In September, I wrote a blog discussing the Mansfield Rule. To recap, the Mansfield Rule is basically a commitment to diversity by law firms. Participating firms must take tangible actions to earn their Mansfield certification. It is encouraging to see many of the world’s largest and best-known law firms embracing diversity. However, are law firms doing enough? Apparently not, according to an article I just read on law.com. The title of the article sums it up – Trendspotter: Legal Departments, Lit Funders Home in on Origination Credit to Keep Firms Honest About Diversity. Consequently, clients are holding their legal service providers’ feet to the fire regarding law firm diversity and asking for more than superficial compliance.
I found this article to be fascinating. As a result, I encourage every law firm leader to read in order to understand the ramifications for their own law firm. The following points from the article should grab the attention of firm leaders.
- Clients know that law firms bring minorities and women to pitch meetings. They also know that this does not mean that those diverse lawyers will share in the spoils. In fact, some in-house counsel directly ask who is getting origination credit for their work.
- 36% of general counsel and senior in-house lawyers who responded to a survey said to improve gender equity, law firms should improve how they handle origination credit and business development.
- Attrition rates for minority associates are higher than that of white associates. Obviously these rates would go down with the equitable sharing of origination credit.
- Minority non-equity partners often leave their law firm after being passed over for equity partnership. Again, origination credit is often a major factor in the determination of equity partnership.
- Burford Capital, a leading litigation funding firm, has earmarked $100 million for cases led by women and diverse litigators through its The Equity Project.
Failure to adapt and implement change puts significant business at risk. Also, it could lead to the departure of talented minority and women lawyers.
The Individual Lawyer
What does all of this mean for the individual lawyer? Well, like anything in the legal industry, some firms get it while others do not. Regarding law firm diversity, does your firm get it? If it does, that is great – as a diverse attorney, you receive the proper compensation and recognition for your efforts.
On the other hand, if your efforts are not rewarded with origination credit, it may be time to look for other opportunities. As Ben Wilson, a giant in the Black legal community, says in the article:
What is the key to keeping them? The answer is simple: Are they getting meaningful work? Do they feel like they’re growing? When we land a client, do they get a piece of the action? Firms must ensure that work is shared, that credit is shared. That’s where I think enlightened firms are going to go.
Explore Your Options
There are plenty of enlightened firms out there. Don’t settle for lip service and an artificial commitment to law firm diversity. This is especially true for law firm partners for two reasons. One, you may be a diverse lawyer who is not getting a fair shake at your current firm. And two, you cannot keep diverse team members. Both factors negatively impact your ability to generate business and service clients. If you are in this situation, let’s explore other options and schedule a time to talk.