Women in the Law

$10K prize-winning hackathon team dreams up new compensation model for law firms

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Women in Law Hackathon

A hackathon isn’t an everyday law school competition. Many lawyers may not even know what one is. But Stanford Law School’s inaugural Women In Law Hackathon offered a fresh spin on a legal tech trend: Instead of a bunch of programmers getting together to develop software, this hackathon was intended to create innovative ideas to disrupt the stagnant diversity dialogue in BigLaw.

The top three teams granted their winnings to nonprofit organizations that agreed to use the funds toward either implementing the ideas themselves or toward activities that would have measurable results for women in the legal profession.

Winning the biggest prize—$10,000—was SMART, which came up with the idea to create a new, holistic compensation model for law firms. The team donated its winnings to Ms. JD, a nonprofit dedicated to the success of women in law.

The SMART (Solutions to Measure, Advance and Reward Talent) platform includes an app and dashboard and is a gender-neutral reporting and evaluation system that promotes the retention and advancement of women by aligning firm values and culture with compensation and promotion. SMART determines compensation and advancement based on eight “pillars,” including billable and pro bono hours; business development; advancing diversity; quality of work; client satisfaction; lawyer development; leadership and initiative; and external visibility.

Winning team members were Rachel Boochever, a student at Stanford Law School; Eva Davis, a partner and co-chair of the global private equity group at Winston Strawn; Chris Groll, a partner and chair of the mergers & acquisitions group at Holland & Hart; Perlette Jura, co-chair of Gibson Dunn’s transnational litigation group; Lynn Pasahow, a partner at Fenwick & West; Reid Schar, a co-chair of the white collar group at Jenner & Block; and Cate Stetson, a litigation global board member at Hogan Lovells.

The hackathon was conceived by Caren Ulrich Stacy, founder and CEO of Diversity Lab, in partnership with Stanford Law School and Bloomberg Law to address issues ranging from pay inequity to the lack of representation of women partners in law firms. Hackathon participants included 54 law firm partners, 18 diversity experts, and 9 Stanford Law students broken up into teams of nine. Teams were tasked with creating actionable, outside-the-box ideas that could be put into practice at law firms.

“It gives people laser and strategic focus on coming up with solutions, not just talking about the problem,” Stacy said of the hackathon. “Because we spend an awful lot of time [just] talking about the problem.”

Over the course of six months, from January to the end of June, hackathon teams worked together virtually to devise solutions to gender inequity issues at elite law firms. At the end of the hackathon, competitors pitched their ideas to judges for final review, Shark Tank style.

“The amount of preparation that went into this and the level of the people that the law firms kind of contributed to this effort was a huge, pleasant surprise,” said Microsoft Assistant General Counsel Lucy Bassli, who helped judge the competition. “It was a great experience, the ideas were innovative, they were interesting, some were very practical and pragmatic and implementable tomorrow.”

Coming in second and claiming a $7,500 prize was the Power Development Program model, which pairs two generations of lawyers—a woman partner and a woman associate—with an institutional client for a 12-month period. The team donated their winnings to the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas.

Third place and $5,000, went to the Five Year Moment, which donated their team’s winnings to the National Association of Women Lawyers. The Five Year Moment applies metrics and experiential solutions with the aim of eliminating systemic and individual barriers to business development success for women lawyers.

Bloomberg Law donated the $22,500 in prize money for the three winning teams.

Read more about the teams and winning ideas here (PDF).

Also see:

ABA Journal.com: Hackathon will tackle why law firms are failing to keep and promote women lawyers

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