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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at BakerHostetler LLP: A Case Study

Dec 9, 2021

Leading organizations are recognizing they need to work harder and dig deeper to make meaningful progress when integrating diversity, equity and inclusion into their growth strategy. Recruiting diverse candidates is one thing, but creating a culture where meaningful progress can be sustained is quite another.

In Part 2 of our four-part blog series, CDS’ Michelle Kell interviews Lauren Resnick, Partner at BakerHostetler, a law firm with 17 offices nationwide. Ms. Resnick is the Chief Practice Partner, based in New York. In her role, she works with the firm’s practice group chairs who deliver services as well as oversee talent management, which includes everything from recruiting and onboarding to professional development and diversity, equity and inclusion. The firm has done extensive work in recent years to build out their Infrastructure and evolve their talent management practices to move the needle on DEI.

Read on for a lightly edited transcript of their conversation. To watch the entire recorded webinar, Women in Legal Ops & Tech: Integrating DEI Into Your Growth Strategy, click here.

The Mansfield Rule – Opening the door to diverse talent

The Mansfield Rule was developed based upon the Rooney Rule in the National Football League. The National Football League had looked at their head coaches and recognized there was no diversity, and particularly no racial diversity. So they implemented the Rooney Rule, which meant that every time a professional football team needed to hire a new head coach, they needed to consider in the applicant or candidate pool at least 30% diverse candidates. It didn’t mean that a diverse candidate had to be selected, but they wanted to make sure that the candidate pool was broad enough that they were considering all qualified candidates and making an intentional and conscious effort to do that.

The Mansfield Rule was developed from the Rooney Rule, but targeted toward the legal industry and participating law firms. (BakerHostetler I’m proud to say is participating this year, and going forward.) The rule states that when you have important leadership committees or promotions or hiring – various aspects of your organization, that you make an intentional effort to make sure you’re considering at least 30% diverse candidates. That’s diversity in a whole variety of ways. Primarily though for Mansfield, it’s focused on racial diversity, gender, sexual orientation, national origin and disabilities.

There are a number of categories, and it all starts with the data. This is all about measurement, capturing data and statistics and tracking your progress. And if you measure what you do, that’s how you can see whether you’re making progress. And it certainly keeps people on track. So in the law firm context, and you can apply that to your organizations, the 30% rule applies to the management committees. So whether they’re compensation committees, steering committees or the governing committees of the organization. When a new opening is on one of those committees, the intention is to make sure you’re considering at least 30% diverse candidates.

Diversity has become a business imperative. Corporate clients are all over it.

Lauren Resnick:
I don’t know if you all in the tech side of the business are living it quite yet, the way we are, but it’s coming. So let me warn you – and it’s a good thing. We are, when you talk about the importance of these issues – forgetting the fact that it’s the right thing to do and it creates a more effective and better company –  it’s also a business imperative because we have multiple clients, folks like Ellen at T-Mobile, who are sending us surveys on diversity. They are asking for meetings to hear about it in person, what we’re doing at the firm around advancement and the promotion of women and diverse lawyers.

We’re partnering with our clients to create a summer associate internship program to hire and mentor diverse candidates together.

Lauren Resnick:
We are getting requests about the staffing of our matters and the statistics around women and minority staffing on our matters. And we’re even getting inquiries around who’s getting credit for bringing in the new matters. So there is significant demand from the client side. And what we are also seeing, and I don’t know, Ellen, if you all are involved in some of these as well, when it comes to the pipeline, we are partnering with clients. And it’s a great way to do something good together in addition to the traditional transactional work that you’re doing. We have summer associate internship programs where we’re partnering with clients to hire minority and diverse candidates that we can share and mentor together.

Hiring, promoting and recognizing diverse colleagues

When it comes to recruiting, we also focus on lateral partner hiring at the most senior levels, in addition to the rest of the hiring that we do, making sure that we’re seeing candidates, looking at a candidate pool that bring a wide array of experiences and includes people of different backgrounds and historically underrepresented groups.

We also hone in on promotions. For us in the law firm context, that’s about getting advancement to  counsel and into the partner track so when there are decisions about promotions being made, there’s an intentional effort to make sure that we’re looking at a broad array of candidates from historically underrepresented backgrounds among the slate of candidates that are being considered for promotion.

And then in our particular business, we participate in a recognition process called Chambers, which is an outside organization that ranks lawyers. And we’re focused on tracking that to make sure we’re nominating different types of lawyers. And when we do business development pitches, we do the same.

The Mansfield Rule requires that you have job descriptions for leadership roles, so that there’s no limitation on access and people who might not organically get the sponsorship and the mentoring can see what the job responsibilities are and what the opportunities are for development. If you were to adopt any or all aspects of the Mansfield Rule, the goal is really to think about the important talent management processes at your organization and make sure you’re being intentional about considering a broad slate of candidates.

Where can organizations start to become more intentional about DEI?

Michele Kell:
I think what BakerHostetler has implemented is quite formal and comprehensive.  If you look at the structure you created, I don’t know if all organizations are quite there yet. Do you have any advice on where people could start to become more formal at their own organization?

Lauren Resnick:
Yes. I do think you need to have a centralized point person who’s overseeing it from an organizational standpoint. But our experience with starting on the local level with the affinity groups is from a ground level up and then having the affinity groups start to define what they want to see from a firm-wide perspective. But you do need somebody who’s coordinating that effort, that has a voice with management.

Michele Kell:
Even an executive sponsor could work. If you don’t have the budget to have a separate role reporting into your C-suite, you could still have a sponsor somewhere who has the ear of management, and then they can start working on the local level.

Lauren Resnick:
Absolutely. We hired a director of inclusion and diversity in 2020. Prior to that, we had a partner at the law firm who was in charge and she’s still actively involved. And you’re 100% right, it doesn’t have to be a separate head count.

Click here to read Part III: Investing in DEI: Opportunities and Challenges for Legal Teams and Legal Tech.

About the Author

<a href="https://cdslegal.com/team/" target="_blank">CDS Staff</a>

CDS Staff

Our leadership team and advisory consultants, project managers, and technical experts assist clients through all phases of the eDiscovery process.