opportunity with employers who recognize those challenges, sees their value, and supports their growth. The legal profession is a lifetime career, and I am thankful for the widespread adoption of Mansfield Rule by so many of my clients. On September 3, 2019, it was announced that 102 law firms were piloting Mansfield Rule 3.0 certification, which will be completed in July 2020. But there is more to say here than just reporting about the newest law firm signatories to the Mansfield Rule.
The current Mansfield Rule certification information notes that:
The Mansfield Rule is designed to promote diversity in law firm leadership across a variety of activities. For the Rule’s principles to function effectively, participating firms must engage in a substantial volume of hiring, promotions, and leadership transitions during the course of the twelve-month certification period. For this reason, generally speaking, firms with fewer than approximately 100 lawyers will not be in a position to implement the rule in the way it is intended.
With that said, I would suggest that it should not be viewed as an all-or-nothing situation. Law firms, no matter the size or PPP, benefit from formulating its recruiting, hiring, retention strategy around the general principles of the Mansfield Rule. For example, anecdotally, in a recent meeting with a New York law firm client with under 100 attorneys, we reviewed the members of the firm’s executive and management committees. I commented, “with the number of women partners on these committees, you are meeting the Mansfield goals, which is fantastic!” We also discussed where the client was having challenges in diversity efforts. This transparency, dialogue, and accountability was a huge benefit to the conversation and allowed us to determine ways to work together to improve results. The truth that numbers are numbers, but not the be all end all. Results and accomplishments in this imperative cultural shift for many law firms requires thoughtful reflection alongside intention, direct action, and accountability. This applies to firm leadership and employees at all levels and to the many vendors law firms engage to meet their goals (including legal recruiting companies).
Below are some tips for both law firm and lateral attorneys to consider in order to contribute to the overall advancement of diverse candidates in the legal profession, from this legal recruiter’s point of view.
FOR LAW FIRMS:
- Track your candidate pool for lateral associate, counsel and partner hiring with the Mansfield metrics in mind and share success stories as well as your challenges such as my client did above with your recruitment staff and trusted outside legal recruiters.
- Select a diverse pool of your law firm partnership (equity/ non equity) for leadership roles within your law firm.
- Include diverse associates, counsel and partners on formal client pitches, and staff a diverse array of lawyers on matters.
FOR LATERAL CANDIDATES:
- Determine a law firm’s commitment to diversity and inclusion through tangible metrics on Mansfield-oriented principles. This can occur throughout your interview process, through information provided by both your legal recruiter and the firm’s internal human resources staff, as well as the firm partners and associates themselves. Ask metrics-driven questions in connection with partnership, leadership, and internal initiatives.
- Approach your career move with the understanding that not every legal employer is Mansfield certified; that fact alone does not indicate that a business is not committed to meeting both internal and external, client-driven diversity initiatives.
- Get involved in these efforts to understand what the future of the legal profession will look like in 2020 and beyond.
My own story? A solid pivot from trying jury trials to a law-related business–legal staffing and recruiting–after the birth of my first child in 1993, the year the FMLA was passed. There is nothing better in my mind than assisting attorneys on their career paths, and I am thankful to be afforded such a wonderful career in the law. Now let’s make 2020 the best year ever for law firms and their diversity and inclusion initiatives!
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