Northwestern Law joins Diversity Lab project funded by large law firms

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Women now comprise 50% of law school graduating classes, but it’s unlikely that they will reach that percentage in large law firm equity partnerships until 2057, according to a press release from Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law.

On Wednesday, the school announced its participation in a diversity partnership with four firms and an incubator that focuses on inclusion in the profession.

The law firms—Eversheds Sutherland, Goodwin, Orrick and Stoel Rives—invested $5 million to launch Move the Needle Fund with the Diversity Lab, and Northwestern is the only law school in the project, the release states. More than 35 general counsels are also involved, according to Move the Needle’s website.

Prior Diversity Lab projects include getting 44 large law firms to sign on to a plan inspired by a National Football League rule, where at least 30% of their leadership candidates are women, people of color or both. The group also hosted a Women in Law Hackathon, with Stanford Law School and Bloomberg Law, for law firm revenue models that balanced contributions, including nonbillable work, and credit.

More diversity hackathons, and tests of evidence-based research, including the ABA and Minority Corporate Counsel Association 2018 report, titled “You Can’t Change What You Can’t See: Interrupting Racial & Gender Bias in the Legal Profession,” will be funded by the law firms’ $5 million investment, according to the news release. Also, the money will be used to look at innovative ideas in other professions.

Kit Chaskin, the law school’s director of gender initiatives, will chair Move the Needle’s community leaders group, which is responsible for providing insight and support for the endeavor.

“This is the first time in 30 years of working toward gender equity in the legal profession that I have seen a diversity program designed to be data-driven, transparent, iterative and replicable,” Chaskin, a former partner with Reed Smith and Sachnoff & Weaver, said in the release.

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