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Thought Leader Law & Public Policy

What law firms can learn from the NFL

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By Sharon A. Gay, Office Managing Partner, Dentons

This fall I want to highlight something outside the usual legal realm: How the NFL—and the Pittsburgh Steelers no less—have played a key role in making Dentons a nationally recognized leader in diversity.

You may have heard of the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which was created by the late Dan Rooney and is now supported by his son, Art Rooney II, president of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Rooney Rule requires every NFL team to interview at least one minority candidate for head coach vacancies. In the years following its implementation, the number of minorities hired to fill head-coach roles doubled.

The Rooney Rule inspired Diversity Lab, an incubator for innovative ways to boost diversity and inclusion in law, to adopt a similar Mansfield Rule for the legal field, named after Arabella Mansfield, the first woman admitted to the practice of law in the US.

Dentons piloted the inaugural version of the Mansfield Rule in the summer of 2017. This fall, we achieved Mansfield Certified Plus status for 2019 after completing the Mansfield Rule 2.0 12-month certification program.

The new certification measures whether law firms have affirmatively considered at least 30 percent women, lawyers of color and LGBTQ+ lawyers for leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions, formal client pitch opportunities and senior lateral positions. The goal of the Mansfield Rule is to increase the representation of diverse lawyers in law firm leadership by broadening the pool of candidates considered for these opportunities.

The “plus” part of the certification indicates that, beyond meeting or exceeding the pipeline consideration requirements for certification, Dentons successfully reached at least 30 percent diverse lawyer representation in a notable number of its current leadership roles and committees.

Ensuring that lawyers from under-represented groups have opportunities for career growth and advancement—and the support to seize those opportunities—is a priority for me personally. This latest certification is another sign of the value we, as a firm, put on creating and sustaining a rich and vibrant workplace that reflects our clients and communities.

1 Comment

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    Ron Jordan November 11, 2019 9:34 pm

    With a constant drumbeat, Denton’s talks about diversity and inclusion. Without a doubt the firm has achieved a modicum of diverse attorneys, women and people of color. The exception and it has been so for close to 15 years, so little black partners. Denton’s beats its own drum for corporate america to hear but the truth is, inclusion but not “diversity” maybe of thought, the inclusion of “white women” in leadership roles but parity for black male and female partners, terrible. So, please, stop the drumbeat, show your true commitment, a intentional commitment to include black partners and associates here in the US. Stop using African attorneys as stand-ins, for what you chose not to actively recruit for, please do us all a favor and tell the truth to all those law students you have convinced that Dentos is a true “meritocracy” in truth it isn’t.

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