V&E Participating Again in National “Diversity in Law” Hackathon
For the second year, Vinson & Elkins is participating in the Diversity in Law Hackathon, a “Shark Tank” style competition designed to generate new ideas for retaining diverse talent in law firms. Last year’s inaugural event was the catalyst for a version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule for law firms. A number of firms, including V&E, began piloting the Mansfield Rule in 2017 which encourages firms to more consciously consider women lawyers and attorneys of color when making decisions with respect to promotions, lateral hiring and significant leadership roles, and to track their progress.
“Programs like this help to keep us even more focused on gender and diversity as a key priority as we consider opportunities for hiring, promotions and leadership roles, and allow us to learn from best practices and to try new ideas so that we continue to move forward and attract and retain top talent,” said Trina Chandler, a partner in the M&A practice in Houston, member of the Management Committee and Chair of V&E’s Women’s Initiative. John Wander, a partner in the commercial litigation practice in Dallas, Management Committee member and Practice Group Leader, participated in last year’s Hackathon. Wander’s team developed the initial Mansfield Rule concept.
“The level of engagement and support of women and men in our Women’s Initiative and diversity efforts is extremely high and is making a difference,” said Scott Wulfe, V&E’s Managing Partner who works closely with Chandler on the firm’s Women’s Initiatives. “For example, more than 200 lawyers across seniority levels (men and women), volunteered to join the recently composed firm-wide Diversity Council. Also, V&E’s firm-wide Management Committee is now 25% women, including a female of color; and nearly 40% of V&E’s 2018 promoted partners and approximately 50% of our new attorneys are women.”
V&E’s firmwide Hiring Partner, Doug Bland, a partner in the energy transactions practice in Houston, will take part in the 2018 Hackathon from June 21-22, 2018 in Boston. Participants include law firm leadership partners and in-house legal department leaders, along with an expert advisor and law student on each team. The 2018 Hackathon includes more than 60 mostly AmLaw 100 firms and 40 legal departments including lawyers from 3M, Amazon, Bank of America, CBS, Facebook, Ford Motor Company, Gap, Intel, PNC, Toyota and Verizon.
Bland participated in a two-day kickoff event at Harvard Law School in February, and now each team is spending four months working together virtually to develop and refine their proposals before pitching to a panel of judges. The June competition will be hosted by Harvard Law’s Executive Education in partnership with Bloomberg Law.
The initiative was developed by Caren Ulrich Stacy of Diversity Lab to address the diversity gaps in Big Law, tackling topics such as unconscious bias, equal opportunities, pay parity, leadership gaps and lawyer satisfaction and retention. Following the 2018 Hackathons, Diversity Lab will spend one year developing the winning ideas for a second round of pilot programs. At the end of the process, participants will have a number of concrete ideas they can bring back to their organizations for implementation. “We have always been a firm willing to try innovative approaches to advance diversity, so I’m excited to be a part of this year’s Hackathon,” said Bland. “And of course, I want my team to win!”
The concept of a “hackathon” originated in the technology industry with coders meeting for intensive 24-hour or week-long events to solve problems and identify new software solutions, and the approach has since spread to other industries. The Diversity in Law Hackathon series is the largest collective legal community initiative ever launched with the purpose of boosting diversity and inclusion in law firms and legal departments.
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