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Blog Series: Top Questions from Candidates when Vetting Law Firms

The Mansfield Rule – What it means for your firm and recruiting

From partners to associates to administrators, law firms are talking about the Mansfield Rule, a diversity guideline and certification program to increase historically underrepresented individuals among firm leadership. In addition to being an essential element of your firm’s future growth and success, diversity initiatives are of ever-increasing importance to candidates when vetting prospective employers. We sat down with Adams & Martin Group’s National Attorney Search Manager, Morgan Lefforge, to learn more about the Mansfield Rule, what it means for law firms, and how it’s impacting legal recruiting. 

Q: What exactly is the Mansfield Rule? 

Morgan Lefforge: The Mansfield Rule is a program that encourages more diverse representation in law firms, and offers formal certification. Firms that participate are required to consider candidate pools of at least 30% diverse applicants, including women and underrepresented racial and ethnic lawyers when hiring senior associates and partners. 

Q: Where did the Mansfield Rule come from? 

ML: The Mansfield Rule was created in 2016 by Diversity Lab, an organization that develops and promotes solutions to increase diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. It was created in their 2016 Women in Law Hackathon event, in cooperation with Stanford Law School and Bloomberg Law, with the goal of finding ways to advance women in law. It was named after Arabella Mansfield, the first female lawyer in the US. 

Q: What does it mean to be “Mansfield Certified”? 

ML: In 2017, Diversity Lab took the concept of the Mansfield Rule and turned it into a formal program that law firms can participate in to demonstrate that they are implementing the tenets of the Mansfield Rule in efforts to diversify their leadership. To achieve certification, a firm must demonstrate at least one year of progress in increasing diversity in senior recruitment and leadership decisions. Plus, they must consider a minimum of 30% diverse candidates for these roles. 

Q: What are you seeing in terms of law firms implementing this program? 

ML: The impact of Mansfield is most significant on larger firms at this time. Early adopters of the Mansfield Rule in the U.S. include large firms such as Latham & Watkins, McDermott Will & Emery, Morgan Lewis, and O’Melveny & Myers among others. As with most newer programs in the legal field, this will eventually trickle down to smaller and mid-sized firms. Our clients are law firms throughout the US and they are asking about Mansfield – what it is, how it impacts them, and its advantages to certification. 

Q: How does the Mansfield Rule impact legal recruiting? 

ML: Significantly, our clients’ questions about Mansfield are arising because candidates are asking them about it when applying for open jobs at the firm. Likewise, when we present opportunities to the legal professionals we assist with job search services, they may ask about Mansfield or the diversity programs at the firm where they’re considering a new role. 

One of the most common questions that legal professionals have for a firm when they are applying to a position, is: what steps are you taking in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)? Candidates want to know what firms are doing to diversify their organizations. Having Mansfield certification is one way for a law firm to demonstrate they are serious about DEI issues, and to document that they are taking real steps toward achieving diversity goals. This is critically important to today’s candidates – your firm’s answer about DEI can mean the difference between your best candidate accepting an offer or not.  

Q: What would you tell a small or mid-size firm about the Mansfield Rule? 

ML: I think now is the time for smaller firms to take the time to learn about the Mansfield Rule and look into certification. It’s a step in the right direction for diversification of your firm and leadership. And it’s an undeniable advantage in recruiting the best legal talent to your firm.  

For more information on the Mansfield Rule and certification, visit Diversity Lab’s site

Need to talk about hiring at your law firm or legal department? Find your nearest Adams & Martin Group branch and get started today. We specialize in legal staffing, attorney search, and litigation solutions.