Boosting Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Through Experimentation, Accountability, Transparency & Results Measurement
The Move the Needle Fund (“MTN”) is the first collaborative effort designed and funded for five years — by Diversity Lab and four trailblazing law firms — to test innovative initiatives to create a more diverse and inclusive legal profession.
Despite decades of hard work by industry stakeholders to diversify the talent pool — from law students through law firm and legal department leadership — the needle hasn’t moved far enough fast enough.
To drive greater progress, four law firms, 25+ general counsel, and a dozen community leaders are embarking on a different approach. They are working together through MTN to create a first-of-its-kind experimental “laboratory” in which bold new approaches are being incubated over five years in the law firms to serve as a model for learning and transformative change in the legal profession and beyond.
These four firms have set aggressive, measurable diversity goals. They are now experimenting with research-based and data-driven ways to achieve them and will publicly report their progress.
The general counsel are working together with the MTN firms to achieve their goals and also pilot some of the innovative initiatives with their legal departments and current outside counsel.
How It Works
Diversity Lab and four law firms are: (1) setting aggressive, public firm-specific diversity goals; (2) experimenting with innovative, research-based methods to achieve them; (3) measuring the outcomes; and (4) sharing the results — including the successes and failures — with each other and the community.
To achieve these goals and serve as a model from which others can learn, MTN will leverage the investment made by the firms and Diversity Lab to:
- explore and experiment with new approaches to hiring, work/life integration, work allocation, sponsorship, promotions, feedback, performance reviews, and compensation systems;
- implement the winning Diversity in Law Hackathon ideas;
- test evidence-based research such as the bias interrupters from the ABA and Minority Corporate Counsel Association study as well as other inclusion research from top academic institutions; and
- crowdsource innovative ideas from other industries.
Founding Law Firms & Measurable Goals
The four trailblazing MTN law firms are Eversheds Sutherland (US), Nixon Peabody, Orrick, and Stoel Rives.
The MTN firms’ measurable goals, detailed below, have been carefully crafted to tackle some of the biggest challenges and barriers — specifically focused on hiring, retention, and advancement — that law firms face in achieving greater diversity and inclusion. MTN officially began measuring progress on these goals in January 2020.
Why Does the Legal Profession Need “Metrics-Based Goals” Focused on Greater Retention and Advancement of Diverse Talent?
Our hope is to create and sustain an equitable and inclusive legal profession. There are many good reasons for metrics-based goals related to that, but two primary impetuses drive MTN.
First, what gets measured gets done. And, second, to know how far we’ve come (or not come), we have to know where we started.
Law School Graduating Classes v. Large Law Firm Equity Partnerships
For more than a decade, law school graduating classes have hovered around 50% women, 33% racial and ethnic minorities, and 6% LGBTQ+ students, yet the equity partnership in most large law firms still consists of only 21% women, 9% racial and ethnic minorities, and 2% LGBTQ+ lawyers.
Law Firm Diverse Associate Attrition
One of the reasons for this leaky pipeline is the increased rate at which diverse lawyers leave law firms before they reach partnership compared to non-diverse lawyers. At the associate level, attrition rates are 11% higher for women than for men and 33% higher for racial minorities than for white lawyers.
At the Current Rate of Change, When Will Law Firm Equity Partnerships Match Law School Graduating Classes?
Predictive modeling, using the last five years of ALM data, suggests that — at the current slow rate of progress — the largest 200 firms in the country as a group won’t mirror the law school diversity percentages for women and racial minorities in the equity partnership until 2057 and 2084, respectively, unless drastic changes are made immediately. (There is insufficient historical data available to conduct these same analyses for LGBTQ+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities. MTN hopes to remedy that issue.)
Why are the MTN Law Firms’ Five-Year Goals Important — For Both the Firms and the Profession?
Recognizing that it will take 38 years to reach 50% women and 65 years to reach 33% racial and ethnic minorities in the equity partnership, the MTN law firms have set public goals and are piloting interventions to accelerate this timing by decades.
As part of the MTN mission, in addition to women and racial and ethnic lawyers, we are working on boosting the inclusion and representation of LGBTQ+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities.
The Outcome if the MTN Firms Achieve Their Goals
If the MTN firms achieve their goals, predictive modeling suggests they will be in the top 10% of all AmLaw 200 firms for both associate and partner diversity.
