Does Your Outside Counsel Follow the Mansfield Rule? Shouldn't They?

By William Vogeler, Esq. on June 04, 2019

In 1869, Arabella Mansfield became the first woman admitted to practice law in the United States. Since then, little has changed at some law firms.

The Mansfield Rule hopes to change that. The rule is a commitment law firms make to consider women, minorities, and other underrepresented people for jobs and leadership roles. According to reports, scores of law firms have made the pledge. Shouldn't your outside counsel follow the Mansfield Rule?

Diversity Rules

In a nod to football's Rooney Rule, which applies to hiring minorities for coaching positions, the Mansfield Rule was born of a problem -- lack of diversity. In the first iteration of the lawyers' rule, 30 law firms committed to considering at least two women or attorneys of color when hiring or promoting. The Mansfield Rule 2.0 asks law firms to consider at least 30 percent women, LGBTQ+, and minority lawyers for leadership roles.

Sixty-five law firms have signed up so far. Diversity Lab, host of the event that gave birth to the rule in 2016, has monitored the progress at the firms. Benchmarks include:

  • About 95 percent increased discussions about broadening the pool of diverse candidates.
  • More than half have job descriptions for leadership roles to include diverse candidates.
  • Many have added reporting requirements for diversity in leadership, hiring, and promotions.

The law firms that have taken the diversity pledge include some of the biggest and best, including Baker & McKenzie, O'Melveny & Myers, & DLA Piper. They know if it's good for diversity; it's good for business.

Business Rules

When it comes to hiring outside counsel, many companies expect diversity in their law firms. Subscribing to the Mansfield Rule, more than 70 in-house legal departments have signed on. They include:

  • American Express
  • CBS Corporation
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Microsoft

Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney has a direct connection to the Mansfield Rule through the Rooney Rule. Partner Art Rooney II is also president of the Pittsburgh Steelers. "My father would be proud to know that we are working together as a community to transition the Rooney Rule into the legal profession," he said. "He was a true believer in diversity and collaboration, so this is the perfect way to honor his legacy."

If you are building your own legacy at your company, talk to your leadership about how to encourage all your vendors and partners to follow the Mansfield Rule. Not only will your own workplace be better for it, but you can help spread change throughout the wider community.   

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