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January 04, 2022

Mansfield Rule Gains Momentum Across Law Firms and Legal Departments

This Bulletin is brought to you by AHLA’s In-House Counsel Practice Group.
  • January 04, 2022
  • Bevan Blake , Squire Patton Boggs LLP

History of Mansfield Rule

In 2017, Diversity Labs introduced the Mansfield Rule and its accompanying certification process aiming to increase the diversity within law firm’s leadership ranks. That first version of the rule, designed after the NFL’s Rooney rule and named after Arabella Mansfield who in 1869 became the first women admitted to practice law in the United States, required law firms to consider candidate pools that were at least 30% diverse—including women and underrepresented racial and ethnic lawyers—when hiring senior associates and partners, promoting into the equity partnership, and selecting leaders for management roles.[1] Forty-one law firms participated in the program that first year it was introduced. Now, in less than five years, more than 160 large law firms have announced their intention to become Mansfield Rule Certified, the Mansfield Rule itself has been expanded to include LGBTQ+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities in its interview quotas, new versions of the Mansfield Rule have been introduced for mid-size law firms and legal departments, and the program has expanded to the United Kingdom.[2]

The progress is good news, especially since the Mansfield Rule appears to be bearing tangible results. An analysis of 2021 law firm survey data tracking diversity showed that the 41 original firms that adopted the Mansfield Rule made more progress compared to non-Mansfield firms in diversifying their Management Committees, Partner Review Committees, and the partnership of the firms as a whole, during 2017-2019.[3] According to Diversity Lab, the results highlight “the advantage of a long-term commitment to these principles combined with the accountability of the certification process.”[4]

The Mansfield Rule Moves In-House

The legal department edition of the Mansfield Rule, designed for in-house legal teams to become certified, was announced in 2019 and a new version of the rule has been released every year since. The latest version has four broad categories of requirements.[5] Legal departments must meet at least 70% of the requirements within the four categories over the course of a two-year period to be certified. The categories are:

  1. Interview Quotas. When filling new positions in the legal department, (a) at least 50% of the candidate pool must consist of historically underrepresented lawyers, and (b) at least 20% of the candidate pool must consist of lawyers who are underrepresented racial and ethnic lawyers, LGBTQ+ lawyers, and/or lawyers with disabilities.
  2. Development Opportunities. When assigning high-visibility opportunities or awarding promotions at least 50% of the lawyers considered must be historically underrepresented.
  3. Roadmaps for Advancement. Legal departments are required to create clear and transparent job responsibilities for management positions and standards for advancement within the department.
  4. Outside Counsel. Leveraging the power in-house legal departments have in selecting outside counsel, the rule requires legal departments to have at least 50% of the legal teams they consider for new matters be led or co-led by at least one historically underrepresented lawyer. When considering firms to work on a retainer, at least half of the legal teams considered must be at least 50% owned by historically underrepresented lawyers or have pledged at least 50% of the business generation credit to historically underrepresented lawyers.

In addition to the above requirements, the latest rules require both law firms and legal departments to track their results using disaggregated data so that they can see their results across every type of historically underrepresented group.[6]

The popularity of the legal department edition of the Mansfield Rule has grown sharply in the last couple of years coinciding with an increased sensitivity and awareness of social issues from the corporate world. Environmental, social, and governance, so-called ESG issues, have drawn increased attention from investors and corporate boards alike.[7] The social justice protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd prompted many companies to make public statements and commitments regarding racial equity and diversity in the workplace.[8] The Mansfield Rule certification process provides companies both with a way to express their commitment to diversity and a concrete path to generate progress towards the same.

The Health Care Impact

While not a health care-specific initiative, the Mansfield Rule may make an impact in the health care sector regardless. Of the roughly 100 legal departments that have either been certified or are working towards certification, a number of them are in the health care industry. They include large hospitals and health systems such as Atrium Health, CHRISTUS Health, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and St. Jude’s; pharmaceutical and biotech companies such as AbbVie, Gilead Sciences, and Vertex Pharmaceuticals; and other health care companies like DaVita, Fresenius, and Walgreens.[9]

Studies have shown that having a diverse workforce in health care settings is important to providing care that is culturally competent for historically underrepresented populations.[10] While legal departments are not responsible for providing patient care, more diverse legal departments within the health care industry may encourage further diversity within the workforce actually looking after patients. The increase in diversity will also introduce different perspectives and may encourage ideas to improve equity within the greater health system overall, a need that the Covid-19 pandemic has shined a spotlight on.[11]

Further Information

To learn more about the Mansfield Rule and the certification process, representatives from legal departments, regardless of industry, may virtually attend information sessions organized by Diversity Lab. The information sessions typically occur on Wednesdays at 12 pm PT/ 3pm ET and anyone may sign up on their website,


[1] Mansfield Rule ‘Early Adopters’ Show Significant Diversity Growth—And Outpace Legal Industry—In Critical Leadership Roles, Diversity Lab (Apr. 2021),

[2] 160+ U.S., Canadian & UK Law Firms Announced As Participating in 2021-2022 Certification Process, Diversity Lab (June 2021),

[3] Mansfield Rule ‘Early Adopters’ Show Significant Diversity Growth, supra note 1.

[4] Id.

[5] More Than 40 Legal Departments Join The Mansfield Rule: Legal Department Edition 3.0 Cohort To Continue Boosting Diversity In Leadership And Outside Counsel Ranks, Diversity Lab (Oct. 2021),

[6] Id.

[7] Witold Henisz, et al., Five Ways that ESG Creates Value, McKinsey Quarterly (Nov. 2019)

[8] Gillian Friedman, Here’s What Companies are Promising to Do to Fight Racism, N.Y. Times (Aug. 23, 2020).

[9] More Than 40 Legal Departments Join the Mansfield Rule, supra note 5.

[10] Jordan J. Cohen, et al., The Case for Diversity in the Health Care Workforce, Health Affairs (Sept./Oct. 2002).

[11] Seth A. Berkowitz, M.D., M.P.H., et. al., Covid-19 and Health Equity—Time to Think Big, New Eng. J. Med. (Sept. 17, 2020)