“Male Allies” is another great idea.  I like this for its very simplicity and the fact that it happens in the trenches (NB: this technique is not Law Land-focused; many corporations also employ it.).  We have recently heard many well-regarded MPs and Chairs speak convincingly, even passionately about their mandate to increase diversity at their firms – and they mean it.  That said, it is farther down in their organizations where the day-to-day decisions reside – regarding clients, assignments, who’s “at the table,” etc.  Contemporaneous “interventions” at the grass roots level can raise awareness and begin to change a firm’s culture from the ground up.

Thomson Reuters supports an intensive program for a select group of “up-and-coming,” newly-minted female partners at AmLaw 50 firms.  Called Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law (TWLL), it provides, among other things, access to powerful GCs, insights into the business of law and business development opportunities.  (Full disclosure, I’ve spoken at TWLL events.)  Natalie Runyon, program strategist for TWLL who is hardly starry-eyed about the current state of diversity but does see progress.  She noted, “Firms are heading in the right direction.”  She added, “I’d be more confident that true change will result when there’s more action and tactics at the practice group-level.”

Again, I’m not a fan of women-only initiatives (and, as discussed, they often backfire).  That said, this program evinces a level of gravitas I’ve rarely seen.  (Compared to, say, the bone-headed firm who brought in representatives from Ann Taylor to provide their female associates with wardrobe advice.)

Professors Tinsley and Ely have effectively re-framed the issue; it’s not what’s lacking in women – it’s how organizations are failing them. Addressing this will require, first, a clear-eyed assessment of what’s actually happening at your firm and developing remedies to address issues impeding women’s progress.  Obviously, tailor your remedies to be relevant to the issues at your firm.  (“Industry best practices” oftentimes aren’t)  The good news is that you can scrap some of the more ineffective or counterproductive programs, so changing courses won’t necessarily over-burden the firm or incur entirely incremental expenses (and some initiatives, such as Male Allies, cost virtually nothing).  The benefits of a more productive, diverse workplace will redound throughout the firm –  well into the future.

We will know we have achieved gender parity when an average woman rises to the same level as an average man.” – Anon.


[1] This piece focuses on gender diversity because it was inspired by novel research on that topic – and not other diverse groups.  It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to assume much of this applies to other diverse groups – but first, that would need to be researched as persuasively as was gender diversity in this case.

[2] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/delivering-through-diversity with a data set of over 1,000 companies covering 12 countries is an update of their 2015 study, Why diversity matters.

[3] The Guardian, January 26, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jan/26/steven-johnson-farsighted-how-we-make-decisions-that-matter-most

[4] https://www.nawl.org/p/cm/ld/fid=1163

[5] The McKinsey report states that women in Corporate Land represent 29% at the VP level, 21% at the SVP level and 20% of the C-suite.

[6] Meta-analysis combines results of many studies (in one instance researchers analyzed over 200 studies on the topic of gender differences in levels of confidence).

[7] William (Bill) Henderson is Professor of Law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.  Bill is a prolific author and lecturer on the legal market and has deservedly earned many top industry accolades.  We’re also proud to have him as a friend.

[8] Inspired by the National Football League’s policy called the Rooney Rule which mandates that candidate slates for head coach and senor operation positions include diverse candidates.  The Mansfield Rule is named for Arabella Mansfield, the first female lawyer to earn a law license in the US.

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