Earlier this week I started seeing some of my legal marketing friends and colleagues touting their firms’ certification as Mansfield 2.0 and I was so excited. If you don’t know what the Mansfield Rule is, you can read more here. I also blogged on it earlier this year,  Women, diversity, law firms, and why are we still having this conversation?

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING ever changes in the law firm ecosystem naturally. It is by force of the client, or peer pressure/competition that we begrudgingly push ourselves to do what should be done because it is not only the right thing to do, but the best thing for the business’ success.

Cross-selling, anyone??

Why the Mansfield Rule?

Mansfield RuleSimply put, the Mansfield Rule–based on the concept of the NFL’s Rooney Rule–requires that law firms consider at least 30% women, LGBTQ+ and minority lawyers for significant leadership roles (sadly, we can’t even go 50/50 here).

Easy-peasy, right?? Not really.

Law firms have been bleeding diversity since forever. Women, minorities, and LGBTQ+ attorneys are not sticking around, and those who do stick around do not make it to the top of the ecosystem.

There is no doubt about it. Bringing more diversity to law firm leadership will change law firm cultures. And we know how much lawyers like change.

Sure, some of you will enter into this begrudgingly, just like switching from WordPerfect to Word, but you will survive, and over time you will come to realize that it was the healthiest thing for your firms.

Harvard Business Review has a great article, Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? I know. The title is such click-bait, but don’t ignore it because the title offends you. Better than the article are the comments, which reinforce why we need the Mansfield Rule, and the corporate equivalent.

In short,

“the main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence.”

Not so bad, right? Leaders are charismatic and usually more extroverted (or at least situational extroverts). But charisma is not enough.

EQ over IQ

The article continues,

The paradoxical implication is that the same psychological characteristics that enable male managers to rise to the top of the corporate or political ladder are actually responsible for their downfall. In other words, what it takes to get the job is not just different from, but also the reverse of, what it takes to do the job well. As a result, too many incompetent people are promoted to management jobs, and promoted over more competent people.

Law firms are filled with really, really smart people. IQ has nothing to do with your ability to lead or be successful. It’s your “emotional intelligence” that is the differentiator.

Travis Bradberry, a leading authority on Emotional Intelligence, sums it up this way:

Emotional intelligence is the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.

Making the case for diversity and inclusion

Research has also found:

that diversity of thought is a reliable predictor of innovation and company success. They make a strong case for diversity in general. Different people bring a broad range of ideas, skills, and personalities. They have unique perspectives. Leveraging heterogeneity in race, gender, and the myriad other factors that make people who they are can offer real competitive advantage. Deliberate and thoughtful assembly of diverse and inclusive teams brings thoughts, ideas and views that would otherwise never be considered.

If nothing else, a diverse and inclusive law firm, which includes a diverse and inclusive leadership, will make you more successful and give you the competitive advantage.

It starts with the current leadership

According to The CEO Next Door, the CEO does what “only a CEO [managing partner/firm wide chair] can: set the strategy and build the team and culture that would take the company [law firm] there.”

If the management committee, department chairs, office managing partners, committee chairs are not inclusive, how will a diverse managing partner rise? As pointed out above, studies show that the more diverse the leadership, the more diverse the firm, the more successful it will be.

No brainer? Right? But then there is our implicit bias and our psychology to contend with when it comes to elevating leaders (partners).

If, as the HBR study suggests, we elect elevate leaders lawyers who embody the characteristics we hold true to ourselves, we will continue to elect elevate leaders lawyers who look like us.

So what do your firm’s leaders look like?

It is up to the current firm leaders to promote policies, such as the Mansfield Rule, to ensure a healthy firm. And when I say “healthy,” I’m talking about a law firm that is capable of sustaining itself, developing new leaders, and ensuring that the firm’s legacy is passed down from one generation to the next.

The super-majority of law firm leaders of the AmLaw 100 and 200 continue to be white males.

This is not about any one firm, but our industry

Our industry is currently being challenged by outside forces, whether corporate counsel taking work in house, AI replacing the need for lawyers, and Alternative Legal Service Providers. (see Can you handle the truth? Are you prepared for the new reality?)

To meet these challenges as an industry, we must have the most diverse group of thinkers (decision makers) in the rooms setting strategy, hiring the people who will implement the strategy, and supporting these change leaders.

For our industry to truly, truly embrace diversity and inclusion, and promote a diverse and inclusive leadership, we will have to work against our intuitive EQ, and embrace the Mansfield Rule.

While my firm is not Mansfield Rule certified, our current leadership is approximately 40% diverse, including our management committee, department chairs, and committee chairs, as well as our C-suite. Yet we continue to do more. We have begun a leadership and business development group for all women attorneys in the firm. We are reaching out within our greater legal community in Los Angeles. Our recruiting committee chairs are 50% diverse, knowing how important this first step is to our overall diversity efforts. For our firm it’s not just who we strive to be, but a reflection of where we currently are.