What If All AmLaw 200 Firms Achieved the MTN Goals?
If all AmLaw 200 firms emulate their efforts and achieve the MTN goals, the time it will take for the equity partnership of law firms to mirror the diversity of law school graduating classes — 35 and 65 years respectively — could be cut in half.
What are the MTN Law Firms’ Five-Year Goals?
Challenge to Solve: NALP data show that diverse lawyers leave law firms before they reach partnership at much higher rates than non-diverse lawyers. At the associate level, attrition rates are 11% higher for women than for men and 33% higher for racial minorities than for white lawyers.
Stoel Rives, in hopes of serving as a model for the profession to learn from, plans to tackle this challenge by: (1) leveraging research-based methods to better understand the reasons for the higher attrition rates among diverse lawyers; and (2) experimenting with new initiatives and talent practices to better retain and advance all lawyers — with a special focus on historically underrepresented lawyers — to close the attrition gap.
Metrics-Based Goal: Stoel Rives will improve the retention rate of its diverse attorneys (specifically women, racial/ethnic minorities, individuals identifying as LGBTQ+, and individuals with disabilities) to be at least equal to the retention rate of its non-diverse attorneys by 2025, with the ultimate goal of increasing the percentage of diverse partners in the firm. Currently, to achieve this goal, Stoel would need to reduce the rate of attrition of its diverse attorneys by 40% to match the attrition rate of its non-diverse attorneys.
Eversheds Sutherland (US)
Challenge to Solve: Research shows that: (1) diverse associates leave law firms at higher rates than non-diverse associates prior to partnership; and (2) diverse and female partners move laterally at lower rates — male partners, for example, move 2x to 3x more often than female partners. Eversheds Sutherland (US) has chosen to tackle these challenges by investigating the underlying causes and testing new approaches to attracting, hiring, developing, and advancing talent to partnership.
Metrics-Based Goal: By 2025, Eversheds Sutherland (US) will increase the percentage of female partners to 33% and diverse partners — including racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+, lawyers with disabilities, and veterans — to 15%.
Challenge to Solve: Clients are increasingly demanding more inclusive teams knowing they produce better results, innovative solutions, and more effective collaboration with their in-house teams. And research shows that the key to greater retention and advancement of top talent of any background is access to meaningful and challenging work as well as business development and leadership opportunities. Orrick’s goal seeks to identify innovative ways for firms and clients — who share a commitment to enhancing diversity in the profession — to work together to ensure that lawyers at all levels have access to career-enhancing work and leadership opportunities within the context of a valued law firm/client relationship and team.
Metrics-Based Goal: Orrick will focus on ensuring that the firm’s talent from all backgrounds has opportunities to be trained for, pitch for, work substantively for, and have leadership opportunities with our most strategic client relationships. We will ensure that our relationships with an initial set of 40 such strategic clients reflect the firm’s diversity in both their leadership and composition. By 2025, this set of clients will be served by teams that are at a minimum 55% diverse.
Today, half of these teams match or exceed that overall diversity (although there is room to improve the representation, specifically of women, lawyers of color, and/or LGBTQ+ lawyers on some of these teams and in their leadership); for the other half, it means we will seek to mirror that success as we grow the client relationship. We will also ensure that our diverse partners earn fair recognition and compensation credit for their role in serving and expanding the relationship with these clients.
We will apply what we learn by working with these 40 clients to develop or expand relationships with additional clients in our core focus areas — the Tech & Innovation, Energy & Infrastructure, and Finance sectors — who share our commitment to diversity.
Challenge to Solve: Currently, in AmLaw 200 firms, the equity partnership consists of 21% women, 9% racial/ethnic minorities, and 2% LGBTQ+ lawyers. Despite an increased focus on diversity and inclusion throughout the profession, the average annual percentage increase for equity partners across Am Law 200 firms is only .8% for women and .38% for racial and ethnic minorities.
Metrics-Based Goal: By 2025, Nixon Peabody’s equity partnership will consist of 30% women attorneys, 12% racially/ethnically diverse attorneys, and 6% LGBTQ+ attorneys.
Founding General Counsel
The founding general counsel and their legal departments will support the firms’ goals and boost diversity in the profession by partnering on diversity internships and other law school pipeline initiatives, providing career-enhancing work and advancement opportunities to diverse outside counsel teams, and measuring their current and future outside counsel firms’ diversity and inclusion progress.
