Mansfield Rule: Law Firms Tackle Diversity Promotions

by Tony Flesor

Correction: The print version of this article incorrectly states the percentage of diverse candidates required by the Mansfield Rule. The rule requires 30 percent of candidates for high-level positions be women or minority attorneys.

The legal profession is taking a page out of the NFL’s playbook with the implementation of the Mansfield Rule.

Now after its initial six-month check-in, the Mansfield Rule sets a guideline for law firms to build candidate pools for high-level positions with women and minority attorneys making up 30 percent of the group. The rule came out of the 2016 Diversity Lab Hackathon, which set out to solve systemic issues in the profession. While the rule isn’t an overhaul to diversity guidelines already in place at many large firms, its concrete guidance gives those practices more teeth and helps communicate those goals throughout a firm.

Denver-based law firms Holland & Hart and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck are among the 44 law firms leading the way among other national firms such as Hogan Lovells and Dentons. Several firms in the pilot for the Mansfield Rule operate in Denver, such as Faegre Baker Daniels, Holland & Knight and WilmerHale.

The rule drew inspiration from the NFL’s “Rooney Rule,” named after former Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney. In the world of football, the rule required NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coach vacancies. After instituting the rule in 2003, the number of minority coaches in the NFL doubled, and reports showed that minority candidates were 20 percent more likely to fill an NFL head coach position during the Rooney Rule era than before it.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the March 19, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online