Adams and Reese has completed Diversity Lab’s Mansfield Rule 5.0 Certification Process, therefore achieving Mansfield Rule Certification, a national standard recognizing law firms that demonstrate an unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and make meaningful progress on diversifying leadership.
Now in its fifth year, Diversity Lab counts more than 270 U.S. and Canadian law firms participating in the certification process.
“Adams and Reese is honored to achieve Mansfield Rule Certification and to take part in a universal commitment among law firms to take actionable steps to foster diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels of the legal profession, as well as to increase leadership advancement and client representation opportunities afforded to minority attorneys,” said Clarence Wilbon, Adams and Reese Partner and DEI Committee Chair.
To achieve certification, firms must complete a 12-month process requiring extensive data tracking, collection, and submission to increase transparency, accountability, diversity, and inclusion. The Mansfield Rule Certification parameters are ever-evolving, but Mansfield Rule 5.0 Certification required that when promoting or appointing to leadership roles, firms considered at least 30% historically underrepresented lawyers – including women lawyers, underrepresented racial and ethnic lawyers, LGBTQ+ lawyers, and lawyers with disabilities. Additional categories reviewed by Diversity Lab include the percentage of lawyers from historically underrepresented groups considered for nomination to Chambers U.S.A. and the percentage of underrepresented individuals considered when filling C-level professional staff roles.
“These metrics and accountability requirements force you to do a deep dive into the initiatives and programs you are putting in place and embrace a vision of how to do them better,” said Wilbon. “As a firm, Adams and Reese, while focusing on the ties that bind us, uses our many DEI programs, initiatives, and endeavors to elevate the voices of underrepresented persons both within our firm and our communities.”
Adams and Reese’s DEI efforts date back to the 1980s. Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee works with the Executive Committee, Practice Group Leaders, and Firm Administration and Management on several internal and external initiatives.
Adams and Reese’s mentorship programs include an AdvanceLaw Diversity Mentorship Program, AR ARROW (Advancement, Recruitment, and Retention of Women), and DAAP (Diverse Attorney Advancement and Promotion). Attorneys from groups historically underrepresented in the legal profession are also invited to our annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion retreat. To enhance recruiting efforts of diverse hires, Adams and Reese participates in the Southeastern Minority Job Fair, recruits annually from HBCUs, and engages in multiple diverse recruiting programs throughout its footprint.
In 2021, Adams and Reese launched two diversity pipeline programs – the NALP/Street Law Legal Diversity Pipeline Program and our own 1L Minority Fellowship Program. Street Law aims to educate diverse high school students about careers in the legal field, and our 1L fellowship offers clerkship positions, normally reserved for second-year law students, to diverse first-year law students. Additionally, Adams and Reese partners with the American Bar Association to offer a Legal Opportunity Scholarship to minority law students, as well as with the Memphis Bar Association on its Summer Law Internship Program.
“With these programs and initiatives we have put in place, we are not going to get a first down on every carry, but we will get three yards here, three yards there, and in the end, we make that first down,” said Wilbon. “There are a lot of realistic and reasonable goals that we can hit to achieve that ultimate, sustained timeline of progress.”
The goal of Mansfield is to diversify the entire power structure by broadening who is considered—through appointments, elections, promotions, and other critical activities that impact the pipeline—for dozens of influential leadership committees and roles. Although a relatively new program, it is clear that Mansfield Rule Certified firms are doing just that. Early adopter law firms who piloted the Mansfield Rule during its launch in 2017 have increased the diversity of their management committees by 30 times the rate of non-Mansfield Rule firms. Certified law firms are invited to attend the annual Mansfield Rule Client Forum. In 2021 this Client Forum included 600 newly promoted diverse partners, who networked with 240 potential clients from 85 companies and through 700 pitch sessions with in-house corporate counsel.
“Clients engage with law firms that share a common approach and belief that we all operate stronger when there is a melting pot with a wide range of talents and ideas, reflecting diversity across the spectrum,” said Gif Thornton, Managing Partner of Adams and Reese. “Diversity is not just a label; it’s a demonstration that our firm is invested in and committed to an inclusive culture for the benefit of our people and our clients.”