In parallel, they will also experiment with and measure the impact of many of the innovative MTN efforts in their own legal departments and with their current outside counsel.
Read their open letter supporting this effort and encouraging others to get involved here.
- Lora D. BlumMomentive
- James L. ChosyU.S. Bancorp
- Sonia GalindoKBR
- Bradley M. GaytonFord/Coca-Cola (Former)
- Rachel GonzalezStarbucks (Former)
- Hannah GordonSan Francisco 49ers
- Julie GruberGap Inc.
- Marie Oh HubereBay
- Gregory B. JordanPNC Financial Service Group
- Jan KangStairwell
- Fleur KnowsleyGoogle Fiber
- Doug LanklerPfizer
- David LevineBloomberg LP
- Tom LueDeepMind
- John MellenFord Motor Company
- Megha ParekhJacksonville Jaguars
- Karyn PolakTransamerica
- Laura QuatelaLenovo
- Kristin SverchekLyft
- Todd MachtmesSalesforce
- Tony WestUber
- Amanda RomeXcel Energy
- Rishi VarmaHewlett Packard Enterprise
Supporting Legal Departments
In addition to the founding general counsel, the following legal departments have signed on to support the MTN firms and boost diversity and inclusion in the legal profession by joining the legal department collectives described below and providing valuable insight and expertise to the MTN Fund.
Please email Leila Hock at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how to join the MTN Fund as a Supporting Legal Department.
Arrow Electronics, Inc.
Conagra Brands, Inc.
Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc.
Euromoney Institutional Investor plc
H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute
State Street Corporation
Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc
Board of Advisors
Several of the founding general counsel and legal department leaders are helping to oversee and drive MTN’s progress by serving on its Board of Advisors and as Collective Project Leaders.
- Lora D. BlumMomentive GC
- James L. ChosyU.S. Bancorp GC
- Bradley M. GaytonCoca-Cola Company Former GC
- Rachel GonzalezStarbucks Former GC
- David LevineBloomberg LP GC
- Megha ParekhJacksonville Jaguars GC
- Rishi VarmaHewlett Packard Enterprise GC
Collective Project Leaders
- Willie HernandezCoca-ColaPipeline Collective
- Miho KameokaPfizerPipeline Collective
- Alison O’NeillPfizerPipeline Collective
- Laurie CharringtonNetflixAccess to Opportunity
- Sonia GalindoKBRAccess to Opportunity
- Jan KangStairwellAccess to Opportunity
- Tammy AlbarranPelatonDiversity Dividends
- Marie MaGap Inc.Diversity Dividends
- Christophe MosbyHP Inc.Diversity Dividends
- Michelle VonderHaarHP Inc.Diversity Dividends
MTN will use a portion of the $5M to invest in collective projects — with the MTN organizations as well as other interested law firms and legal departments — focused on increasing diversity and inclusion in their respective organizations and in the entire profession. A few of these initial projects include:
MTN 1L Diversity Pipeline Collective
To increase the pipeline of junior lawyers from populations historically underrepresented in the legal industry in law firms and legal departments and to boost their chance of success once there, many of the MTN founding organizations and others have committed to annually providing paid, split summer internships — similar to the Law in Tech Collaborative started by eBay — to first-year law students from underrepresented populations.
The Pipeline Collective is thrilled to provide over 25 split-summer internship opportunities around the country for Summer 2022. Selected students will be spending their summer at the following organizations:
ADP / TBD Am Law 200 Firm, Bridgestone Americas / Squire Patton Boggs, Bridgestone Americas / Bass Berry Sims, Chime / Jenner & Block, Chime / Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, Conagra Brands / Husch Blackwell, Consolidated Edison of New York / Eversheds Sutherland (US), Consolidated Edison of New York / Heidell Pittoni Murphy & Bach, Consolidated Edison of New York / Morris Duffy Alonso Faley, Consolidated Edison of New York / Wilder & Linneball, Discord / Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, Ford / Hogan Lovells, Intel / Stoel Rives, Kaiser Permanente / Baker Hostetler, Kaiser Permanente / O’Melveny, McDonald’s Corporation / TBD Am Law 200 Firm, PNC Financial / Ballard Spahr, PNC Financial / Riemer & Braunstein, RBC Wealth Management / Dorsey & Whitney, Starbucks / Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, Transamerica / TBD Am Law 200 Firm, U.S. Bank / Taft Stettinius, Xcel Energy / Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Xcel Energy / Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe.
