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Diversity Data Is More Than Just Numbers on a Spreadsheet

Fri, February 19, 2021 11:56 AM | Sarah Hayden (Administrator)

Written by: Zach Warren

As Christine Simmons noted last week, Coca-Cola GC Bradley Gayton made waves in late January in unveiling a new set of diversity standards for outside firms working with the company. According to the new guidelines, law firms must provide Coca-Cola with self-identified diversity data for a quarterly analysis of the diversity of teams working on the company’s matters. At least 30% of the lawyers on Coca-Cola’s new cases have to be diverse, half must be Black. Firms that fall short multiple times will see a reduction in fees or possibly lose Coca-Cola’s business entirely.

Gayton’s efforts advance the ball further in what has been an increasing realization among corporate legal departments and law firms alike: diversity metrics have real power. A record 117 firms sought certification for the industry’s “Mansfield Rule” last year, after all, in which firms agree to consider at least 30% women, lawyers of color, LGBTQ+ lawyers, and lawyers with disabilities for leadership and senior positions. “You can’t get what you don’t measure,” Diversity Lab CEO Caren Ulrich Stacy said last summer. “One thing the Mansfield Rule does that no one really talked about is, as a foundational premise, it requires that firms track their candidate pools.”

But amidst this new rush to measure, it’s also worth asking the question: What data should the legal industry actually be measuring? Some legal initiatives have focused on strictly quantitative data—number of diverse attorneys, percentage of partners, etc.—in large part because it’s easy to track. But there’s also qualitative data to consider—the quality of work diverse lawyers are getting, advancement opportunities, inclusion in practice culture, and more. In Coca-Cola’s new guidelines, for instance, there are the quantitative metrics, but also qualitative: Outside firms need to be transparent about how origination credit is awarded and identify at least two diverse attorneys as a potential successor to a partner on Coca-Cola’s book of business. But that’s the sort of data the legal industry may not be ready for.

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