In addition, MTN will annually donate money and Diversity Lab’s in-kind services in excess of $100,000 to existing legal pipeline programs such as Pipeline to Practice, Silicon Valley Urban Debate League, Street Law, LCLD Pathways, MCCA 1L Scholarship, Twin Cities Diversity in Practice, Law in Tech 1L Diversity Collaborative, and other initiatives to strengthen and expand current successful efforts.
As a starting point in 2020, we launched a virtual networking program for 1Ls from underrepresented populations and provided scholarships to women of color law students. The details follow.
Virtual Learning & Networking Forums for Underrepresented Students
With support from the four MTN law firms — Eversheds Sutherland, Nixon Peabody, Orrick, and Stoel Rives — and 25+ founding legal departments, we hosted a 10-week 1L Virtual Summer Learning & Networking Forum for Summer 2020 and a 6-week program for Summer 2021. With over 300 participating students and 200 attorney networkers, we expanded the program to provide additional sessions for 2L students over the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters.
Leadership Institute for Women of Color Attorneys — Scholarships to Underrepresented 2Ls & 3Ls
With a special focus on women students of color, MTN provided scholarships ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 to the following 2L and 3L students in 2020 through the Leadership Institute for Women of Color Attorneys.
— Nadia Lee, Boston University School of Law, 3L
— Charlene Minatee, University of Pennsylvania Law School, 2L
— Brittney Martinez, Temple University Beasley School of Law, 2L
— Samantha Santiago, DePaul University College of Law 2L
— Chelsea Bosley, Thurgood Marshall School of Law 3L
MTN Access to Opportunity Collective
The MTN founding legal departments — representing more than $1.5 billion in legal spend annually — have committed to providing diverse teams at law firms, with a special focus on the MTN firms, with the opportunity to be considered for new and expanded business. For diverse lawyers who work on or lead their cases, the legal department leaders will also provide sponsorship in the form of advocacy, feedback, and referrals.
To provide quick and easy access to partners that have self-identified as part of a historically underrepresented population at the MTN law firms, the Access to Opportunities Collective has launched the MTN Diverse Partners Directory. This app will help in-house counsel, press, conference organizers, and others raise the visibility of diverse lawyers and equalize access to key opportunities. Diversity Lab will track the usage of this app to determine whether a tool like this measurably improves access to diverse lawyers in the legal industry and if it could be expanded to include lawyers beyond the MTN network.
Users can use the app to search diverse partners by firm, practice area, or state bar license. To contact a lawyer directly, users can click on an email address within the directory and will be directed to a pre-populated email with a copy to the MTN team at the applicable firm. The magic in this directory will come from its distribution network. To that end, please share it broadly!
MTN Diversity Dividends Collective
To wield their collective power, many of the MTN founding legal departments will require their potential and current outside counsel law firms to consistently and progressively staff matters with diverse teams and lead lawyers. Other legal departments are invited to join as well.
The legal departments participating in the Diversity Dividends Collective will engage in an annual diversity data collection process — facilitated by Diversity Lab — that sets outside counsel diversity goals, collects timekeeper and firm diversity data, and rewards compliance. Current exemplar initiatives, such as HP’s law firm diversity & inclusion initiative, have resulted in increasingly diverse teams, providing evidence that this approach produces positive results.
How to Get Involved
We encourage other law firms and legal departments to join this effort by agreeing to do one or more of the above-mentioned actions in collaboration with us. For more information on getting involved with MTN collaborative efforts, contact Caren Ulrich Stacy.
The MTN Community Leaders, listed below, are providing valuable insights and data, challenging norms, and supporting the firms and legal departments in achieving their goals.
- Jay BenegalCiti
- Gabrielle BrownMorgan Stanley
- Jamie DolkasCenter for WorkLife Law, UC Hastings
- Carrie FletcherLondon Business School
- Patrick FullerAmerican Lawyer Media
- Joan TothChIPs
- Scott WestfahlHarvard Law School
- Sandra YamateInstitute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession
Northwestern Law joins Diversity Lab project funded by large law firms
September 18th, 2019 | Stephanie Francis Ward